General Question

Crumpet's avatar

America and Religion?

Asked by Crumpet (1785 points ) March 4th, 2013

I live in the UK, and neither me, nor anyone I know goes to church or takes religion seriously.
I personally don’t beleive in a god(s) and don’t really know anyone who could fully say with 100% conviction that they believe in god.

However, it is not like I have never been taught about religion. The school in my local area was a catholic school. So i have grown up learning about the bible and Jesus and god, but I just find the whole thing to bizzare.

I hear this is a totally different story in the USA though, and it is very unsual to not lead an active religious life.
Going to church, praying before meals etc…
Or is this just a stereotype I have learned from TV?

Is America more religious than Europe?
And why is it?

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57 Answers

KNOWITALL's avatar

Good question. A lot of people from Europe fled to America to found a colony free from religious persecution.

This explains it fairly well.
http://www.becker-posner-blog.com/2012/06/why-are-americans-more-religious-than-europeans-posner.html

Another good one, a little more positive.
http://www.squidoo.com/why-are-americans-more-religious-than-europeans

RandomGirl's avatar

America was founded as a place of religious refuge. The first settlers came here because they were persecuted for their faith in their homelands. This heritage has been preserved. From a purely statistical standpoint, it makes sense that religious people in a new country that they can shape in any way they see fit will shape the government to protect and highlight religion, and that they would raise their children to carry on that legacy.

marinelife's avatar

Well, Fluther is a weird place to ask your question as while there is a community of believers on here, there are more who do not.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@marinelife We need to re-name this then, that sounds odd to newbies, myself included.

ragingloli's avatar

Well, the puritans for example came to america to oppress and create their own theocracy, because their attempts to do so in England were squashed. So that explains things to some extent.

KNOWITALL's avatar

Many people came to America to search for religious freedom. Their hope was to escape the religious persecution they were facing in their countries. The one thing they did not want to do was to establish a church like the Church of England. The colonists wanted a chance to worship freely and have an opportunity to choose which religion they wanted to take part in. Upon arriving in America (the Pilgrims being the first to arrive in 1620), the journey began for the search of the “perfect” religion that could satisfy the needs of the people.

Many religious groups (such as the Quakers and Puritans) formed the first 13 colonies on the basis of their religious beliefs. Although the plan was to escape persecution, there was actually some amount of persecution happening in the colonies. One example of this persecution would be with the Puritans. The Puritans wanted everyone to worship in the Puritan way. In order to ensure that Puritanism dominated the colonies, nonconformists were fined, banished, whipped, and even imprisoned for not conforming to the way of the Puritans. Eventually this persecution was ended and other religions began to appear.

http://www.uncp.edu/home/canada/work/allam/16071783/religion.htm

wundayatta's avatar

This is a community by community thing. There are communities where you would feel like home, and others where you would think you were on Mars.

thorninmud's avatar

One factor is the sheer diversity of religion in the US. Whereas European countries (including GB) are typically dominated by one or two forms of the major religions, the US is like a shopping mall for religion, with thousands of denominations. An American who is disgruntled with his church’s stand on a particular issue can easily shop around for one that conforms better to their view. You can even easily jump ship from one faith tradition into an entirely different one. Hell, you can even start your own religion.

That kind of religious mobility doesn’t really exist in your part of the world. If you’re of a fairly liberal bent and your church isn’t, or you’re fed up with pervasive corruption in your church, you will have few options. That just might force you into a decision about the value of the whole faith thing, a decision that your American peer might be able to sidestep.

And of course, once non-belief becomes commonplace in a society, then there’s far less social stigma attached to it. That’s gradually becoming the case in urban America, but has yet to reach that tipping point in rural areas. So many disaffected people have bailed out of churches in Western Europe that there’s virtually no social pressure to belong to one.

JLeslie's avatar

It varies. Our Bible Belt probably has the highest percentages of church going people who feel a strong conviction in their belief in God. This link on wikipedia shows just over 40% of American regularly attend church, and it give comparisons to other countries. It also mentions the 40% stat might not be accurate for regular attendance, but I would guess that it would be accurate to say they attend at least semi-regularly or at minimum belong to a place of worship.

The other over 50% of the country doesn’t go to church. Some of them are still religious to and theists. Some people who go to church are athiests/agnostic, but attend for social and community reasons.

rojo's avatar

Here is a census website that will give you some idea as to how people in the US view themselves.
From this information you can glean that the vast majority of Americans consider themselves as religious but it has been declining since 1990 from 90% to 80% (roughly). Still pretty high numbers but there are varying degrees of religiosity ranging from those who practice their beliefs in their lifestyle to those who identify themselves with a particular group in name only.

I don’t have the information on this particular site but I would say that it is not representative of the US in general.

FutureMemory's avatar

Is America more religious than Europe?

It appears that way.

