We’re #1 Where It Matters October 28, 2011

We’re #1 Where It Matters

… and White Evangelical Protestants are trailing everybody.

The trend is growing slowly — admittedly too slowly — in the direction of equality in all the other religious demographics, but the megachurch crowd shows us once again why their popularity is waning and why younger generations are getting the hell out of there.

It’s not like the other religious groups are that much better — and 66% in the “Unaffiliated” category isn’t exactly a number to be proud of — but to be that far behind progress?! That takes a special sort of bigotry.

We obviously have a long way to go, but this graphic raises an interesting question (which I’ve mentioned before): Would you rather see evangelicals remain this anti-gay because it pushes people away from their faith, or would you rather they come to terms with reality and support marriage equality?

(via Daily Dish)

***UPDATE***: Please see this post for an update.

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  • At least the evangelicals have some sort of systematic beliefs, however insane, behind their bigotry – what excuse have those 34% of unaffiliated folks got for their homophobia?

  • Anonymous

    Of course, “Religiously unaffiliated” could refer to more than just atheists.  It could also be people who are believers but not affiliated with any (dis)organized religion.  I’d be curious to see this question asked to specifically include an “atheists” answer along with “religiously unaffiliated.  If they had to choose between being an atheist and being a believer who won’t admit to being part of the corruption, evil, and silliness that is (dis)organized religion, I wonder what the atheist-only numbers would be?

  • Lady_Ravenchilde

    Ewan does make a good point. Personally, I’d rather see the evangelicals remain anti-gay. It helps to identify the idiocy and bigotry that can be expressed through religion.

  • Elerena

    I’m a little more disturbed by the massive gap between white and black mainline protestants, myself.

  • TiltedHorizon

    Wow. I used to think homosexual bigotry was burden, balanced cognitively with religious self rightness, the removal of which would make the burden too much to bear. I guess there is more to it than that, its a shock for me to see those numbers come so close to a
    coin toss. I was hoping to take more pride in being number one.

  • Erin W

    Since the US Congress will probably be dominated by evangelicals for a while to come, not to mention state legislatures, I think I’d rather see them change.  Getting people away from religion is a multi-generational project.  I’d kinda like to have full rights in this country in my lifetime, and I think that’s easier done if they change.  I’m hopeful that there are other reasons the evangelicals can’t change that are driving young people away, anyhow.

  • 66% in the “Unaffiliated” category isn’t exactly a number to be proud of

    I hate that “relgiously unaffiliated” is a group in any poll. It just lumps us in with all sorts of fringe nuts who simply don’t consider themselves affiliated with a religion. In no way is it representative of atheists in general.

  • Kevin

    This is an excellent point. 66% is still nothing to be proud of.

  • This is a good point. Note also that when such breaksdowns do occur atheists and agnostics look very different than the non-religious. For example, if you remember the Pew study a while ago that showed that atheists and agnostics knew more about religion than any other group in the US, in order to get that result they needed to separate our either “no religion” or “none” as its own category. In fact, the nones generally performed quite poorly. When studies do try to make this sort of distinction the nones often look very different from the atheists. 

  • Erp

    It is not black mainline protestant but black protestant which presumably includes black evangelicals and black mainline and the traditional black churches.

    What is probably dismaying to many in the Catholic hierarchy is the number of Catholics in support though non-churchgoing Catholics may be more likely to identify themselves as Catholic than non-churchgoing other Christians with their former denomination.

  • I’d prefer not. If anything, for the sake of the LGBTQ kids growing up in evangelical families. I see nothing good in continuing their growing up in families and communities who see them as fundamentally evil, just to prove our point.

  • They have no excuse besides blind bigotry. Also as mentioned a few times above, religiously unaffiliated doesn’t necessarily mean atheist.

    It’s a sad state of affairs, but just because one is rational and skeptical in one aspect (religious belief) it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re rational and skeptical in other beliefs. The reality is the complete opposite, that many espousing skepticism and rational thought are those who are some of the meanest and cruelest people to hold those same ideas.

