Left Behind



Percentage Opposed to Same Sex Marriage: General Social Surveys 1988-2008




Wow, I didn’t used to have much hope that Americans would actually change their social values, but people are gradually shifting. The 2008 GSS was just released (to no fanfare) and they actually asked the same sex marriage question!! No doubt there were howls of protest if there were any religious folk on the GSS  board. And, looky looky. Most Real Americans support the right of other Americans to get married. In contrast, sectarian Christians (who liked to be called Evangelicals, so I’ll call them sectarian Christians), are overwhelmingly opposed to granting basic civil rights for same sex couples. Indeed, the sectarians have barely budged since 2004, while most Real Americans have realized that discrimination against gays and lesbians is juvenile  and unfair. In 1988, most Americans were shameful–even among people who were not affiliated with noxious Christian groups, about 65% opposed marriage rights for same sex couples. Among the fundies (as they don’t like to be called), nearly 80% opposed civil rights. By 2008, over 60% of real Americans favor legalizing same sex marriage, while 69% of the “evanglicals” remain opposed to marital rights. 

     The reason why is obvious, there is a clear mechanism linking evangelical’s subcultural averson to extending civil rights to same sex couples. Evangelicals are childish bigoted assholes, and they promote this juvenile incivility in their subcultural communities. And, when you’re dealing with people whose mentality is about that of a seventh grader (a poorly performing one, maybe even homeschooled, at that), you can’t really expect them to behave like civilized adults. Homophobia is really easy to embrace when you’re a het. I understand that. But, if you’re not a bigoted moron, you feel guilty about being mean to gays and lesbians once you grow up and realize that people are people, and everyone’s just trying to get along as best they can. I’d let the fundies get along, if they weren’t constantly fucking with other people. As an Iranian Redneck, it’s always been my job to beat up the bullies who pick on the other people who don’t quite fit in. Evangelicals need to get out of the public square, and crawl back under the  rocks where they belong. Wait for your Jesus, you’ve been left behind here.


16 Responses to “Left Behind”

  1. Conrad Hackett Says:

    So your position is that juvenile incivility is bad?

    Suppose it is true that marriage, including gay marriage, is on balance, very good for society. Perhaps religious communities deserve some credit for promoting the institution of marriage, despite regular controversies over the appropriate boundaries of the institution. Would gay marriage even be fought over in the U.S. if not for the ideal of marriage promoted by religious communities?

    If one does not grant that marriage is good for society, then perhaps a different approach to granting civil rights for gay unions besides making them marriages would be appropriate.

    The implied contrast here is with European countries where marriage is increasingly uncommon for anyone.

  2. Ryan Says:

    “So your position is that juvenile incivility is bad?” 🙂 Hilarious!

    Conrad does raise a good point: Is marriage a good thing? Thoughts?

    On the other hand, kudos to “normal Americans” (per the figure) for their more “enlightened” views!

  3. sherkat Says:

    Juvenile incivility is all I have left.

    So, only patriarchal christian marriages geared towards procreation are good for society? That’s the typical (usually catholic) theological ethic used to justify excluding marriage rights for groups christians don’t like. Christians excluded most from marriage, and secular states eventually arose and granted those rights, often with strong opposition from the Christians. Patriarchal Christian marriages like those advocated by many fake sociologists are bad for society. They deplete human capital and create social problems associated with misogyny and authoritarianism. But, marriage is really about individual rights and the responsibility of the state to enforce those rights. It doesn’t matter if marriage is good or bad for “society” whatever the fuck that is.

    My old childhood friend, Harlan, died last year. His partner of 20 years could have been left with nothing, but Harlan’s sister did the right thing. Harlan lived and died in his childhood home, right up the street from my mom’s house. As the sole surviving relative recognized under Oklahoma law, if Tina had wanted, she could have had Jeff evicted, taken Harlan’s insurance, and all of the possessions. That’s just fucking wrong.

    Europe is what we should aspire to, not denigrate.

