Ted Cruz declares that there’s a “war on faith”. He’s wrong.

August 22, 2015 • 11:01 am

Christians around the U.S. (and in the U.K., too) are crying that there’s a “war on faith”, which can mean one of two things. The first sense, and the sense that is wrong, is that there’s an organized conspiracy on the part of nonbelievers to disenfranchise Christianity. This is the sense that, as the Washington Post reports, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas—a Republican candidate for President (so far) meant when he tried to energize a GOP rally yesterday by playing the “fear” card:

Cruz, looking to gain traction in an early voting state with a heavy concentration of evangelical Christians, held a highly organized and produced “Rally for Religious Liberty” Friday night. The rally featured live music, interviews with people who said their religious liberty was violated and sermon-like speeches from Cruz, who tried to cement himself as the candidate of choice for evangelical voters in a crowded Republican primary field.

“There is a war on faith in America today,” Cruz said, later noting that 54 million evangelical Christians stayed home during the 2012 election.

“I’m here to tell you, we will stay home no longer,” he said as the audience, which filled a ballroom and the campaign estimated to number 2,500 people, cheered.

But why are Republicans staying away from the polls? Well, perhaps they feel a sense of futility, so they just don’t vote. And that futility is a result of the depredations of secularism. Although the report doesn’t make that clear, and refraining from voting on such grounds just seems dumb, that indeed seems to be Cruz’s contention:

Cruz, who is attempting to paint his candidacy as an insurgent insider — a senator who relishes fighting both Republicans and Democrats and in recent weeks accused Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of lying — echoed a theme of the event: if forced to choose between fidelity to God and the government, people here will choose God.

“If we cannot worship God, if we cannot live according to our faith …. all other liberties fade away,” Cruz said.

Oh, the horror stories!

The event highlighted the stories of people “victimized by government persecution,” according to Cruz’s Web site, including a former Air Force sergeant who said he was fired because of his religious views on gays, a former Atlanta fire chief who said he was fired for his religious beliefs and an Iowa couple who refused to host a same-sex wedding. Cruz lauded them as “heroes.”

Well, the fire chief has filed suit, and if his contention was right he was unfairly prosecuted, but the city of Atlanta claims he was fired for “poor management skills.” So that’s by no means settled. The Army sergeant was fired not because of his religious views on gays, but because he refused an order to desist from helping others use military authority to persecute gays, a persecution that violates of Army policy. And the Iowa couple lost an anti-discrimination lawsuit, and then vowed simply not to host any more weddings in gallery.  Enforcement of anti-discrimination laws is not persecution, but you will be persecuted for violating those laws. Cruz is distorting what really happened when he sells these anecdotes as skirmishes in the War on Christianity.

More:

The Texas Republican and others here, including members of his Iowa leadership team, told the audience that it may not be a matter of if, but when, they have their religious liberties threatened.

“Is the next victim of persecution your pastor?” Cruz asked. “Your charity, where you volunteer your time at a crisis pregnancy center?”

Well, Senator Cruz, the First Amendment is alive and well, and, if anything, religious incursions into government are at least holding steady, what with the Hobby Lobby decision and all. Still, the Supreme Court has affirmed the right of gay marriage, so if that’s considered a “war on religion”, then religion is bigoted and narrow minded. After all, same-sex couples don’t hurt anyone.

No, what really bothers these people is not a secular war on Christianity, but the second sense of “war”: the inexorable decline of faith as reason sets in and Americans put away their childish things. It’s well known that Christianity is declining in the U.S., and that has believers scared. As the Post reported in May, self-reported Christians are declining as the “nones” and unaffiliated increase, with Christians declining from 78% to 71% of Americans in just the last seven years. And it’s down from 86% in 1990. That’s a 10% decline since 2008 and a 17% decline since 1990. At this rate, there won’t be any Christians left at the end of the century!

