Why are Americans so Religious?

by F.

Richard Dawkins and Clive Cookson speculate on why Americans are so weird about religion:

Why then is the US so much more religious than European societies with a broadly similar level of education and wealth? Dawkins does not claim to understand the “quite extraordinary level of religiosity in America”, but he floats a few speculative explanations. One is that the US is a society of immigrants who have been cut adrift from their roots – and turned to churches to fill the gap. Neither of us is quite convinced.

The next idea is that the constitutional separation of church and state has helped American religion. “In western Europe, established religion is background muzak and is not taken seriously,” he says. “In the US, religion has become free enterprise, with all the benefits of high-pressure advertising and marketing.”

We feel there may be something in this but then Dawkins asks: “What about a ‘critical mass’ theory?” He suggests that the US has a critical mass of religious people who encourage one another to proclaim their belief, whereas “in Europe, people who are religious try to hide it in social settings. At a smart London or Oxford dinner party people would not admit [to being religious], but a smart dinner in Dallas or San Antonio might begin with grace.”

Our discussion leaves the US with the mystery unresolved.

The article is here.

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