And why is it?

Generally speaking The US is less intellectually evolved than Europe.

Crumpet's avatar

Great answers so far guys.
Do you feel that people who hold no religious beliefs are looked down upon in America?
I know for a fact that if a future presidential candidate declared themselves as atheist, they would never be elected president!

(Also, I noticed that I have typed ‘to’ instead of ‘too’ by mistake in my question. I don’t know how to change it, so any moderators please feel free!)

KNOWITALL's avatar

Absolutely! Believers sometimes look down on unbelievers (because religion is mostly a faith-based religion with no proof), and unbelievers sometimes look down on believers (because they don’t feel we take science seriously over our religious teachings. They think we believe in fairy tales.)

Give it a few minutes and you will see what I mean, if the posts thus far haven’t. Peace.

bkcunningham's avatar

Some 59 percent of people in the UK describe themselves as Christians. Over 4.8 percent of the population in the UK is Muslim. That is just two religions. You even said you went to a religious school. I’d consider the UK a religious country. Wouldn’t you? Source.

Crumpet's avatar

@bkcunningham

A lot of people in the UK would probably say they are Christian, because they were baptised as a child. Yet they never go to church, never pray and live thier lives how they want and not how the bible tells them to.
I think older people may tend to be more christian here, but as for the younger generations… not so much.

Like I said, I have a wide circle of friends and none of them are religious. Maybe agnostic at a push.

ucme's avatar

Every single form i’ve ever filled in asks for my religion, by default i’ve always ticked the C of E Church of England option. I’d much prefer to make my mark in the fuck that shite box, but they don’t have that…yet.
America & religion? Yeah, just like their apple pie…only less of a hot topic.

tom_g's avatar

I have heard fellow atheists argue that we should allow the church/state separation to be destroyed in order to speed up the growth of the secular here. Their argument is that it was church/state separation that allowed the flourishing of religion here in the states.

bkcunningham's avatar

What do you gain from a growth of the secular in America, @tom_g, that you’d want to see religion destroyed?

RandomGirl's avatar

@tom_g: I find your comment very interesting. I’d be interested to hear your response to the fact that people have been trying to destroy the church for hundreds – thousands – of years, to no avail. If anything, persecution simply filters out those who are really dedicated from the “fair weather” church-goers.

tom_g's avatar

@bkcunningham – I’m not convinced, but what I have heard from more than a couple of people is that we should stop fighting to keep church and state separate. The argument goes – if these people get their way, we’ll see the rapid growth of the non-religious. They are convinced that religions have thrived here (and not the rest of the developed world) because the country was formed with church/state separation.

RandomGirl's avatar

@tom_g That’s a very intriguing theory, and I’d love to see in tried. Personally, I doubt that effect would be the end.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Crumpet It would be interesting to know your age group as most people question their religion between 15–25 years old, and either discard it or come back to it, later in life. Just curious.

cheebdragon's avatar

I think a lot of people just don’t like to admit to being religious, especially in conversations about how crazy religion is.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@cheebdragon There’s this whole thing about “if you deny Jesus, he will deny you”, so that’s a major no-no.
http://bible.org/article/if-we-deny-him-he-also-will-deny-us-2-timothy-212

bkcunningham's avatar

You don’t think the rest of the developed world has thriving religions? I’m not disputing that. It just raises the question in my mind. I know Christianity is growing rapidly in China despite government restrictions. Latin America has surging Catholic and evangelical populations. This is interesting.

JLeslie's avatar

When I was in Alaska this summer an Australian commented about the US being so religious, so this definitely is a perception out there among many I think. I told her I was an atheist and so are my parents and many people I know, but I also agreed we have a lot of religion in this country, and that since one of our two political parties is pretty much controlled by religion it doesn’t surprise me the world sees us in that way. Add in the President ends every speech with “God bless the United States of America.” Plus, so many actors and singers thanking God for the award they won. Etc.

@tom_g I have heard a similar argument. Actually, more of a hypothesis that the reason religion has flourished in America is because when religion is intertwined tightly with the government people rebel against it as a loss of freedom, and instead of joining a different religion than the government prescribes they move towards atheism and not wanting anything to do with religion at all.

@bkcunningham Some parts of Europe the public schools are religious schools, so it might just be the school nearby is the Catholic school. @Crumpet can maybe confirm that. So, I think maybe it is just part of the system that a child winds up in a religious school, but not taken as seriously as parents in America who specifically choose a religious school for their child. I hope the OP will comment on that to give us more information.

It’s interesting to see the percentages around the world and what our different perceptions or prejudgements are.

Crumpet's avatar

@KNOWITALL I am 23 years old. I think I was around 11 when I begain to question the existance of god and around 14 when I realised that as far as I’m concerned he doesn’t exist.
I have read the bible, and because of the school I went to I have also attended church numerous times. I really can’t see myself ever rediscovering faith later on in my life. I have read books by Richard Dawkins, and to me they make far more sense than the bible.

