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My Take: 113th Congress looks like old America
November 16th, 2012
12:01 PM ET

My Take: 113th Congress looks like old America

Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

(CNN) - The 2012 election has been widely hailed as a diversity moment — a coming out party for an American electorate no longer dominated by white men. And it was a triumph as well for religious diversity, thanks especially to Hawaii, which is sending the first Hindu to the House and the first Buddhist to the Senate.

But is this religious change more symbolic than real? In “Faith on the Hill,” a study on religion in the 113th Congress released Friday by the Pew Forum, the story seems to be static rather than change.

For all the talk of the election of 2012 inaugurating a new era in American politics, Protestants will continue to be overrepresented on Capitol Hill, where they will account for 56% of our representatives versus only 48% of American adults.

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Moreover, the religiously unaffiliated will continue to be scandalously underrepresented in the 113th Congress. Though 20% of American adults are “nones,” there is only one “none” (Arizona Democrat Kyrsten Sinema) in the new congressional delegation.

That said, there are striking differences between Democrats and Republicans in the incoming 113th Congress.

The GOP delegation will be 69% Protestant, while Protestants will account for only 43% of the Democrats. Mormons also lean heavily Republican, with three Democrats versus 12 members of the GOP.

Catholics, by contrast, lean Democratic, accounting for 36% congressional Democrats and 25% of congressional Republicans. Moreover, all the Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists in the incoming Congress are Democrats. And all but one of the 32 Jewish members (Virginia Republican Eric Cantor) are, too.

The bottom line? I see two takeaways.

First, this data provides evidence for the now common wisdom that Republicans represent old-fashioned America while Democrats reflect new demographic realities. In the 113th Congress, Republicans will be disproportionately male and disproportionately Protestant. Democrats, by contrast, have a higher portion of women and minority religions.

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Second, this data shows that the much heralded “new America” is still years away. Yes, the Senate will be 20% female, but women are more than 50% of the population. And the U.S. Congress will still be far more Christian (87%) than U.S. adults as a whole (70%).

At least when it comes to religion, the U.S. Congress doesn't yet look like the voters who are sending them to Washington.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: 2012 Election • Catholic Church • Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints • Judaism • Politics • Polls • United States

soundoff (1,540 Responses)
  1. serana

    The problem is that most protestant evangelists follow the Scofiled Bible, whiich is biased towards starting a war in the middle east – it is a very different and unconventional version used for promoting hatred towards other religions in that, they believe that Jesus will not come until Israel annexes arab lands. FYI, Jesus is dead and is not coming back.

    November 16, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
  2. David

    I'm an atheist and even I find this article extremely disgusting. Wow. This is front page on CNN as I write this. Would CNN dare write an article about "Too Many Jews in the Media and Wall Street" or "Too Many Afro-Americans in the NBA? Most certainly not. The media has a free pass to discriminate against Caucasians and it needs to stop.

    November 16, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
    • Mike

      Well said.

      November 16, 2012 at 11:53 pm |
  3. Nathan

    Absolutely agree! Let's get those Protestants! Drive them out! How about tattooing a "P" on their heads so we can easily identify them?

    November 16, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
  4. Bob

    Christianity is demonstrably anti-American. It is anti-capitalism since it opposes a free market and optimal pricing of goods, and it is anti-free speech. True conservatives should oppose Christianity, as should reasoning liberals. Christianity is also racist and bigoted, given that it presents a "chosen race" and is unfair to women, among other reasons.

    Christianity, particularly that flagrantly practiced and grossly over-preached by evangelists, is also anti-science and is therefore putting our young people and our future workforce at a disadvantage relative to competing nations that now have better science education without religious bias and without the ancient supersti-tions that block modern understanding and technological and medical progress.

    Therefore, if we want to keep our great country the greatest in the world, a status that is increasingly questionable and under threat, Americans need to overthrow the power that Christianity has in the US, and ultimately get past religion entirely. We need to take our freedom back from the power-holders and practitioners of Christianity, and push back hard against the idiocies that religion represents.

    Ask the questions. Break the chains. Join the movement. Be free of Christianity and other superstitions.
    http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/

    November 16, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
    • Justin

      Bob, try being a bit less harsh. Your points are very well made, and I do agree with you, but the tone doesn't need to be that way.

