TBJE 23: Latinx Secularism

Luciano and Juhem kick off Hispanic Heritage Month with a discussion about Latinx secularism. Who are we? How many of us out there? Why don’t hear more about this growing segment of the Latinx population?

Links:

Media Stereotypes and the Invisible Latino “Nones” (Juhem Navarro-Rivera, Free Inquiry)

Reports:

Changing Faiths: Latinos and the Transformation of American Religion (Pew Research Center 2007)

U.S. Latino Religious Identification 1990-2008: Change, Diversity & Transformation (Juhem Navarro-Rivera, Barry A. Kosmin & Ariela Keysar, ISSSC 2010)

How Shifting Religious Identities and Experiences are Influencing Hispanic Approaches to Politics (Robert P. Jones, Daniel Cox & Juhem Navarro-Rivera, PRRI 2013)

The Shifting Religious Identity of Latinos in the United States (Pew Research Center 2014)

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The Shrinking Secular Gender Gap

Among the many findings of the latest PRRI report on religion in America, my favorite is the growing number of women with no religious affiliation. In their new report, PRRI reports that 45 percent of women are nones. This is up 4 percentage points from what the Pew Religious Landscape Survey found a decade ago. An increase of 4 percentage points may not sound like much. But if we look at it in terms of real population numbers the impact of this increase becomes apparent.

The nones growing faster than the general population.

Between 2007 and 2016 the adult population in the USA went from 227.2 million to 249.5 million, a 10 percent overall growth in a little less than a decade. However, the secular population increased from 16 percent of the adult population (or roughly 36.4 million people) to 24 percent (or 59.9 million). In other words, the nones increased by 64 percent (basically, 6.5 times faster than the adult population).

More than half of “new nones” are women.

There is still a gender imbalance in the none population, but in the last decade women left religion at similar rates. In 2007 14.9 million women identified as nones (41 percent of all nones). If we extrapolate the PRRI numbers, a total of nearly 27 million women have now no religious affiliation. That indicates a growth of 81 percent in the number of women with no religious affiliation. The 12.1 million women who have joined the ranks of the nones represent 51 percent of the 23.5 million new nones in the last decade.

Making the world safer for secular women

The Pew and PRRI data don’t have much to say about why people, and especially women, are leaving religion. But those of us who have done so and who know many people who have abandoned the religion they were raised in and became atheists, agnostics and other types of nones have an idea of what’s going on. In a world where women are a major part of the labor force, where there’s a political party dedicated full-time to send women back to the home…and that said party is controlled by the most reactionary religious elements of the country, it should not be surprising that women have decided that religion isn’t for them. That doesn’t mean that secularism is more welcoming. Despite of their love for pointing out religious misogyny, many so-called atheist and secular leaders are very good at dissing the views of secular women. The data may show that religion is losing its grip on many in the United States, but unless we have institutions that are truly inclusive, organized secularism will continue to be a boys club.

Sources:

Adult population

2016 nones gender ratios

2007 nones gender ratios

Note: edited to fix typo “adulation” meant “adult population” (thanks autocorrect)

The March of the Nones Continue

PRRI released yesterday a new ginormous poll of religious identification in the United States. At 101,000-ish cases the largest this century and its scope is so large that it is really unprecedented. Of course, I am interested in what it says about the religious nones. And I may say, many things are good news.

Take, for example, this pretty line chart tracing the growth of the nones back 40 years. Up to the 1990s, roughly 1-in-10 Americans were non religious. Then, by the 2000s the population started growing and was famously captured and highlighted by the 2008 American Religious Identification Survey nearly a decade ago. Back then people considered that 15 percent of Americans being non religious was a pretty big deal. In the crazy days following the release of the 2008 ARIS those of us in that team did a lot of media. My friend Ryan Cragun did an interview (I can’t recall where) predicting that the nones soon will be 25 percent of the country. I thought that was optimistic, time has proved me wrong.

Today, about one-quarter of Americans are religious nones. What does that mean for the country and its future? I don’t really know, but I will explore several questions regarding the growth of the nones in the next few posts using the PRRI report. I will explore the demographics of the nones, the politics of the nones, and likely engage with some of the pieces that have been, are being, and will be written about this report.

