Why the Opposition to the Religious Right Failed

As a humanist I don’t like saying this, but it’s true: By any objective standard, the religious right has been an enormous success. Since Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority first came on the scene in 1979, politically engaged conservative Christians have steadily become more influential, and this has shifted the landscape of American public policy.

A list of all the areas affected by the religious right would be lengthy: politics (with candidates not only proudly rejecting evolution, but even holding prayer rallies to launch their campaigns); reproductive rights (where the debate is no longer just about abortion, but birth control); respect for women (with politicians saying “legitimate rape" does not cause pregnancy); education policy (with history books being rewritten to conform to a conservative Christian narrative, and anti-science activists fighting the teaching of evolution); and numerous other areas. Three decades ago much of this would have been unthinkable, and the fact that it’s happening today is evidence of the success of the religious right.

But if the religious right has succeeded, by definition that means its opposition has failed. As I point out in my new book, Nonbeliever Nation: The Rise of Secular Americans, all those who seek rational public policy in America – and that includes religious believers and nonbelievers – should spend some time considering why the opposition to the religious right has failed.

If we carefully consider the traditional opposition to the religious right, we find that it has usually fallen into two general categories. First we had the liberal and moderate politicians who were natural opponents of the socially conservative agenda of the religious right. (To be fair, even conservative politicians sometimes opposed the religious right. Republican Senator Barry Goldwater, a conservative stalwart for decades, once referred to the activist fundamentalists in his party as a “bunch of kooks.”) Second, we had advocacy groups such as People for the American Way, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and others, all of which have fought valiantly against the religious right.

Read remainder of article at Psychology Today.

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