Friday, March 07, 2008

The Insular Secular Left

Why are Darwinian fundamentalists so eager to vilify intelligent design proponents and other macroevolutionary skeptics? Why is Nick Matzke so eager to lump young earth creationists and ID proponents together, and remain passionately ignorant of important distinctions? Why do so many scientists seem so eager intentionally to misrepresent ID and its advocates?

The statistics in this NY Sun article provide some enlightenment, I think:

We constantly hear from non-religious liberals about the predations of the religious right, and especially the dangerous intolerance of American evangelicals. But do secular liberals actually live close enough to any religious folks to know them personally? You would assume so; after all, the Democratic National Committee has declared that, "The religious diversity of our party reflects the rich religious diversity of our nation."

But in fact, nearly half (45%) of liberals in the 2006 data who called themselves secular — attending a house of worship seldom or never — admitted to having no church-attending neighbors at all. Meanwhile, only a quarter of religious conservatives had no secularist neighbors — despite the fact that non-attendance is rarer than regular attendance at a house of worship in America today.

Many data sources reinforce this finding. According to the Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey, secular liberals in 2000 were 12 percentage points more likely than religious conservatives to say they had no personal friends with a different religious orientation than their own. In heavily liberal communities like Seattle and San Francisco, this difference opens to about 20 points. Despite the rhetoric about diversity and inclusion, the secular left today is significantly more likely to be cut off from opposing worldviews than the religious right is.

Maybe it doesn't matter. Just because you don't see people with whom you disagree religiously and politically, you can appreciate their views, right?

I believe this is wrong. Personal exposure to divergent worldviews in a democratic society pushes us to be more tolerant, because we are thus less likely to dehumanize people who see things differently than we do. It's easy to see an atheist or an evangelical as the enemy — until you meet at a block party or your kids become friends with hers. Furthermore, it's simply more interesting to live around different kinds of people than in a group where everyone thinks the same way.


At March 08, 2008 4:32 PM, Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

IMO people generally don't know the religious views of their close neighbors except maybe by seeing them in church or something like that. And putting up Christmas decorations is no sign that one is religious. Also, the religious views of one's close neighbors should not be a big influence on one's own religious views.


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