Religion and Voters

There is a fantastic article on the relationship between the African-American churches and the young black activists, or more accurately, the lack thereof.

A key fact about political participation in United States is that the rates of participation, certainly turnout, and the participation in religious activities are highly correlated.  This is not necessarily an illustration of how religion makes for better citizenry, which some people seem to buy into, but rather the coordinating role played by socialization.  People who meet weekly wind up taking on a similar mode of behavior and way of thinking, due to the extent of mutual communication amongst themselves in context of meeting and mingling among themselves.  One might say it is a form of echo chamber effect, although a bit subtler and less caricatured.  Those who can come among them and credibly strike a chord, in turn, gain their support.  That religion should be the cause for their weekly gathering is rather incidental.  The occasion for the periodic gathering could be the weekly meeting of the local atheists international and the effect should be the same.

That the youth activism (not necessarily just among the African Americans, but across all communities) should be taking place outside religion is a sign of danger.  All the technology in the world does not allow for coordination as effective as those who meet and touch flesh to speak on weekly basis.  If anything, the political success of the religious organizations in Iran (1979), Turkey (pretty much since 1990s to the present) and Egypt (2011) should remind us of this:  the old fashioned rural religious thoroughly and completely overwhelmed the young hypermodern Cairene mob when it came to political mobilization.  This is also how the old fashioned Clintonian political machinery is winning elections in United States.  Without a social backbone of brick and mortar variety that command widespread physical attendance for an extended duration, be it churches or weekly yoga class, idealistic activism is inherently doomed in the medium term.

Churches are an earthly institution that gathers many people together weekly and constitute a powerful force for collective action.  They have nothing to do with God, religion, or religiosity.  I know not why God has anything to do with politics…but anyone who claims churches have nothing to do with politics is delusional.


3 thoughts on “Religion and Voters

  1. frozengarlic March 26, 2016 / 3:39 pm

    Amen to that! (I’d prefer the Atheists Club motto, but my local Atheists Club doesn’t exist, much less have a motto.)
    Of course, the internet does have one advantage in creating social capital over traditional organizations. It can’t match their depth, but it does have tremendous breadth. You can transmit info very quickly to a large number of people via social media. However, as you point out, that is eventually no match for repeated physical interactions that can transmit info, persuade, and mobilize.


    • anon9999 March 26, 2016 / 5:37 pm

      Ha, that’s a good one! Exactly what I’d expect from you! 😉


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