A London Times reporter based in Los Angeles recently made the observation that a powerful new force in U.S politics has arrived in the form of the Religious Left. Rhys Blakely's report said the growth rate of the Left is mainly due to greater political involvement at the grass roots level from younger people and the growing number of left-leaning Hispanic immigrants.
A survey highlights a generational swing among young Americans. It shows that a quarter between the ages of 18 and 33 are "religious progressives" who hold liberal views on issues such as gay marriage and abortion.
In the same age bracket, only 17 per cent are religious conservatives, a group also more likely to read the Bible literally and be in favour of small government and lower taxes.
The data, which was collected by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), reveals a stark fracture in attitudes between the country's oldest and youngest believers. Among Americans aged 66 and older, half are religious conservatives while only 12 per cent are religious progressives.
That this is finally happening is hardly surprising considering the degree to which the Religious Right has for so long dominated the activist landscape. But whether such a disparate constituency as the religious Left can organise themselves as effectively as the Right is debatable. According to the latest figures conservative Christians are united not only along theological lines but because they are 70% white. In comparison the Left is comprised of 40% white Christians, 13% Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus - a minestrone of the faithful up against a racial bloc of believers. However, the point of this Peoplez Daily piece is not to examine America's religious demographics but to highlight the misunderstood fact that religious conviction continually plays second fiddle to political beliefs in the shaping of a person's life opinions.
A Christian's faith does not drive political conviction, one's political conviction drives a Christian's interpretation of the Bible. For example a Southern conservative steeped in a conservative culture will more likely see the Bible as a manual of moral questions and answers, whereas progressives will just as likely see many of those same questions as being social issues that can only be relevant to the times in which we live. The Leftists are indeed correct as modern day issues such as gender equality and gay rights make clear.
The same is true throughout the world - the staunched faithful use their religion as the cement that binds their political convictions together to make it inviolable in their minds. Basically a hardline Muslim or devout Hindu, whether terrorist or activist, is motivated and animated by political beliefs under the cover of religiosity in the same way as a Christian in the U.S. It is this use of religion in giving personal political views their "holy" credibility that can make it so dangerous.