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Americans’ erratic relationship with religion will be tested again after abortion ruling, experts say

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Liz Cooper-Klish said the Bible ultimately led her down the path to becoming an atheist.

After earning a Bible studies certificate at her church to learn more about her faith, Cooper-Klish said she found herself questioning her devotion as she examined how scripture and churches dealt with issues of society, including poverty and the LGBTQ+ community.

“Once I kind of saw the results of the church and just looked at their outsized influence, whether it’s COVID-19 or whatever – just the harm that churches can do in a society, I was like, ‘I just don’t think I’m buying this,'” Cooper-Klish told US TODAY.

The turmoil of the past two years has caused more Americans to question their relationship to religion. Now, as the Supreme Court weighs a decision that could lead to the overturning of Roe v. Wade of 1973, some experts believe could drive even more Americans away from organized religion.

Nearly 30% of Americans said they were not affiliated with any religion in 2021 and this group – known as ‘no’s – has increased by 10% over the past decade, according to Pew Research. Center.

“Abortion is presented as a black-and-white issue in evangelism in that it’s always wrong, and I think what we’re going to see – especially if Roe is overthrown – is that there’s a gray area that’s going to jump into the picture in different ways that many pro-lifers have never thought of,” said Sophie Bjork-James, professor of anthropology at Vanderbilt University.

Bjork-James, who specializes in evangelism and reproductive politics, noted that in her work she has encountered very few people discussing the consequences of criminalizing abortion and instead calling for its ban.

However, Bjork-James thinks the consequences of banning abortion will spark conversations and change perspectives.

“We’re going to see women having unsafe abortions when they no longer have access to safe abortion and women are going to die, or injured women are going to be criminalized,” Bjork-James added.

“We’ve seen this happen before when Roe is the law of the land,” she said. “The gray area has become much more prominent in the conversation, and that’s probably going to change the perspective of some people, especially younger people who see the impacts of that.”

As the number of no’s increases, the percentage of Americans who identify with Christianity has dropped significantly.

The Pew Research Center also found that 63% of Americans identified with Christianity in 2021, down 12 percentage points from 2011.

While Christians still constitute the religious majority, the percentage of Christians has decreased by 15 percentage points between 2007 and 2021.

According to Geoff Layman, chair of the political science department at the University of Notre Dame, one of the main reasons for the increase in the number of Americans without religious affiliation is the growing role of religion in politics, mainly in the world. within the Republican Party.

“There’s been an allergic reaction to the fusion of religion and conservative Republican politics, so that people — who aren’t conservatives or Republicans — have become more and more alienated from religion,” Layman said. . “It caused them to become more and more likely to say they’re not.”

While Christians make up the majority of both major political parties, the Public Religion Research Institute found that in 2020:

  • 23% of Democrats were unaffiliated with religion, 10 percentage points higher than Republicans
  • 29% of Republicans identify as white evangelical Protestants, compared to 9% of Democrats
  • 32% of Democrats are Christians of color, while they represent 14% of Republicans.
  • Christians of color are the largest religious affiliation in the Democratic Party, followed by those unaffiliated.
  • White evangelical Protestants make up the largest share among Republicans (29%), followed by white mainline Protestants.

Young evangelicals tend to be more pro-life, Bjork-James said, but the PRRI report also found that those between the ages of 18 and 29 make up the largest group of Americans with no religious affiliation, at 36%. This number decreases as cohorts age, according to the report.

“If we look at what has led many young evangelicals to leave evangelicalism, and often even leave Christianity, it’s often a question of thinking that politics is too tied to faith,” Bjork-James said. “I think it will create more controversy and probably more skepticism about tying anti-abortion politics to faith.”

More purple than blue: political views vary among unaffiliated religions

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Quote: Americans’ erratic relationship with religion will be tested again after abortion ruling, experts say (2022, May 30) Retrieved May 30, 2022 from americans-erratic-relationship-religion-abortion.html

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