Saturday, July 12, 2008
God, Nietzsche, and Politics
Some people think that religious involvement is a moderating influence. It acts as an anchor and keeps people in the sensible middle. The other view is that deeper religiosity moves one hard right, while atheism moves people hard left.
Along with asking people where they fall on the liberal-conservative continuum, the General Social Survey has also inquired about frequency of church attendance (N = 34,420) and confidence in the existence of God (N = 8,517). The pretty rainbow charts above show the relationships for whites.
In the top chart, we see that extreme liberals (red) have their largest share among those who never go to church (4.9% vs. 1.1% of the most frequent attenders). Extreme conservatives (light blue) are just the opposite: they are 8.2% of people who frequent a church more than once a week, yet they are only 2.8% of non-attenders.
In the bottom chart, we see the same basic pattern for belief in God: 7.4% of atheists are extreme liberals (red) compared to 1.4% of believers. Of those who believe, 4.4% are extreme conservatives (light blue), while only 2.0% of atheists are.
I've been focusing on extremes, but let's focus on the question of moderates. As a slice, moderates shrink--they don't grow--as attendance goes up. Moderates are a larger chunk of believers when compared to atheists. In fact, there are just as many liberal atheists as moderate atheists--30% of the total, each.
Another way of looking at it is that if we lump extremes, solids, and leaners together, a majority of the the most active churchgoers are conservative, while half of atheists are liberals.
So, moderates expand a tad with increasing confidence in the existence of God, but this is the only evidence for the "anchor" idea. The overall picture is that God moves you right, and Nietzsche moves you left.