Former pastor and soon-to-be-2016-GOP-presidential-candidate Mike Huckabee (R) sat down Friday with Bill Maher -- a man who once produced a movie mocking religion -- to talk Christianity (and promote his book, naturally).
It's not the most natural audience to pitch a book like that, but Huckabee made his case on "Real Time With Bill Maher," and the two men had a civil discussion on Christianity's place in America. Huckabee argued religion isn't portrayed in "bubbles of influence" like New York, Washington and Los Angeles like it is in the rest of the country, while Maher pushed back by arguing that the religious have a persecution complex.
"If you look at television shows and movies, you'll be hard-pressed to find a sitcom in which Christians, which do represent a significant part of the population ... you won't see them presented as normal, decent people," Huckabee said.
But, Maher pointed out, Christians are a majority in the U.S.
"I hear this all the time from social conservatives like yourself," he said. "You feel put upon, you feel like somehow the world is against you. You're 80 percent of the country, you have the vast majority. Even in the blue states, most people are religious, most liberals still follow a religion, most Democrats do. I'm the only one sneering at you. No one else is."
Both have a point. Taken together, Protestants, Catholics, Mormons, and other Christians made up 76 percent of the U.S, according to a December Gallup poll.
But despite their majority status, a growing number say religion is losing influence in American life. A September Pew study found 72 percent feel that way, compared with 52 percent in 2002.
Part of that very well might stem from the "bubbles of influence" Huckabee mentioned. According to the Public Religion Research Institute American Values Atlas, 71 percent of Americans identify as Catholic, Protestant, Mormon, or some other Christian, while in the three metro areas he mentioned -- L.A., New York, and D.C. -- it's a smaller percentage (Los Angeles is 65 percent, New York is 63 percent, and Washington is 63 percent).
Of course, those metro areas are huge and diverse (pretty sure Huckabee wasn't thinking of Catholics in the Valley when he mentioned Hollywood), and to Maher's point, the metro areas all are majority-Christian, but it does show these areas are less Christian than the rest of the country.
So while Maher is correct with Christians place in the U.S., a majority of Americans might actually feel the same as Huckabee. Although Christians are a majority, they do feel religion is losing its influence in public life.