  4. Conrad Hackett Says:

    I doubt anyone who has read thus far will defend an Oklahoma law that would deny inheritance rights to a partner of 20 years. My perception is that social attitudes in developed countries are swinging strongly in favor of providing such civil rights for gay and straight couples who agree to be bound by some type of contract. Surely even among the large group of Americans you call sectarian fundies there has been a large shift in the last 20 years towards support for provision of civil rights in gay unions (even though strong resistance remains to calling such unions marriages).

    In my proposed thought experiment, I was not suggesting that marriage necessitates rigid gender dynamics or procreation, though I will grant that others make such arguments. I had in mind the evidence that children tend to thrive more when they have two stable parent figures at home invested in their well being than when they do not. Suppose it is true that such an arrangement tends to work well for children and that instability in the home is bad for children. Suppose further that American marriages involving children are more durable than the Scandinavian model of long term cohabitation involving children. One may argue that these assumptions are not valid but if you were to grant that they are true, then perhaps, at least for children, most of the time, the institution of marriage looks good, much better than when it is analyzed in terms of adult freedom and obligations.

    To the extent that growing human capital is good, religious Americans may have an advantage over non-religious Americans. Participation in a congregation is associated with higher levels of education and with higher levels of fertility. Granted, time women spend at home with children is not invested in the paid labor market. But to the extent that well educated women are nudged toward at least replacement level fertility, they are likely to mediate the transfer of parental human capital. In contrast, it seems to me that there is considerable intergenerational depletion of human capital in Europe because of low fertility, which is due to in part to the lack of participation in religious communities that would encourage and support childbearing. I acknowledge that women tend to pay a high price in the process of raising children but along the way, they do tend to transfer human capital and often encourage their children to gain significant human capital over the course of their lifetime. Mormons are an interesting group in this regard because Mormon women tend both to get college degrees at high rates and to have high fertility. Mormons marriages are designed to be patriarchal but from an intergenerational perspective, they may maximize human capital better than most other types of unions in the U.S. My point is not to defend patriarchal marriage but to suggest that even fairly rigid patriarchal marriage does not necessarily lead to depletion of human capital.

    Incidentally, aside from particular ideological commitments, how might one identify fake sociologists? Do you have in mind non-credentialed individuals who try to pass thenmselves of as members of the guild or of guild members who defy fundamental tenets of the sacred sociological order?

  5. sherkat Says:

    Forget trying to argue for American superiority. We’re more like Turkey than Sweden, and that’s not good. Phil Zuckermann does a great job of laying out what nice secular societies look like, and they look damned good!

    Human capital requirements for nation states require gender equality in both education and occupational pursuits. Anything that undermines that status of women, undermines the well being of half of the population, with negative spillover effects to the other half.

    COLLECTIVE CAPITAL (almost always confused with “social capital”) benefits the collectivity with preferences for the goods produced. Most collective capital has negative spillover effects for other collectivities. Building religious institutions is great for people who prefer that kind of religion, but often the religious wind up using their collective capital to create public bads for other people. Funny you don’t see any evangelical types talking about madrassas as beneficial social capital, or saying how great it is that new mosques are going up every day in Pakistan.

    Fake sociologists are “public intellectuals” who play fast and loose with research to make a political point. Data abuse is one card carrying signifier, and dressing up theology and presenting it as sociology is another. We got’em on the left and the right, religious and secular.

  6. Conrad Hackett Says:

    I guess your overall viewpoint is that religion, particularly evangelical religion, has negative effects and negative spillover effects. It is refreshing to acknowledge that religion does not always have positive effects. However, you take this position to quite an extreme and it is sometimes unclear who you are arguing against. Who are the evangelicals discussing social capital but failing to discuss Pakistani mosque construction? The most prominent scholar focusing on religion and social capital is Robert Putnam, who, if I am not mistaken, was raised Catholic and converted to Judaism. Harvard religion professor Diana Eck, raised United Methodist, has certainly celebrated religious diversity in her Pluralism Project. Neither Putnam nor Eck is evangelical and as far as I know, neither has said much about mosque construction in Pakistan. There are enough differences between the government and civil society of the U.S./western Europe and a country like Pakistan that it is unfair to expect any scholar to necessarily make sweeping claims about the role of religion in both contexts.

