Competing traditions? Religion and the American Left, 1977--2000

Date of Completion

January 2007


Religion, General|History, United States|Political Science, General




Recent scholarship and political commentary has outlined and debated theories of a culture war taking place within the United States, with religious traditionalists pitted against non-orthodox religious believers and non-believers. Some scholars and commentators contend that the American Left has contributed to this culture war through its increased hostility toward Americans of faith. According to this theory, which I call the Irreverent Left thesis, this hostility has caused religious traditionalists to abandon the Democratic Party and shift their support to Republicans. This hostility, then, was the impetus for the Republican Congressional victory in 1994. Using content and discourse analysis of American Left publications The Nation, In These Times, and Mother Jones, I empirically test this assertion and find 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. The American Left's hostility, while probably not a direct cause of Republican victories, does have detrimental consequences for civic engagement and democratic deliberation. ^