FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

What Fuels American Religion?

An article from the UK Independent explores America's religiousness -- and its growing impact on politics -- from a European perspective:

Despite the separation of church and state being enshrined in the US constitution, more than 40 per cent of US citizens said religious leaders should use their influence to try to sway policymakers. In France, by contrast, 85 per cent of people said they opposed such "activism" by the clergy.

"These numbers are not surprising," Daniel Conkle, who teaches law and religion at Indiana University, told The Independent. "The US, in separating church and state, has not followed with the notion that it includes a separation of religion and politics.

"In other words, it's believed the institutions of church and state should be separate but there has never been a consensus that religious values should somehow be separated from public life or kept private."

The survey, carried out for the Associated Press by Ipsos, found that, in terms of the importance of religion to its citizens, only Mexico came close to the US. But unlike in the US, Mexicans were strongly opposed to the clergy being involved in politics -- an opposition to church influence rooted in their history.

The survey -- which questioned people in the US, Australia, the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, South Korea and Spain -- found that only 2 per cent of people in the US said they did not believe in God. In France and South Korea the number of people who said they were atheists stood at 19 per cent.

The article suggests that the sheer diversity of religious options in the US -- options that are largely absent in other countries -- contributes to Americans' embracing of religion. It also notes that, thanks to the First Amendment, the US has been free from the historical religious oppression that has made those in other countries wary of religious institutions.