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. JOSE--USMC-0311



    November 19, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • End Religion

      An old dude wants his youth back? Startling....

      November 19, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
  2. Thor

    The ancient Norsemen survived because they traded all commodities with unfetered access to all nations whoseupon shores they did land. Commodities include all things and property of value, including slaves. Humans not of the family were of no value and were property to atain or use. The only things that destroyed the ways of the ancient ones was 1) King Olaf's christian religion, and 2) the lack of a forecastle.... To live and fight in Asgard another day!

    November 19, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
    • Thor

      Religion destroys more than man can ever realize.

      November 19, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
  3. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things.

    November 19, 2012 at 6:56 am |
    • TrollAlert

      "Ronald Regonzo" who degenerates to:
      "Salvatore" degenerates to:
      "Douglas" degenerates to:
      "truth be told" degenerates to:
      "Thinker23" degenerates to:
      "Atheism is not healthy ..." degenerates to:
      "another repentant sinner" degenerates to:
      "Dodney Rangerfield" degenerates to:
      "tina" degenerates to:
      "captain america" degenerates to:
      "Atheist Hunter" degenerates to:
      "Anybody know how to read? " degenerates to:
      "just sayin" degenerates to:
      "ImLook'nUp" degenerates to:
      "Kindness" degenerates to:
      "Chad" degenerates to
      "Bob" degenerates to
      "nope" degenerates to:
      "2357" degenerates to:
      "WOW" degenerates to:
      "fred" degenerates to:
      "!" degenerates to:
      "John 3:16" degenerates to:
      "pervert alert" is the degenerate.

      This troll is not a christian.'.

      November 19, 2012 at 7:53 am |
    • Jesus

      You're a proven liar. Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs.

      November 19, 2012 at 7:57 am |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry, "Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things", but your assertions regarding atheism and prayer are unfounded. Using my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE), the expression that best matches the degree to which your assertions may represent truths is: "TOTAL FAIL".

      I see that you repeat these unfounded statements with high frequency. Perhaps the following book can help you:

      I'm Told I Have Dementia: What You Can Do... Who You Can Turn to...

      November 19, 2012 at 9:03 am |
  4. John Q Public

    CNN, would you fire this "author" and begin rejecting his flawed material? Congress isn't too Protestant if there's such a thing. Blind as usual CNN.

    November 18, 2012 at 11:53 pm |
    • End Religion

      Your continued comments are helping the author keep his job. Good work!

      November 19, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
  5. A Reasoner

    There shall be no religious test for office - but how about a test for no religion before office? Do we really want life changing decisions made by people who are "guided" by fairy tales and myths?

    November 18, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
  6. Tony


    November 18, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
  7. Financial Lawyer


    November 18, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  8. Alexandre Viana

    US still is the biggest military and economic power. The most interesting thing is US is losing its dominance as Protestants are diminishing their influence and share of population... is it just coincidence? In fact, the current power of US was built by old America and not by new one.... historically, nations inclinated to religious tolerance and with a belief in God tend to be wealthier... America (unfortunately) is losing this. At last, but not least: Iam Brazilian and a fan of American values.... which are fading away.

    November 18, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • Mike

      You nailed it and exposed the fallacy in the underlying premise of this article that old America is undesirable while conveniently ignoring the fact that it is the old America that built this nation into the prosperous superpower status that we enjoy today ... 100% correct! Kudos!

      November 18, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • End Religion

      Old America was built with manpower and heavy machinery, and we had plenty of cavemen around to fill those jobs. New America needs science and technology to compete, and we still have too many religious cavemen around clinging to high-wage union cave man jobs.

      November 19, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
  9. JOSE--USMC-0311


    November 18, 2012 at 10:00 am |
    • Alexandre Viana

      I agree with you... I missed old America.

      November 18, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • Mike

      Agree with you 100%.

      November 18, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • End Religion

      A trio of cavemen singing the praises of ditch digging, child labour and discrimination. And dare I guess, all 3 religious? Old America is extinct. Get on board with New America or get out to pasture and retire already.

      November 19, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
  10. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    November 18, 2012 at 7:11 am |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry, "Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things", but your assertions regarding atheism and prayer are unfounded. Using my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE), the expression that best matches the degree to which your assertions may represent truths is: "TOTAL FAIL".

      I see that you repeat these unfounded statements with high frequency. Perhaps the following book can help you:

      I'm Told I Have Dementia: What You Can Do... Who You Can Turn to...

