Religion in American Life

LeoCasey at LeoCasey at
Tue Oct 24 09:45:32 PDT 2000

It is a staple of political science that Americans (and to a lesser extent, Canadians) are anomalously religious. If you were to create a line graph, the main axis would show that the more "first world," economically developed nations have a low rate of religiosity, and the more "third world," economically underdeveloped nations have a high rate of religiosity. The US has historically been the exception to this rule. Nothing new here. It would be an interesting discussion to figure out why this is the case: perhaps it has something to do with the lack of a feudal and established church tradition in the US, leading to social reform movements which are much less anti-clerical than in the European context.

The political pertinence of that religiosity is not clear or straightforward, and tends to divide along these lines: traditionally Catholics (who are also 'ethnics' -- Irish, Italians, Latino/as), Jews and African-American Protestants vote Democratic; WASPs vote Republican. The post-New Deal success of the Republicans has been the extent to which they have pealed some of the Catholic ethnics (who are also disproportionately blue collar) off the Democratic coalition, largely on the basis of cultural conservatism.

There are also strong trends in American religious traditions toward a more radical egalitarian world view (i.e., the social gospel, the Catholic Worker movement, the African-American church leadership of the civil rights movement). It would be a big mistake, I think, to treat religiosity as a homogeneous phenomenon.

<< >Gallup polls

>show that in general Americans tend to be very religious, with about

>six in 10 saying religion is "very" important in their lives, and

>another three in 10 saying religion is "fairly" important. Six of 10

>Americans say they read the Bible at least occasionally, with almost

>four in 10 (37%) saying they read it at least once a week or more

>frequently. One in six (16%) say they read the Bible daily, about the

>same number as those who say they are currently in a Bible study

>group (14%). Almost two-thirds of Americans (65%) say the Bible

>answers all or most all of the basic questions in life.

Forget the presidential race. *These* are the most depressing poll results

I've seen in some time. >>

Leo Casey United Federation of Teachers 260 Park Avenue South New York, New York 10010-7272 (212-598-6869)

Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never has, and it never will. If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightening. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its waters. -- Frederick Douglass --

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