An interesting survey was published by Pew Research Center last month indicating how “warm” Americans felt toward various religious groups. This “feelings thermometer” indicated that Americans feel most warm toward Jews, Catholics, mainline Protestants, and Evangelicals. These same groups scored highest on the previous survey conducted in 2014, but Jews and Catholics gained in the warm feelings expressed toward them while Evangelicals stayed the same (mainline Protestants, for some reason, weren’t included in the 2014 survey).
Interestingly, as well, is that most other groups of religious peoples also rose, some significantly, in the warm feelings Americans have for them. Buddhists, Hindus, Mormon, Atheists, and Muslims all enjoyed spikes in warm feelings, some quite significantly.
What this says to me is that religion and religious groups are generally thought of well by average Americans. This comes in spite of the ridicule and sometimes outright hostility that religion often receives from our cultural elites.
It seems to me that Jews, Catholics, and Evangelicals are targets of hostility from different groups. Jews face anti-Semitism from three primary sources: those in the academy who are hostile to Israel and supportive of the Palestinian cause, Muslims who are more extreme in their ideology and unwilling to embrace Western values of religious liberty and equality, and the racists who simply regard Jews as inferior, or anti-American, who are probably the source of the recent spate of bomb threats called in to Jewish Community Centers around the country and the defamation of a Jewish cemetery.
Catholics face hostility mostly from the entertainment industry and the mainstream media. Anti-Catholic bias is almost a characteristic of mainstream media reporting these days. Legitimate reporting on the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church too often turned into an excuse for negative reporting on all things Catholic. The insistence on focusing on the crisis in the Catholic Church, while ignoring abuse in other churches and in secular institutions, the refusal to report on the progress the Church has made in combating abuse (and the lack of progress in other institutions), the distortion of the Church’s view on science and scientific progress, fully embracing “the Church is anti-science” meme, the opposition among journalists to the Church’s teachings on abortion, homosexuality, and male priesthood, the willingness to publish scathingly anti-Catholic articles and opinion pieces by the likes of Emma-Kate Symons and Maureen Dowd and, finally, a laziness among reporters for finding out the facts when it comes to the Church, preferring instead to base their reporting on stereotype and presumptions about “what everyone knows” about the Church; all of these and more are evidence of anti-Catholic bias in the media. As for the entertainment industry, the constant portrayal of Catholics, sometimes in a very subtle way (ie: Tarzan and Ringo), the anti-Catholic memes in acts such as Madonna and Nicki Manaj (with no outcry from the media), and the support for TV shows like The Real O’Neals and the anti-Catholic rants of Bill Maher and Samantha Bee; all of these and more reveal the anti-Catholicism of our entertainment industry.
Evangelicals face hostility mostly from the academy, the entertainment industry, and atheists. Evangelicals are regarded by our cultural and intellectual elites as backward, Bible-thumping, uneducated science-deniers and sexual prudes. They are regularly ridiculed in our movies and TV shows and religious liberty for Christian groups on college campuses is under serious threat for their refusal to tow the line on matters such as homosexuality.
Even still, the big story here is that the Pew Survey suggests that the efforts of our cultural elites haven’t been entirely successful. The warmth most Americans feel toward these three religous groups, regularly maligned in our movies, in our academies, in our TV shows, in our press, have failed to throw the views of the average American against them. Good.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.