The Humanist Hour #186: Mark Smith on Secular Faith: How Culture Has Trumped Religion in American Politics

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In this episode, Kim Ellington welcomes new Humanist Hour co-host Jenn Wilson to the podcast and they both speak with author Dr. Mark Smith about his new book, Secular Faith: How Culture Has Trumped Religion in American Politics.

Mark A. Smith provocatively argues that religion is not nearly the unchanging conservative influence in American politics that we have come to think it is. In fact, in the long run, religion is best understood as responding to changing political and cultural values rather than shaping them. Smith makes his case by charting five contentious issues in America’s history: slavery, divorce, homosexuality, abortion, and women’s rights. For each, he shows how the political views of even the most conservative Christians evolved in the same direction as the rest of society—perhaps not as swiftly, but always on the same arc. During periods of cultural transition, Christian leaders do resist prevailing values and behaviors, but those same leaders inevitably acquiesce—often by reinterpreting the Bible—if their positions become no longer tenable. Secular ideas and influences thereby shape the ways Christians read and interpret their scriptures.