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Thread: Why Are Europeans More Secular and Americans more Religious?

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    Post Why Are Europeans More Secular and Americans more Religious?

    What factors have made Europe largely secular but kept America strongly religious?

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    Post Re: Why Are Europeans More Secular and Americans more Religious?

    First you must look at the immigrants, mainly Calvinists, many sects and religious minorities from "the old continent", not to forget that this groups were quite powerful in the USA, whereas in Europe the aristocracy and elite was religious too, but of the more traditional Christian beliefs which were more rational and organised, but not able to manipulate basic instincts and drives of humans in the same way as the American sects with their rather irrational and emotional way of "feeling religion" - the European churches were getting more rational like the whole state and elite. The common people searched for new ideas and solutions for their life, especially in the context of industrialisation and so secular movements were far more important in Europe than in the rural and wide America in which big organisation are oftentimes rather weak and the state relation was always more lose. In Europe the state was much stronger and like a rational father, not like a emotional mother which doesnt interfere too much in your private life but influences your mind - like religion in the USA.
    After the secular ideologies won in Europe, it was impossible to go back to the rationalised Christian church of a time before this happened, in USA this ideologies were never strong enough nor the church rational enough to complete this process. The irrational element of protestant sects was always there and satisfied a more primitive desire of simple people which didnt thought to much about more realistic changes in their life and society by following a political philosophy based on the here and now.
    This ideologies can be very irrational too, but the European Christian belief was too weak and rather secondary to political philosophy. The great decisions were those between ideologies. The same is true in the USA, but thats rather something only the "elite" understands, whereas the common people think quite often being religious and decent is enough and the system is good and follows the will of god. So the liberal ideology in the USA managed to instrumentalise religion, making it a stabilising factor, a "beneficial myth" like some Neoconservatives say, whereas in Europe, after the church was weakened by the state and secular movements, belief was something very private and not of great political importance - in fact the political leaders simply had not rely that much on such "beneficial myth" to legitimate their ideology which was partly, like Marxism, stronlgy influenced by Christian beliefs too. But the secular movements associated the Christian beliefs with the "ancient regime", with the monarchs and church - church is something different in Europe than in the Calvinist sects with their laymen and manic spinners which try to satisfy more primitive human desires - its a rational structure, a power on its own with obvious political affiliatons.

    The liberal ideology wouldnt be as compatible with the Catholic church as the Calvinist and more capitalistic sects. In the USA we see this symbiosis of Capitalism, Liberalism and religion, something they exported in two world wars to Europe, but with limited success because of the different developments here. Neoconservatives of course try now to instrumentalise Christian beliefs for the Neoliberal-Neoconservative ideology too - again with limited success.
    The Calvinist church with their laymen was very flexible, had not too much fix beliefs or dogmas, they can tell the people everything they want to hear, as long as they can raise enough money for their church...they are sellers, agents of "the loving Jesus" - now adapted to the mass media and pop culture, still satisying certain primitive desires of people which usually dont care too much about the real world as long as it works for themselves and they think they "are saved".
    The hypocrisy of this protestant sects would be considered obscene in most parts of Europe, but not in the USA, same with the capitalist-sect connection and the ideological approach to use even force to spread the secular religion of the USA, (Neo-) Liberalism.

    In fact many US-Americans dont even recognise the relations between their plutocratic leaders, ideology and religion, they live in a very simple world made for them - in Europe they never managed to bring all this things in the same way together and make a big show out of it. Usually it was always a conflict of tendencies and movements, beliefs and ideologies, much stronger than in the sedated USA - especially of the Middle West.
    In Europe people wanted that the community and the state solve problems, in the USA people were so indoctrinated that they thought its enough if someone "beliefs what they believe" and "is decent", no matter if he has real solutions or not - because a drastic change, they dont want anyway in their "complete show"..

    Just some thoughts and speculation from my side.
    Last edited by Agrippa; Friday, August 5th, 2005 at 02:22 AM.
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    Post Re: Why Are Europeans More Secular and Americans more Religious?

    Agrippa basically summed it up well. My take is that the Puritans came here with a very strict Protestant ethic and they often told sermons along the lines of the famous sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." Puritanism and other Protestant branches essentially believed, and continue to believe, that everything including breathing just about is a sin.

    Then in the South you have a large number of Scotch-Irish presbyterians, again another Protestant branch known for its fundamentalism. (Read Trinity by Leon Uris, you'll understand what I mean).

