Thursday, November 6, 2008

America's first truly secular president

I can quickly see that if I am going to quote Thompson, a Brit, regularly, I'm going to have to provide some translation services for you!

Damian Thompson, The Telegraph

The breakdown of voting figures in the US election indicates an extraordinary gulf between churchgoing and non-churchgoing voters. Barack Obama hoovered [vacuumed] up the votes of non-churchgoers to an unprecedented extent: 65 per cent of them voted for him. I've thought for a long time that American agnostics and atheists are a growing force, under-represented in opinion polls. Obama will be their president.

He'll also be the president of non-practising Catholics who, according to Beliefnet figures, voted 61 to 37 per cent for Obama. That's no surprise: the Democrats were always the party of Catholics.

But look at the way practising Catholics voted: 53 to 47 per cent for McCain. That confirms the trend observed in 2000 and 2004, which some commentators thought was only temporary. We can now say, with some certainty, that devout Catholics are more likely to be Republicans than Catholics. As for churchgoing Protestants (most of them evangelicals), nearly two-thirds voted for McCain.

Obama is likely to be the first truly secular American president. Sure, he goes to church, but for many years the one he attended was little more than an outcrop of the leftist urban black community, in which he was as likely to hear political conspiracy theories as the Gospel from the pulpit. And his very strong support for abortion indicates that he has a profoundly secular attitude towards the sanctity of life.

He was born in 1961, the same year as Douglas Coupland, inventor of Generation X, which produced the first post-churchgoing cohort of American voters. And, boy, did they turn out in force for Obama. No other candidate has captured the imagination of young secular Americans to this degree.

I wonder how many Obama activists have read Sam Harris's The End of Faith, a bestselling attack on religious dogma? A very high proportion, I reckon. And I wonder how many junior members of the new administration will turn out to be non-churchgoers?

Last night could mark the beginning of the end of European assumptions that religion is hardwired into the American soul. Sceptics [Skeptics] and non-believers: as of January, you will have a friend in the White House.

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