  • I think that religion has its place and don’t feel a need for it to disappear entirely, so I’d like to see the evangelists change their stance. They will, too. When I moved to San Francisco several years ago, I was amused to see how many churches had signs reading that ALL are welcome. Some specifically said that gay people are welcome. So basically, when the religious groups realize they’re losing massive followers with their discrimination, their tune will change. I’m looking forward to that.

  • I heard one person say he was afraid that gay people would turn other people gay. (You didn’t specify a good excuse, so I’m just throwing out the one I heard).

  • Sonneillonv

    Religiously unaffiliated, as I think a couple commentators pointed out, does not mean Atheist.  I’m not challenging the assertion that y’all tend to be on the forward end of social justice because I know that’s true, but for example, I’m Pagan and I don’t see any reference to Paganism on the graph.  We also tend to be progressives.  Same for Buddhists, Jains, etc.

  • “Religiously unaffiliated” means anybody without a religious identity. They’re the equivalent of the “nones” in the ARIS. We found in the ARIS that 42% of the Nones are atheists or agnostics and an additional 24% are “deists” That leaves about 34% who are theists (believe in a personal god that listen to prayers and stuff). I’m not saying that the 34% who do not approve of SSM are all the theists, but they likely account for most of them, this is the group that is also less likely to believe in evolution.

  • Nicole S

    I’d like them to become more tolerant, because when you start chipping away at their dogma, the faith starts to fall apart even to the followers. 

  • Charles Black

    I’d rather the evangelicals retain their backward homophobic views if only so that people especially young people distance themselves from the religion they are affiliated with. Lets face it the evangelicals are their own worst enemy.

  • Know who’s missing from this chart? Reform Jews. We’re pretty damn welcoming. I’d like to see how we rate on that chart! 

  • Also, the “damn” was not intended to be like, “DAMN IT, I HATE BEING WELCOMING.” It was more of an emphasis to convey my pride in being a part of a faith group that isn’t full of bigoted jackasses.

  • I bet their sample size was too small to make any generalizations, there are no Mormons in the chart as well.

  • Anonymous

    Unaffiliated doesn’t mean not religious or even atheist. The majority of those still believe in some sort of god. They just don’t belong to a particular cult or church

  • Zoden

    My thoughts exactly. As an example but me and my dorm roommate would be grouped under Religiously Unaffiliated. He is a christian that doesn’t associate with any
    particular denomination. He’s a far right wing conservative and also he still argues homosexuality is
    a mental disease. I am both an atheist and gay. Bleeding heart liberal and all that, too. Same grouping, not anything

    For the purpose of representing demographics of support it seems a rather foolish grouping.

  • Rich Wilson

    I have a Mormon relative who has a gay sibling and a gay child.  Mormon says they’d be in full support of gay marriage, except “their church will be required to marry people against their beliefs”.  As in, my relative bought the LDS BS that LDS Bishops will be forced to marry people.  Which, as I said, is BS.  But it’s my word against the Bishop.  (And they did call the role ‘Bishop’). 

  • TychaBrahe

    A lot of Christians call themselves “unaffiliated” if they don’t belong to any particular church, or if their church isn’t part of a larger group, like the Lutherans or the AME.

  • Celeste

    I’d rather have a lot of delusional people that really do support equality and love than a small group of delusional, hate-filled bigots.  (As long as the loving delusionals also stay the f*** out of my government.)

  • I left the Mormon church over their participation in Prop. 8.  I have many relatives who wouldn’t support gay marriage, even if the bishops and temples legally didn’t have to marry gays.  Every Mormon is different, but I agree, their reasons are bs.

    Maybe Mormons weren’t included on the chart because they all blindly follow what the prophet says and it seemed pointless because it was 0-3%   :/

  • Rieux

    Well said. I’d bet heavily that the 34% of unaffiliateds who oppose gay marriage are overwhelmingly predominantly theists.

    Take a look at this study from the Pew Forum published a year ago; you have to scroll about halfway down the webpage to find the relevant results, but according to that study, the “atheist/agnostic” demographic is 80-82% in favor of gay marriage. Which is 4-7 points better than Jews and vastly better than every other religious group polled.

