Thursday, January 29, 2009


A great difference between Europeans and Americans is that Europeans are generally disposed to see religion more as a problem than as a solution. There are important caveats, to be sure, but the generalization holds. This is made evident in a number of ways. To take an obvious instance, there is the dramatic disparity between church attendance in Europe and the United States. In recent years, a number of scholars have challenged the claim, based on survey research of almost a century, that 40-plus percent of Americans go to church each week. Perhaps the statistics, gathered in various ways, are inflated, but the interesting question is why Americans who don’t go to church regularly claim that they do. They think they should. For most Americans, it is the normal and approved thing to do. People are sometimes better understood by what they think they should do than by what they do. In Europe, going to church is to be in a self-understood minority; it is to take a stand, even to be countercultural.

Read the rest of Richard John Neuhaus here.

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