Here are the data:

Screen Shot 2015-08-22 at 10.48.58 AM

Note that all branches of Christianity have declined, while the unaffiliated have risen by 42% (from 16.1% to 22.8%). That’s an impressive jump.

A war on Christianity? I think not. What is hurting the faith is not attacks coming from the outside, but disenchantment on the inside, as believers simply walk away. Christianity, in other words, is suffering from a wasting disease.

h/t: Diane G.

73 thoughts on “Ted Cruz declares that there’s a “war on faith”. He’s wrong.

      1. Just remember that the “nones” or unaffiliated are still religious, still Christian just not in any denomination.

        1. Wrong! From the study, “Over the same period, the percentage of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated – describing themselves as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” – has jumped more than six points, from 16.1% to 22.8%.”

          1. Unfortunately, “nothing in particular” just means no particular denomination, not atheist or agnostic. I wish it were otherwise.

            1. Not necessarily.

              First, it’s socially unacceptable to self-identify as an atheist in America, but it’s just fine to self-identify as “nothing in particular.” The overwhelming majority of closeted atheists are in that sample.

              But, almost as importantly, “nothing in particular” means that it’s not really something that important in your life. Whatever these people are, what they’re clearly not is passionate about religion. Religion isn’t a dominant force in their lives. Present them with some sort of conflict with religion on one side and something else on the other, and the religious argument is going to have to compete on its own merits.

              It also means that these people aren’t going to be indoctrinating their children, which pretty much guarantees that those children aren’t going to have any religious loyalties and likely not any religious thoughts at all.

              I’d be more than happy to see America become 70% “nothing in particular.” That’s pretty much the point at which people have come to their senses.

              b&

  1. What is hurting the faith is not attacks coming from the outside, but disenchantment on the inside, as believers simply walk away.

    “Why don’t churches offer free wi-fi?”
    “Because they don’t want to compete with an invisible power that actually works.”

    Churches cram their kids full of nonsense (talking snakes, big fish taxis, zombies, etc.), usually in exceedingly dull surroundings, and then when the kids come of age in a world filled with biological and technological marvels the churches are surprised when they walk away?? Some things ridicule themselves, thus saving me the effort.

  2. This persecution complex Cruz is capitalizing on may have roots in the economic and cultural divide beyond just religious fundamentalism. I think fundamentalists tend to be less educated and of lower economic status than other segments of society. They feel threatened simply by the fear that they hold less power and influence than they once did. The religious aspect is just one aspect of the general apprehension of becoming excluded.

    1. Their own Bible tells them they will be persecuted, but they are not Jews, they are gentiles! However they were hidden and scape- goated in the past till they took over and went after all those that are ‘Pagan’ or not Christian in the same way.

      Now the most powerful acts afraid. The greatest empire to ever sprawl across the world is paranoid. Not the best, but the most powerful and like any empire, they need enemies so they found that the Communists are gone, all that is left are the Muslims. So they pick fights, but not like in a school yard it involved billions of people. Most of whom have no problem with anyone. Just want to get on with living. Though they aren’t allowed to. The horrors won’t end for decades maybe a century.

      1. Right, the persecution complex has its origins in the scripture itself. There are many New Testament passages telling Christians that they will be persecuted. So, naturally, confirmation bias kicks in, to the extent that even the most powerful and well-off Christians feel compelled to see themselves as victims of persecution.

        As with so many other things, there’s no reasoning with them on this, because the Bible says what it says and that’s that. They will grasp at whatever straws they have to in order to confirm the New Testament’s prophecy that they will be persecuted.

    2. “I think fundamentalists tend to be less educated and of lower economic status than other segments of society.”

      I can see how less education contributes to their circumstances and world view; not so much their lower economic status. There exist well-educated people who do not make all that much money. Is your point that political power is correlated/commensurate with ones income?