    My argument is that although one can make many critiques about religious teachings on marriage, these teachings have likely had positive spillover effects for children, insofar as they encourage parents to stick together for the good of their offspring.

  7. sherkat Says:

    No names. This is supposed to be a lighthearted and offensive blog. I don’t want to be a public intellectual.

    Staying together for the good of the children? That’s a hoot! That’s what they tell abused women in the faith based shelters.

    If religious exclusivists stay under their rocks, they don’t have negative spillover effects. Witness the Amish, who I’ll see in about thirty minutes. Nice folk. Keep to themselves. Pushing particularistic values into the public square is what causes problems.

  8. Conrad Hackett Says:

    Being lighthearted and offensive at the same time is a tricky balance.

    Just because staying together for the good of the children is bad advice in the worst scenarios does not mean that it is also bad advice in the more common mediocre marriage scenarios.

    Your sympathy for the Amish seems at odds with your concern for gender equality and educational opportunity. But I understand your point about their detachment from the public sphere.

  9. sherkat Says:

    Yeah, just the minority…sure….

    2008 GSS data show that 30.5% of white evangelicals have been divorced or separated, compared to 25.0% of other white Americans. I guess that keep it together for the kids shit ain’t workin’ out too good, eh?

  10. Conrad Hackett Says:

    1. There is a significant disparity between evangelical/Republican family ideals and the family practices of evangelicals and Republicans.
    2. Only those who actually marry are “at risk” for divorce.
    3. Separation is no doubt higher in the U.S. for those parents who do not marry than for parents who do, due to both selection effects and social pressures surrounding marriage.
    4. Due to the various factors that influence age at marriage and selection into marriage, appropriate tests of marital durability should probably use panel data in which the unit of analysis can be the union rather than the individual, to control for factors like age at marriage and the fact that some people have many marriages.
    5. There are non-evangelical and non-Republican Christians (and, yes, non-Christians too) who are taught and aspire to stay married for the sake of their children. Isn’t this better than adhering to an ethic of maximal adult self-actualization?

  11. Ryan Cragun Says:

    FYI, I may be the only one following this discussion, but I am very much enjoying it. Please continue while I sit back and continue snack on popcorn…

    Oh, and one other thing, Barna, a while back, found that atheists were less likely to divorce than are evangelical Christians. I thought that was kind of funny… 🙂

  12. Conrad Hackett Says:

    It is amusing when rhetoric and reality are far apart. I hadn’t been keeping track but I heard recently that family advocates Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich like marriage so much they have accumulated six between them. Having said this, I think caution should be used in extrapolating from cross-sectional data, be it Barna or GSS, about marital durability. Yes, in a cross section, evangelicals are more likely to have been divorced than most other groups. However, evangelicals also marry at a younger age, which is significant because marriages begun at young ages are at a greater risk for divorce than marriages begun later, regardless of religion. On this point, one may wish to criticize the evangelical impulse to early marriage. However, the other issue is that this means that in a cross section, evangelicals have, on average, had more years of marriage in which they have been at risk of divorce. A sophisticated analysis would take into account years of exposure and offer some clues about how various factors mediate evangelical risk for divorce. I don’t think we know, for example, if evangelicals and atheists were matched on age at first marriage and SES factors, which group would have the most durable marriages. I wouldn’t bet a lot but I think that if well matched groups could be found, the evangelicals would come out ahead. In cross-sectional reality, atheists probably have many marriage durability advantages in terms of late age at marriage and relatively high SES compared with GSS Biblical literalists (I think this is Darren’s preferred method for identifying evangelicals/sectarian fundies).

    Glad you are enjoying the show Ryan. Feel free to make some bold claims of your own!

