misery likes faith

The NYTimes is talking about religion this week, in articles on two successive days.

You needn't read all of what occupies more than two full pages in the print edition to realize that the conclusion is basically religion is down in happy countries and up elsewhere. Note to Americans: Faith is an expanding industry here.

Europe has all but abandoned religion. In the United States it shapes politics and society and indeed our view of the world. In the third world, Christianity in particular is growing by leaps and bounds.

The article explains that the secularization of Europe and the increasing importance of religion in the U.S. is one of the forces pushing the continents apart.

Americans are widely regarded as more comfortable with notions of good and evil, right and wrong, than Europeans, who often see such views as reckless.

In France, which is predominantly Catholic but emphatically secular, about one in 20 people attends a religious service every week, compared with about one in three in the United States.

"What's interesting isn't that there are fewer people in church," said the Rev. Jean Fran├žois Bordarier of Lille, in northern France, "but that there are any at all."

Christianity is booming in Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa.
Here nobody, it seems, can afford not to pray.

"In countries where everything is very O.K., where they take care of their citizenry, people are very lethargic when it comes to religion and God," said Oluwayemisi Ojuolape, 27, a lawyer in Lagos, who attended this all-night vigil, called Holy Ghost Service. "They are not encouraged to ask for any help. They seem to have all of it."

I knew we need help, but more religion in America can only mean disaster. From a professor of religious studies:
"I've been struck by the way in which religion now serves to underpin the divergence between Europe and the United States, and where I particularly saw that over the last year or two was in attitudes about the Middle East," said Philip Jenkins. Dr. Jenkins is a British scholar who teaches history and religious studies in the United States and wrote "The Next Christendom" (2002), about changing patterns of Christian worship around the world.

"Americans still take biblical and religious arguments very seriously, and therefore give a credence to the Zionist project that Europeans don't," Dr. Jenkins said.

He said that for many Americans, the frequency with which President Bush invoked morality and religion in talking about the fight against terrorism was neither striking nor discomfiting. "But in Europe," he added, "they think he must be a religious nut."

Me too.

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Published on October 14, 2003 2:01 PM.

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