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roronoa79
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02 May 2020, 2:05 pm

T̶h̶e̶ ̶c̶h̶a̶m̶p̶i̶o̶n̶s̶h̶i̶p̶ ̶b̶o̶u̶t̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶c̶e̶n̶t̶u̶r̶y̶,̶ ̶o̶n̶l̶y̶ ̶o̶n̶ ̶p̶a̶y̶-̶p̶e̶r̶-̶v̶i̶e̶w̶!̶

In all seriousness, I had been thinking lately about why atheism is so much less prominent in American than it is in Europe (even in countries that were not once officially atheist). The usual arguments are unsatisfying to me: "Americans are less educated", "Europeans couldn't believe in god after two world wars", etc. A thought that I had recently was that part of it may have to do with the fact that religion in America was not as deeply tied to the state as it was in Europe until relatively recently. America is a de jure secular--de facto Christian state, but the president is not sworn in by a pope or archbishop (regardless of how much millions of Evangelicals would like for that to be the case...)
Was religion so much more called into question in Europe because of how the church was tied into institutions of power? If you did not like the Tsar, you were likely to reject the Orthodox Church which supported him unflinchingly. If you do not like the English monarchy, you're probably going to be less likely to stick with Anglicanism. French revolutionaries' aggressive secularism can be partially chalked up to the role of the Catholic church in upholding the inequality of the Ancien regime. Ditto for the hatred among many Republicans in the Spanish Civil War for the Catholic church, which vocally supported Franco. Garibaldi's red shirts fought the Papal State's armies in the war for Italian unification; right-wing nationalists might reject religion as an 'internationalist' distraction from loyalty to the nation/race; the list goes on. (Maybe this could be traced all the way back to the Roman Empire twisting Christianity for its own purposes?)
Has anyone else noticed this? Is there are term for this phenomenon? I find it hard to believe I'm the first to notice this. Has this factored into the decision by any Europeans here to become atheist/agnostic/some other kind of irreligious?


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Grischa
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02 May 2020, 4:45 pm

What about: in the past we Europeans shipped all strict puritan-believers to America; and the half-but-not-so-much believers stayed behind
Especially from Germany the orthodox part of society went to America, and you know what part stayed behind



shlaifu
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02 May 2020, 7:27 pm

Dear OP, - yes, very likely.
In Germany and Austria, the countries I can speak of with certainty, it's still the case that the state collects 'church-tax', and christian religion is taught in schools. A substitute for non-christians, 'ethics' was only introduced in the 90s. You'd think that would make religion much more of a thing, but not so- because it's so closely tied in with the government, changes in public attitude reflect in politics and therefore in things like religious education.
You can't go into a German school and teach that gay people will go to hell - the secular government will prevent you from doing so.
In turn, many more people have first become moderates, then liberals and liberal atheists.
Plus, the catholic church is seriously suffering from the systemic pedophilia situation, and since it's being financed through church-tax, an opposition has formed against organized religion.

In the US on the other hand, religion is private. It's a question of identity and local community. There's no choice between religious education and 'ethics' - it's either sunday school or nothing


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magz
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03 May 2020, 4:09 am

I think a lot of it is about collective identities. With many small well-defined nations - with defined territories, distinct languages, histories and other aspects of culture - and a tradition of religiously following sport clubs, Europe gives other opportinities to form collective identities. It takes away the focus from religion and race, though they still do matter here. I find secularism just another religious identity, by the way.


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03 May 2020, 4:12 am

European atheist here. I left the Christian Evangelical Lutheran church that I was raised as a member of at 20. In my home country, that particular religion is the dominant one, even though it too is losing members rather rapidly. The thing is, belonging in to that religion is still seen as the norm and belonging to others is frowned upon, though it's not really something you can admit out loud to just anyone without getting in trouble... and that people avoid criticizing islam in particular in the fear of being labeled as racists. Would be understandable if people got that label as easily from criticizing other religions as well, but they don't.

