In the Toronto Globe and Mail, Michael Valpy explores the resurgence of religion in American politics. According to Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life:
Religion has become a systemic, hard-wired feature of U.S. presidential elections, driven by a new coalition of conservative Roman Catholics and evangelical Protestants and fueled by fear that American culture is being taken over by militant secularism.
In fact, despite the significant advances of secularism over the past half century, research describes the United States as increasingly alone among advanced industrial democracies as "a deeply religious country."
The key electoral constituencies of both the Republican and Democratic parties are now the two most highly religious segments of the U.S. public—black Americans on the Democratic side and white evangelical Protestants on the Republican side, together representing more than a quarter of the electorate.
When we add "conservative, observant Catholics" to the camp of faith-based voters, we approach 40 percent of the American electorate.
Addressing a conference provocatively entitled "God's Back With a Vengeance: Religion, Pluralism, and the Secular State," Lugo described the emerging alliance between traditional Catholics and evangelical Protestants as "one of the huge stories in U.S. politics...a political realignment of major proportions."
"The tussle between Kerry and the bishops" takes on huge significance, he said, because conservative Catholics are divided between the two parties and because many of them are concentrated in important swing states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Driven by "a fear that a very militant secularism is driving religion from public life and increasingly besieging faithful believers":
In overwhelming numbers, Americans approve of politicians talking publicly about their religious beliefs and welcome the presence of religious discourse in public-policy debate...
Three-quarters of Americans think there's nothing wrong with President George W. Bush saying he relies on his religious beliefs to make decisions. Half of Americans say they would not vote for an atheist. Nearly 60 per cent believe journalists should question politicians about how their religious beliefs might affect their decisions.
If God indeed is "coming back with a vengeance," let us pray that His people give witness to it next November.
For the latest on how the Catholic vote is shaping up for the presidential race, read Catholic World News.
Ongoing commentary by the editors of CatholicKerryWatch
Sen. John Kerry stands with Kate Michelman (right) President of NARAL Pro-Choice America.
Since 1995, Michelman's group has given Kerry a 100% rating for his voting record to defend abortion.