As America’s religious landscape grows more diverse, we see Christianity’s cultural dominance fading. While a vast majority of the country and our leaders still identify as Christian, many conservative Protestants sense a growing animosity toward themselves and their beliefs.
For the Christian Right, recent conflicts around homosexuality, church-state separation, abortion, and other hot-button issues are viewed as threats, indicators that their values are no longer embraced or even tolerated, but under attack.
When Atlanta fire chief Kelvin Cochran was fired earlier this year over a self-published book that briefly critiqued homosexuality, conservative Christians saw the incident as further evidence that they are losing their religious freedom.
Are these Christians worrying for no good reason?
Well, anti-Christian hostility is certainly real, captured by the American National Election Studies, which include questions about animosity toward various social groups. About one third of respondents rated conservative Christians significantly lower (by at least one standard deviation) than other religious and racial groups.
The only group to fare worse was atheists, who received low rankings from nearly half the respondents. But while atheists drew more global hostility than any other group, the negative rankings for conservative Christians came from a disproportionate number of white, highly educated, politically progressive, and wealthy respondents.
As this survey illustrates, animosity toward Christians involves racial, educational, and economic factors; the people most likely to hold negative views of conservative Christians also belong to demographic groups with high levels of social power. Rich, ...1
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