Religious conservatives split on 'Benedict Option'

December 03, 2015, 5:13 PM GMT+0

Religious Americans are divided on whether or not they should politically withdraw from a liberal, secular America

Over recent decades, particularly the past ten years, the United States has undergone a wave of social change to become a more liberal and secular society. The vast majority of Americans (67%) say that the United States has become less religious over the past 25 years, and with recent victories on same-sex marriage and other issues social conservatives have faced a string of political defeats. These defeats and the apparent reality of an America where the 'majority' is no longer 'moral' are forcing social conservatives and religious leaders to reconsider their role in society. Conservative intellectual Rod Dreher has gained an increasingly large following in arguing for the 'Benedict Option', saying that in today's world Christians should withdraw from public activism and seek to preserve their morality by strengthening their ties and forming a robust Christian sub-culture.

YouGov's latest research shows that there is wide support among Americans for the idea of separating church and state, but many nevertheless believe that the country was intended to be a Christian one. 64% of Americans approve of the separation of church and state while only 22% disapprove. Even Americans who say that religious faith is 'very important' in their lives tend to support the separation of church and state by 48% to 36%.

Nearly half the country (48%) does believe that the Founding Fathers intended America to be a Christian nation. Only 27% say that they did not intend for the United States to be Christian. Unlike the matter of separation of church and state, however, there is a significant divide between various groups on this issue. While only 33% of Democrats say that the U.S. was meant to be a Christian nation, 75% of Republicans say that was the original intent.

When YouGov asked Americans whether they think it is better that people who believe society does not live up to religious commands should withdraw or agitate, half the country (49%) say that it is better for the religious to shy away from activism. Unsurprisingly the least religious (64%) are the most likely to say that they should not seek to change society, but even those who say that their faith is 'very important' in their lives narrowly support withdrawing (37%) rather than continuing to push for more conservative social values (34%). Among the most religious who identify as conservative they are split evenly, 39% to 39%.

One potential source of hope for religious Americans is that nearly half the country (45%) say that they want America to become more religious over the coming 25 years, though most (53%) actually expect the country to continue becoming less religious.

Full poll results can be found here and topline results and margin of error here.