      November 19, 2012 at 9:04 am |
  11. wrightpict

    and the supreme court has three jews or 33% representing 2% of the population and jews control all the ivy league presidencys and represent only 2% of the population and lean 70% democratic, it means universities are teaching the future leaders to be to the left, admission in the ivy league is 60% white, but really they dont divide whether it is white christian or white jew. 33% or half of the whites are jewish whites, not christian and if your a strong christian it is highly unlikely of admittance to the ivy league which makes our future presidents. also 6 supreme court members are catholic and there are zero protestants. so you tell me where the discrimination is happening or which minority group unfairly controls and manipulates power for themselves? its not the protestants.

    November 17, 2012 at 11:39 pm |
    • End Religion

      With thought processes like yours, religion can't die out fast enough. Bye bye.

      November 17, 2012 at 11:59 pm |
    • Leif

      It's amazing how so many right wingers get so upset by a few facts. The author didn't say anything about fairness, he just
      stated a few facts.

      November 18, 2012 at 1:32 am |
    • Mike

      @End Religion

      Yes I am glad your wish is not coming true any time soon. HAHA! Loser

      November 18, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • Mike

      @Leif -

      Stop with your blatant non-sense that this author is only a fact-crunching robot without any personal opinions where as this is an opinion piece with a heading that starts with "My Take" - his take is his take - this is his opinion. So you can stop with the same argument you keep repeating like a parrot all over this blog.

      November 18, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • End Religion

      @mike: but it is coming true. Religion is dying. Didn't you see the CNN post from a few weeks ago? I know it is a sad time for you, when bankies and thumb sucking get taken away from widdle baby wah-wah. You'll have to cope with reality some other way now.

      November 19, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
  12. John T

    Another clueless religion "Scholar" that only CNN would consider an expert.

    November 17, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
    • Leif

      How is he clueless? He states a few facts and draws some pretty reasonable conclusions based on those facts.

      November 18, 2012 at 1:25 am |
  13. Matt

    The author is just a relgious bigot, it comes out in most of his stories, but notice he doesn't attack or wirte about Islam, because they would come and kick his butt.

    November 17, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
    • Jesus is never coming back

      I having a hard time figuring out which on is more retarded, you or the author.

      November 17, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • Leif

      I don't see any attack on anyone in this article. If you disagree with something in the article, spell it out, and back up your position with facts.

      November 18, 2012 at 1:29 am |
    • John Q Public

      That's because CNN is very pro-islam, and it shows in just about every article and news show they put out.

      November 18, 2012 at 11:59 pm |
  14. Reality

    For posting in the Congressional Record:->>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    Only for new members of this blog ("prof" P can also look and learn that his job is in jeopardy unless he is willing to switch to the Department of Myths )

    Putting the kibosh on religion in less than ten seconds- Priceless:

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated/reborn Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    Added details available upon written request.

    A quick search will put the kibosh on any other groups calling themselves a religion.

    November 17, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • John Q Public

      And there was NO evolution. Man came from the dirt, not the sea.

      November 18, 2012 at 11:57 pm |
    • Reality

      For $199, you can find out if you are part Neaderthal- not kidding:

      As per National Geographic's Genographic project:

      " DNA studies suggest that all humans today descend from a group of African ancestors who about 60,000 years ago began a remarkable journey. Follow the journey from them to you as written in your genes”.

      "Adam" is the common male ancestor of every living man. He lived in Africa some 60,000 years ago, which means that all humans lived in Africa at least at that time.

      Unlike his Biblical namesake, this Adam was not the only man alive in his era. Rather, he is unique because his descendents are the only ones to survive.

      It is important to note that Adam does not literally represent the first human. He is the coalescence point of all the genetic diversity."

      For your $199 and a DNA swab:

      "Included in the markers we will test for is a subset that scientists have recently determined to be from our hominin cousins, Neanderthals and the newly discovered Denisovans, who split from our lineage around 500,000 years ago. As modern humans were first migrating out of Africa more than 60,000 years ago, Neanderthals and Denisovans were still alive and well in Eurasia. It seems that our ancestors met, leaving a small genetic trace of these ancient relatives in our DNA. With Geno 2.0, you will learn if you have any Neanderthal or Denisovan DNA in your genome."

      November 19, 2012 at 12:20 am |
  15. Don't Take The Bait

    How come more people don't use spell check or a browser that checks spelling before posting comments? I spend more time trying to intemperate what's being said than actual reading. Two words folks: FireFox

    November 17, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • Don't Take The Bait

      Lol – "interpret" (my spell check failed)

      November 17, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • Balderdash

      You "intemperate" it?