      November 16, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
    • Nathan

      Absolutely agree! Off the Christians! Back to the Lions! The Romans weren't as cowardly as we are. They knew what it took to be a great power.

      November 16, 2012 at 11:37 pm |
    • dannowp

      Tell that to the 85% of American who consider themselves a christian. Believe what you want, and I will support you. But don't try taking my beliefs away, considering America was completely built by Christian men and Christian scientist, with Christian values.

      November 16, 2012 at 11:39 pm |
    • Mike

      I think you have some misunderstandings.... Though I agree with a point that sort of sounds like one of yours: Christianity is demonstrably not about America/government. That said, the fact that many Christians (as with people of all creeds) have serious problems and areas of dangerous ignorance is a sad thing. We're all human after all, wonderful and broken at once.

      November 16, 2012 at 11:45 pm |
  5. JM

    It is NOT about just picking a statistical replica of the makeup of the US, it is about who we pick to represent us. The people voted who they wanted to represent them. Although I have issues with some of their choices, it is their choice, they will have to live with it as well. An article like this sounds like there is nothing else of interest to write about. Meaning much too much about nothing. WASTE of time and waste of author, or is that a wasted author? hmmm

    November 16, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
  6. edwardst35

    As long as they are Christian, as out forefathers were, I don't care if they are Protestant! As long as they are not a bunch of Muslim, other Islamic or Atheistic buffoons!

    November 16, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
    • ATLmatt

      sounds like you are the buffoon.

      November 16, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
    • Mike

      I think you have some misunderstandings....

      November 16, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
    • Jesus

      Thomas Paine, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson ere not Christian they were Deists. You may actually want to get your history correct. While you are at it check out the Treaty of Tripoli it will blow your mind.

      November 16, 2012 at 11:37 pm |
    • serana

      I suppose you would rather have them worship a dead jewish carpenter, than the Omnipotent creator of the universes

      November 16, 2012 at 11:39 pm |
    • dannowp

      Maybe, but they supported each others beliefs and charished strong family values that are new Obama America is losing fast. Pregnant teens, Single moms, lazy takers, and free drugs everywhere. Enjoy your new America.

      November 16, 2012 at 11:42 pm |
    • Ben Franklin - Deist

      "Some books against Deism fell into my hands; they were said to be the substance of sermons preached at Boyle's lectures. It happened that they wrought an effect on me quite contrary to what was intended by them; for the arguments of the deists, which were quoted to be refuted, appeared to me much stronger than the refutations; in short, I soon became a thorough deist." – from his autobiography

      November 16, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
    • Peteyroo

      Edie, what's wrong with us atheists? Mother Nature gave us intelligence and good looks while burdening you with a low IQ and no imagination. It's not fair, but that's how it worked out.

      November 16, 2012 at 11:50 pm |
  7. CRC

    Very stupid article.

    November 16, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
    • edwardst35

      The guy who wrote it looks like Satan!

      November 16, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
    • serana

      If you know what satan looks like please tell us – Satan is only dangerous because we do not know what he looks like. Don't under estimate him

      November 16, 2012 at 11:42 pm |
  8. lewtwo

    We should have less Catholics (if any at all) because their first allegiance is to another country the Vatican.

    November 16, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
  9. Calvin Wycliffe

    I disagree with this article. Protestants founded this country. It is their ideology which is so intertwined with freedom. If that ideology is in charge of a country that country prospers, that country is free. If Rupert Murdoch's religion, or Sean Hannity's religion, or Rush Limbaugh's religion is in charge that country is in the third world or that country doesn't have a AAA credit rating. Unless of course we talk about the French and we all know how Hannity loves his freedom fries. That Buddhist and that Hindu are able to run because of a framework that is indisputably created by Protestants. That doesn't happen in a country where people worship the pope. The "nones" are still spiritual, still believe in God, they are just turned off by man-run religion, and men who claim to be holy. A "none" is basically a Protestant. The Protestants have women priests and gay priests along with so many wonderful straight priests. Protestants in the majority means freedom. Protestants in the minority means intolerance.

    November 16, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
    • Mike

      I disagree that protestants not in charge means lack of freedom and prosperity. There are good, effective people of all stripes. No side should be discriminated on based on their label. Let their fruits speak for themselves; faith is shown to men through works, not through a self-ascribed label.

