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Anti-LGBTQ fervor is driving people away from Christianity

There is no place where religion and sexuality have intersected more than on the issue of same-sex marriage. When politics join the pulpit, churchgoers who support same-sex marriage leave the pews, a study published this summer found.

The study, published by Paul Djupe, a politics and religion researcher at Denison University published with Jacob Neiheisel, a political researcher at the University at Buffalo, found churchgoers who become supportive of same-sex marriage are likely to leave their congregations once political actions against same-sex marriage occurs.

These “religious nones” as they’ve been dubbed by Pew Research Center, identify as atheists, agnostics or “nothing in particular” when asked about their religious identity. Pew data show one-in-five Americans answer the question about their personal religious identify with “nothing in particular.”

Another study Djupe and Neiheisel published in 2018 with Kimberly Conger found the number of people who claim to be religious nones, especially among younger people, increased at a faster rate in states with same-sex marriage bans compared to states without bans on same-sex marriage.

The study found that as conservative states successfully implemented same-sex marriage bans, the proportion of people who claimed to be unaffiliated with religion increased by 8 percent and proportion of people who claim no religion increased 13 percent.

Another study Djupe authored, published in 2018, found that people who once opposed same-sex marriage but now support such unions were less likely to attend church when their opinion changed.

“Organized religion’s reputation for being intolerant toward LGBTQ Americans is often cited as perhaps the chief reason why young Americans are abandoning religion at such a rapid clip,” the authors wrote in the synopsis of the study.

They continued: “Those who came of age at a time when the most visible representation of religion in the public sphere involved the anti-gay agenda put forth by the Religious Right also happen to exhibit the greatest degree of support for gay rights.”

The research also found a “sorting” phenomenon among church goers, Djupe explained to Reckon. The sorting process he observed found people who most strongly oppose same-sex marriage are more likely to attend church.

“I think the politicization of congregations and evangelicalism shows this dynamic has been going on for the last 10 to 15 years. The really assertive Christian nationalism that we see in public life today is, I think, because of a result of this sorting process of the last 15 years.

Overall, liberal and moderate churchgoers were more likely to leave their church if they became more supportive of same-sex marriage, the study shows.

Religious attendance has been in decline for decades. Data from Pew Research Center released this week show about half of all Americans will not be Christians by 2070.

The data modeled by Pew estimated several scenarios, and all of those found between 34 to 54 percent of Americans will be Christians by 2070.

Anna Beahm

Anna Beahm | abeahm@reckonmedia.com

I report on the intersection of religion and sexuality in America. Follow me on Twitter @_AnnaBeahm

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