Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Just the Beginning of the War on Religion

2/1/2012—Sarah Posner has a very good piece in Religion Dispatches today about Newt Gindrich’s talking point charging President Obama with fighting a war on religion. (story here). Part of this claimed war is shear demagoguery, but part of it is genuine anger at the Administration over its refusal to extend a religious exemption for contraception coverage beyond a narrow category of religious institution to include Catholic hospitals and universities. Posner concludes that whatever Newt’s chances of nomination after Florida, “We haven't heard the end of the 'war on religion'. It’s just the beginning.”

Well now, maybe secularists will wake up to a political reality. A perceived war on religion is an electoral disaster in a country overwhelmingly Christian—still around 75%--and massively religious aside from Christianity. The religiously nonaffiliated might number as much as 15% of the population, but that is all.

So maybe all that anti-religion rhetoric is at least a tactical mistake.

And it is particularly galling to hear Sarah Posner complaining about “war on religion” rhetoric when she has been bashing religion, certainly bashing conservative religion, for quite a while. Anyone who doubts it can read her hatchet job on Rick Santorum back in early January, which I criticized in a blog entry below.

All those who have been cheering on the late Christopher Hitchens and his best-selling God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything—and that is an awful lot of secularists—and all those who congratulated Obama for narrowly defining religious conscience have been engaged in a war on religion. I’m glad that some religious believers are pushing back.


  1. I don't understand you, Bruce. "All that anti-religion rhetoric is a tactical mistake"? Do you mean that Gingrich, Boehner, McConnell, the bishops, have made the mistake? They are the source of the rhetoric and they are the fantasists who have conjured up this fake "war on [anti-contraception] religion." There has been no anti-religious rhetoric from the Obama administration.

    The Pew Forum survey shows that most Americans identify themselves as affiliated with a wide variety of religions, most of which are NOT anti-contraceptive. Further, most affiliated Americans are non-dogmatic, i.e., don't believe that only their way is the highway to heaven. I would surmise that a "religious war" will be a hard sale to most Americans. Religious affiliation and orthodoxy are slowly but steadily waning. The same problem faces the right-wing Republicans and Tea Partiers.

    Et voila: a fake " war on religion" is red meat for the masses.


  2. I should have responded to this comment before now. I apologize. Just on the level of tactics, I believe you are mistaken (a fuller response would require a quite different context than this). I think the Obama Administration proposed its compromise out of a recognition that the war on religion rhetoric was quite harmful to him politically.