      1. Of course not Filippo. There are of educated rich and educated poor, uneducated rich and uneducated poor. What I’m suggesting is there is a particular demographic that is poor and uneducated which lean toward fundamentalism in religion and probably other aspects of life. These are the ones who are resentful and envious of the middle class and upper classes of society. They have to ask themselves, why am I not as successful and not listened to like some guy on CNN with a Harvard degree talking about climate change or evolution?
        Cruz takes advantage of this by telling them they are under attack by those pointy headed atheists with socialist ideas trying to take baby Jesus away from you.

      2. Some of the worst ones are millionaires and well educated. Depends on what they were educated in. Don’t think they are county hicks. Most of them are not.

    3. I wonder if this started the other way around: Did religiosity go up because education went down, or did education go down as or because religiosity went up? I think the era of man’s first step on the moon was roughly our peak in public school education, and back then, it included a grade in citizenship for elementary school kids, mostly to show whether they behaved in a civilized manner but wrapped in American patriotism. Ted Cruz, by the way, seems the very antithesis of this picture, doesn’t he?

        1. We have the Christian Crusaders or American Taliban. Of course the Atheists have nothing like the Taliban or US Crusaders. Just the kind of hysterical exaggerations they used to kill accused witches.

          No witches were burned here, but black and white revolutionaries against slavery were burned at the stake back in the 1700’s.

    1. Exactly. And despite all their constant efforts to find victims of their imaginary war, they’re just not there.

      There are 100s of millions of Christians in the US, at least half of whom are Republicans, and Cruz has found three, at least two of which are of dubious provenance.

      It’s a helluva lot easier to find non-Christians who are victimized for not conforming to a Christian worldview.

  3. this is why it’s so important that democrats hold the white house in 2016–because of supreme court appointments.

    left to the gop, there will be more scalias, alitos, and thomases on the court for another 30 years.

    they will buy into the christian martyrdom narrative and we will see teacher-led prayers return to public schools and open license for christian businesses to discriminate against anyone they want, especially lgbts.

    legislatures and courts in order to pander to religious lobbies have traditionally gone far beyond what is required by the free exercise clause of the first amendment.

    any hope of reversing this trend will hinge on holding onto the white house, hopefully retaking the senate, and moving the court away from the religious right.

  4. In accurate translation, “War on Faith” means that Christian America, so long accustomed to running right over non-believers without so much as a sound or even feeling a bump in the road, is now annoyed at having to hear an occasional peep of protest from their road-kill as they mow it over.

    The only sign I’ve yet seen that there is a just God who visits condign punishments upon evil men is that Ted Cruz is paying for his manifest hypocrisy by being made to live out middle-age years bearing Joe McCarthy’s face.

    1. It reminds me a bit of the 1970s when we started seeing more women in top jobs and politics, and there were histrionics about women “taking over.” There are still men’s groups out there pushing that narrative. To them, equality is a threat. Personally, I’ve always interpreted such reactions as a sign of weakness.

      1. In the 1970’s I remember my grandmother’s sister, in homogenously white Protestant East Tennessee, bloviating about the prospect of “the blacks taking over,” as if blacks’ pressing for equity/equality was somehow fundamentally different than that of whites, especially in the context of a hundred years of Jim Crow racism/segregation.

        If I had it to do over, I would have called on her about it and let the chips fall where they might, and let those of the extended clan so inclined have a lower GI hemorrhage about it.

        1. that is how you do it. And Iceland went from the before times to the future in one year! We just meander as those who are against moving forward fight hard to keep it so or go back to it. That didn’t exist much in Iceland.

  5. I’m waiting for one of the TeaOP candidates to have themselves nailed to a cross to show how much they emulate Christ!

  6. We might concede that we’re “enemies” of Christians merely because we seek to avoid being victimized by them. This would be logically consistent with something Richard Dawkins wrote in The Blind Watchmaker:

    We can use the general term ‘enemies’ of a species, to mean other
    living things that work to make life difficult. Lions are enemies of
    zebras. It may seem a little callous to reverse the statement to ‘Zebras
    are enemies of lions’. The role of the zebra in the relationship seems
    too innocent and wronged to warrant the pejorative ‘enemy’. But individual
    zebras do everything in their power to resist being eaten by
    lions, and from the lions’ point of view this is making life harder for
    them. If zebras and other grazers all succeeded in their aim, the lions
    would die of starvation.

