During last week’s Values Voter Summit, I heard speakers like former Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann and researcher/author George Barna lament the shrinking “biblical worldview” of the American electorate.
“We are dropping like a rock in America. America!” Bachmann said. “That’s something that should give us pause.”
Barna, an evangelical Christian who writes a lot about religion in America, said his research indicated only about 10 percent of voters hold a “biblical worldview,” and the percentage of millennials with that viewpoint is even smaller.
“It’s really a crisis that we have in America,” Barna lamented. “Very few people actually make their decisions in life and their behavior as a result of having a biblical worldview. Biblical worldview is what enables you to think and to live like Jesus because you’re basing your decisions, your choices on biblical precepts and principles and perspectives. “
Now, to be clear, when people like Bachmann and Barna use the term “biblical worldview” they mean the literal, exceedingly narrow interpretation of the Bible embraced by the Religious Right. That interpretation of the Bible – which is rejected by most U.S. Christians – just happens to align with all of the Religious Right far-right political opinions. What a coincidence!
Bachmann and Barna are distraught because, they say, voters who don’t share their “biblical worldview” are significantly more accepting of marriage equality and are much less likely to believe Americans’ rights come from God. They also don’t believe that the U.S. government is persecuting Christians.
A majority of Americans reject the view of Michele Bachmann and others in the Religious Right that you need to believe in God to have good values.
The implication in all this was that people without a proper “biblical worldview” don’t have values – they don’t know right from wrong, they aren’t moral, they aren’t willing to stand up for America’s Constitution and the freedoms it provides. Never mind that the “values” espoused at this annual gathering of the Religious Right typically involve being able to use religion as an excuse to discriminate against LGBTQ people, women, religious minorities and others.
Thankfully, new research from the Pew Research Center indicates many Americans don’t share the Religious Right’s insistence that everyone must hold a “biblical worldview.”
Pew found that, for the first time, a majority of Americans (56 percent) don’t find belief in God necessary to be a moral person with good values.
“God is not a prerequisite for good values and morality,” said author Gregory A. Smith of the findings. “[T]he public’s increased rejection of the idea that belief in God is necessary for morality is due, in large part, to the spike in the share of Americans who are religious ‘nones.’”
Smith said the so-called “nones” – people who identify as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” –now account for a quarter of the U.S. population. The nones are more likely than those who identify with a religion to say God is not necessary for morality.
“But the continued growth of the ‘nones’ is only part of the story,” Smith wrote. “Attitudes about the necessity of belief in God for morality have also changed among those who do identify with a religion.”
Pew’s survey found that mainline Protestants and white Catholics, at 63 percent and 57 percent respectively, are the faith groups most likely to say it’s not necessary to have a belief in God to have good values. At 26 percent, black Protestants are the least likely to agree; white evangelicals are next at 32 percent. But even some members of these faith groups are changing their minds – those numbers are 5 or more points higher than they were six years ago.
Today happens to be “Openly Secular Day,” a day when atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, humanists and nonreligious people are encouraged to be open about their beliefs as part of the effort to fight discrimination against religious minorities. “We believe that increasing visibility of secular people will lower prejudice against them, much as it has for the LGBT community,” notes the website for Openly Secular Day, which is sponsored by a coalition of organizations led by the Center for Inquiry.
Here at Americans United, we stand up for the idea that everyone has the right to believe whatever they want and practice those beliefs however they want – as long as you don’t use those beliefs to harm others. Our staff, members and supporters come from an array of faith and non-faith backgrounds, and we work to ensure they all have the freedom to worship as their conscience dictates.
I encourage you to take our “Religious Freedom Is About Fairness” pledge to fight for religious freedom, fairness and equality. We encourage you to talk about and to share the tenets of this pledge, such as “We don’t tell people how or whether to pray” and “We don’t treat people differently because their beliefs are different from ours.”
Every day is a good day to voice your support for freedom of conscience – a crucial right that protects all of us, believers and non-believers alike.