America is turning more into a secular society. But this post-Christian nation has not turned into a kinder, more tolerant place to live.
Peter Beinart, writing in The Atlantic, reminds us that a vast majority of Americans still believe in God, but they are fleeing organized religion in increasing numbers. The percentage of people with no religious affiliation jumped from 6 percent in 1992 to 22 percent in 2014. Among Millennials, the figure is 35 percent.
Many secular people would have predicted that this trend would end the culture wars and lead to greater harmony in society. Just the opposite has happened. “Secularism is indeed correlated with greater tolerance of gay marriage and pot legalization. But it’s also making America’s partisan clashes more brutal.”
Non-church goers have adopted a bleak view of America, more so than their churchgoing peers. He wonders: “Has the absence of church made their lives worse? Or are people with troubled lives more likely to stop attending services in the first place? Establishing causation is difficult, but we know that culturally conservative white Americans who are disengaged from church, experience less economic success and more family breakdown than those who remain connected, and they grow more pessimistic and resentful.”
I think you could make the case that without the peaceful influence of the Christian faith, Americans gravitate to a darker view of the country and of other citizens. Trust and civility decline, while anger and animosity increase.
We should not be surprised that as many Americans leave the church and organized religion that the conflicts in society are intensifying rather than diminishing.