Two Appearances in the Secular Nation Podcast

Recently I served as guest and, later, host of Secular Nation, the podcast of the Atheist Alliance of America. In my guest appearance I talk about secularism and politics in the Trump Era with Aron Ra and Justin Scott of Eastern Iowa Atheists. In the show I hosted I interview Dr. Ron Millar, the PAC coordinator for the Freethought Equality Fund, a secular PAC.

For my guest hosting appearance I wanted to focus on the great work the PAC did in 2016, one of the few bright spots our movement had in this past election. You can listen to the show here. Ron discusses the process of finding and endorsing candidates, the importance of having more secular Americans running for office, and other issues. As a backgrounder I want to show some information about the PAC’s work last year.
The Fund endorsed 35 candidates in 17 states. Arizona led the way with 9 candidates, nearly one-quarter of the candidate pool. The states are quite diverse. There are hotbeds of American secularism such as Washington, Oregon and New Hampshire with multiple candidates. But there are also places like Utah, Missouri, and Tennessee.

One aspect we didn’t discuss in the podcast was the variety of offices that the candidates ran for. It wasn’t a matter of local offices. Most ran for state (legislative) offices and the second largest cohort competed for federal (Congress) offices.

Last but not least, the Fund was very successful with its endorsed candidates. The majority won their races. In the podcast Ron goes a little bit into detail into who was more likely to succeed.

I hope you enjoy the shows!

Latinos, the Nones, and the Decline of American Catholicism

Last week PRRI released a new survey providing an in-depth look at the nones. The nones are now America’s largest “religious” cohort, surpassing Catholics. This is no coincidence. Former Catholics (or people raised as Catholic like yours truly) have been boosting the numbers of the nones for years. The stability of Catholic religious identification in the United States was a mirage. The growth of the Latino population in the 1990s and 2000s, back then overwhelmingly Catholic greatly contributed to the overall numbers and give the impression that Catholic identification was very stable in the face of overall declining religiosity in the country.

Back when I was at the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture (ISSSC) and we released the 2008 American Religious Identification Survey we noted that anomaly. On page 15 of the 2008 ARIS Summary Report Barry Kosmin & Ariela Keysar noted that “…Catholicism lost ground within every ethnic group between 1990 and 2008. If the Hispanic population, which is the most Catholic, had not expanded then the Catholic population share nationally would have significantly eroded.” This observation was based on an analysis of a subsample of nones that received additional questions on ethnic heritage. We found a substantial number of former Catholics of Irish descent among the nones that was further explored in ISSSC’s report “American Nones.”

Even as Latinos seemed to give Catholicism a boost, under the surface there were problems. The third ARIS report, published in 2010, was on Latino religious change. In that report we noted that Catholic identification among Latinos had declined from to-thirds of all Latinos in 1990 to 6-in-10 by 2008 while the share of nones had doubled. The decline in Catholicism among Latinos led us to conclude that “…while Latinos helped to mitigate some of the losses in Catholic identification in the U.S., the Catholic identification is much lower than it could have been.”

By 2013 I had joined PRRI and our Hispanic Values Survey found that the growth of Latino nones was fueled by an exodus of Latino Catholics. The next year, 2014 the Pew Research Center found that 20 percent of Latinos were nones.

In sum, though the growth of the nones seems to be a mostly white, male phenomenon because the most prominent secular faces are white dudes, people of color especially Latinos have helped the group become the largest “religious” cohort in the country. So, secular America, in the name of all former Latino Catholics I say, you’re welcome.

 

Bernie, the Donald, and the Nones

A couple of weeks ago Mark Silk wrote about a Pew poll that found that majorities of nones supported Sen. Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump in their respective party contests. According to the poll, 61 percent of Democratic or Democratic-leaning nones favor Sanders over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Thirty-five percent prefer Clinton. On the Republican side, 57 percent of nones support Trump while Sen. Ted Cruz and Gov. John Kasich lag well behind with 17 percent each.

The survey confirms a hunch I’ve had for a while. In my social media feeds there are apparently more Sanders than Clinton supporters. Of course, my maybe 1,000 social media contacts (some of them repeated across platforms and not all of them secular) are not likely to be representative of the nones, but those suspicions now are confirmed.