    (For the benefit of “Suburban Sweetheart” upthread, it’s possible that if you threw out Conservative and Orthodox Jews, the Jewish number would be comparable to or even better than ours. But Conservative and Orthodox Jews make up a large proportion of American Jews. I wish I could boot an atheist or two out of my demographic, but no such luck….)

  • Anonymous

    Atheists/Agnostics/unbelievers/etc are too small to leave the margin for error in a lot of these sample sizes.

  • Rieux

    Religiously unaffiliated, as I think a couple commentators pointed out, does not mean Atheist.

    Right—but that cuts in favor of atheists on this topic. Atheists and agnostics as a demographic are much more pro-GLBT than the Unaffiliated category is as a whole. The non-ath/ag portion of Unaffiliated drags our terrific numbers down.

    I’m Pagan and I don’t see any reference to Paganism on the graph.  We also tend to be progressives.  Same for Buddhists, Jains, etc.

    Sure; I’m reasonably certain that Pagans as a demographic are even more pro-GLBT than atheists are, though Buddhism and Jainism (like nearly every religion) are more conflicted.

    But the size of the demographics in question is a rather important issue. There are fewer than 100,000 American Jains. The highest estimates of the number of Pagans in the U.S. are something like 1.2-1.5 million. American Buddhists are a larger group, largely because of Asian immigration; there could be as many as 10 million Buddhists in the U.S.

    By comparison, “out” atheists and agnostics comprise at least 4% of the U.S. population—so at least about 13 million people. It’s hard to say how many more American nonbelievers there are who aren’t willing to admit it to a pollster, but several sources estimate that the total proportion of Americans who don’t believe in gods is 10-12%—so around 35 million people, or more than three times the total number of Pagans, Buddhists, and Jains. Like it or not, that’s a significant reason for pollsters to spend more energy measuring ath/ag attitudes than they do Pagan ones.

  • I would hate to see the White Evangelicals remain ‘that way’.

    As mentioned before, it hurts the LGBT youth that grow up in those households; what a horrible life to live.

    Secondly, the only reason why I am so against religion is because of their hypocrisy and views like this. If every one who believed in a god, and/or a holy book, kept it to themselves instead of finding every reason to ‘save’ others, and try write their ideals into law, etc., then religion wouldn’t get on my nerves so much. It wouldn’t be so dangerous.

    The more progress we make as a whole, the better. I would hope we would welcome all people to think more skeptically and logically. Children are still going to doubt the stories, teenagers are still going to question and have doubts, and with that eventually, adults are going to still leave the churches. I hate the want of having other people to remain bigoted just to get people to leave ‘the church’.

    ‘The church’ is only evil because of views like this. Imagine if people believed in their magical being, but accepted all people for who they were and actively followed the golden rule. That is what I hope for, not that they stay in the dark ages.

  • Using some rough filtering on the GSS, atheist/agnostic/deists unaffiliateds run ~70-80%; other NOTAs run ~50%. The GSS Samples are too small for serious confidence intervals or trends on this, however, so take this with a grain of salt.

  • Rieux


    A lot of those churches with the “ALL are welcome” signs still don’t believe that GLBTs deserve the same rights straight people have—such as marriage, or the right to become clergy in that church. Plenty of churches, such as the Roman Catholic hierarchy, have a bit of a bait-and-switch working, where they proclaim their caring for gays and lesbians but still preach that gay love (or at least—horrors!—acting on that love) is sinful. They’re using a rather weak, if not ridiculously dishonest, conception of “welcome.”

    Other times, the individual congregation is GLBT-friendly, but the broader denomination isn’t. (Sort of like the number of Boy Scout troops that ignore the national BSA’s bigotry toward gays and atheists.) Which means GLBT members are fine as long as they keep the noise down and don’t attract the attention of the bishop or national-association president or whatever.

    The upshot is that that cheery cover doesn’t always correspond to gay-friendliness inside.

  • Rieux

    That’s the heart-rending dilemma. The intensity of homophobia in so much American religion is in the process of driving millions of young people away from religion—which is in fact much more than “just proving our point,” thanks. It’s a broad and very positive consequence, a benefit to humanity.

    But the hell-on-earth that is the young lives of countless young GLBT people is such a terrifying cost.

