I didn't know whether to put this question in religion or politics; so, if it is in the wrong category, I apologize.
I've read a lot of comments indicating that Europeans consider Americans somewhat behind on the religioius curve. Our country is too religious. We are over run by and bogged down in religion.
As an agnostic, I tend to agree; but I don't understand the step to complete atheism.
So, I wandered through Wikipedia to see how different our statistics were, religiously, from some of our friends and neighbors.
Note * The statistics for France come from a poll detailed on Wikipedia (and other sources), not a census. The French government doesn't include questions as to a person's religion on the census and the % for no religion for Germany is the result of a poll of German youths
UK 71.6 US 76 Canada 76 France 63.3 Germany 65
% Non religious/non stated
UK 22.8 US 15 Canada 16.5 France 26 Germany 28
Uk 2.7 US .5 Canada 2.0 France 10 (?) Germany 4
UK .5 US 1.4 Canada 1.1 France unknown Germany .25
I think it is interesting that the European countries not only have the highest Muslim population, they also have the highest number of non religious and professed atheists. The percentage of Christians holds steady in Canada, even though they have a higher Muslim population than the U.S.
I have also noticed that the more outspoken advocates of banning all religion are outside of America.
As an agnostic, I'm left to wonder:
Do you think the rise of atheism in Europe is tied to a larger presence of those whose religious beliefs are so different from the culture many Europeans grew up in?
Do you think some may claim atheism as opposed to agnosticism, because of their greater exposure to Islam?
And, do you think it is difficult for those of us in America to understand this, since we have experienced minimal problems of incorporating immigrants into our society? We've had our threats in America from the radical elements within Islam, but nothing like what Europe has been forced to deal with.
And finally, do you think the radical nature of evangelism make the ideas in Islam seem less foreign to Americans?
I haven't forgotten that. I try to put it in perspective and not fear an entire religion because of it.
But thank you, so very much, for posting that one day before the anniversary. Nice way to rub salt in an open wound.
You really are an insensitive twit. Report me and get me banned, I don't care. The anniversary of that tragedy is tomorrow. I would never post something like that which would hurt you, or your fellow countrymen. We lost innocent lives. Not due to a religion, but due to radicals. Do you understand the difference?
No, I see the atheism in Europe tied to a rejection of their own (Christian) past. The ill-will towards Muslims feels more like a cultural clash than a sense of them being too religious, although the latter is often trotted out since it sounds more respectable.
I don't think Europeans are more likely to claim they're atheist than non-religious Americans. Most say "I don't care" or "I'm nothing (when it comes to religion)", very similar to Americans who are not religious.
I do think we do absorb immigrants better, but that's because there's no defensible "default" ethnicity to our country. Some zealots claim we're a Christian country but anyone with a brain realizes that's a crock. It honestly feels like there's a bigger cultural/ethnic gap, than a religious one, in Europe, between the "native" population and incoming immigrant populations.
As to your final question: you'd think so, huh! Evangelicals and religious Muslims agree that homosexuality is evil, evolutionary theory is nonsense, science is evil, Satan is behind everything bad, etc. But they also manage to hate each other, too, despite being remarkably similar.
I guess I've been assuming the posts from the Europeans on this site were honestly sharing the percentage of atheists within their societies. I probably should have known there was some fudging going on.
And I think you're right about why we absorb immigrants better. Even though there are some who think it's their country, most of us realize we are all the result of immigration; so we tend to be accepting.
I hope you are right. I think I got slightly unsettled watching a segment about the problems in France on tv. They all seem to be unable to find a way to peacefully coexist. I put two and two together and wondered if they were four.
The crusading atheists are almost always English or of English descent, who come from evangelical traditions (equally fervent). Continental Europeans tend to be considerably more mild when it comes to religion, when they're either religious or not. At least this has always been my experience. (And most English people will react angrily if you say they're European!)
