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The Decline and Fall of Christianity: Political and Legal Indicators

Updated on December 30, 2011

Secular state and government

Over the centuries, the governments and laws of the western world have become more secular, progressively losing their connection to traditional Christianity. Government policy in western countries rarely has any concern for traditional Christian values, emphasizing instead a humanist concern for peace, security, freedom and economic development.

The post-Enlightenment focus on religious freedom, individual rights, and the separation of church and state has made Christianity increasingly irrelevant.

American Pledge of Allegiance

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

God in America

The phrase "In God we trust" was made the official motto of the United States in 1956, and was added to paper currency in 1957. The impetus for the decision was to further differentiate the United States from the officially atheist Soviet Union.

Courts have decided that the phrase has become largely ceremonial and secular in character, despite reference to a supernatural power. It has at times become a football for political and culture war controversy. Fifty years after its adoption, in 2006 the Senate "reaffirmed" the phrase as the national motto. Just five years later the Republican-controlled House of Representatives for some reason felt the need to reaffirm it again.

The words "under God" were inserted into the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954, also primarily to distinguish America from communist state atheism during the Cold War.

Monuments of the Ten Commandments have been legally barred from American courthouses.

God in the European Union

Negotiations for the failed 2004 Constitutional Treaty, intended as a unifying document for the EU, saw controversy about references to God and Christianity as part of a common European heritage and identity. The final text of the treaty made no reference to God or Christianity, opting instead for the "cultural, religious and humanist inheritance of Europe." Christianity again tried to make it into the Lisbon Treaty of 2007 (now in effect) but once again failed.



Under the influence of Christian groups and churches, from the 17th to the 19th century western countries generally outlawed abortion. The tide turned during the 20th century, and today abortion on demand is legal in the US, Canada and all large countries of Europe other than Ireland (exception for maternal health) and Poland (exception for rape, maternal health and fetal defects). The only European country where abortion is still totally illegal is Vatican City.


"Thou shalt not commit adultery," is one of the Ten Commandments. Adultery is considered a major sin in Christianity, and for centuries was punished by death, torture or exile. John Calvin, a Christian reformer in mid 16th century Geneva, believed adultery was a crime worse than robbery and punished it with the death penalty. A century later, Calvinist-inspired Puritans in Massachusetts also instituted the death penalty for adultery. Today, adultery is not a crime in any western country, or it is technically a crime with light punishments that are rarely enforced.

Kim Kardashian famously divorced Kris Humphries after just 72 days of marriage
Kim Kardashian famously divorced Kris Humphries after just 72 days of marriage | Source


For centuries under the influence of Christianity, western countries made divorce extremely difficult or impossible. An unhappy spouse was required to allege adultery, abuse or some other legitimate grounds for separation. And even that was often insufficient. In the early 19th century, the Alabama constitution even required a two-thirds vote of the state legislature to approve a divorce.

In the 20th century divorce became more accessible. California became the first American state to allow no-fault divorce in 1970. Most other states soon adopted similar measures. In 2010, New York became the last state to allow no-fault divorce.

Divorce became legal in all western countries (except Vatican City) by the late 20th century. Brazil legalized divorce in 1977. Ireland removed the constitutional prohibition on all divorce in 1996 by the slim majority of a popular referendum. Today, between 40% and 50% of all marriages end in divorce in the US. Other countries with rates of divorce over 40% include Sweden, Finland, Australia, Denmark, Austria, the UK and Norway. The only countries on earth that ban divorce altogether are the Philippines and Vatican City.


Prostitution is legal in most traditionally Christian countries today. This includes almost all of Latin America, most countries of western Europe, and Canada. In areas where it is officially illegal, it is often accepted and regulations on brothels are weakly enforced. Even the staunchly Christian cultures of Poland and Ethiopia allow prostitution.

Homosexuality and gay marriage

For years homosexuality and homosexual acts were considered an abomination, a sin against the natural order, and punishable by death or torture. Same sex partnerships are now recognized by the majority of EU governments. Other traditionally Christian countries that recognize same sex partnerships in some way include Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Canada, South Africa and Australia. Several American states also recognize them.

Same sex marriage laws in Europe



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    • secularist10 profile image

      secularist10 5 years ago from New York City

      Thanks, Benson. Christianity has indeed always had a faith component--probably more fundamental, in fact, than the action component. But nevertheless, Christianity and its tradition, like all religions, does take strong and clear positions on things like abortion and homosexuality.

      The political culture and legal systems of these countries are reflective of the values and morals of the people, and thus we see that the populations have become less Christian over time.

    • Benson Brock profile image

      Benson Brock 5 years ago

      The research on this article is potent;easy to follow. But since Christianity has always been faith-based, does the title need reworking? On the contrary, in the context of the subject's popularity, it works. This articles rating is befitting.