Matt HealeyWednesday,16 January 2013

The Snap:

Religion and the Suburban/Rural family. These are what the right tends to refer to as traditional institutions. I suspect that we are in the beginning of a period of decline for these institutions. I have come to this conclusion  based on several things that have happened that I think show a fundamental shift in attitudes.

The Download:

The US has gone through several shifts back and forth since our founding. The 1950s were a very conservative period. We then moved into a more liberal period in the 1960s to the late 1970s. The 1980s onward were a more conservative period. I suspect that we are now entering into a more liberal period where the traditional institutions will face a hard time. I think that what we are seeing is a shift in the demographics away from the what the GOP refers to as “real America” – namely the uneducated white suburban population.

Lets start with religion. The US is a religious nation. The majority of the population does have an imaginary friend. However, that is changing. According to the “The Global Index of Religiosity and Atheism” the percentage of Americans who claim they are religious dropped to 60% in 2012 from 73% in 2005 while the percentage who claim they are atheists rose from 1% to 5%. Now, 5% is not a lot, but I suspect that the actual number is higher as there still is a stigma associated with being an atheist. Regardless, the drop from 73% to 60% is impressive. I think this is showing that the church is losing influence, albeit slowly. Regardless, it is a positive development as the church is one of the most repressive and misogynistic institutions around. If you doubt this, just look at their forward thinking views on reproductive rights, the role of women, and same sex marriage. This is an institution that should go away. Clearly if it does, choir boys nationwide will sleep easier.

The other change that is going on is the loss of influence of the suburban/rural white family. The U.S. has become an urban country. According to the 2010 census, over 80% of Americans loved in urban environments. This trend has been going on for years, but, what is changing is that urban minority voters are increasingly going to the polls and making their voices heard. As the numbers grow, the strategy that the evangelical christian party of god has followed will become less and less effective. The small town concerns that the GOP has focused on do not resonate with people who live in cities. Issues like gun rights are of less concern for someone who lives in downtown Boston or New York than they are for someone who lives in rural Mississippi. The urban population also tends to have greater exposure to a more diverse demographic and thus are more open to personal differences and tend not to hold the Norman Rockwell view of family as the only acceptable approach. As the cities continue to grow and represent a larger and larger share of the voting electorate, the small “real America” will have less influence. These are positive trends and ones that I hope will continue.

Hat Tips:

Rise of AtheistsAmericans move to citiesUS Demographics, Image Credit: Flickr

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