When Politics Becomes Religion

Back in the olden days of the Cold War, I was convinced that Communism was less about economic theory and political reality and more about quasi-religious fervor. By the 1980s, it had become abundantly clear that Adam Smith had been right, and that centrally-planned economies didn’t work, but evidence had long been irrelevant to the true believers. (Maybe the USSR version wasn’t working, but that was because they weren’t doing it right.)

A couple of weeks ago, a colleague made a similar observation about the Tea Party folks. “You can’t talk them out of their positions by pointing to facts, because it’s a religion, and religion is all about faith–not fact.”

Now, noted GOP pollster and consultant Mike Murphy has made much the same point.

“There seem to be two schools of thought in GOP. One group, the Mathematicians, look at the GOP’s losing streak and the changing demography of the country and say the party needs to make real changes to attract voters beyond the old Republican base of white guys. Not just mechanics, but also policy. They want to modernize conservatism and change some of the old dogma on big issues like same sex marriage. I’m one of them. The other group, the Priests, say the problem is we don’t have enough ideological purity. We must have faith, be pure and nominate “real conservatives” (whatever that means; the Priests are a bit slippery about their definitions) who will fight without compromise against liberalism. The Priests are mostly focused on the sins we are against; they say our problem is a lack of intensity; if we are passionate and loud enough, we will alert and win over the rest of the country. The Mathematicians hear all this and think the Priests are totally in a 55-year-old white guy echo chamber of their own creation and disconnected from the reality of today’s electorate. They worry more about what the party should be for, and how we grow our numbers. They think the Priests fail to understand it is not 1980 anymore and votes are not there for the Old Pitch. The Priests hear the Mathematicians and think they are all sell-outs.”

Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research recently conducted a series of focus groups for a project they titled “Inside the GOP.”  The report included a number of trenchant observations–more on those in a forthcoming post–but the finding most relevant to Murphy’s lament is that the current divisions in the Republican party aren’t only between the Priests and the “Mathematicians” (aka the dwindling number of moderates). There are also two varieties of Priests: Evangelicals and the Tea Party. And while both are faith-based and fervent, their dogmas and doctrines differ.

Religious wars are always the ugliest…..


  1. Stupid People with Holy Books will tell us all how to live
    Good luck with that GOP
    I am sure the modern young people will flock to that 🙂

  2. If you want to see religion disguised as politics, take more than a passing glance at these evil doctrines: sustainability, environmentalism, equality, diversity, tolerance.

    Precisely no reason is found supporting these banners; they persist solely on religious fervor and a shrill shouting down of inquisitors. The celebrated concepts are simply positions, mere tools used to advance narrow interests.

  3. I consider my religion, my sex life and my medical problems and decisions to be personal matters. Sure wish the GOP felt the same about MY personal business; I don’t give a flying you-know-what about theirs. They don’t pay my utility, food, gas, medical or property tax bills and want to make it more difficult for me to accomplish this by cutting Social Security and Medicare and forcing prices on everything to escalate. The Tea Party priests worship money and what and who they can buy with it, they are into quantity – not quality.

  4. Evolution is attacked by the Bible Thumpers, and they propose the “young universe” in some cases. It is difficult to understand how the creationists, and the intelligent design crowd can simply toss geology, astronomy and chemistry among other sciences in the garbage.

    Their anti-science position concerning Evolution made sense to me when I heard some TV evangelist telling his “flock” the devil plays these tricks on us to make us question our faith in a 6 days of creation.

  5. The New Yorker: Can we talk about your drafting process—
    Justice Scalia: [Leans in, stage-whispers.] I even believe in the Devil.

    NY: You do?
    JS: Of course! Yeah, he’s a real person. Hey, c’mon, that’s standard Catholic doctrine! Every Catholic believes that.

    NY: Have you seen evidence of the Devil lately?
    JS: You know, it is curious. In the Gospels, the Devil is doing all sorts of things. He’s making pigs run off cliffs, he’s possessing people and whatnot. And that doesn’t happen very much anymore.

    NY: No.
    JS: It’s because he’s smart.

    NY: So what’s he doing now?
    JS: What he’s doing now is getting people not to believe in him or in God. He’s much more successful that way.

    I mean, of course Justice Scalia, I don’t believe in God because of the devil! No other reasons exist. Many would do well to remember the writings of Thomas Paine.

  6. How can we hold intelligent conversation about ‘faith’: evidences of things not seen? I know: evangelize a blind man!

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