The 1980’s seemed the apex of religious influence on politics. Greg Foster in Public Discourse believes the influence ended in the year 2000.
Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson thought they saw a moral collapse coming. The imagined collapse required doing political business with Catholics whom they despised and burying the hatchet between evangelicals and fundamentalists.
Moving these religious factions en masse into the Republican party had the effect of slowing growth of tax increases and regulation. But, the issues of “moral collapse”, gay rights, abortion rights and relaxed sexual mores, have proceeded more or less unimpeded.
According to author Foster, the biggest beneficiaries of moving religion into the GOP were its politicians. They were able to count on this faction for election, but little was requied in the moral realm.
The other beneficiary has been Wall Street. Taxes on the wealthy and regulation have been reduced in many ways. Deregulation of banking played a role in our current housing slump.
Foster writes fallout from the 1980’s myth of a “moral crisis” and the politicization of religion continues. Surveys show a lot of dissatisfaction among young people from political moralizing by church officials. It is sited as one of the reasons more young people are not staying in the church.
To the extent this latter relationship between politicization and declining interest in traditional religion is true, the moral majority was a lose, lose. It failed to influence cultural change and is today causing the church to lose members.