  13. sherkat Says:

    1. Yeah, what with all the cock sucking in public restrooms and teen pregnancy. So, what’s with that? I’ll tell ya. First, conservative Christian guys have some sexual issues, and that’s why they become militantly involved in movements which seek to subjugate women. Then, there’s the basic ignorance issue, and views of human sexuality which are simply warped. Teens don’t get pregnant out of wedlock in Sweden, indeed, they even delay sexual debut MUCH longer than American conservative Christians. Why? Because they think about sex in a rational fashion, and if you think about it, you know you usually shouldn’t do it.
    2. Most Americans get married. It’s just the fundies who get married when they’re way too young who can’t manage to keep things together. Early marriage combines with high fertility, underemployment, and misogynistic attitudes to make marriages even more fragile for the fundies. Women get the shaft, then they find themselves divorced with three kids, no education, and no career. Thank you jesus, thank you lord.
    4. control for age at marriage? Bullshit. They get married early BECAUSE of their religion. If you do that, you’re lying with statistics. But you can’t lie with statistics, you can only misuse them.
    5. So, you either believe that people should stay married because of children (this assumes, notably, that everyone has them), or you are simply selfish? That’s just a bunch of shit. Pure right-wing ideological garbage. But, I’m sure it works on poor uneducated desparate housewives, even after they catch their evangelical Christian with his boyfriend…

  14. sherkat Says:

    Oh, Ryan, why to you have to egg it on….18.1% of atheists have been divorced or separated, while 24.2% of those who are certain gods exist have been divorced or separated….

  15. Conrad Hackett Says:

    Sure, some people get married early for reasons related to their religion. I have already agreed that in cross-sectional data, evangelicals are more likely to report having been divorced than most other groups. So I am not trying to get around these facts.

    Evangelicals are not the only ones who get married early and not all evangelicals get married early. (Incidentally, while it has historically been the case that most Americans eventually marry, this trend may not continue and marriage is already rare for some groups, such as African American women.) It would be reasonable to inquire whether among those who marry early, evangelicals are more likely to divorce and among those who marry later, whether evangelicals are more likely to divorce. In other words, how much of the divorce gaps is due to the early marriage dimension? Does being evangelical have an additional effect, positive or negative, on the risk of divorce?

    The cross-sectional analysis really is a distortion because it does not take into account years at risk of divorce. At a minimum, you should compare not the percentage of all members of group x and y that have ever been divorced/separate but rather, the proportion of all EVER MARRIED members of group x and group y that have have ever divorced unless you have the luxury of analyzing cohort data for a cohort that has already died off or is close to wiped out, in which case you at least include all those who eventually marry but may not yet have been married at the time of a cross-sectional survey. However, analysis of this question really ought to consider years at risk of divorce in addition to the cross-sectional/cohort story. To oversimplify, imagine that average age of first marriage for evangelicals is 23, that it is 29 for atheists and that all GSS respondents are age 30. In this scenario, the average evangelical marriage has had seven years of possible life and the average atheist marriage is only a year old. Wouldn’t it be more informative to compare dissolution rates among groups after the same years of exposure to the risk rather that comparing the mortality percentages of marriages at different marriage ages (one and seven years)? In other words, we ought to consider the divorce rate per 1,000 marriages rather than the percentage ever divorced in a population. We should at least acknowledge that these statistics could tell different stories. There is nothing dishonest about considering this complexity. It may not cast evangelicals in any better light. I am interested in the empirical reality, not in constructing a story designed to make one group look good or bad.

    I do not assume that everyone has kids. Rather, I just think that it is more important that couples who have kids work hard at salvaging their marriages than it is for couples who don’t have kids.

    I think that decisions about divorce are difficult and complicated. I believe that the desires of adults and children are often not aligned.

  16. Ryan Says:

    Conrad, that’s actually an interesting point. I actually think both of you are making interesting points:
    1) You really do kind of have to look at divorce rates not controlling for age because being evangelical leads to marriage at earlier ages which leads to more divorces. Ergo, being evangelical causes divorce, even though it does it indirectly.
    2) That said, if you do control for exposure to the risk of divorce (length of marriage), it would, as Conrad put it, “tell a different story.” It wouldn’t necessarily say that evangelicals are less likely to divorce. What it would answer is a different question: “Do evangelicals who follow more secular marriage timing patterns have similar divorce rates to seculars?”

    I think the ideal way to test this would be a path model a la:

    What is the direct effect of being evangelical on divorce and what is the indirect effect of being evangelical on divorce as it passes through age at first marriage?

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