Published On: Mon, Oct 21st, 2019

Why Is Europe More Secular Than the United States

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Endless polls and studies on the religiosity of the populations of the United States and western Europe have shown steady declines in religious belief and religious observance over the past several decades. Even in the U.S., undoubtedly the most religious of the industrialized nations by far, has seen incremental decreases in levels of religious belief, as well as rising numbers of Americans who claim to be atheists or agnostics.

Intriguingly, though, rates of religious apathy or downright unbelief are far higher in western European nations, and several hypotheses have been proposed to explain the disparity. Possible factors may include differences in social and economic policies, population demographics, and the historical role of state-sponsored churches.

Religion in Europe on the Wane

By almost any measure, rates of religious belief have declined precipitously in western Europe since the early 20th century. In the U.K., for example, only 26% of residents polled believed in a personal God, and only 4% of children attended Sunday school.

Likewise, only 17% of Germans agreed with the idea that Jesus was the son of God. Church attendance across the board is drastically low, with less than 10% of Icelanders, Danes, Swedes, and Norwegians attending regularly, and only 11% of Scots and Finns, 17% of the French, and 24% of the British doing so.

The United States as Religious Outlier

In marked contrast, the United States — one of the wealthiest and most technologically advanced nations on earth — seems to have a religious profile far more in line with those of developing countries. The vast majority of Americans polled — about 95% — claim to believe in God or some type of higher power, and 68% also believe in the existence of the devil.

Why Is Europe More Secular Than the United States?

A whopping 70% of Americans are members of a church or synagogue; 33% believe the Bible should be taken literally; and about 42% identify themselves as born-again or evangelical Christians.

The Religious Marketplace

Since in many ways the United States and the nations of western Europe have many parallels — with roughly comparable cultures, similar governments, and all the trappings of liberal democracy — the startling gap in religiosity begs for an explanation. One commonly cited hypothesis, put forth by R. Starke and R. Finke in 2000, posits that Europe has long been dominated by state-sponsored churches whose monopolies on faith meant that they did not have to compete for congregants, and therefore began to stagnate.

In contrast, they argue, the U.S. has a vast religious marketplace of established religions as well as new offshoots, sects and cults, all competing vigorously for “customers.” Starke and Fiske feel that this heightened competition among religions builds vibrancy and ubiquity as different churches try to provide new and better “services” and spend enormous sums on advertising.

Immigration and Education

Another factor that may partially explain Americans’ higher religiosity is the nation’s cultural, racial, and ethnic diversity; some experts argue that immigrant populations may build communities more easily on a foundation of shared religion. European populations, which tend to be more homogenous (though this is rapidly changing) may feel less need for support through religion.

Other experts have postulated that there may be a disparity in the quality of education between the United States and western European countries, particularly in the areas of science and skeptical thinking, which may account for Europeans’ greater acceptance of scientific theories and consequent lack of religiosity.

Social Welfare Systems

A fourth possibility may lie in the social welfare systems at work in western Europe versus those in the United States. Most western European nations have a strong social “safety net” financed through tax revenues: State-sponsored health care, education and day care, fairly generous welfare and unemployment benefits, and so forth.

Because these programs tend to make day-to-day life less precarious for the average European, some experts think that they have less need for the support and psychological succor of religion than Americans, who deal with more uncertainty in matters of health, work, and education due to patchy or non-existent social welfare programs, and may be more inclined to turn to religion for comfort.

About the Author

- I am an internet marketing expert with an experience of 8 years.My hobbies are SEO,Content services and reading ebooks.I am founder of SRJ News andTech Preview.

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