  7. So…we’re discriminating against Christians by making it illegal for them to discriminate against gays?

    And people like this wonder why we hold them in such contempt…why, exactly?

    I know their racist forebears leaned heavily on the Bible to justify slavery and Jim Crow. What I don’t remember is, after we finally did away with that…did they claim religious persecution then, too, for having to comply with Civil Rights legislation?

    b&

    1. Yes, they did. I found some stats about it for a post I did on my website not long ago: http:/www.heatherhastie.com/religious-privilege-same-sex-marriage-and-bigotry/

      There’s a map quite a way down that shows in which states inter-racial marriage was still illegal when it became nationwide.

  8. In 20000 years Americans will be remembered as the people who used the word “war” so often and in different contexts that the word became meaningless.

    wikipedia:

    “War is a state of armed conflict between societies. It is generally characterized by extreme collective aggression, destruction, and usually high mortality.”

    1. Yeah – he thinks freedom to practice his religion means freedom to force his religious views and practices on others.

  9. Interestingly, the comments under the Post article are almost entirely disparaging of both Cruz and the idea of a war on faith; usually, the bible bangers get in there to defend the faith, including the claim that they’re terribly persecuted. The comments are generally quite scathing as well. Maybe there’s hope!

  10. “Is the next victim of persecution your pastor?” Cruz asked. “Your charity, where you volunteer your time at a crisis pregnancy center?”
    You mean the kind of “crisis pregnancy center” that lies to pregnant women to prevent them obtaining the abortion so many of them want?

  11. Cruz is just a good example of how bad it is in Texas. Even among the loonies in the Senate he is considered crazy. Barking mad as they say in Britain.

  12. Insanity is repeating the same experiment over and over, and expecting a different result.

    This approach didn’t work for Santorum 4yrs ago – why would you expect it will now, Ted?

    1. That’s a joke I am guessing? The first Amendment was to simply protect religious freedom from government interference. Your right to practice whatever religion makes you feel good I suppose but not to force your religion on anyone else. Where the war is in this, I cannot see.

      1. To not keep you guessing, yes, this was a joke. But I was referring to the “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” part of it, since that’s what this “war” is all about – because of that phrase, Christians are having difficulties in turning the Bible into the official law of the land.

  13. Nitpick mode:

    “Note that all branches of Christianity have declined…”

    Not really. The legend to the graph notes:

    “…groups whose share of the population did not change significantly, including the historically black Protestant tradition, Mormons and others, are not shown.”

    A more accurate summary would be that no branches of Christianity showed significant growth.

    1. Exactly Diana. Their real concern is that there is this thing called the Internet, where fact checking and access to different ideas is available to, god forbid, YOUNG people. The Internet gets the young people before the churches can do enough brainwashing to hook the kids for life. This is why there is a decline in church attendance especially among the young.

      Knowledge is power. And it is hard if not darn near impossible for religious “facts” and stories to compete against real facts. As a teacher of teenagers I can tell you, they know of what they speak. They can fact check right in front of you in real time using their cell phones and WIFI (which is allowed in our school at teachers’ discretion).

      Many church goers of the age that they mostly are (over 50), if they were reading this comment would say “What’s WIFI? Can I look that up on the google?”

      1. It does seem that the humble internet is the salvation of mankind from the shackles of that other salvation of mankind.

  14. Geez, Ted Cruz sounds so much like a racist Southerner in the 1860s or 1960s or a Nazi in the 1930s bitching about being discriminated against when anyone tries to stop them from unjustly discriminating against others. Or like violent Muslims who murder anyone who violates their idiotic dogma complaining about being called violent.

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