Tobin Grant

Tobin Grant writes for Religion News Service.

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Why It Was Easy for Republicans to Flip on Confederate Flag Issue

by Tobin Grant 06-25-2015
REUTERS / Brian Snyder / RNS

The Confederate flag flies at the Statehouse ahead of a rally to get it removed from the grounds in Columbia, S.C., on June 23, 2015. Photo via REUTERS / Brian Snyder / RNS

After the tragic events in Charleston, Republican leaders have backed efforts to remove the Confederate flag from the grounds of the Capitol in South Carolina. There has also been a move among once-supporters of Confederate symbols to take down monuments and other public markers of that era.

Why the change in position? I think one reason is the politics of the flag before the shooting.

In April 2011, Pew did a survey that included several questions on the Civil War (it was the 150-year anniversary of the start of the war). One question asked how people felt when they saw the Confederate flag — was it a positive, negative, or neutral reaction?

7.5 Million Americans Lost Their Religion Since 2012

by Tobin Grant 03-12-2015
Photo via Wouter Tolenaars /

Sun shines inside an empty church in France. Photo via Wouter Tolenaars /

A new survey shows in stark relief that what some are calling the Great Decline of religion in America continues: Since 2012, the U.S. has about 7.5 million more Americans who are no longer active in religion.

Last week, the 2014 General Social Survey was released. The GSS is the gold standard for sociological surveys. Funded by the National Science Foundation, this multimillion-dollar study gives us the most accurate data on American society — including religion.

(An important point to remember as you see the data: Each percentage point increase represents a growth of 2.5 million adults. So a 3-point rise in secularity, for example, means that about 7.5 million people left religion since 2012.)