The Right Opinion

The Death of American Religion

By Ben Shapiro · Nov. 21, 2012

In the aftermath of the re-election of President Barack Obama, conservatives searched the heavens and the earth for answers. Some suggested that Mitt Romney lost because Republicans didn't reach out more to Latino voters; some suggested that Romney lost because his “get out the vote” system fell apart on Election Day. Romney himself said that he lost because President Obama separated voting groups with particularly calibrated “gifts” designed to curry their favor.

In truth, Mitt Romney lost for the same reason that traditional marriage lost on Election Day: America is becoming a less religious country. And that bodes ill for the future of the United States.

It's not that religious voters didn't turn out for Romney. They did in droves. Fully 26 percent of voters – 3 percent more than in 2004 – were white evangelicals who supported Romney 79 to 21. Fifty-three percent of the electorate identified as Protestant; another 25 percent identified as Catholic.

But a full 40 percent of voters attended church or synagogue rarely; 17 percent of voters never attended church or synagogue at all. Indeed, 12 percent of the voting base didn't report a religious affiliation at all. That adds up to 69 percent of the population. And this population broke for Barack Obama.

This isn't to argue that secular people can't be good, hard-working Americans; the vast majority of them are. It isn't to argue, either, that they don't vote Republican; many of them do. But the increasing secularization of America means the increasing importance of the state in American life. For generations, the religious community looked to two sources for inspiration and support in times of crisis: God and fellow members of the community. The secular community looks to one source: the state. Where the religious believer understands that it is immoral to deprive someone else of their property by force, even when such stealing is given legal cover by the state, the secularist believes that the morality of redistributionism takes precedence over the morality of respect for the rights of others. The same folks who voted for gay marriage and abortion voted for a broad expansion of the state and for higher tax rates.

That's not because Republicans are pro-life and pro-traditional marriage; even if Republicans ignored the issues – as, indeed, Mitt Romney tried to do – secularists would still link a larger state with a pro-abortion, pro-same sex marriage position. That's because the same position that rejects the sanctity of unborn life tends to reject the sanctity of private property; both are based on the John Locke-ian premise that man is special in the universe, and that the product of his labor is an extension of his special place in the universe. Ignore man's Godly origins and his property becomes a dispensable commodity rather than a fulfillment of a divine mission.

More than that, the religious society rests on two fundamental principles: personal responsibility and belief in responsibility to future generations. Secularism rejects both principles. Personal responsibility becomes societal responsibility in the secular view; we are all shaped by our genetics and our environment, both of which are out of our control. How, then, can we be held responsible for our actions? As for responsibility to future generations, the prophet of modern day leftist economics, John Maynard Keynes, summed it up best: “In the long run, we are all dead.” Tap out the public treasury now, and grab your redistributionist cash for there is no kingdom of heaven – and you won't be around to reap the consequences of your decisions.

Perhaps libertarianism is a solution. But historically, it hasn't been. Every godless society has turned radically to the left. There are religious societies that turn to the left, too – Islamic societies tend toward Marxist economic schemes – but the traditional Judeo-Christian philosophy has forwarded capitalism.

So, can American society survive its turn to secularism? It can, but only in a different form – a more European form. The best hope for a return to fundamental American principles is a return to the fundamental American philosophy embodied on our coinage: E Pluribus Unum on one side, In God We Trust on the other.



Paul Chaffee in San Francisco said:

Conflating your religion with all religion, and assuming that the 'non-religious' (everyone but us!) are not responsible, is one of the reasons right-wing religion is dying away. Young people will not embrace a community where 'being right' is a function of seeing that everyone else is wrong. As a Christian clergyman, I mourn for the well-meaning folks like Ben Shapiro who worship their explanations, not God.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012 at 8:24 AM

james in manns replied:

Clergyman from San Francisco,well yes of course you are.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012 at 8:39 AM

Wayne in Hinesville, GA replied:

Apparently your one of the New Age ministers who reject the very teachings of the Bible. If you don't think being religious is the right thing then why don't you leave the ministry. Most Christians just want us to go back to the values that served us so well for over 200 years. Values that doesn't mean you have to be religious to follow. Hard work, taking care of your own,, being responsible for your actions, helping your fellow man when you can, and not expect handouts from your fellow citizens, ie, taxpayers, via the government. If that is a bad set of values then we are doomed as a nation and liberal ministers like you will be part of the problem. Even St. Paul said that those who won't work(the lazy) don't eat.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012 at 1:59 PM

Not my President, in Not my fault! replied:

@ Paul:
Did you actually read the article, or could you not wait to blurt out your unsupported opinion(s)? I apologize for the harsh tone, but I'm appalled by your applying the label "right-wing" with religion. Aside from its thoughtlessness, assuming that you were using "right-wing" to mean "repressed", or "non-inclusive", or "intolerant", I'd be pleased to see your references that these sorts of religions are dying away. Liberalism, one of the fastest-growing (and one of the most destructive) religions in developed countries, is unfortunately growing by leaps and bounds.