@JLeslie you’re quite right, a lot of the schools here in the UK are religious schools (either catholic or church of England). The high school I went to was a catholic school and there was two reasons why I went there: it was walking distance, it had the highest grade acheivements in the area.
It was quite funny though, I can remember learning about adam and eve in religious studies and later on in the day learning about evolution in science class.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Crumpet That is perfectly normal. I hope you learn about all religions as a method of making an educated decision, before making any permanent decisions. Native Americans religion is very interesting to me, and helped me form my final decisions.

livelaughlove21's avatar

I’m not religious at all, but the idea that the US is more religious than Europe because “Americans are dumb” is ludicrous.

Other than that, good answers above.

I live in the Bible Belt, so most people I know believe in the Christian God. A lot of people here attend church, though I only associate with a few. It’s pretty rare here to find an atheist or agnostic that is open about it.

I’ve identified myself as religious before, I’ve been to church, but the reason I no longer do is not because I’m smarter now. Having faith in something that cannot be scientifically proven is not a sign of low intelligence. Much of the world is religious; it’s not just America.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@livelaughlove21 Thank you for your mature, intelligent response.

bkcunningham's avatar

@livelaughlove21, you have a lot of wisdom packed into the few years you’ve lived upon this earth. Beautiful answer.

JLeslie's avatar

I think maybe the low intelligence or stupid bit comes from people assuming lower income and less educated people tend to be more religious. I don’t even know if that is statistically true, and I make no assumption it is, but it appears that way to many people. Thing is one can be poor or uneducated and still be intelligent. And, plenty of very educated people in Americe believe in God and are very religious. I sat next to a man while flying home to Memphis a few years who had been raised in San Francisco, but then spent the last 15 years of his careers in Europe, Germany was his last country, before returning to the states to live in Memphis. He said to me how odd it is to him that a C-level executive can be so well educated, smart, logical, and then be so religious they teach bible study on Sunday. It was hard for him to compute in his head. I think a lot of Americans have a hard time understanding that also, but there are many many Americans exactly like that. People kind of compartmentalize these things, and it does not seem contradictory to them.

Having lived in the bible belt I understand it much better now. The only bothersome thing is how it bleeds into politics for them. The churches are so present here. Big churches with family events, women’s events, all these group activities that it is part of the fabric of life even aside from God. It is a place to meet up with friends, attend special events, dinners. I think the people who grew up with that have a hard time understanding not having it. All of that is very nice actually. Other places have large rec/social centers in a community or subdivision. There are social directors, community theatres, groups that meet, all sorts of other gathering places.

amujinx's avatar

It depends where in America you are talking about. Where I live, there are many who identify as Christian, but the only people I know who attend church at all are my parents. Not many here are willing to change their religious affiliation to nonreligious more because of Pascal’s Wager than anything.

laureth's avatar

It’s funny to me that “We’re not allowed to convert everyone to our religion so we’re going to move across the sea and do things our way!” has become a story of people escaping religious persecution.

janbb's avatar

I think it really varies so much in America and what subset you are in. I can name very few people among my intimates who are religious or who attend a religious institution regularly (except for my brothers.) Most atheists I know are happy to declare themselves atheists but I do agree that in much of the prevailing culture there does seem to be a strong emphasis on Christian belief. I would say it is stronger now than 15 -20 years ago due to the co-option of the culture by the religious Right.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@laureth Do you know what kind of persecution they faced? Persecution is not converting others to your faith. I think it’s incredibly brave, especially at that time in history, and is part of the foundation of our country.

Gabby101's avatar

I would say the number of people who believe the bible word for word is minimal. I think the stereotypes of the US Bible Belt and the Catholic Church give religion a bad name and lead people to conclude Christianity is for the mindless. I think the US is a generation or two behind the UK – fewer and fewer children are being brought to church by their parents, so religion will decline just like the UK and Sweden, etc. I wish people could maintain an open mind when it comes to religion.

LostInParadise's avatar

@Crumpet , Could a non-believer get elected to office in England. Here it is a definite drawback. There is currently one professed atheist in Congress, from Arizona of all places. Fifty years ago, I don’t think such a thing would have been possible.

mattbrowne's avatar

Is America more religious than Europe? No, but it is more polarized, i.e. there’s far more tension between non-religious and very religious people. The US seems to be a country of extremes. Very rich and very poor. Unbridled consumerism and highly developed charity culture. Successful democracy for more than 200 years and political stalemate unable to solve the national debt problem. Top medicine and high infant mortality rate. Most brilliant scientists who win a host of Nobel Prizes and inner city kids who can’t read. Capable of sending people to the moon and honestly believing that the Earth is 6000 years old and evolution is a hoax. Top Ivy League universities and a large outspoken climate change denial movement which believes that global warming is a hoax.