Sen. Sanders’s support is strongest among young Americans of the Millennial generation. This happens to be the most secular generation as well. On paper, it is also a generation that is to the left of the general population on social/economic issues (in favor of more spending on government services and the social safety net). In this regard secular Millennials are the core of Sanders’s coalition.

Sen. Sanders’s support is strongest among young Americans of the Millennial generation. This happens to be the most secular generation as well

What I wasn’t sure, though I also had a hunch, was the preferred candidate among Republican nones. My social media contacts were no good for this since I barley have any Republicans, let alone any Republican nones (these are very rare). My hunch was that the GOP-leaning nones’ preferences were maybe leaning toward Trump, and that Kasich would be ahead of Cruz. And I was way off-target in that regard.

Two-thirds of Republican nones are men according to Pew’s Religion Landscape Survey.

My reading of the Republican nones assumes that this is a conservative group on economic matters but more liberal on cultural matters. That assumption is likely correct and will be the subject of a forthcoming post. Trump, depending on the day, is the least religious candidate in the Republican field, a positive for those who only care about Church-State issues. What I probably underestimated is the extent of the racism, sexism, and hatred to “pc dialogue” among many in the secular community.

 It’s fair to say that, for the first time in American history, the Nones making their influence felt on the presidential nominating process.

-Mark Silk, Spiritual Politics, “The Year of the Nones

I am aware that some communities such as men’s rights activists and even groups of white supremacists can be a draw for secular men. And  I think that is what drives Trump’s high numbers among the Republican nones, who are primarily young men. Two-thirds of Republican nones are men according to Pew’s Religion Landscape Survey.

Mark Silk interprets the Pew poll findings as part of a “year of the nones”making their influence felt on the presidential nominating process.” I partly agree with that interpretation. It is true that the nones are becoming larger portions of the parties’ coalitions. But the secular movement keeps waiting for the parties to knock on their doors instead of trying a hostile takeover of party structures. What I mean is that nones are not being organized as political blocs but rather as individual voters who happen to coincide in their preferences for particular candidates. That is no way to gain any sort of clout.

While I think the none vote will be decisive, it is less clear if politicians will care until there is a coordinated effort in the secular leadership to exploit their strength in numbers. In that sense I would modify Silk’s “year of the nones” to the “year of the none” because it is the coincidence of individual nones what may become decisive in this primary season, rather than the collective undertaking of the nones to affect the ouctome of the elections.

Image Source: ABC News

 

3 Reasons a Majority of Latinos Support Reproductive Rights

A new survey finds, once again, that a majority of Latinos favor abortion rights for women. Unfortunately, the images the media have on Latinos mostly fall into two camps. There are those who think we are all Catholic and who pray for the intercession of the Virgin of Guadalupe in an hourly basis. Or, thinking that the fastest-growing religion among Latinos is Pentecostalism. Most people are wrong on both assumptions and it matters when it comes to understanding Latinos and abortion rights. A majority of Latinos are in favor of legalized abortion, access to healthcare for women, and other reproductive rights for three reasons: partisanship, religious practice, and growing secularism.

Legal access to abortion is a mainstream position in the Democratic Party and a majority of Latinos identity as Democrats. While there may be pockets of socially conservative Latinos who identify as Democrats, most Latinos agree with their co-partisans as I pointed out a few years ago. Thus, it should be not surprising that a group in which a majority identify with a party where most members approve of legal access to abortion are in favor of a woman’s right to choose.

Of course, abortion and contraception are still banned by the Catholic Church. But PRRI’s Hispanic Values Survey found that Latino Catholics are split on the matter of abortion. It is fair to assume that a majority of Latino Catholics who identify as Democrats are in favor of legal abortion. The same survey find that many Catholics disagree with the Church’s teachings on many issues. This makes sense because, as I pointed out in my interview in The Ra-Men Podcast earlier this week, there are variations of belief and practice among Latinos, especially Catholics. Many Latinos are Catholic due to tradition or cultural inertia and do not think much of it. They may celebrate Catholic holidays and practice sacraments once in a while, particularly those that are part of life-cycle events such as baptisms and marriages, but not think about the religion and its rules as a matter of everyday decision making. In other words, many Catholic Latinos live very secular lives.

