Flouting Faith? Religious Hostility and the American Left, 1977-2000


Political Science and International Affairs

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Recent scholarship has outlined and debated theories of a culture war taking place within the United States, with religious traditionalists pitted against nonorthodox religious believers and nonbelievers. Some scholars and commentators contend that the American Left has contributed to this culture war through its hostility toward Americans of faith. This theory, which I call the Irreverent Left thesis, purports that such hostility has caused religious traditionalists to abandon the Democratic Party for the Republican Party, leading to Republican victories in national politics. This article examines whether the Left has become more hostile to religion. Using content analysis of American Left publications— The Nation, In These Times, and Mother Jones— I examine the attitudes of progressive elites from 1977 to 2000. Findings indicate that although the American Left has become more hostile toward religious faith, this hostility is more likely a result of the shifting partisan loyalties than a cause.