    If American religion decided to cast out homophobia (in much the way it cast out support for first slavery and then segregation—on utterly nonexistent scriptural grounds—generations ago), that would clearly strengthen religion’s demographic hand.

    It’s at least awfully tempting to argue that the world would be better off with an anti-gay (and therefore severely weakened) U.S. religious establishment, plus major “It Gets Better” efforts on our part to save the lives of the objects of religious hatred, than it would be with liberalized religion.

  • Rieux

    Yes, and “religiously unaffiliated” doesn’t even come close to meaning “rational and skeptical with regard to religious belief”!

  • GSS data (variables RELIG, GOD) suggests slightly different values (circa 10/20/30/40), but has a smaller sample; however, they’re look a little closer to what I recall of Pew’s numbers. GSS also suggests (MARHOMO, combined YEAR 2000-2010 to get a useful sample) that while a majority of the non-approve are theist, it’s not a particularly strong majority.

  • Here here, Tea Cosy! Wishing misfortune on others just to make ourselves seem better actually makes us seem way, way worse. If we can’t make our point without banking on the other side being evil (as opposed to just wrong) then we are seriously no different than evangelicals who hope all gays get AIDS to prove how bad our lifestyle is.

    I really do think that if you can’t make your point without hyperbole, then you can’t make your point.

  • Note “oppose” is not the same as “do not support”. The usual poll question includes a “neither agree nor disagree” option; only about 27% actually disapprove or strongly disapprove.

    Define “Overwhelmingly” as a 3:1 ratio, however, and I’d take that bet; GSS puts that outside the 99% confidence interval. It looks more like 3:2, and maybe even as bad as 4:3.

  • It’s interesting to me to see Catholics being higher than any of the other listed religious groups, mainly in that it isn’t a surprise to me. I grew up Catholic, and my Protestant friends would always ask me how I survived in such an anti-gay environment. That always confused me because I never once, not a single time, ever heard anyone in church or Bible class or anything Catholic-connected say anything anti-gay (okay, aside from a couple of middle schoolers, but middle schoolers should never represent anybody). I remember a few homilies arguing FOR better treatment of gay people.

    Granted, this doesn’t mean all Catholic churches are cheerleaders for gay folks. I’ve met lots of Catholics (and lots and lots more former-Catholics) throughout the years, and there have been a few who had a much less positive time (Catholics of color usually being the ones with more strict and anti-gay experiences). The majority of them reported apathy to the issue, neither denouncing it or trumpeting it, but just not really caring one way or the other. To most Catholics I met, the Pope was a nice man in a funny hat who lived faaaaaaaaar away on the other side of an ocean, and if we wanted a few Catholic pride parades, they wouldn’t find out.

    Like I said, I know a lot of former-Catholics. TONS. But we didn’t leave because the church was anti-gay, or anti-abortion, or anti-evolution, or anti-anything, really. We left because it didn’t make logical sense. That’s all we needed. That’s all we should need to get people on our side.

  • Rich Wilson

    I wonder if the RC rules are sooo over the top that it makes them easier to break?  Like no birth control- really?  If you’re going to ignore the rule on birth control, then maybe that’s the gateway rule break?

    Then again, it’s not like other denominations don’t have over-the-top rules.

  • GSS gives N=53 JEW(3) answers to MARHOMO, if you lump in from 2004-2010. 23 strongly agree, 16 agree, 5 neither, 7 disagree, 2 strongly disagree. So, in the neighborhood of 70%.

  • Anonymous

    It’s really appropriate to use scare quotes with Mormon “bishops”. They are basically lay leaders. Not that I have any great respect for Catholic bishops, but at least they have formal theological training and other experience to prepare them for the job.

    Also, Mormon “bishops” are really just priests in charge of a church and not many churches in a larger geographic area

  • Gateway rule! That’s an interesting way to look at it, and you might be on to something. There were SO MANY rules *on paper* and so many were weird that we tended to just skim it and get on with our lives.