    Most of the founding fathers were intelligent, and many were influenced by revolutionary Enlightenment ideals. Many of the founding fathers including John Hancock were deists, which is a school of humanism which teaches that a god may exist, but it doesn't get involved in our affairs. (Which leads me to think, if it maintains the universe, like some great mechanistic calculator and nothing else, why call it God?)

    I honestly do not see the appeal of Christianity as it is dry and does not provide a feminine archetype and only offers one narrow way of viewing the divine, which I think is extremely limiting. There is the prevalent attitude among many Christians that to be so narrow and exclusive is American, with the attitude "Jesus is gonna get ye, and all them damned haythens are goin' ta Hail! uh huh huh." "We are gonna git all them Kathy-Licks cuz that's what Jayzus wants us to do."

    Anyhow, its good to see the Europeans awakening.
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    Post Re: Why Are Europeans More Secular and Americans more Religious?

    Quote Originally Posted by Northern_Paladin
    What factors have made Europe largely secular but kept America strongly religious?
    THREE factors :

    1) People who colonized U.S. in the past centuries were strongly determined to mantain their religious faith (indeed, they escaped from Europe cause religious persecutions)

    2) In Europe, the political secular power, has a very long trafition of direct conflict with the church and has heavly limited chrch power since the middle-age.

    3) Europe (continental Europe) has a different social-cultural background. It's more social (welfare for example) and this determinates a more direct and strong connection with the political power (whom is in conflict with the religious on, like i've said in the second point). In America, people has more freedom from the political power (at least in theory), and so, the principal referent is the church.

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    Post Re: Why Are Europeans More Secular and Americans more Religious?

    Quote Originally Posted by Northern_Paladin
    What factors have made Europe largely secular but kept America strongly religious?
    I addressed this issue twice on my blog.


    http://thirdpositionreview.blogspot....and-popes.html

    Possibly the biggest argument for a Third World pope is that supposedly the churches in the Third World are the fastest growing, while the churches in Europe are largely empty. ConcernedCatholic for example himself links to a column by George Will. George Will in turn cites George Weigel, who has written columns on this topic as well. Their notion is that Europe is fully secularist and that Europeans are largely indifferent to Catholic (or Christian in general) teachings. Many of their arguments seem convincing, at least at first sight. This is especially true when concerning the issue of low church attendance.

    Massimo Introvigne and Rodney Stark did an interesting study on this titled "Religious Competition and Revival in Italy: Exploring European Exceptionalism" for the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion that takes a deeper look at this. They particularly focus on what's going on in Italy, where much of a religious revival is supposedly taking place.

    They noted that low attendance rates in many of Europe's churches is due largely because of the unwillingness of church leaders to attract people to services. The mainstream churches have largely become complacent and even corrupt; often because these churches are state supported and face no major competition. This is in contrast with churches in the Third World, which are actively seeking out converts and trying to stay ahead of major competitors (like Islam is many parts of the Third World). Unlike their European counterparts, many of these churches are not state-sanctioned and thus need an active rank-and-file in order to survive.

    Yet In cases of non-mainstream religious groups, their activities have actually risen in Europe. This is true when concerning more traditional forms of Catholicism. Massimo Introvigne and Rodney Stark note how many different Catholic movements, such as Opus Dei, are beginning to attract more members in Italy. And certainly Italy is certainly not alone in this. France has also been considered a stronghold of secularism with the Catholic faith barely staying alive. Well evidence is beginning to say otherwise. Dr Geoffrey Hull mentions in his article "France and the revival of traditional Catholicism" that Traditional Catholicism is quite a popular phenomenon among the French people. Concerning church attendance, Huff notes:

    "The traditionalist movement in France is today far more vital than 'mainstream' Catholicism, whether ultramontanist or liberal. Churches and chapels where the 'immemorial' Mass is offered by priests of the late Archbishop Lefebvre's Society of St Pills X or under the 1984 Indult are generally well-attended, whereas the more numerous parish churches and cathedrals given over to the Novus Ordo liturgy of Vatican II are more often than not close to empty, even in former bastions of religious practice like Brittany and Alsace."

    This most certainly fits well with the arguments made by Massimo Introvigne and Rodney Stark when concerning the sad state of "mainstream" churches. This is a major factor that's often overlooked; it's the mainstream churches that are often empty, not the traditionalist ones.

    Mary Jo Anderson adds onto Hull's arguments in her article Faith of the Eldest Daughter -Can France retain her Catholic heritage? noting:
    "Whatever the socio-political influences may be, there is evidence that faith is making a comeback among ordinary French Catholics... All across France, convent and abbey guest quarters are finding more religious pilgrims at their door. Increasingly, families combine reunions and celebrations with retreats at a nearby religious house. And while France is still in grave danger of losing her soul to secularism, there are genuine signs of hope."

