And what that means for America.
Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism.
In Obama’s first year in office, 68% of white Democrats described themselves as Christians, 7% claimed to be members of other faiths, and 24% said that they had no religious affiliation.
A decade later, only 47% of white Democrats call themselves Christians. 10% are members of other faiths, and 42% have no religion.
A majority of white Democrats have ceased to be Christian.
The Obama era transformed the country and the party. It’s often observed that the Democrats of the JFK era are not the Democrats of today. But forget 1961, an era that is receding into the shadows of history. The Democrats of 2019 are not the Democrats of 2009. We are a different nation because of it.
The results of the Pew survey are startling and yet unsurprising. They explain why the Democrat debate stage included a cult leader and a call to go after churches and synagogues that don’t back gay marriage.
Not even Obama would have proposed such a thing in 2009. But much has changed since then.
Obama was born in 1961. 67% of Generation X was Christian. Millennials are now a quarter of the electorate and they are evenly divided between Christians and non-Christians. Generation Z represents another 9% of the electorate and it’s been described as the least religious generation ever.
Beto O’Rourke’s proposals to confiscate guns or go after the tax-exempt status of traditional religious organizations only seem radical to older voters. They’re not radical to the younger voters he’s courting.
O’Rourke, Sanders, and Buttigieg all endorsed abortion until the moment of birth. As has been noted, this position is far more radical than the one Obama ran on. But so is the 2019 Democrat electorate.
While Buttigieg and Booker try to tap into lefty pseudo-religious politics, O’Rourke dispenses with the phony religion by appealing to the new rising demographics of the Democrats. And, despite the headline, those demographics are not only white. The decline among minority Democrats has not been as dramatic as among white Democrats, but the number of black Democrats who describe themselves as Christian still fell from 84% to 74% from 2009 to 2018-2019. Hispanic Christian identification among Democrats declined from 82% to 71%. Among Democrats as a whole, only 55% identify as Christian.
That’s down from 72% in 2009.
Generational shifts will see older, more religious Democrats making way for a new generation. Before long a majority of all Democrats will no longer identify as Christians or as religious believers.
The Democrats have not only adopted values that are fundamentally hostile to traditional religious believers, but the demographics show that they are living out those values. And, as Beto O’Rourke demonstrated, see less reason to hide them or to pay lip service to religiosity in an irreligious party.
At current rates, Catholics will form a larger share of the GOP than of the Democrats. Protestants, who made up 46% of the Democrats in 2009, have declined to 35%, falling from nearly half to a little over a third. 1 in 5 Democrats have never attended religious services.
Republicans and Democrats are no longer divided by their approach to religion, but by religion itself.
And this loss of any common set of values has tremendous implications for the conflicts tearing the country apart. Democrats and Republicans have less in common than they ever did before, including during the conflict that tore apart the country and left 620,000 men lying on the nation’s battlefields.
What were once debates over issues increasingly became cultural divides, generation gaps, racial conflicts, and now, religious divides, that are becoming impossible to bridge. Americans find it harder than ever to compromise on the issues or to even care about the issues, because their differences and divisions have become the real issue. Everything else is becoming a mere marker of the divisions.
The changing Democrats demographics did not come out of nowhere, but the swiftness of the sea change within a decade is also a forerunner of the changes that will transform politics as we know it.
Republicans will increasingly face a Democrat opposition that does not have a different vision of religion, but that treats it at best as an odd superstition, and, at worst, a destructive and evil set of beliefs.
The First Amendment, already under assault, will face the same attacks that were visited on the Second.
The Second Amendment is under siege because a sizable percentage of the country, primarily living in urban and suburban areas, sees no legitimate reason why anyone would want to own a gun. That is the essence of the gun control argument. Everything else is propaganda, narrative, and meaningless noise.
The Democrats are on track to becoming a political party whose base sees freedom of religion as an equally outmoded historical relic envisioned by old, dead white slave owners who had strange beliefs. They don’t and won’t see why anyone should have the right to have hateful beliefs or read hateful texts.
What will religious freedom look like when the average Democrat views religion the way that he does firearms?
We are about to find out.
America is not entering uncharted territory. It’s following in the footsteps of Europe. In the UK, only 3% of 18-24 year olds identify as Anglicans, and only 5% as Catholics, among 25-34 year olds, 5% identify as Anglicans and 9% as Catholics. 64% of 18-24 year olds say that they have no religion, as do 57% of 25-34 year olds, and 60% of 35-44 year olds.
Freedom of religion cannot survive under these conditions. And indeed, that is the case in the UK.
People have to believe in something and being convinced that their children will die because people won’t stop using plastic bags and straws is a belief. It’s the sort of belief that leads to genocide. As is the conviction that religion, nationality, and every non-approved identity must be stamped out for equality.
The decline of religion is not leading us to a more tolerant world. Instead, it’s intolerance that’s rising.
And that’s inevitable.
Tolerance for differing beliefs originated from religious differences. America has freedom of conscience because it was founded by settlers and colonists fleeing religious persecution who then had to determine how to deal with religious dissent in their own ranks. The ideological fanatics driving the Democrats come from a leftist radicalism that has never learned to cope with political differences.
It lacks the toolset of tolerance. And does not even recognize that it applies to political enemies.
The Democrats have embraced a new idea of diversity that applies to every possible variety of skin color and sexual combination, as long as its members unwaveringly share their beliefs on every single issue. Their politics embraces everything, and as everything is politicized, the only remaining dissents allowed are on matters so trivial, or obscure, that they cannot be politicized. This is the new tolerance.
In a decade, the Democrats were almost incomprehensibly transformed. And the country with them.
To understand why America is being torn apart, why its political norms are shattering, and talk of civil war is in the air, we must begin with the fundamental transformation, not of the government, but of us.