European news media love reporting about these extremes, but they forget that the vast majority of Americans are somewhere in between these extremes.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@mattbrowne It’s a ‘me’ society, it’s so sad.

mattbrowne's avatar

@KNOWITALL – Another extreme. Lots of individualism, but also very strong communities especially in difficult times. After Sandy Americans helped each other in a most amazing way.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@mattbrowne Sure, as they pulled together after 9/11 and Katrina, and other major disasters, especially those highly publicized incidents.

The thing that worries me is that unless it’s a major catastrophe, the tendency to help those inner city kids who can’t read or feeding the poor, or sheltering the homeless, tends to fade into the background of ‘life.’

I live in the Bible Belt and even here we have people threatening to shut down temporary shelters, complaints about the homeless and crime, it makes me wonder where compassion can be found in modern society. Unless it’s animals, then everyone jumps up to help, it’s inexplicable.

ragingloli's avatar

The impression I get is that they only help during catastrophes because it makes them look good when they do it, and it would make them look bad if they did nothing. It serves purely to satisfy their ego.
When it comes to funding programmes for the poor they show their true faces. It is wasting ‘their’ money on people they do not actually care about without in return getting the benefit of promotion of their own pretend charitable nature.
“I paid taxes for social programmes.” just does not sound as good as “I donated to charity.” or “I helped during Katrina”.

janbb's avatar

@ragingloli You really do hate us, don’t you? I think it is human nature to respond to a crisis and slack off with making ongoing improvements. America has many, many flaws but it is not unique among the nations.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@janbb I don’t usually agree with @ragingloli but on this occasion I truly do. Just because it’s human nature doesn’t make it right.

What would be nice is if everyone in our country (or the world for that matter) just took one day a week to help others, imagine what a wonderful world this could be.

janbb's avatar

@KNOWITALL I totally agree with you but what I don’t think is true is that Americans only respond to crises so they can brag about it. I just lived through Sandy and I have seen how people responded. Idon’t think it was just to satisfy their egos. I do agree that we need to focus on solving ongoing problems such as poverty.

I just get so tired of @ragingloli ‘s constant attacks on America – even though you will see me criticize plenty about it. It would be as wearying if I were constantly attacking Europe or Germany for its faults.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@janbb I don’t necessarily agree that everyone who helps does it for ‘bragging rights’, I know there are people who truly care and want to help, although I’m just as positive that some do.

Oh I get it, it’s a real drag sometimes, but it is an opinion site, so what can you do?! :)

JLeslie's avatar

@janbb @ragingloli @KNOWITALL I think some individuals do feel good about themselves when they can say they volunteered or did something for charity and they have such a hate of the government and paying taxes it all works together. They also get lots of brownie points among church members to be helping or giving to charity.

But, the US government giving aide around the world, I have to agree with @janbb I don’t think that is for ego or to get some sort of credit for doing it. There might be some little bit of international relations and some hope fewer nations will hate America if we show we are helpful and care about their citizens. Moreover, it is better for the world in general and America, even in a selfish way, that everyone lives well. People going through the biggest struggles are usually more likely to cause unrest. Why oh why we continue to help when no one seems to give us the credit for it or are suspicious of our motives it is beyond me. No good deed goes unpunished.

laureth's avatar

@KNOWITALL – We are both talking about the Puritans, right? The folks who pretty much initiated the English Civil War before leaving? Led by Oliver Cromwell? (Yeah, I know, the source is Yahoo, but it’s a pretty decent rundown of what I mean by “We’re not allowed to convert everyone to our religion”.

mattbrowne's avatar

Well, I lived in Lawrence, Kansas in 1988 and 1989 and although there were no disasters I felt a great sense of community the whole time. It is a very liberal university town, so maybe quite different from the typical stone-hearted Bible Belt communities.

cheebdragon's avatar

@KNOWITALL So if you kill someone and ask forgiveness, it’s all good, but if you deny God, forgiveness doesn’t apply?

KNOWITALL's avatar

@cheebdragon According to doctrine, yes. If you ask forgiveness and mean it. I know I know, I struggle with it, too, because child molesters are so incredibly hard to forgive, for me personally. And many other Christians have a hard time with accepting that it’s God’s place to judge, not ours.

bkcunningham's avatar

Forgiveness for what and from who doesn’t apply?

cheebdragon's avatar

I’m not sure I care for gods judgment if he’s letting killers and rapists in heaven…..explains why they need gates though.

ragingloli's avatar

@cheebdragon and sends good people to hell just for not accepting Jesus

rojo's avatar

@cheebdragon Maybe the gates are to keep people in.

cheebdragon's avatar

Heaven sounds like a correctional facility. How bad can hell really be if all the good people are going?

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