Trump is both a beneficiary and a driver of that shift. Read Milo Yiannopoulos and Allum Bokhari’s famous essay, “An Establishment Conservative’s Guide to the Alt-Right.” It contains five references to “tribe,” seven to “race,” 13 to “the west” and “western” and only one to “Christianity.” That’s no coincidence.
The alt-right is ultra-conservatism for a more secular age.
As a college student, the alt-right leader Richard Spencer was deeply influenced by Friedrich Nietzsche, who famously hated Christianity.
Radix, the journal Spencer founded, publishes articles with titles like “Why I Am a Pagan.” One essay notes that “critics of Christianity on the Alternative Right usually blame it for its universalism.”the left, too.
Its leaders like Christendom, an old-fashioned word for the West.
But they’re suspicious of Christianity itself, because it crosses boundaries of blood and soil.Establishing causation is difficult, but we know that culturally conservative white Americans who are disengaged from church experience less economic success and more family breakdown than those who remain connected, and they grow more pessimistic and resentful. Bradford Wilcox, a sociologist at the University of Virginia, rates of religious attendance have fallen more than twice as much among whites without a college degree as among those who graduated college.And even within the white working class, those who don’t regularly attend church are more likely to suffer from divorce, addiction, and financial distress.Secularism is indeed correlated with greater tolerance of gay marriage and pot legalization.But it’s also making America’s partisan clashes more brutal.In 1990, according to PRRI, slightly more than half of white liberals seldom or never attended religious services. And if conservative nonattenders fueled Trump’s revolt inside the GOP, liberal nonattenders fueled Bernie Sanders’s insurgency against Hillary Clinton: While white Democrats who went to religious services at least once a week backed Clinton by 26 points, according to an April 2016 PRRI survey, white Democrats who rarely attended services backed Sanders by 13 points.Sanders, like Trump, appealed to secular voters because he reflected their discontent.As Wilcox explains, “Many conservative, Protestant white men who are only nominally attached to a church struggle in today’s world.They have traditional aspirations but often have difficulty holding down a job, getting and staying married, and otherwise forging real and abiding ties in their community.Wald and Allison Calhoun-Brown reference a different theory: that the most-committed members of a church are more likely than those who are casually involved to let its message of universal love erode their prejudices.Whatever the reason, when cultural conservatives disengage from organized religion, they tend to redraw the boundaries of identity, de-emphasizing morality and religion and emphasizing race and nation.