Tag Archives: Democrat

Heaven And The GOP

The Pew Research Center is often referred to as the “gold standard” in research methodology, and their results frequently shed light into corners of society that are otherwise dim. One recent study illuminated a rarely-noted distinction between Republicans and Democrats that may (or may not) explain some behavioral differences.

According to Pew, Republicans are considerably more likely to believe in heaven–and to believe that only their religious beliefs will get folks there. As the report on the study noted, not only are there big differences between Republicans and Democrats on matters here on earth, there are similarly large differences in the specific beliefs they hold about life after death and who is entitled to it.

A majority of Americans believe in both heaven and hell, including 74% of Republicans and 50% of Democrats. But about a third (35%) of Democrats say that they do not believe in either heaven or hell, compared with just 14% of Republicans who say this.

In fact, when given the option to express belief in some sort of afterlife aside from either heaven or hell, a quarter of all Democrats say that they do not believe in any afterlife at all, which is much higher than the share of Republicans who express the same view (9%).

Of course, as the report acknowledges, much of the difference can be attributed to the religious composition of today’s parties. A large majority of Republicans are Christians, a much higher share than Democrats. Democrats are much more likely than Republicans to be religiously unaffiliated –to  describe themselves as atheists, agnostics or “nothing in particular.”

 Large majorities of Christians in both parties believe in heaven, hell or both, including 95% of Republican and GOP-leaning Christians and 90% of Democratic Christians. And in addition to being more numerous in the Democratic Party, religious “nones” who are Democrats are far more inclined than religiously unaffiliated Republicans to say they believe in neither heaven nor hell (68% vs. 47%).

But even among those who believe in heaven, Democrats and Republicans also differ on who deserves to get in. In general, Republicans who believe in heaven are more likely to offer an exclusive vision of it – as a place limited to those who are Christian or at least believe in God – while Democrats tend to say they believe that heaven is open to many people regardless of their sectarian identities or beliefs about God.

Among the people in Pew’s study who claim a belief in heaven, an “overwhelming” share says that people in heaven will be free from suffering and will be reunited with loved ones who died previously. They expect to meet God and have perfectly healthy bodies. People who believe in hell say it’s a place where people experience physical and psychological suffering and become aware of the suffering they created in the world. (Given the emphasis on bodily health, you might expect these folks to be more active proponents of universal health care here on Earth, but consistency doesn’t seem to factor in…)

Ordinarily, I’d take these results with a pretty large teaspoon of salt. I think it was George Gallop who observed that Americans routinely lie to pollsters about three things: sex, drug use and religious belief and observance. As good as Pew is, I have trouble believing that they’ve found a way to ascertain the degree to which these responses are truthful.

Or the degree to which they are accurate representations of respondents’ religious identities.

I have Christian friends who feel strongly, for example, that many of the purportedly pious folks who self-identify as “Christian” are really Christian Nationalists, a rather different thing. And with respect to belief in heaven and hell,  I often think back to my mother’s “belief” in heaven and hell–according to her (somewhat idiosyncratic) theological lights, heaven and hell are what humans create and experience here on earth, during our lifetimes, which is why Jews have a duty to heed biblical and talmudic exhortations about doing mercy and pursuing justice.

Accurate or not, the Pew study is admittedly consistent with what we see around us: a Republican Party obsessed with protecting  (White) “Christian” privilege, and a Democratic Party trying to improve lives in the here-and-now.

Evidently, Republicans believe their eventual ticket to heaven depends entirely upon their success in creating a society that imposes their religious views on the rest of us–it sure doesn’t seem to require correcting hellish situations here on planet Earth.


The Peculiar Worldview of Evan Bayh

The news yesterday that former Indiana Senator Evan Bayh would be working for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce–along with former Bush Chief of Staff Andy Card–reminded me that Bayh is a man without any evident political philosophy other than self-interest.

A number of years ago, when Andy Jacobs retired from Congress, I participated in a “Retirement Roast,” sponsored by the Marion County Democratic Party. (Bill Hudnut and I were the two Republicans among the roasters.) I used my five minutes to apologize to Andy for having called him a name during my unsuccessful campaign to unseat him–I had called him a Democrat. As I explained then, “I was young and naive. I didn’t understand that Indiana doesn’t HAVE Democrats–we just have our Republicans and your Republicans. Like Evan Bayh.”

I don’t think any line I have ever delivered has gotten a bigger laugh. The Democrats in the room clearly agreed with my assessment of Evan Bayh (who was sitting near the front of the room).

There’s nothing wrong, of course, with being a more conservative Democrat–a Blue Dog. But even then, it was apparent to many that Bayh carefully constructed his political persona to meet the preferences of Indiana voters. During his terms in the Governor’s office, politics–defined as what would be good for Evan Bayh–regularly trumped policy. I remember a story told by a friend of mine who ran the HIV division of the State Health Department: the federal government offered to pay the salaries and overhead for two additional employees working on AIDS issues. My friend desperately needed the extra help, and was delighted, because the addition of these two positions would impose zero cost on the state. Bayh refused to allow him to accept the offer, because he was preparing to run for the Senate, and didn’t want anyone to be able to accuse him of adding public employees–even employees who would help Hoosiers and wouldn’t cost the state a cent.

Bayh’s retirement from the Senate was accompanied by lots of sanctimony, and his typical disregard for other Democrats–his timing made it virtually impossible for the party that had supported him to retain the seat, and he subsequently did very little to help Brad Ellsworth.  He joined a law firm (to lobby), and became a contributor to Fox “News,” lending that propaganda mill a veneer of bipartisanship.

Now, he’s signed on with the U.S. Chamber, which (unlike our local chamber) has been controlled by the extreme right for the past several years. He will be helping the Chamber maintain the fiction that its vendetta against even the most reasonable regulations is somehow a “bipartisan” effort.

This morning, the Star quoted Bayh’s denial that his Chamber job involves lobbying, because he won’t be personally calling his former Democratic Senate colleagues–a curiously narrow definition of lobbying.

My guess is that most Democratic Senators would be unlikely to take calls from Mr. It’s All About Me, Me, Me in any event.