Anyway, in general, religions aside from the dominant one are more or less frowned upon and considered odd, so it puts pressure on people to stay away from them. And if they don't want to be Evangelical Lutherans, atheism makes sense since that means they aren't really part of any religion. But from what I've understood, different religions, especially many different forms of Christianity, aren't forwned upon the same way in America, so many people will be able to find a religion that fits their morals and world view, resulting to less atheists.



The_Walrus
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03 May 2020, 4:51 am

I don’t know enough about other countries but I don’t think this holds up for the UK. The monarchy is very popular but that’s probably largely because it doesn’t really do anything. I think the average person would be surprised to learn that we have a state religion and that the Queen is head of it.

We have a large portion of the population that is effectively irreligious but, when asked, will say that they belong to their cultural religion. I think this is probably the plurality but Northern Ireland might complicate things.

Both the US and the UK had about 25% of people identify as non-religious in their last census. If there’s a difference then it might be in the trend. Only 49% of young people in the US identify as non-religious compared to over 60% in the UK. So maybe American religions are better at converting their children, but not as good at holding onto adults?



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03 May 2020, 5:24 am

^ I think there may also be the cultural factor that talking openly about religious beliefs is, not exactly rude in the UK, but not really polite either: “bad taste” I think would be the term.
Anecdotally all the people I know who believe in an explicitly Christian god, do not believe that god has anything much to do with organised churches: and I recently found out that that outlook has been documented in this country to as far back as the 1640s.
Which I think raises the fact that Europe has a history of religious wars and genocides which are part of popular folk-history in a hazy ill-defined way, but the US does not: This is probably a factor.



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03 May 2020, 6:17 am

Karamazov wrote:
^ I think there may also be the cultural factor that talking openly about religious beliefs is, not exactly rude in the UK, but not really polite either: “bad taste” I think would be the term.
Anecdotally all the people I know who believe in an explicitly Christian god, do not believe that god has anything much to do with organised churches: and I recently found out that that outlook has been documented in this country to as far back as the 1640s.
Which I think raises the fact that Europe has a history of religious wars and genocides which are part of popular folk-history in a hazy ill-defined way, but the US does not: This is probably a factor.

I think you're right about the point of history of religious wars. Poland didn't have them back then and now it's one of the most openly religious societes in Europe.
Funny that in the 17th century, Polish "tolerance" was portraited as a grave sin by Catholic authorities of the time - apparently, they couldn't predict the long-term outcome.


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Karamazov
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03 May 2020, 7:15 am

magz wrote:
Karamazov wrote:
^ I think there may also be the cultural factor that talking openly about religious beliefs is, not exactly rude in the UK, but not really polite either: “bad taste” I think would be the term.
Anecdotally all the people I know who believe in an explicitly Christian god, do not believe that god has anything much to do with organised churches: and I recently found out that that outlook has been documented in this country to as far back as the 1640s.
Which I think raises the fact that Europe has a history of religious wars and genocides which are part of popular folk-history in a hazy ill-defined way, but the US does not: This is probably a factor.

I think you're right about the point of history of religious wars. Poland didn't have them back then and now it's one of the most openly religious societes in Europe.
Funny that in the 17th century, Polish "tolerance" was portraited as a grave sin by Catholic authorities of the time - apparently, they couldn't predict the long-term outcome.

My memory is a blank here: was Poland neutral in the Thirty Years War?

It doesn’t get much focus here in the UK (odd considering our civil war was fundamentally linked with that larger conflict by both ideology and personnel, but there we go).

Didn’t the Polish church play a strong role in resisting the soviet puppet government?
I don’t know, but have speculated that the severe anti-religious measures of those regimes and higher levels of religiosity after their fall than on the western portion of the continent may be linked.



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03 May 2020, 7:33 am

Karamazov wrote:
My memory is a blank here: was Poland neutral in the Thirty Years War?
Yes, Poland was Catholic but Habsburg-sceptic and stayed away from the conflict.