  • The actual question the GSS uses is “What is your religous preference? Is it Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, some other religion, or no religion?” I think ARIS used the same, but am too lazy to check. In contrast, the Pew forum used “Are you Protestant, Roman Catholic, Mormon, Orthodox such as Greek or Russian Orthodox, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, atheist, agnostic, something else, or nothing in particular?
    “, so as to get specific breakdown into atheist/agnostic/NIP within the category.

  • Itsjustme

    I couldn’t agree more, Rosalarian. And as a person who grew up in (and am still around far more than I would like) evangelicalism, I fervently hope, for the sake of gays both inside and outside the church, that evangelicals will wake up and throw homophobia the way of support for slavery.

    Honestly, the whole “we hope they stay as evil and homophobic as possible” is just disturbing. Are we also going to wish that evangelical pastors across America become serial killers and engage in organized sex trafficking en masse, so that then people will *really* know they’re wrong? That’s just the opposite side of the coin of evangelicals reveling in the hope that gays will die of some gay disease so that it proves how bad gayness is so that people are scared away from the gay. C’mon, now. We can do better than that.

  • Rpjohnston

    In response to the question at the end of the OP: “irrelevant”. I see it more of a problem of dealing with what IS rather than speculation. So, from my point of view, we have a large group – containing evangelicals and others – who are opposed to human rights, progress, sane economic and national policy, etc.If you want to call me out as lumping them all as the “enemy”, then I’ll pre-empt you: they are the Enemy.

    However, I see the goal as not to defeat the enemy but rather to defeat the viewpoints that they hold. So whether they convert to our side, or whether we can use their ridiculousness to sway others to our side, I make no distinction; they are equally valid tactics, and which one(s) to be used and how to use them depends on the case. many evangelicals are impossible to convert, and for this reason I would say, largely, don’t bother trying; however by all means draw attention to the iniquity of their beliefs to influence the culture away from them – and if they are swayed themselves, all the better.

    tl;dr the goal is not to do anything in particular about the individuals but rather to the cultural policies they espouse.

  • The Gay Marriage supporters are much more likely to be “C&E” Catholics. Attitudes of  Catholics attending at least twice monthly have shifted less, but also appear to be shifting.

    The real problem is that even among the regularly attending, the shift is more pronounced among younger Catholics, and may be even further pronounced among younger Catholic women. (Insert off-color Catholic schoolgirl joke here….) The conservatives have already lost this struggle; it’s just a question of how long the twitching will continue.

  • Actually, as the category is defined by the usual questions, he’d be considered “Christian” rather than in the Unaffiliated (actually “None”) category.

  • Anonymous

    Except for the Religiously Unaffiliated which went up in 2004, everyone else took a dive.
    I don’t remember but was there a religious anti-gay smear campaign in 2004?

  • Rieux

    Note “oppose” is not the same as “do not support”.

    Okay; touché. I should have re-worded (or perhaps re-numbered).

    Define “Overwhelmingly” as a 3:1 ratio, however, and I’d take that bet; GSS puts that outside the 99% confidence interval.

    You lost me. What numbers are you referring to here?

  • Rieux

    My random, not-terribly-responsive addition:

    In fact, the nones generally performed quite poorly.

    Actually, on that little quiz every group did really poorly. Atheists’ average score was just a little less pitiful than every other group’s.

  • Themiddleme

    Apparently 34% of those delusional, hate filled bigots are not religiously affiliated.

  • Themiddleme

    Atheist doesn’t always mean “rational and skeptical with regard to religious belief”, either. You can’t just assume that every atheist is also rational (or even intelligent, etc.)

  • Themiddleme

    Every faith group has bigoted jackasses in it. You can’t assume that any group of people are all going to think exactly the same all the time.

  • Themiddleme

    I came up with my own reasoning for birth control as a Catholic: If a person practises abstinence or the “rhythm method” (which is abstaining during fertile times and approved by the Church), then the person is interfering with God’s will for them to have kids. In fact, if a couple aren’t having sex pretty much constantly, they could be denying God the creation of more people. That’s the philosophy behind the Church being against birth control, anyway. You’re not supposed to interfere with God’s will for you to have kids, you’re supposed to have sex and if you get pregnant, you get pregnant. I think abstaining from sex at any time is the same as interfering and placing your will (not having sex to not have kids) ahead of God’s will (make more people). So birth control IMHO isn’t wrong.

