TBJE 20: Secular Family Values

In this belated episode Luciano and Juhem discuss ways of appropriating the term “family values” from the Christian Right. They explain what they mean by family values and why they think these are issues that progressive secularists can lead on.

Links:

Modern Family Values Could And Should Define Future Democrats (Luciano Gonzalez Sin/God)

Democrats Need To Stop Considering Backing Anti-Choice Politicians (Luciano Gonzalez Sin/God)

Representing Secular Family Values (Juhem Navarro-Rivera The LatiNone)

Anti-abortion Democrats fading from the scene (Reid Wilson The Hill)

Homophobia and the Secular Boom

Phil Zuckerman discusses a new study of college freshmen and their views on same-sex relationships as an explanation for their increasing secularism.

Simply put: Younger Americans are the least homophobic generation in our nation’s history, with a clear majority of millennials being accepting and affirming of homosexuality. And what do they see? That most major religions condemn homosexuality as sinful and wrong. Given this situation, these anti-gay and anti-lesbian religions are losing members in record numbers. Younger Americans are simply walking away from beliefs and institutions that they see as intolerant, unloving, and immoral.

There's some truth to this. In 2014, PRRI released "A Shifting Landscape: A Decade of Change in American Attitudes about Same-Sex Marriage and LGBT Issues" and the poll found that…

Among Americans who left their childhood religion and are now religiously unaffiliated, about one-quarter say negative teachings about or treatment of gay and lesbian people was a somewhat important (14%) or very important (10%) factor in their decision to disaffiliate. More than 7-in-10 Americans who have disaffiliated from their childhood religion report that was not too important (17%) or not at all important as a factor (54%).

However, I think that religion-based homophobia is just a gateway to secularism. It is the way in which many young people start questioning the tenets of their religion when they encounter LGBTQ individuals and realize they are (GASP!) human. From there, I think there's a snowballing process of questioning other teachings and, ultimately, abandoning identification. This is why membership among liberal religious groups is not blossoming despite increasing acceptance of homosexuality. Young people realize that they don't need religion, no matter how hip and abstract you want to make it.

Secularism and the Vanishing Latino Republicans

Are Latino Republicans an “endangered species”? That’s the question Prof. Stephen Nuño tries to answer in NBC Latino. Personally, I think that is the case. And obviously, I think growing secularism is a major contributor.

Although Prof. Nuño points out the past admiration of many Latinos for Ronald Reagan and the growing community of Latino small business owners were once a booming Republican constituency. Those factors, coupled with a grwoing anti-Comunist Cuban-American voting contingent (I may add) made the GOP attractive to many Latinos.

[I]t may surprise people to know that the GOP was once a party of promise for aspiring Latino businesspersons, parents who sought choice in education for their children, and Latino churchgoers where Catholicism still has a strong influence on Hispanic culture.

Dr. Stephen Nuño

I may also add that later on the growth of Latino evangelicals who shared the social conservatism (and some even shared the economic conservatism) of white evangelical Protestants made some scholars, like my mentors Barry Kosmin and Ariela Keysar, to hypothesize that the GOP had a Latino future with this growing constituency.

This is no longer the case. Young Latinos, like other young Americans, are abandoning organized religion. Like other secular Americans, secular Latinos are more liberal in their issue preferences than the rest of the population. Thus, as more Latinos become secular, the proportion of Latinos who are liberal also increases.

The percent of Latinos voting for Republican candidates has declined since 2004. In 2012 Latinos registered a record support for Barack Obama’s reelection. Many factors have been cited as a source for this left turn such as the blatant racism of the GOP base on immigration and the GOP’s disdain of the working poor in the aftermath of the Great Recession, constituencies that many Latinos are part of. One that is seldom mentioned is the growing secularism of Latinos, particularly young ones. Increasing secularism adds an additional layer of complexity to Republican outreach efforts for two reasons: policy and outreach.In this post I am addressing the policy differences.