France is a bit of a difference because there's such a large percentage of Muslims, primarily Arabs from countries France had colonized. They're not necessarily very religious, but they are culturally different. I think it's a cultural clash more than anything, and simple, old-fashioned racism. Look at our past and current state with African-Americans, who comprise about 13% of the population.
Good point about our civil rights struggles. I guess you're right. I do bristle when Europeans bring that up, because their attitudes toward Muslims seems as prejudicial, if not more so, than we were forty years ago. I guess they haven't learned anything from their own history, or ours. I think we have. Or, I like to think so.
True. I have a French friend who told me a long time ago that America was so incredibly racist, because even though African-Americans are 13% of the population, they're an estimated 40% of the prison population. I told him that, as bad as we are, we're better than France: Arabs are an estimated 50% of the prison population there, despite being slightly less than 10% of the population.
I also asked him when the first ethnically-Arab French president would be elected, after November 2008. (He has a good sense of humor and understood where I was coming from.)
I have recently been wondering why the crusading atheists are nearly always English. The likes of Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens, who although now American is from England. Maybe it is the traditional lack of respect for religion in England which produces such crusaders. I enjoy watching Richard Dawkins, who has produced so many very interesting TV programmes. And I can't help admiring the attitude of Christopher Hitchens, who refuses to respect religious extremism, and says what he likes. And the fact that he is suffering from stage four cancer, yet has not given in to the usual temptation of turning to gods, which so many of us do, when confronted with the end.
I'm surprised by the figures, because there seems to be less of a difference between the UK and the US than I would have expected. We are used to hearing how atheistic the UK is, and how religious the US is, yet, if these figures are accurate, there is very little difference between those claiming to be Christian. Maybe one difference is that the British who claim to be Christian, consider themselves to be culturally Christian, whereas, the Americans actually believe in the teachings of Christianity. I know several people who will describe themselves as Church of England, yet they never attend church, and don't even believe in God. Even 20% of the clergy of this religion are atheists. I suspect, although I may be wrong, that American Christians do actually believe in their faith.
I don't think that the number of Muslims in Western Europe, which is much higher than the US has anything to do with the lack of religious belief. France, which has a Muslim population, of 10%, but amongst the youngest, i.e. those who are children, the Muslim population is actually approximately 50%. This would indicate, that in a few decades, when the older generations have passed away, and the young have then become the older generation, France will have a majority Muslim population. However, I don't believe this has anything to do with the decline in Christianity. It is the secular nature of Western Europe, and the lack of respect for religion, which has resulted in the fall in the numbers of Christians.
In the UK, the lack of respect for religion is nothing new. England, especially has had a healthy disrespect for religion. Even in the Middle Ages, there was much complaint from the clergy that the population was not attending church in large numbers. The fact that Charles Darwin was British may also have something to do with the decline in religious belief. Within only a very few years of his publication of "The Origin of the Species," most members of the clergy had accepted the fact of evolution, something which American Christians still have a problem with 150 years later.
The question of immigration, is very different between the US and Western Europe. The Americas are populated by immigrants. The only true Americans are the Native Americans. This is why I get confused, when white Americans complain that there are too many immigrants coming to the US, because they seem to forget that if it wasn't for immigration, they wouldn't be there in the first place, but would still be in Europe. Immigration to Western Europe however is a relatively recent experience, only beginning in the 1950s, when British subjects from many parts of the empire were invited to come to the UK. This was in response to the fact that so many men had been killed during the war, and much of the cities of the UK were totally destroyed and there weren't enough people to rebuild them. Those first immigrants though, were British, no matter where they came from, because at that time a quarter of the world's population were ruled from London as part of the British Empire. The same was the situation is France, which invited people, mostly from North Africa, who were Muslims and part of the French Empire. Because of this, Islam is a major religion in France, and will within the next few decades be the biggest religion of that country.
