Religion and Cultural Friction: Are the Two Related?

Annie Holmquist | November 15, 2019

Religion and Cultural Friction: Are the Two Related?

Republicans and Democrats today rarely agree on anything. So it’s not surprising that a new Pew Research report shows them at odds again. This time, the disagreement is on religion and its influence in society.

Roughly two-thirds of Republicans believe that religion brings people together, strengthens morality in society, and does more good than harm. Less than half of Democrats believe the same.

Both parties agree, however, that religion is losing influence in American life. Whether that is a good or bad thing is a different story depending on party affiliation, as the chart below clearly demonstrates:

Republican and Democrat View on Influence of Religion

This skepticism is reflected in another question about the good religious organizations do. Not surprisingly, a minority of those who identify as religious “nones” see the value in them.  

Religious Organizations Do Good

These views are understandable, especially for religious “nones,” for if one has no religion, it’s unlikely one will experience the positives it can bring.

For those who find themselves in this spot, perhaps it would be helpful to look around at externals in society. How is our morality? How are our community ties? Is society operating in an orderly fashion?

Twentieth century historian Russell Kirk had some things to say on these points in his 1974 work, The Roots of American Order. He notes:

All the aspects of any civilization arise out of a people’s religion: its politics, its economics, its arts, its sciences, even its simple crafts are the by-products of religious insights and a religious cult. … In the common worship of the cult, a community forms. At the heart of every culture is a body of ethics, of distinctions between good and evil; and in the beginning, at least, those distinctions are founded upon the authority of revealed religion.

“Well, sure,” religious “nones” may say, “religion has had a big influence on society. But we live in a contemporary age. Lack of religion doesn’t really affect our quality of life today, does it?”

Kirk would disagree. As he explains, “For until human beings are tied together by some common faith, and share certain moral principles, they prey upon one another.” In other words, without religion things can easily fall apart, leaving a society full of division and hatred.

Kirk continues:

Not until a people have come to share religious belief are they able to work together satisfactorily, or even to make sense of the world in which they find themselves. Thus all order—even the ideological order of modern totalist states, professing atheism—could not have come into existence, had it not grown out of general belief in truths that are perceived by the moral imagination.

We’ve reached a time in history in which culture is full of friction between generations, the sexes, and political parties. Given Kirk’s insight, could this friction be a direct result of a lost common culture ­– a common culture that was once rooted in the principals of religious truth and knowledge?

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[Image Credit: Left: Pixabay (cropped) Right: PublicDomainPictures.net (cropped), Public Domain] 


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