Damian Thompson from the Holy Smoke blog in London’s Daily Telegraph newspaper has declared Barack Obama as America’s first secular president. Not far from being the truth some would say that Bill Clinton was pretty secular as well. But I believe the point that Mr. Thompson was attempting to get across was the simple fact that the majority of church-going Christians voted for Senator McCain than did Senator Obama. What is more revealing is that ‘Christians in name only’ voted overwhelmingly for Senator Obama.
The breakdown of voting figures in the US election indicates an extraordinary gulf between churchgoing and non-churchgoing voters. Barack Obama hoovered up the votes of non-churchgoers to an unprecedented extent: 65 per cent of them voted for him. I’ve thought for a long time that American agnostics and atheists are a growing force, under-represented in opinion polls. Obama will be their president.
He’ll also be the president of non-practising Catholics who, according to Beliefnet figures, voted 61 to 37 per cent for Obama. That’s no surprise: the Democrats were always the party of Catholics.
These are quite illuminating statistics that Mr. Thompson shares with his readers.
But look at the way practising Catholics voted: 53 to 47 per cent for McCain. That confirms the trend observed in 2000 and 2004, which some commentators thought was only temporary. We can now say, with some certainty, that devout Catholics are more likely to be Republicans than Catholics. As for churchgoing Protestants (most of them evangelicals), nearly two-thirds voted for McCain.
Mr. Thompson must be echoing my conclusions as well from a previous column.
Obama is likely to be the first truly secular American president. Sure, he goes to church, but for many years the one he attended was little more than an outcrop of the leftist urban black community, in which he was as likely to hear political conspiracy theories as the Gospel from the pulpit. And his very strong support for abortion indicates that he has a profoundly secular attitude towards the sanctity of life.
America has certainly had relatively secular presidents in the past, but what distinguishes them from president-elect Obama is that they had a more correct and deeper understanding of Christianity. They were taught the Bible in elementary school, learned Latin and Greek, and considered attending a seminary as a serious option. In the case of President-elect Obama, he has been enlightened by radical anarchists.
As for President-elect Obama being America’s truly first secular president, only time will tell.