      November 17, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • Balderdash


      November 17, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • Don't Take The Bait


      November 17, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • Balderdash

      Eye sea that yore spell-checker ken air two!

      November 17, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • Don't Take The Bait


      November 17, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • Don't Take The Bait

      My 2 words are now 4: double check spell check

      November 17, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • mama k

      Lol. Yes, in a blog, correct use of the intended language of the blog, including spelling, is very important. Otherwise, as you said, one can waste a lot of unnecessary time on interpretation. Firefox does make life easier regarding spelling. One thing I do, for safety and to effect better proofing on my part, is to paste text first into a blank area in a notes application. This also highlights misspelled words, but allows me to see more of the text in a larger font at once. It also makes it easier for me to locate word filter problems. When I am ready to post, I simply use keyboard shortcuts to highlight all, copy (from the text application), and then paste back into the blog's textarea element. But I usually only do this for posts or replies that are involve more than a few lines of text.

      November 17, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • tallulah13


      November 17, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • Balderdash

      mama k,

      Sounds like a good plan of action.

      "allows me to see more of the text in a larger font at once."
      - Do you know about the way to make this page's script larger? Hold down Ctrl on your keyboard and use your scroll wheel (on mouse) to enlarge (or shrink) it.

      November 17, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • Mickey1313

      Many people, like me, are probibly using their phones, spell check is not an option, and I only see one line or two at a time. Get over it.

      November 17, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
  16. contructiveconservative

    What weird views this author has on everything from religion to forms of government. He is right about one thing, in "Old America" his lack of logic and anti-American views would have been laughed out of the hall long ago.

    November 17, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
  17. Mike

    The democratic system based on free and fair elections is sending elected representatives to the congress. The author is wishing for religious and racial proportional representation in Congress which is neither an end goal of democracy nor a virtue in itself that system should aim to attain. The author is ascribing false value to a false goal – a sign of a deluded, distracted and destructive mind.

    November 17, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      although i agree that race is the wrong word to use here, but their still remain a line that defines people. its called ideological line, religion is in fact a good way to view that line. like your self i would place you in the Thuth-est line becouse you ideological point of view seems to reflect thuthism or what is some times called Akashikism

      Thuth- monkey head Egyptian god of Knowledge and wisdom who is the librarian of the Akashic library
      Akashic as in library the universal place were all knowledge is stored past present future

      November 17, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
  18. Mike


    November 17, 2012 at 1:29 pm |

      there are no races but one, human, HIS desire, divided by hindu's, criminals of Egypt under hinduism racism, hinduism, fabrication of hindu's criminals as a religion to hind, fool humanity in to gentile ism. slavery.

      November 17, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      there are no races but one, human,

      you should have stopped there

      November 17, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      at least as fare as humans are concerned
      but their are the other races like the Lilim for example they sill exist on earth but their not part of the Human race

      November 17, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  19. Mike

    This foolish author fails to explain how exactly proportional representation a virtue in itself worthy of attainment in a democratic system based on free and fair elections? What real problems will that solve? None. Except it would simply solidify religious and race identification and divisions. It is a false goal with false value ascribed to it by a deluded and distracted mind.

    November 17, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • Mike

      I mean proportional representation along religious, racial and gender lines.

      November 17, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • redzoa

      The article looks at demographics in the general population and the proportional divergence within congress, specifically with respect to the two parties. The demographics are changing and this has implications for the parties, that is, they strongly favor the Dems and the GOP will have to either adjust or get used to losing at the national level. Like I mentioned in an earlier post, see Jindal's response to Romney's "gifts" comment.

      It also speaks to inherent power structures where religious, racial and socio-economic factors collide. Prothero makes zero claims of what "should" be, he is writing about what "is." The closest he comes to a value judgment is his use of "scandalously" in describing the truly significant divergence between a 20% religiously-unaffiliated in the general population, and a single religiously-unaffiliated congressperson. I chalk that up to artistic license or an appeal to this blog's heavy "none" readership, but it certainly doesn't amount to the non-existent "implicit" demand for proportionality you've inserted into the text.

      I bet if you read a biopsy report indicating cancer, you'd accuse the pathologist of being "pro-cancer" for having described it. Please rescue your panties from your backside and spare us your impotent and misplaced rage.

      November 18, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
  20. snowboarder

    i'm heading out for a run soon, so i need to go do my morning workout and stretch. we're hiking some 14ers on the continental divide next weekend and i need the training.

    remember, questioning religious dogma is a virtue. unthinking adherence to scripture is simply unthinking.

    November 17, 2012 at 9:32 am |
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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.