    The last sentence could very well sum up the situation the Catholic Church is facing in Europe in general. If we restore the vigour that the Church once had, instead of settling for a watered-down version of it; we may very well see a major revival of the faith in Europe.


    And when reviewing Rifkin's book The European Dream:

    http://thirdpositionreview.blogspot....ean-dream.html

    Rifkin also tries to speak favorably of European secularism over American religious devotion, which is a common theme of polemics of Europe vs. America. Massimo Introvigne and Rodney Stark did a study refuting many of the notions of European secularism. T.R. Reid also questions how far Europe has become secularist in his book The United States Of Europe: The New Superpower and the End of American Supremacy(which makes arguments very similar to Rifkin's). Reid notes that large numbers of Europeans still travel to Vatican City and Lourdes for religious reasons and recordings of Gregorian chants are among the best sellers in parts of Europe. It's just that religion has become more an individual matter and now lacks its institutional vigour.

    Although not commenting on Rifkin's book per se, Stuart Reid addressed the relationship between the "European Dream" and the church in his article "Mr.Bush Goes to Europe" in the March 28 issue of American Conservative(sadly there's no link to the article):

    "A residual Christianity - more specifically, Catholicism and its strong social tradition - governs much European thinking. In most practical senses, of course, it is absurd to call Europeans Christian. The EU is a thoroughly secular construct. Europeans, furthermore, are as every bit as intolerant as American secularists when confronted with Christian intransigence. All the same, most of the nations of Europe are nominally Catholic, and unlike the United States,those that are not at least have a Catholic past. The EU itself was created by Catholics, with an explicitly Catholic social agenda.The Church supports the European Dream. She does not, however support the American Dream and has consistently preached against what Bush calls freedom -essentially, liberal capitalism and radical individualism. Pius XI held that liberal capitalism and communism were united in their "satanic optimism." The present pontiff, John Paul II, is keenly aware of the perils of freedom. In his encyclical Veritatis Splendor he wrote, "Certain currents of modern thought have...exalted freedom to such an extent that it becomes an absolute..The individual conscience is accorded the status of supreme tribunal of moral judgment that hands down...infallible decision about good and evil...Claims of truth disappear, yielding their place to a criterion of sincerity, authenticity, and being at peace with oneself." In September 1993 John Paul traveled to Riga,where he troubled Wall Street by speaking of "Marxism's kernel of truth" and denouncing "the international imperialism of money."...[quoting from John Allen's "All the Pope's Men"] 'Key Vatican officials, especially Europeans from traditional Catholic cultures, have long worried about aspects of American society - its exaggerated individualism, its hyper-consumer spirit, its relagation of religion to the private sphere, its Calvinist ethos. A fortiori,they worry about a world in which America is in an unfettered position to impose this set of cultural values on everyone else.'"

    So it's clear that Europe's Christian ideals still play a role in shaping the continent's vision of the world. Even Rfikin admits that the European dream is far more compatible with the teachings of the New Testament then the American dream(although he argues from a perverted notion of what the New Testament stands for and tries claiming the American dream is more in line with the Old Testament, hence continuing the old Marconite Old vs. New Testament polemic).

    The European dream should more fully embrace its Christian heritage and entrench itself in the social doctrines of the faith. That would surely provide the world a true alternative to the American dream.

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    Post Re: Why Are Europeans More Secular and Americans more Religious?

    Quote Originally Posted by Imperator X

    Anyhow, its good to see the Europeans awakening.
    Think again.

    BTW, the study done by Stark and Introvigne can be read here
    http://www.bepress.com/cgi/viewconte...1&context=ijrr


    Also Philip Jenkins exposed the notion of non-religious beliefs being prevelant in Europe as well:

    "Turning to modern times, [Greeley] is equally dismissive of the core claims of secularization. Using survey evidence, he argues that Europeans still affirm a surprising level of continuing belief in religious and supernatural doctrines, overwhelmingly in the case of the existence of God, but also with large numbers accepting life after death and miracles. Even in Britain and the former West Germany, 40 percent of respondents claim to believe in miracles. Greeley also argues, very fairly, that Europe is anything but homogenous, and that it is unwise to extrapolate from secular Britain or the Netherlands. The smaller countries often demonstrate higher levels of religious commitment, though sometimes in bizarre or wildly heterodox forms, and occult and New Age doctrines are especially strong in the former Soviet Bloc."
    - Phillip Jenkins, "Rethinking Secularization," Published by Christianity Today, May 22, 2003

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    Post Re: Why Are Europeans More Secular and Americans more Religious?

