Americans Increasingly Ignore Their Church and Support Same Sex Marriage

By Rosa Rubicondior | 2 June 2022
Rosa Rubicondior Blog

(Photo by Jeremy Bezanger on Unsplash)

Same-Sex Marriage Support Inches Up to New High of 71%

A sure sign that a religion is losing its grip on the people is when public opinion differs markedly from its teachings. This is a manifestation of an increasing tension as social ethics progresses and leaves behind the fossilised ethics of religion from an earlier age. The local religions then have to change to keep up but in doing so, they alienate the traditionalists who tend to become an ever-diminishing minority, pushing it further out to the fringes, or leave the church in protest at its increasing abandonment of sacred principles.

The problem is a direct consequence of the control of public morals religions presume they have entitlement to and their claim of the divine authority of an omniscient god for so doing. This means they can adopt change only by abandoning their justification for their control and in effect, giving up the pretence that morals come from an omniscient deity who, by definition, is never wrong. The reality, of course, is that morals are a social construct that change and develop according to the developmental needs of society, and have no divine, objective basis save what goes to create a cooperative society that is pleasant to live in.

So the progressive forces in society produces a tension between them and the regressive, traditionalist forces of religion and the needs of religions to keep control of their people and so the livelihoods and power of the priesthood. A useful analogy is that of a rope by which religions try to hold back social progress until either the rope snaps and the people give up on that religion, or the religion is dragged, kicking and screaming into the modern age.

The problem for religions is that this tension increasingly identifies them with regressive, anti-humanitarian judgementalism and even outright cruelty as one minority after another is seen as the victims of religion with religion supporting continued discrimination and exclusion.

This has happened quite noticeably in the UK and much of the rest of the civilised world outside the USA, where secular humanism is the norm and die-hard religions have been reduced to minority right-wing, reactionary cults trying to slow or reverse social progress, meanwhile haemorrhaging membership, either disgusted at the opposition to progress or disgusted by the attempt the church makes to accommodate it. So, these minority religious cults have become associated with illiberal policies such as homophobia, misogyny and opposition to any extension of egalitarian human rights and infringement on what they assume are their entitled privileges to bully and victimise those who don’t share their view.

And now there are good signs that this is beginning to happen in the USA, which has been lagging behind the rest of the developed world by about a generation, ever since the mid twentieth century. There, the more fundamentalist the church, the more likely it will be to support extreme right wing political policies such as autocracy, white supremacy, homophobia, anti-choice and misogyny, and so they are increasingly widening the gap between what the average American thinks is moral and what the religions teach.

That was perhaps a long preamble to the latest Gallop survey, which shows that American public opinion is diverging markedly from the teachings of most of the popular religions in the USA, on the question of the validity of same sex marriages. Almost all Christian churches opposed it, some quite stridently, asserting what they regard as their traditional entitlement to ownership of the institution of marriage and their right to dictate to the rest of us what form it should take – i.e., one man and one woman.

The latest Gallop poll shows that support for same sex marriages has been steadily increasing from just 27% in 1996 to 71% in 2022. An average rate of increase, with a few statistically insignificant deviations of 1.7 percentage points per year. Meanwhile the fundamentalist Christian churches have been becoming increasing shrill in their condemnation of it and blaming every natural disaster and pandemic on same sex marriages and homosexuality.

The second chart reinforces that conclusion. It shows that the higher the religiosity of the respondent as measured by the frequency with which they go to church, the more likely they are to reflect the teaching of their church – why else would they attend church so assiduously? It shows that of those who go to church weekly, the percentage who regard same sex marriages as valid rose only from 20% to 40% between 2004 and 2022 and never rose above 44%. The equivalent figures for those who attend church less regularly rose from 31% to 70% and for those who seldom or never attend church, it rose from 52% to 82%. Over the same period, other surveys have shown an accelerating decline in affiliation to any religion and a consequent decline in church attendance in the USA.

Part of this shift in opinion, even amongst regular churchgoers must be due to the realisation that the hysterical condemnation of same sex marriages by the fundamentalist churches, and the prediction that it would lead to the collapse of marriage as an institution and the end of civilisation as we know it, and even the more lurid predictions that it would lead to legalisation of paedophilia and divine retribution on an unprecedented scale – because of course, God takes a special interest in what happens in America and holds the whole world accountable for it.

Those apocalyptic predictions have proved to be mere scare tactics aimed at the superstitious and hard of thinking, and the prophesies of self-proclaimed prophets of God, have proved to be false prophesies by false prophets. Increasingly, decent, fair-minded Americans are coming to see the right to marry whomsoever you choose, regardless of gender, as a fundamental right to which all Americans are entitled, and the churches which oppose any extension of those rights to those of whose lifestyle they disapprove, are seen as increasingly on the side of repression and denial of basic rights to minorities. The naked hatred directed at homosexuals by some Christian clerics is perhaps best explained as an attempt to distance themselves from homosexuality, for reasons which are not hard to guess.

When churches begin to accept that the relationship between two people is a matter for them and them alone and not the domain of religious clerics, they may begin to halt the decline in membership. But then they would be abandoning the excuse that many of their fundamentalist members use religion for – an excuse to bully minorities while pretending to be their moral superior, and that would cost them even more members.

Rosa Rubicondior (a pseudonym) is a retired data analyst, biologist, blogger, author and atheist.

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