      November 16, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
  10. Mike

    Way to use weak, cherry-picked descriptive statistics to make irrelevant comparisons apparently advocating an unwise point of view that is ultimately discriminatory. We don't have enough reporters doing that these days. So tell us, which whites and protestants should be replaced by the underrepresented in the Red party, and which non-protestants should be replaced in the Blue one (and so forth; you "forgot" a lot of others and left out necessary comparison statistics)? Or, at very least, indicate what percentages of each we should elect and what the acceptable ranges should be, considering the standard error suggested by appropriate representation and random selection.

    November 16, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
    • dannowp

      What reporters, all we have are political monkeys. Every New outlet is liberal leaning except for FOX. Do you really think the honest truth ever gets out their. We the people must use our common sense.

      November 16, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
  11. LookAndSEE

    Do u know what it means to be Protestant from a Biblical point of view?

    November 16, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
    • Peteyroo

      Look&Pee, the modern form of the word is protester, which is what Martin Luther was when he broke away from the Catholic church.

      November 16, 2012 at 11:37 pm |
    • lewtwo

      Most people think that protestant means any non-catholic Christian. They are wrong.

      It actually refers to the various religions that sprang up in the 16th century as a reaction against medieval Roman Catholic doctrines and practices. There are a number of non-catholic christian denominations that are NOT protestant. One would think that "Boston University religion scholar" would know the difference.

      November 16, 2012 at 11:39 pm |
    • serana

      FYI, the Egyptian coptics just appointed a new pope. The orthodox church has its own 'pope' called a patriarch. All these men assume a power based on worldly means – the most honorable amongst us in the sight of God is the one most righteous (Koran)

      November 16, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
  12. srcactus

    Yes we must become more politically correct, by all means. It serves the divisive mood of the new nation so well.

    The solution is to for government to force individual behavior, a police state will be just dandy.

    November 16, 2012 at 11:28 pm |
  13. Ramgolfball

    Get these religious clowns out of congress altogether. Religion poisons all things - and is particularly dangerous in governments.

    November 16, 2012 at 11:27 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      They got in fairly and squarely. If you don't like republican democracy, move to China.

      November 16, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
    • dannowp

      Darn Christians anyway. Preaching love thee neighbor and good family values. Atheis tand liberals wouldn't understand that, I get it.

      November 16, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
    • ATLmatt

      aethist believe in facts, science, and success.

      science flies you to the moon. religion flies you into buildings.

      November 16, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
    • dannowp

      No, Muslims fly into buildings.

      November 16, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
    • Carol

      Woo hoo!

      November 16, 2012 at 11:38 pm |
    • ATLmatt

      lets not forget all of the murders done in the name of christ. the inquisition, crusades, wars, the colonization and enslavement of native americans and africans, etc. muslims pale in comparison.

      November 16, 2012 at 11:39 pm |
    • serana

      Love they Neighbor and good families values are a smokescreen these people use to bomb countries back into the stone age to steal their oil and gold. Then when a disaster hits them, they wonder why!

      November 16, 2012 at 11:46 pm |
    • serana

      No, planes fly into buildings – actually government missiles operated by the intelligence services

      November 16, 2012 at 11:51 pm |
  14. Joe

    I don't think the author is bashing religion or suggesting any kind of litmus test. I just think it's an observation and one I agree with. The old days were not as good as folks would have us believe. Before Roosevelt's New Deal little children and old folks died of starvation. Lives were ruined by abject poverty. Religion failed to relieve suffering during the Great Depression and ultimately it was government that provided the most relief. My father lived through the heart of the Great Depression. God rest his soul I'll always remember his stories of those days. I'm no atheist but the old ways were not always good. I sometimes think republicans would let folks starve to death then blame the dead for their situation.

    November 16, 2012 at 11:26 pm |
  15. Texas Eater

    Speaking of eating, how long should you grill 6 ovaries before eating them?

    November 16, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
    • Peteyroo

      PeterEater, what the hell are you talking about?

      November 16, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
    • EJ&R

      A light braising will suffice, along with a side of fava beans and a dry chianti.