Karamazov wrote:
It doesn’t get much focus here in the UK (odd considering our civil war was fundamentally linked with that larger conflict by both ideology and personnel, but there we go).

Didn’t the Polish church play a strong role in resisting the soviet puppet government?
That was centuries later. The church was the main anti-Soviet power here. I personally know some non-believers who acted very religious just to defy the party.
Karamazov wrote:
I don’t know, but have speculated that the severe anti-religious measures of those regimes and higher levels of religiosity after their fall than on the western portion of the continent may be linked.
But it didn't happen in Czechia or East Germany and it's much more complex in traditionally Eastern Orthodox states.


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03 May 2020, 7:48 am

Karamazov wrote:
magz wrote:
Karamazov wrote:
^ I think there may also be the cultural factor that talking openly about religious beliefs is, not exactly rude in the UK, but not really polite either: “bad taste” I think would be the term.
Anecdotally all the people I know who believe in an explicitly Christian god, do not believe that god has anything much to do with organised churches: and I recently found out that that outlook has been documented in this country to as far back as the 1640s.
Which I think raises the fact that Europe has a history of religious wars and genocides which are part of popular folk-history in a hazy ill-defined way, but the US does not: This is probably a factor.

I think you're right about the point of history of religious wars. Poland didn't have them back then and now it's one of the most openly religious societes in Europe.
Funny that in the 17th century, Polish "tolerance" was portraited as a grave sin by Catholic authorities of the time - apparently, they couldn't predict the long-term outcome.

My memory is a blank here: was Poland neutral in the Thirty Years War?

It doesn’t get much focus here in the UK (odd considering our civil war was fundamentally linked with that larger conflict by both ideology and personnel, but there we go).

Didn’t the Polish church play a strong role in resisting the soviet puppet government?
I don’t know, but have speculated that the severe anti-religious measures of those regimes and higher levels of religiosity after their fall than on the western portion of the continent may be linked.


There were two centuries of bloody wars of religion after Luther triggered the Protestant Reformation. One of my history professors said that Poland actually joined in the Protestant Reformation early on, and had many Lutherans. But later "Catholic Armies came up from the south of Europe and basically butchered every Protestant in Poland whom they could find".

Centuries after that Poles would cling to Catholicism to defy Russification when Poland was ruled Czarists Russia. Then later still Poles would again cling to Catholicism to defy the Communist Russian puppet rulers of post war Poland. Under the Czars it was Catholicism vs Russian Orthodox Christianity. During the Cold War it was Catholicism vs Atheistic Communism. But the idea of nationalist defiance was much the same. Kind of like how part of being Irish means being Catholic (as opposed to succumbing to the Brits by succumbing to Anglican Protestantism).



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03 May 2020, 7:53 am

magz wrote:
Karamazov wrote:
My memory is a blank here: was Poland neutral in the Thirty Years War?
Yes, Poland was Catholic but Habsburg-sceptic and stayed away from the conflict.

Yes, I thought I couldn’t remember anything about Polish involvement in that conflict: but it could have been a gap in my knowledge indicative of nothing... after typing that I thought it makes sense for a country with both significant Jewish and orthodox minorities at the time to have a history of tolerance and to have been wary of the Emperors (particularly considering the emperor of the times blood-soaked policies prior to the conflict) and kept out of it.
magz wrote:
Karamazov wrote:
It doesn’t get much focus here in the UK (odd considering our civil war was fundamentally linked with that larger conflict by both ideology and personnel, but there we go).

Didn’t the Polish church play a strong role in resisting the soviet puppet government?
That was centuries later. The church was the main anti-Soviet power here. I personally know some non-believers who acted very religious just to defy the party.