  • Lumping Conservative and Orthodox Jews todgether with Reform and Reconstruction is akin to saying the (usually liberal, I think) Methodists are the same as the evangelicals. In so many ways, the religion is not the same. It has the same basis, yes, as do Christian denominations with one another, but I have infinitely more in common with a liberal Christian, liberal Muslim or liberal atheist than I ever could with an Orthodox Jew, a fundamentalist Muslim or an evangelical Christian! That said, there aren’t that many of us, total, so we get put together – and the Orthodox are bigots, damn it!

    But still, I appreciate your caveat. 🙂

  •  Also, a PS: Thoughb the Orthodox would have you think the rest of us don’t exist & don’t count, the Reform Movement is much larger than both the Orthodox & Conservative Movements combined.

  •  Of course not, but I was referring to the denomination’s overall attitude, policies & Movement-wide, well, movement toward total inclusion & welcoming. There are jerks in every denomination – and every lack of denomination, too.

  • Rieux

    Lumping Conservative and Orthodox Jews todgether with Reform and Reconstruction is akin to saying the (usually liberal, I think) Methodists are the same as the evangelicals.

    In my experience, Reform-Jews-as-a-demographic are much more liberal than Methodists-as-a-demographic are; but that aside, I agree with you. And on most of the questions that matter, I don’t see much daylight between Methodists and evangelical Christians. All of the above staunchly support religious faith, religious authority, and religious privilege. All of them keep those poisons alive in the memepool.

  • HA2

    You have your probabilities backwards. 34 percent of the unaffiliated are bigots, not 34 percent of bigots are unaffiliated.

  • DJ Newton Rudd

    I scanned through the comments and didn’t see this point mentioned, so forgive me if I’m just repeating something someone else has brought up, but the graph describes changing attitudes towards gay MARRIAGE, which is not necessarily the same thing as support for LGBT equality and certainly isn’t a reliable indicator of bigotry or homophobia.  I myself am religiously unaffiliated and queer, but I don’t support gay marriage. Though fewer in number than ten or twenty years ago, there are still a number of ‘radical faeries’, ‘relationship anarchists,’ and similar within the LGBT communities who are saddened or even angry that the LGBT movement has been reduced to a one-note, assimilationist marriage movement since the early 90s, rather than being a movement which celebrates diverse ways of living, relating and being and which challenges the oppressive aspects of the prevailing relationship, sex and gender norms. This perspective is, admittedly, a marginal one even within the relatively small queer communities, I don’t wish to overstate its influence and certainly all the excellent points others have made here about the ambiguity of the phrase ‘religiously unaffiliated’ apply, I simply wish to add as a footnote, as it were, that LGBT/queer people are not uniformly in favour of gay marriage; those trans/intersex/androgyne/genderqueer/bisexual/pansexual etc among us are usually overlooked by mainstream society, but we are all too often made invisible in reported research that’s ostensibly ABOUT us.

  • Rich Wilson

    Do you then support something else to handle the privileges tied to marriage?  e.g. my wife is Russian.  If we were of the same sex, then her getting US citizenship would have been nearly impossible.

  • Rieux

    True enough. I don’t assume anything of the kind, though.

  • Where it matters?   I don’t understand.

  • The numbers I’m referring to are the General Social Survey, using Berkeley’s web interface. Start with the “Nones” by filtering either RELIG(4) or RELITEN(4). Consider the position on gay marriage using MARHOMO; values 1-3 support or don’t care, 4-5 are some level of opposed. Use question GOD to break down the Nones into more nuanced categories: response 1 gets the atheists, response 2 the agnostics; responses 3 to 6 give varying levels of theist from deist upward. Using data from years 2008-2010 gives enough data for a slight confidence interval…

    …and, whoops, looks like I made a range selection typo before. Include the deists as theists, and it does tip to 3:1. Sorry.

  • Rieux

    I’m still a little confused, but (largely arbitrarily) I think I’m going to declare victory based on that last paragraph. Go me!

  • Sulris Campbell

    why would that even be bad?

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