You might have seen this article in the New York Times recently about how religious leaders tend to vote, especially in comparison to their congregants. As this study at Yale University showed, Reform and Conservative Rabbis, along with AME, UCC and Unitarian pastors tend to be strongly Democratic, while Baptist and Evangelical pastors tend to be strongly Republican.

As Kevin Quealy, the author of the article remarked:

If religious denominations were states, almost all of them would be considered “Safely Democratic” or “Safely Republican,” with relatively few swing states.

Yet pastors are even more politically divided than the congregants in their denomination: Leaders of more liberal denominations tend to be even more likely to be registered as Democrats, and those of more conservative denominations even more likely to be registered as Republicans.

As the article notes, it’s hard to know which is cause and which is effect. Do religious leaders push their congregants farther to the left or right, or do congregants pick a religious leader who will already match their political persuasion?

This data is reflective of a larger trend in American society, and one that connects to how we talk about both religion and science. As we know, given the population numbers, if you know someone is religious, they are likely to be conservative, and vice versa. Similarly, if you know someone celebrates science, they are likely to be liberal, and vice versa.

That, in and of itself, is not a problem. Indeed, both religion and politics are about how we express our values, so it’s not surprising that there are so few religious leaders in the middle.

Rather, the bigger potential problem is two-fold: the first is assuming that it’s always true of everyone that “religious = conservative” and “scientific = liberal”; the second is demonizing whichever side we are not part of.

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