    It's just that religion has become more an individual matter and now lacks its institutional vigour.
    Thats true, but what I mean with secular doesnt have to mean you believe in nothing, it just means you dont believe in the dogmatic church, organised religion. A certain mystic and primitive-irrational notion even in the most rational individuals is almost a human constant.
    But whereas the US-sects managed to survive as a column of the liberalcapitalistic system and some sort of "adventure religion" which satisfies primitive desires and giving people halt - even with very extreme or simply stupid ideas and rules, the Catholic church kept in a Europe a relatively rational position which made it on the one hand unattractive for the mystics and people searching for adventure and to satisfy primitive desires on the one hand, but still to dogmatic for the more rational people - a discrepancy not easy to solve.
    Christian beliefs are in fact not adapted to modern needs, thats the basic problem, in the USA people ignored that fact and manipulated the religion as they want for their business and structure, in Europe people were more consequent but on the other hand lack a certain stability and "beneficial myths" in the Neoconservative language.
    But thats a chance Europe has whereas in the USA people are so indoctrinated that they follow the beneficial myths of Neo-Christendom and Liberal-Humanist-Voluntarian ideas while being fully exploited by the plutocrats and losing the rest of their real identity and moral - finally even biological existence and survival.
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    STOP GATS! STOP LIBERALISM!

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    Post Re: Why Are Europeans More Secular and Americans more Religious?

    Quote Originally Posted by Agrippa
    the Catholic church kept in a Europe a relatively rational position which made it on the one hand unattractive for the mystics and people searching for adventure and to satisfy primitive desires on the one hand, but still to dogmatic for the more rational people - a discrepancy not easy to solve.
    Actually the Catholic church has a long tradition of mystics and the missionary zeal of spreading the faith attracted many adventurers. Even today there is a growing number of Frenchmen who wish to engage in missionary work, although they're with the more traditionalist based groups.

    I honestly think that the water-down version of Catholicism that has prevailed since Vatican II is why people are leaving, because it doesnt fufill the needs and desires of the flock.



    Christian beliefs are in fact not adapted to modern needs, thats the basic problem
    I fail to see this argument.

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    Post Re: Why Are Europeans More Secular and Americans more Religious?

    Christian beliefs are in fact not adapted to modern needs, thats the basic problem
    I explained it above - European Christian beliefs were not adapted to modern social needs, Christians tried to adapt it in Christian-Social and Fashistoid theories or they left it back for secular ideologies partly influenced by the Christian background (Marxism f.e.).
    That happened in Europe and the religion largely failed.

    In the USA the liberal system was from the beginning more influenced by Christian beliefs and they began to use it as a "benefical myth" for controlling the people without changing their mind fundamentally. They adapted their policy, at least in their words and formulas, not in reality, to the Christian belief of simple people and the preachers of the sects on the other hand changed the Christian belief to an "adventure religion" with which they can gain power and money - more like companies for motivation and psychological manipulation lead by single manager and preachers in one person - pro-liberal and capitalistic, allies of the establishment like the Catholic church in the ancient regime. They have not too much in common with the traditional European church and belief, they are rather a caricature of it used by capitalist plutocrats to control the masses with "beneficial myth" and "religious shows" - no solution for the real problems, just a mean of control used by another ideology (Liberalism) - so no solution for modernity either.

    On the other hand people could argue that in Feudalism, Christian beliefs were mainly used to and had no creative solutions as well, but thats just partly true, since they changed the society in a significant way, both positively and negatively. Of course that was just an adapted Christian belief, adapted to the European needs to some degree at least.
    In a modern social environment the Christian beliefs are partly outdated, even if viewing them in a friendly way - because of other factors mentioned above people, at least more rational and seeking, educated ones, used secular, concrete ideologies of the real world to solve problems. In the USA people were kept on a lower level, at least to a large extend and religion was successfully used by Liberalism on the one hand and influenced this destructive Western ideology on the other - especially certain Calvinist sects - Jews came later into that game and formulate ideas about "beneficial myths" for the Neoconservatives of today.
    Last edited by Agrippa; Friday, August 5th, 2005 at 12:01 AM.
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    Post Re: Why Are Europeans More Secular and Americans more Religious?

    So you're saying that Social Catholicism has been a failure?

    And Marxism is not Christian influenced, it's a product of the Enlightenment.

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