      November 16, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
    • Texas Eater

      PeteyRoo: I was not talking about chicken ovaries. It's all about women's ovaries.

      November 16, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
    • Texas Eater

      EJ&R: Thanks for your intelligent answer.

      November 16, 2012 at 11:46 pm |
    • serana

      did you mean womens binderies?

      November 16, 2012 at 11:50 pm |
  16. Pam

    I don't understand what the problem is that the author of this article has. The majority has spoken and they put in the people in Congress as they did the President. Does he want to overturn the election? It sounds like some on the other side want to as well. I guess the answer is that both sides need to start preparing for the next election.

    November 16, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
  17. Sandy

    @Mr. answer, I'm not screaming-in fact I'm experiencing joy! Christ came BACK TO LIFE! Your hatred and denial cannot and Will never stifle His LOVE FOR YOU...NEVER

    November 16, 2012 at 11:24 pm |
    • Answer

      Ya sure .. you psycho.

      November 16, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
    • Sandy

      Haha!

      November 16, 2012 at 11:28 pm |
    • Answer

      When was the last time your jeebus blew a load on ya Sandy? Did it taste sweet or sour?

      November 16, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
    • Sandy

      You seem to be fixated on that. Anyways....the LORD GOD LOVES YOU

      November 16, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
    • Answer

      Ya Zeus loves me. He's a great to have around. XD

      November 16, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
    • ATLmatt

      sandy, are you high or drunk?

      November 16, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
    • Sandy

      High in Spirit

      November 16, 2012 at 11:42 pm |
    • right4life

      Mr. Answer since you see preoccupied with the mouth:

      , Mt 15:11 Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.

      But be of good cheer, Christ still loves, not in the way you think.

      November 16, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
    • Answer

      Keep shouting out that delusional 'love'.. everyone can see your hollow words.

      November 16, 2012 at 11:48 pm |
    • right4life

      1Co 1:23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness;

      November 16, 2012 at 11:54 pm |
    • Answer

      Keep going retard –> to 5000.

      November 17, 2012 at 12:01 am |
    • right4life

      Ps 14:1 ¶ << The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.

      If you have answers, do you know why you will die?

      November 17, 2012 at 12:25 am |
  18. Plumbline

    Luke 11:23
    He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters.

    November 16, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
    • Answer

      Do the whole bible why don't ya? That crap will still be useless no matter how much you cut and paste it on these blogs.

      November 16, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
      Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
      Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
      One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
      In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
      One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
      One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them

      November 16, 2012 at 11:28 pm |
    • Peteyroo

      BumLime, most rational people know that there are three choices: (1) you're for me (2) you're against me (3) you don't care and have no interest in my petty squabble.

      November 16, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
    • ATLmatt

      you should find some non fiction books to quote... stay away from that fictional book called bible.

      November 16, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
    • right4life

      Mr. Answer

      1Pe 1:25 But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. Think about where you'll go when you die, it'll be for ever.

      November 16, 2012 at 11:48 pm |
    • Answer

      Wow another stupid babble quote. How refreshing can we get? XD

      November 16, 2012 at 11:51 pm |
    • right4life

      Ga 6:7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

      November 17, 2012 at 12:44 am |
  19. Jack

    I don't really care what the religious make up is, nor what race, or gender the congress is. All I want is a party that includes everyone, a party that does not bad mouth a particular group or segment of our society, a party that champions equal justice, non discrimination in education, employment and housing, a party that is concerned for the working class and the poor. That seems very easy for both parties to do since the working class and poor are made up of both conservatives and liberals. Our problems are really due to the wealthy and powerful obsessed with dominating and controlling the masses.

    November 16, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
    • jack

      I agree w/ you; the liberals should mind their own business and let us be

      November 16, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
  20. xvart404

    FYI... if we're actually going to talk about overrepresentation of a religious group, how about this one?

    Over 6% of our Senators and House Members (33/535) are Jewish versus less than 2% of the population.

    November 16, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
    • FYFI

      33.3% of the Supreme Court Justices are Jewish.

      66.6% of the Supreme Court Justices are Catholic, with Catholics being +/- 16% of the population.

      November 16, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
    • serana

      How about this, all the Fed directors were jewish till recently, and the last umpteen chairman were.

      November 16, 2012 at 11:48 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.