Mr. Shapiro specifically did not conflate his religion (Judaism) with all religion. He specifically (and, for anyone with moderate reading comprehension) clearly indicated that being non-religious was not specifically "bad" (irresponsible, etc. -- not "right"), and that most non-religious were good. He also stated that most religions promote the belief that individuals are responsible for their own actions, that each individual does have some relationship and responsibility to the community, and that these believers are ultimately responsible to a higher power, who will judge them on how good they were, and how well they accepted and fulfilled their obligations (social, physical, moral, etc.).

His specific point (one of many excellent, well-defined points) was that in the absence of religion, people (who are always looking for *something* to believe in) turn to the State as that "higher power", and that depending on the State (which is made of people who are just as fallible and short-sighted as any, perhaps more so) is a bad proposition.

As a Christian clergyman, I would think that you would be better schooled in the actual tenets of most every Christian sect; Christians are not "right", they openly acknowledge it, and strive to do better (as do many other religions -- Judaism and Buddhism, both of which I've studied (I've taught courses in comparative religion and western/eastern philosophy at the college level for twenty-two years).

Please re-read, and actually consider the contents of this article.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012 at 4:55 PM

Old Desert Rat in Las Vegas, NV said:

The media and the schools are not blameless. Morals were taught as a guideline to acceptable public behavior. Were we worse off than a society with absolutely no guidelines??

Wednesday, November 21, 2012 at 11:50 AM

OrGanuz in Denver said:

"his property becomes a dispensable commodity rather than a fulfillment of a divine mission"

The Republican attitude to the Planet is that it is a dispensable commodity, to be exploited and trashed -- and that is sacrilege to post-religious people, who see more pressing issues than Bronze Age mythology.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012 at 1:15 PM

Wayne in Hinesville, GA replied:

Why don't you enlighten us on those more pressing issues? By the way religion was around long before the Bronze Age.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012 at 2:02 PM

Joe in California replied:

You're right...and those religions were not Christian. Pressing

Wednesday, November 21, 2012 at 8:07 PM

Not my President, in Not my fault! replied:

@ OrGanuz:

"The Republican attitude"... neat. Have you actually met any Republicans (not RINOs)? The Planet is "dispensable... to be exploited and trashed"? If you'd attended both "conservative" (Tea Party) and "liberal" (Occupy) rallies, I'd have thought you'd have come to the opposite conclusion. I know which I'd rather have at a local park, frankly.

The destructive, uncaring behavior you allude to sounds far more the behavior of the NON-religious people, rather than "post"-religious people (and to be "post", wouldn't you have to had actually gone through the "religious" part first? You do still seem to want to use "sacrilege" -- the violation or misuse of a sacred object), so how "post" you actually are is a matter of opinion.

As far as "more pressing issues than Bronze Age mythology", considering that one of the most violent and rapidly growing belief systems is looking to impose their choices on an entire world under the threat of invasion or nuclear terrorism (and no, I'm not talking about Liberalism here, though it does sound applicable), well, I at least would be challenged to find anything more "pressing" than that.

(Though I am quite concerned about the ruby-throated thwackwarter...).

Tuesday, November 27, 2012 at 5:11 PM

Dave in SoCal said:

Another great example of conservatives working on keeping the size of the tent as small and well defined as possible. The obsession with organized religion wears old on many who may not be Christians, but who share your dream of a smaller government that is kept within its proper constitutional bounds. I believe the Rrpublican party will never again be successful unless you can find a way to appeal to a broader group.

Regarding your discussion about religion being a necessary condition to leading a moral life, I think little else is needed than to obey the Golden Rule. As Confucius expressed it centuries before the time of Christ: "Do unto others as you want done to you." Other than the specifically religious strictures expressed in the first five of the ten commendments, the balance can all be drived from this simple moral imperative. It is interesting to note that many cultures widely separated in time and place have independently developed their own version of the Golden Rule.

I think this can also to be shown to be an important underlying principle to the libertarian philosphy.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012 at 3:32 PM

Joachim in Germany said:

Sorry my English, it's not the best.

