Saturday, October 16, 2004
One Reason Europeans Think We're Nuts
In the final weeks of the presidential campaign, much to the shock and awe of the intellectual elites, the race has come around to religion. Both candidates touched on their faith in Wednesday night's debate - the subject they believe will tip swing voters in their direction.
Mind you, the goal is not for each candidate to distance himself from faith, as it might happen in many secular democracies. Rather, the candidate seeks to show he takes religion seriously.
The overwhelming majority of American voters place a high priority on religious concerns in their private lives; they want to vote for candidates who share that sensibility.
This is why Europeans, who care little about religion, think we are crazy. Three in four Americans consider themselves to be active Christians (compared with 13 percent who consider themselves nonreligious or secular), half of whom are active in a house of worship on a weekly basis.
In Western Europe, while 80 percent express some belief in God, only half give this belief high importance. Only one in five is active in a church.
Is there something going on that contradicts the spirit of separating church and state? Paradoxically, the emphasis on the faith of the candidates grows out of this sense of separation. Just because something is not required by law does not mean it is not hugely important in our lives.