Yes, I jumped three centuries between paragraphs there didn’t I?
(I do that a lot, confuses Mrs K frequently: she wants a quick answer to a discrete historical question, and I go off on tangents based on what seems linked by theme or pattern in my head! :lol: )
Yes, that makes sense: something of the sort happened in this country between 1780-1830 with both dissenting Christians and secular types uniting against state/state-church restrictions on the populace at large: sharing organisations, meetings, venues and underground communication networks. Quite a few of our early trade union/labour movement leaders were also fundamentalist lay preachers. (Did it again! :lol: )
magz wrote:
Karamazov wrote:
I don’t know, but have speculated that the severe anti-religious measures of those regimes and higher levels of religiosity after their fall than on the western portion of the continent may be linked.
But it didn't happen in Czechia or East Germany and it's much more complex in traditionally Eastern Orthodox states.

Yes, good point: local backstories and resulting cultural difference means a pattern one sees in one place may be unique and inapplicable everywhere else.

@naturalplastic:
Ah, yes thank you: think I had come across a reference to Polish Lutheranism before somewhere, but didn’t know about any genocidal response emanating from, I assume you mean, Austria: although I see you write it and it tallies with what else I know of the period.
Have come across the role of the Catholic Church in resistance to Tsarist oppression before: but only in the context of Russian history (Polish history is rare going on blank in the bookshops in my little corner of the world): so very little detail to build a clear memory from.



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03 May 2020, 8:37 am

I'm not real sure if there is a big difference,there are a lot of British atheist youtuber's out there and of coarse atheism is still big in former communist block countries.Although the Eastern orthodox churches are making a comeback in many former communist countries,and of coarse you have Islam in Bosnia and Kosovo.

However there are American atheist youtuber's like Richard Carrier,who is sort of the American Richard Dawkins,and many college professors in America are atheist.Most American atheists are educated people and read works by European Atheists and are infuenced by them.There is not likely much difference between educated European and American atheists,they influence each other.

The difference might be in the lower classes of eastern Europe where you have atheist hold out's from the old communist era,the people who's reason for not believing in god is the old communist adadge "there is no god because no one has ever seen him".However Islam and Eastern Orthodoxy is now the majority in the former eastern block.


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magz
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03 May 2020, 8:58 am

naturalplastic wrote:
There were two centuries of bloody wars of religion after Luther triggered the Protestant Reformation. One of my history professors said that Poland actually joined in the Protestant Reformation early on, and had many Lutherans. But later "Catholic Armies came up from the south of Europe and basically butchered every Protestant in Poland whom they could find".
To my knowledge:
Early reformation was popular among Polish intellectual elites of the time but never gained "the majority".
There was no event of "Catholic Armies came up from the south of Europe and basically butchered every Protestant in Poland whom they could find" I know of and I'm sure it would be a memorable event with great political impact.
It didn't happen. As reformation in Poland was popular mainly among the intellectuals, the "catholic armies" of Jesuits ensured they kept this ground - they organized extensive education system in Poland. This is how they won.

If you claim it happened otherwise, please, at least name the historical event of the bloodbath.

naturalplastic wrote:
Centuries after that Poles would cling to Catholicism to defy Russification when Poland was ruled Czarists Russia. Then later still Poles would again cling to Catholicism to defy the Communist Russian puppet rulers of post war Poland. Under the Czars it was Catholicism vs Russian Orthodox Christianity. During the Cold War it was Catholicism vs Atheistic Communism. But the idea of nationalist defiance was much the same. Kind of like how part of being Irish means being Catholic (as opposed to succumbing to the Brits by succumbing to Anglican Protestantism).

The aspect of linking religion to nationality was certainly existent but Poland became so religiously homogenous only after WWII.


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03 May 2020, 9:03 am

The US is only a “de facto Christian” nation in certain regions.

The US is, de jure, an explicitly secular state.



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03 May 2020, 9:54 am

kraftiekortie wrote:
The US is only a “de facto Christian” nation in certain regions.

The US is, de jure, an explicitly secular state.

We're the opposite. Officially we're a religious state, in fact we're a not very religious religion but we've got some lovely religious accessories to our state to help it look stately.

I believe the percentages that believe in God are fairly equal.