I'm German und live in Germany. I see the US from outside and think, that America has a big problem: to much religion in politics.

You have a good CIA-Chief, he makes a good job. And than, scandal, he has a lover. And everything, what he has done for your country is nothing worth, because he has sex with another women instead of his wife. Little question: What's better vor America, a CIA-Chief with a lover, who makes a good job or a CIA-Chief without a lover, who makes a bad job? In Europe, Petraeus could have 20 lovers, when he makes a good job, everythink is okay. Perhaps, he go to hell, if he has a lover, but this is not important, important is only one question: Makes he a good job?

The German foreign minister is homosexual; that's no problem for anyone. The former major of Hamburg was a homosexual and member of the CDU, the christian party of Germany. And in America is Amageddon, when the CIA-Chief has a lover. Be cool, he goes to hell, not you or your country.

No, Sandy was not coming, because NY is full of homos and other sins. When this happend, then we must have in Europe every week an hurricane, or what do you think, what's running on in Berlin, in Paris, in Rome, in Hamburg, in Madrid, in Amsterdam, in London and so on and so on. Cologne is Sodom and Gomorrah in one - and there is no fire from the sky.

Another exemple: Arkansas election. One republicane candidate, Charles Fuqua will make America to a country under the law of god, including killing of children, if they have not enough respect to their parents. That's sick. And Fuqua stands not alone in the party, or should I say, tea party. Okay, no other in the party will kill children, but other members have other ideas and many of their ideas are as sick as Fuqua's idea.

I think, that many in the republicane party do not want a nation with christian morality, they want a evangelical country. But, why should catholics, protestants or jews want this? More and more became the republicane party an evangelical party and I think, this is a great probleme, for the USA and for the world.

That makes the difference between America and Europe: In Europe, christianity plays its role in politics, but it is not so important, that we let go a man like Petraeus. And ideas like, we kill children, so that they have more respect, only can be born in America, not in Europe. Think about it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012 at 9:30 PM

Wayne in Hinesville, GA replied:

What a bunch of Socialist BS. So we kill children in this country when they don't respect us? What reason did Hitler give for killing the massive number of children during the Holocaust? As a German, I wouldn't point fingers at anyone when it comes to killing.. We Americans can take care of our own problems. We don't need some mealymouth European telling us what is wrong with our country. We know what is wrong, the liberal idiots in this country wanting us to become just like you ignorant Euroopeans. Your sitting on your asses and letting the Moslems become more and more powerful every year. Have fun when they take political power and turn you into a Moslem country. Keep your damn noses out of our business..

Wednesday, November 21, 2012 at 10:36 PM

sunforester in left coast said:

So, because many Americans voted for the bounty promised them by mobsters handing goodies out freely from the public purse, and abhorred the promise of tyranny in their private lives from Christians, this means that secularism is to blame for the return of Obama? How deceitful and self-serving a diagnosis to perpetuate willful blindness by people who should know better, and who allow their own freedom to hang in the balance as a result.

Secularism and the inherent right to freedom of religion is what used to protect the Christians from assaults on their liberty before the liberals lied, bribed and stole their way into office. Obama and his fellow liars, thieves, thugs and racketeers are NOT practicing secularism, but their own unique religion of liberalism, coming to you from every television and movie screen available. We should never confuse secularism vs. liberalism, but confusing the two can serve the religious as justification for curling up into a snarling, defensive corner and losing all sympathy or assistance from the rest of us who are otherwise willing to help restore our freedom together.

Calling those who are not Christian but who are not liberal as evil secularists who don't believe in personal responsibility or in preserving the integrity of our future generations is as divisive as the poison that that the liberals spew. You may act as if you are morally superior to all, but this just confirms what the rest of us think - you put your religion before your country, and you don't want to consider that anyone just might be as moral as you if they don't sit in your church.

How pathetic, destructive and foolish. The more you Christians put yourselves above the rest of us, the more we are justified for condemning your intolerance and bigotry. This is why so many people voted for the Democrats: Christians cannot tolerate anyone who doesn't believe in their God, even when their fellow Americans share all the other beliefs that will keep our country strong.

So much for loving your neighbor as yourself. Christians won't love any neighbor unless they are just as Christian as they are, no matter how fiscally responsible that freedom-loving neighbor is. Christians deserve to lose their freedom because they won't respect those who would readily join them to fight for it together, rejecting them as "secularists" instead of embracing them as fellow free Americans. What a despicable shame.

Friday, November 23, 2012 at 1:52 PM