Is the United States a Christian Nation?
Members of the religious right can often be heard citing the fact that the United States is a "Christian country" to justify all sorts of theocratically-oriented policies. Naturally, countless surveys and polls can be cited indicating that a solid majority of Americans call themselves Christian. But in measuring the Christian character of society, it seems more telling to look at people's actions, and the culture and social system those actions produce, rather than their words. Let's take a look, and see just how Christian this country is.
Wrath: The US is among the most violent societies in the developed world, ranking highly on measures of murders per capita and other crimes. The American justice system is more heavily oriented toward punishment and revenge than other industrialized countries, such that the New York Times reported in 2008 that a full 1% of the adult population was in prison. It is also one of the few countries in the world--developed or otherwise--that carries out executions.
Lust: The average age at first sex in the US is 17, and yet the median age at first marriage is in the mid to late 20s. You guessed it, that means the vast majority of Americans have sex outside of marriage--an amazing 95% to be exact, according to a Guttmacher study from 2006. When it comes to love and sex, America is anything but Christian.
Pride: This is a more subjective measure, but it does not seem that it can be argued that pride does not play an important role in American culture. From Reality TV to professional sports to the corporate world to national politics, one will be hard-pressed to find authentically humble and meek individuals attaining smashing success. Interestingly, some of the most avowedly "Christian" individuals in the US are also the most "proud" of being American. The individualism that is so central to American culture would seem to inevitably lead to an ample supply of pride and vanity.
Gluttony: Two words: Obesity Epidemic.
Sloth: The obesity epidemic is very relevant on this point, as well. In addition, consider the low rates of voter turnout--an important statistic, given the US' sociopolitical system. Specifically, this number has remained right around half of all eligible voters for presidential elections over the last 30 years (sometimes higher, sometimes lower), and solidly between 30 and 40% in non-presidential years. One is forced to conclude that either huge numbers of voters are conscientiously considering all the candidates, and choosing not to support any of them, or they are soundly politically asleep.
Envy: In an economy where over 70% of GDP is composed of consumption, and where 2009 saw $2.5 trillion in consumer debt, one may say that envy is a pretty important component of the culture. Credit cards have become a staple of most Americans' economic lives, as has debt generally. We have already seen that large numbers of Americans don't vote, but evidently those that have been voting have chosen to vote themselves higher government spending and lower taxes financed by--surprise, surprise--more debt. All actions consistent with envy.
Greed: Probably the most important and most straightforward measure of the unChristian nature of modern American society is the economic system that remains essential to the country's self-identity, to say nothing of its prosperity. Capitalism does not exist without greed and self-interest, and American society lavishes riches on those who work hard for themselves. One may respond that Americans give huge amounts of money to charity. This is true, but where did that money come from? Before one can give money away, one must generate money, and in America money is generated in a system based on greed. One wonders if Jesus would be proud?
None of this is to argue that any of these things are bad. That's another topic entirely. But it is to argue that the US is most certainly not a Christian nation, according to any reasonable definition of that religion, based on the teachings of its founder, and the moral doctrine that it has developed over the centuries. Somebody should give the religious conservatives the memo.
More by this Author
The rich should pay more in taxes than the middle class or poor. A moral argument for why tax rates should increase as income increases.
The separation of church and state in the United States.
Ten big myths, fallacies, misunderstandings and silly ideas about atheism and atheists.