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Establishes the political origins of the secular surge by demonstrating that the recent rise in nonreligiosity has been caused, at least in part, by a political backlash against the Religious Right, and the infusion of religion into conservative politics more generally. Using a series of experiments, we show that exposure to religion-infused politics causes people to drop their religious identity.
Describes the rising tide of secularism within the United States, including but not limited to the growth of the “Nones” – people without a religious affiliation. Also introduces a key concept in the book: the difference between nonreligiosity and secularism. The former is defined by the absence of religion (what you are not) while the latter refers to an affirmative embrace of a secular worldview (what you are).
American society is rapidly secularizing–a radical departure from its historically high level of religiosity–and politics is a big part of the reason. Just as, forty years ago, the Religious Right arose as a new political movement, today secularism is gaining traction as a distinct and politically energized identity. This book examines the political causes and political consequences of this secular surge, drawing on a wealth of original data. The authors show that secular identity is in part a reaction to the Religious Right. However, while the political impact of secularism is profound, there may not yet be a Secular Left to counterbalance the Religious Right. Secularism has introduced new tensions within the Democratic Party while adding oxygen to political polarization between Democrats and Republicans. Still there may be opportunities to reach common ground if politicians seek to forge coalitions that encompass both secular and religious Americans.
Demonstrates, with original data, that Americans are more secular than they appear. We do so by contrasting conventional measures of nonreligiosity (the absence of religion) with our new and novel measures of personal secularism – or a secular worldview. We use a variety of methods, quantitative and qualitative, to validate these measures, which are then employed throughout the book.
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