The Religious Right is Being Left Behind

Appearing in:

Orange County Register

The religious right, once a major power in American politics, is entering an uncomfortable dotage. Although numerous and well-organized enough to push Ted Cruz over the top in Iowa, the social conservative base, two-thirds of them born-again Christians, was of little use in New Hampshire, one of the most secular states in the Union. In the Granite State, Cruz did best among evangelicals but still slightly trailed Donald Trump among this one-quarter of New Hampshire Republicans.

More importantly, Cruz’s religious strategy might not be enough to allow the Texan to vault past his main rivals, even in the “Bible Belt” states like South Carolina, where Real Clear Politics polls last week showed Donald Trump more than 16 points ahead. This, along with the total collapse of Ben Carson’s religiously based campaign, reflects, in part, slowing growth on the religious right. Evangelicals, who are the cutting edge of the movement, are gaining market share among Christians only because of sharper declines among mainstream Protestants and Catholics. Overall, notes Pew, 68 percent of Americans now believe religion is losing influence in society.

In contrast, momentum is shifting to the religiously unaffiliated, whose numbers are rising rapidly, from 37.6 million in 2007 to 57 million in 2014. This process is particularly marked among millennials, a large portion of whom appear to have little interest in organized religion. Even if people remain spiritually inclined – and most Americans still are – the lack of church attendance makes mobilization of the faithful ever more difficult.

Most importantly, some 34 percent of millennials profess to having no religion, compared with 23 percent of the overall population.

Read the entire piece at The Orange County Register.

Joel Kotkin is executive editor of He is the Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. His newest book, The Human City: Urbanism for the rest of us, will be published in April by Agate. He is also author of The New Class ConflictThe City: A Global History, and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050. He lives in Orange County, CA.