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Face the facts: America is an Incorrigibly Christian nation

January 10, 2009

I used to grind my teeth at the fact that people in America tend to be socially conservative. (Then again, my entire life in the U.S. has been in the Bible Belt — oops.) It does seem intuitive to think that, in general, America is a more rightward thinking nation. I mean, looking at evolution belief statistics between America and the other nations shows a divide (not suggesting that you have to disbelieve in evolution to be socially conservative).

I cringe when I hear that people don’t “trust” atheists. When people say, “How can you believe in nothing? There’s definitely something suspicious about it.” So, as much as I wanted (and perhaps still want) an America that was more secular, I realized that we just…don’t have that cut out for us.

what is this i dont even...wear glasses

what is this i don't even...wear glasses

Anyway, I wanted to feel erudite and super smart, but I didn’t have my smart people glasses, so I started reading blogs and magazine articles that make me feel smarter (or…on the converse, make me feel incredibly stupid because I don’t understand — or even worse, am utterly uninterested by — the ideas contained within. Really, the worst part about Ulysses is not its utter unreadability…but the fact you feel guilty because you don’t want to trudge through it :p)

I don’t want to bore you with my complete discovery process, but I found an entry at First Things — I guess you should know that its founder and editor-in-chief, Richard Neuhaus, recently died.

Ok, so I admit that I wanted to read that particular article because I heard that some old Catholic dude was going to rip Mormonism to shreds. And really, this guy wasn’t just any old Catholic dude…this was the guy who made theoconservatism cool (and, by extension, made the bed in which the Evangelicals and Mormons have been wallowing over homosexuality and Proposition 8 [take that mental visual imagery!].)

I think the article was good, filling, and not too negative (although Neuhaus comes to the conclusion that the church misses some fundamental parts of the Christian tradition…he opens that it could possibly come into this tradition in the future)…but then I realized that that link had more than one article on it. And one was an article entitled “Incorrigibly Christian America II.” (Scroll down the page or ctrl+f for it or something).

Here were some highlights I found from it:

Last month we took up the subject of how America is incorrigibly “Christian America,” and what we should make of that fact. In one of his earlier books, Unsecular Man, sociologist Andrew Greeley did an imaginative historical reconstruction of on-the-ground Christian belief and practice in thirteenth-century Europe, the so-called “age of faith.” He makes a plausible case that practice was at least as lax and belief at least as confused as is the case today. He goes so far as to suggest that, by comparison, ours might more aptly be called the age of faith.

…it has to do with the ways in which America is confusedly Christian. In perfectly good faith, people tell the interviewers that they are Methodist or Baptist or Roman Catholic or Lutheran, sensing no inconsistency with their interest in the esoteric or occult doctrines of New Age spiritualities… Religion is understood as that which “meets my needs,” and for many people, if not most, clear thinking is not high on their list of felt needs.

To say that something or someone is “incorrigible” is usually not a compliment. It suggests that they are not capable of amendment, that they are unruly or out of control. In saying that America is incorrigibly Christian, I intend to suggest precisely that. I certainly do not mean that everything that goes under the label of Christianity is authentically Christian. What constitutes authentic or orthodox Christianity is, of course, a much controverted subject, and has been from the beginning.

…Some sociologists of religion have also referred to American Shinto, meaning a culturally pervasive but doctrinally indeterminate religiosity similar to Shintoism in Japan.

This is a more nuanced view, I think, that makes me feel just a tad bit better. I won’t feel so bad about Christians yelling at me when I know that deep down inside, they are becoming more theologically confused and lax too.


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  1. I agree there is something in the American mix that just loves its Jesus, even if its the Jesus lite so popular in the northeast and California. America will grow gradually more secular of course, I look forward to the Atheists coming forward and becoming a powerful voting block and political lobby, something I anticipate will happen in the next 10 years or so. ?But it will take a powerful, powerful disillusionment played out over the course decades to cramp American’s Christian style. It could happen, but I’m not counting on it.

  2. I just don’t see the US as becoming European in its secularism…so I’d agree that it would take a powerful, powerful disillusionment to cramp America’s Christian style. The kind of secularism that I think will develop in America will be the kind of christian-in-name-only thing that has already started to creep in, where people slowly let unorthodox (but more accepting and open) ideas mingle with the tradition of Christianity.

    Whether this will give atheists a powerful voting bloc, I dunno about that. It still has a bad reputation in the country.

  3. I guess all CHRISTIANS can pay federal taxes for the rest of us then!

    I have HAD IT. I refuse to comply with our government in ANY way until my loved ones and I are EQUAL. Taxes? Jury Duty? F-that. Not until I am treated with the SAME respect and given the SAME civil law access that others have.

    We need to STOP acting UN-equal. NOW.

    Here’s my personal message for the White House:

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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  2. Christianists are bad. Good thing Mormons aren’t a part of them. « Irresistible (Dis)Grace
  3. And now, back from my fuming depression… « Irresistible (Dis)Grace
  4. A Response to Dave’s Mormon Inquiry on Mormonism as a Symbol « Irresistible (Dis)Grace

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