Secularism and the Vanishing Latino RepublicansIn terms of policy, secular Latinos don’t agree with Republicans on issues of social (economic) or cultural (culture war issues) policy. An analysis of the 2014 Pew Religious Landscape Survey shows that Latinos are well to the left of Republicans in most issues. Secular Latinos are even farther from Republicans on most issues, too.

Increasing secularism adds an additional layer of complexity to Republican outreach efforts for two reasons: policy and outreach.

In terms of social policy Latinos consider that government aid to the poor  does more good than harm and that environmental regulations are worth their economic cost. This is consistent with the view of nearly two-thirds of Latinos who say they prefer a larger government with fewer services. Secular Latinos are even more liberal on matters of environmental policy and similar to all Latinos regarding aid to the poor. They are slightly less liberal on the size of the government. In all three questions they are well to the left of Republicans.

Latinos are more conservative on cultural issues like same-sex marriage and abortion and religion is probably the culprit. Unsurprisingly, on these two issues is where secular Latinos distinguish themselves from the Latino population in their liberalism. Needless to say, they are well to the left of Republicans.

A party that shows no concern for the poor, the environment, women, or LGBT Americans will have a hard time attracting secular voters. The Latino secularization makes sure that whatever inroads the GOP made with Latinos will become undone with this growing constituency.

Puerto Rican Secularism: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

After digging the data from Pew for my previous post on atheism and non-religion in Puerto Rico, I decided to dig a bit deeper. I found more interesting pieces of information about the state of secularism in Puerto Rico. By secularism I mean not just the religious identification of people, but also their attitudes about religion and politics, as well as morality and public policy. The information can be divided in 3 types: good, bad, and ugly.

The Good

A majority of Puerto Ricans think the government should stay out of religion and that religious leaders should stay away from politics. Nearly 6-in-10 (58 percent) think that “religion should be kept separate from government policies.” Of course, this is something that elected officials have not been very good at, with the main example being the issue of susbtance abuse treatment I alluded to in my previous post.
rel_govt

Another hopeful sign is that a majority think that “religious leaders should not have an influence in politics.” This means that most people probably don’t like the many religious ceremonies often endorse or attended by elected officials.

In an unrelated note, though important for education policy. Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of Puerto Ricans believe humans and other animals have evolved over time. This is encouraging, given the prevalence of religious schools, especially those run by Pentecostal ministries.

The Bad

Those are the good news, now the bad. In terms of views on social policy, even if most Puerto Ricans are religion/government separationists, their views on morality are very conservative. Take the example of same-sex marriage. While it is now legal, thanks to the Supreme Court recent decision, at the time of polling last year only one-third (33 percent) favored allowing people of the same sex to marry legally.

ssm_rel

The patterns of support among religious groups are predictable. Similar to what scholars find among religious groups in the United States, as this post by Public Religion Research Institute shows, Puerto Rican Protestants are the least supportive. Only 1-in-5 (20 percent) Protestants favor same-sex marriage. The percentage of Catholics in favor of same-sex marriage is nearly twice that of Protestants (39 percent) but still low. Even the religious nones in Puerto Rico are not fully in favor of same-sex marriage. Just under half (49 percent) of Puerto Rican nones favor same-sex marriage, a percentage much lower than the more than three-quarters of nones favoring same-sex marriage in the United States.

The Ugly

Support for same-sex marriage is low and so are the views on the morality of same-sex relationships. More than 6-in-10 (62 percent) say that same-sex relationships are immoral. Still opposition to same-sex marriage not as high as opposition to abortion. About three-quarters (77 percent) of Puerto Ricans consider abortion should be illegal and that abortion is immoral (74 percent).

Puerto Rican secularism needs to evolve. There are some positive signs regarding attitudes toward religion and government. However, religious belief is likely behind attitudes on social issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion. Fortunately, religion is not a large factor affecting belief in evolution. Another silver lining on social attitudes is that the vast majority do not think contraception use is immoral. The nones should take the positive signs and use them to change Puerto Rican politics and society harnessing those positive attitudes on religion/government separation.