In the UK, Islam is still a minority at the moment, and the natural English disrespect for all religion is, I think a wonderful thing. I also think that there will be fewer problems in America between different religions, because immigrants to the US, seem to be American first. So Muslims, Christians, African Americans, European Americans do seem to be in it together. In the UK though, multi-culturalism has encouraged different communities to go their separate ways and to think of themselves in terms of their racial or religious backgrounds before thinking of themselves as British. This, I believe has been a mistake, and even the Prime Minister has said that he doesn't believe multi-culturalism has worked. If there is to be any religious conflict in the future, in Western Europe, I believe it will not be between Christians and Muslims, but between the secular culture and that of religious immigrants, whether Muslims or evangelical Christians.
However, there do seem to be attempts, whether legally or culturally to make critcism of religion in the UK unacceptable, and there seems to be a linking of such criticism with racism, which is nonsense. Neither Christians or Muslims belong to one race, but are represented by all races, so any perceived link is false. And if the future is a place where criticism of religion is no longer allowed, this will I believe be the cause of conflict, and a further division of society. Freedom of expression is something, which should not lightly be given up.
I believe in freedom of speech, I got the impression some Europeans didn't hold it in high regard where others are concerned. I had no idea the numbers of immigrants were so high in France.
I think you have been misled about Christianity in America. I had this discussion with my own brother. He said we were Christian, because that was our heritage, and couldn't understand when I explained to him I wasn't. Many Americans simply use the term Christian, without understanding its meaning. They are no more Christian than you or I.
I guess we are lucky here. To be a nation of immigrants. It sounds as if the troubles of Europe are only beginning.
Hi Emile. I know I'm making a presumption here, but the "heritage" of a family line, when practiced, sometimes turns into nothing more than a ritualistic "custom". I wonder if your brother was referring to when you were baptized, as a baby. A baby does not have the wherewithal to elect such a choice, and the parents may do this for a number of reasons, not necessarily out of faith or belief - they may do this to appease the grandparents, or to honour their lineage.
If one were to sign their census (knowing that they had been baptized as a baby), they would probably have indicated their "default" type of identity, no-doubt internalized in some respect. Perhaps that can be considered as a factor in the numbers you presented?
I'm not sure about various church responsibilities to the respective governments of the nations wherein they are allowed to practice. Might this include the obligatory divulgence of identifying members on their rosters? If not, should they be constrained to do so?
I know that in the Mormon church if you have a change of heart after you are baptized a member, and then decide that you want to be stricken from their membership record, you have to submit a special request to have it so done. I do not know if, as far as the government is concerned, whether you then fall back into your family histories default identifier.
We weren't baptized as children. We had to ask to be dunked in the church I grew up in. And you're right. They kept sending me letters for years after I stopped going because I was still on their rosters. I guess they finally grew tired of wasting stamps.
I don't know about Europeans or Canadians, but I think you are on the money as far as Americans go. Just part of the heritage. Not a religious choice.
Yes, this country, the US, is too religious. The stupidity of how religion effects political policy such as gay marriage, stem cell funding, etc. The US is not number one anymore and one of the reason is how some of us still believe in these religious myths.
Japan is <2% Christian, 3% Shinto, 22% Buddhist, and 67% Atheist/Agnostic. And their homicide rate is way low.
Denmark is 28% Monotheistic in some fashion (Jewish/Christian/Muslim), 47% Agnostic, and 24% Atheist. Their homicide rates are stupid low, too.
The Netherlands is 51% Atheist, 39% Catholic/Christian, 5% Muslim, and 3% Other. Their homicide rate? It's low, yo.
What do these places have in common? Religious beliefs are in the minority, and homicide rates are much lower than ours are. I wonder if there's a correlation...
I think we would have to agree on the statistics before we could ponder your question. The site I just checked does not line up with your statements. By a long shot. With the exception of Japan.
What about the homicide rates in Canada, where the percentage of professed Christians is nearly as high as in the U.S.? Just curious.
It's very common for people to produce statistics from Scandinavia and Asia, but rarely does anyone compare different nations in North and/or South America.
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