Although Pentecostalism among Latinos makes headlines, the truth is that the fastest-growing “religious” group among Latinos is the nones. Most of the nones are former Catholics who are admitting what has been obvious for a long time. Many Catholics are so by tradition and now feel free to admit what they have felt for a long time. The Latino nones are more liberal on social issues, as nones in general tend to be in American politics. This is confirmed by many polls, including the PRRI and Pew polls linked here.

We try to rationalize why Latinos’ historically conservative attitudes on social issues keep shifting to the left as if the population is predominantly Christian. It is still is, but not to the extent it was a generation ago. The growth of Latino secularism has implications for American politics as candidates and strategists, and the community’s leaders attempt to understand how to harness the power of Latinos’ numbers. As progressives we need to realize that a secular left is slowly forming, that it has the potential of being a multi-racial and multicultural coalition. Most importantly, progressives need to stop pandering with token religious language to a constituency that with each passing day becomes more secular. It is shortsighted, shows a disregard for facts and trends in favor of stereotypes, and it is insulting to those that are a key player in the future of the movement.

Photo Credit: USC University Church Sign by Jason Eppink (Flickr)

 

 

 

Political Secularism Moves Forward (Slowly)

Secular Americans want to be taken seriously in the political arena. And for good reason, the nones now rival Catholics as the single largest “religious” group in the country. Our numbers keep growing and we have little to show for it.

Two online pieces last week may me think that the tide may be finally turning. First, a press release by the Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation announces the (re)launch of their “I’m secular and I Vote” campaign. From the release:

The campaign will include outreach to voters across the nation through FFRF chapters, a national TV ad buy this month focusing on the separation of church and state, paid digital media ads, efforts to mobilize students on college campuses, and coordination with the nation’s other major freethought associations as part of the June 4, 2016 Reason Rally in Washington, D.C.

This sounds like a beginning of an organizing strategy. However, the final quote by Annie Laurie Gaylor “[m]any [secular voters] appear to be waiting for a candidate who acknowledges them as a group and speaks forcefully about keeping religion out of government,” makes me think that FFRF may be free from religious affiliation but not free from religious thinking. The quote indicates that secular Americans are waiting for a messiah, a “chosen one” politician who will finally pay attention to us.

Luckily, better news come from the American Humanist Association. An article in the Houston Chronicle there’s a brief description of the work done by the Center for Freethought Equality.

[T]he political action arm of [Roy] Speckhardt’s organization [the American Humanist Association], maintains an Internet report card, rating lawmakers’ voting records on humanist issues. Texas congressmen generally rate F’s. It lobbies secret nonbelievers in Congress to “come out of the closet” and, in coming months will make public its endorsements for November’s election.

We need to do more of this elite-level type of politics. And our organizations need to take steps like endorsing candidates and contributing to campaigns. But if we want politicians to listen to us we need to produce our own political class. The secular leadership needs to come up with a game plan to develop candidates. Not just for Congress, but for lower local and state offices, places where future secular members of the national government can be trained in the art of governing. We cannot keep just relying on individual candidates outing themselves as secular and running fringe campaigns (as Libertarians or Greens), then complaining that “we are the most hated group” and that is why we cannot get elected.

Photo credits: “Reason Rally – Science, Reason & Secular Values” by Marty Stone (Flickr)

A Latino Deconversion Story

Diego Kal-El Martinez at Medium writes the story of leaving Catholicism and becoming an atheist. My favorite quote may be this one, that encapsulates what I think is a very common experience of people who were raised religious and are now nones.

The thing about my story though is I don’t think I can pinpoint an exact moment I became an Atheist. It was all just one long progression from Catholic to Atheist. Sure I can say that now with great conviction but there was never that, “Ah-Ha” moment when I said to myself, “I am an Atheist”. Oh and that missing piece in my life, well I never found it.

I loved how he phrased that progression from religious to none. Moreover, I think it is a very common experience, especially among Latinos. Most people probably start doubting a tenet of the religion, a teaching, or just the authority of the religious leaders. Which is why I think a focus on science education as the sole route to atheism is misguided because it scares people into thinking that a particular knowledge set is a litmus test to become an atheist. Go and read the whole thing.