Saturday, March 20, 2021

TIL: The Conservation of Religion

The political theorist Samuel Goldman talked about what he called "the law of the conservation of religion." In The Atlantic, Shadi Hamid defines the law as, "In any given society, there is a relatively constant and finite supply of religious conviction. What varies is how and where it is expressed."

Here's where it gets interesting. Shahid makes the case that religious conviction in America is being replaced by political conviction.

From 1937 to 1998, church membership remained relatively constant, hovering at about 70 percent. Then something happened. Over the past two decades, that number has dropped to less than 50 percent, the sharpest recorded decline in American history. Meanwhile, the “nones”—atheists, agnostics, and those claiming no religion—have grown rapidly and today represent a quarter of the population.

But if secularists hoped that declining religiosity would make for more rational politics, drained of faith’s inflaming passions, they are likely disappointed. As Christianity’s hold, in particular, has weakened, ideological intensity and fragmentation have risen. American faith, it turns out, is as fervent as ever; it’s just that what was once religious belief has now been channeled into political belief. Political debates over what America is supposed to mean have taken on the character of theological disputations. This is what religion without religion looks like.

Source: The Atlantic.

I think he makes a compelling case. Read the whole article. Then, change my mind.

1 comment:

Eric Stengel said...

This is a great topic of discussion. In some ways, religion from a societal standpoint is quite political in terms of religion as an organized religion. However, at least religious worship attempts to make one feel good and transform themselves for the better (except for the theocratic nut job lunatics that practice without compassion). The etymology of the term politics comes from the Greek for polis for affairs of the city state. Aristotle & the Greek philosophers would no doubt question why society doesn’t visit their oracles and temples/houses of worship as the ancient way of life was to keep things in balance not moving from one extreme to another. Interesting conversation blog Mark.