Religious trends in America are important – and not just for ecclesiastical reasons. In his online newsletter, Karl Rove (who many refer to as the “architect” because of his spectacular success as a political advisor for President George W. Bush) presented to us a recent study by Trinity College in Connecticut, dated March 19, 2009, which concluded that the number of “non-religious”individuals in the United States is increasing dramatically. On the other hand, the number of “mainline Protestants” is steadily decreasing.
The Trinity College Study found that the number of Americans who stated that they have “no religion” increased from 8% in 1990 to 15% in 2008. During that same period, the number of “self-identified Christians” fell from 86% to 77%.
While these numbers are significant, the state-by-state and regional results are eye-popping. New England, where the electoral votes in every state went to Obama in the last Presidential election, now has the highest proportion of non-religious residents in the country. In Vermont, the percentage has risen from 13% in 1990 to 34% in 2008; in Massachusetts from 8% to 22%; and in Maine, from 11% to 25%.
It is also noteworthy that while the percentage of Catholics declined only slightly from 1990 to 2008 (26% to 25%), their numbers fell dramatically in the Northeast and Midwest. For example, Massachusetts (the home of John F. Kennedy, the first Catholic President of the United States), the Catholic proportion of the population dropped from 54% to 39%, while in Wisconsin, from 39% to 29%. Conversely, the Catholic proportion of the population has increased in the South and Southwest, probably due to Hispanic immigration (29% to 37% in California; and 23% to 32% in Texas).
In one of his March, 2009, newsletters, Karl Rove stated that the ongoing move towards a more secular America and the decrease in the number of mainline Protestants “…will have a tremendous impact on the nation’s culture and society.” I am certain that the impact Karl predicted in March, 2009, was felt in the November, 2008, Presidential elections and will continue to be felt in the future. This does not mean that Republicans should change their values, their message of economic and religious freedom, free from oppressive government control; or their support of a strong military and vigilant defense of the homeland. These messages continue to be endorsed by the great majority of the American people. What the poll numbers do tell us, however, is that in order to win nationally, Republicans must be united, more now than ever before.
The key to victory for Republicans in the future is unity - a real desire to defeat the Democrats rather than fight among ourselves, and articulate and credible candidates who can carry the Republican message to the people. The 2010 Congressional elections will be an important watershed event as we Republicans continue to fight the culture war and begin our march back from the wilderness.
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