Magi Mike's Blog

Another WordPress blog about politics and religion

Do Americans Flaunt Religiosity Hypocritically to Seem Worthy?

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We are always reading that Americans are religious—more religious than the people of other industrialized countries. Two in five Americans say they regularly attend church services. 90 percent of Americans say they believe in God, and over 70 percent know that God exists. The simple story obtained by believing self reported religosity was rather obviously contrasted by the empty churches in parts of many cities. Then C Kirk Hadaway, director of research at the Episcopal Church, estimated that actual church attendances for Protestants and Catholics are approximately half of those reported.

Shankar Vedantam has pointed out that asking people whether they attend church is an unreliable way of getting religious answers. Instead of asking about church attendance, it is better to ask people to describe exactly how they spent their time on a typical sunday. This way, Philip Brenner, of the University of Michigan, found that the US and Canada both over reported religious attendance. It turns out that Americans are no more religious than people in other developed countries. The tendency to exaggerate church attendance made the US and Canada seem different. Actually, Americans attended church about as often as Italians and Slovenians, and a little more than the British and Germans.

So what is different about them is that they want others to think they are more religious than they are. They are much more stereotyped, because religion in the USA is still falsely considered a measure of people’s worth. Young people today might think it more important to know how many Facebook “friends” you have—you must be a good person to have a thousand Facebook “friends”. Equally, for many Americans, you must be a good person to attend church so regularly.

In other industrialized nations in the twentieth century this notion eroded because the majority realized church attendance was too often hypocritical, not sincere, the very thing that most Americans failed to notice. Americans continued to feel obliged to show they were religious. They still fear that unless they affirm their religiosity—such as by regular church attendance—they will be seen as less of a person than otherwise. Moreover, when you are in reality a villain, you have even more incentive to beef up your church attendance record! Therein lies the hypocrisy.

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Written by mikemagee

26 May, 2011 at 12:16 am

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