The globally recognized phenomenon of American religiosity has been a bugbear of the political and cultural left since the country’s founding. Many seem convinced that the United States is a great country despite its overwhelming religiosity and deep-seated Judeo-Christian roots, unwilling to entertain the possibility that America’s greatness may indeed be due, in no small part, to that spirit.
A recent article in Salon bears the provocative title “One Nation Without God: Why a Post-religious America is upon Us.” The author, Lynn Stuart Parramore, breathlessly describes how the “yoke of fundamentalism is loosening,” being replaced by liberal-minded “nones,” three-quarters of whom “favor same-sex marriage and legal abortion.” If only the U.S. could look a little more like Denmark, the world would be a much better place.
The Pew Research Center has documented the rise in recent years of the religiously unaffiliated in America—popularly known as the “nones.” Though of course religious affiliation and religious spirit are not the same thing, as many of the religiously unaffiliated believe in God and even pray regularly, cultural liberals have been quick to see in the recent trend a sign of a promethean rebellion against God, and the fulfillment of their dream of a godless America.
The America of their reveries, however, bears little resemblance to the nation that actually exists, where a full three-quarters of the population identify themselves as Christian and two out of three say God is “very important in their personal lives.”
Beginning in 1831, the prominent French statesman and historian Alexis de Tocqueville extensively toured the United States and was struck by America’s religious spirit more than by any other facet of the society.
Tocqueville went on to write a two-part work, called Democracy in America, which has been described as “the most comprehensive and penetrating analysis of the relationship between character and society in America that has ever been written.” He became completely convinced that America’s deep religiosity was the key to its unique place in the world.
Upon my arrival in the United States the religious aspect of the country was the first thing that struck my attention; and the longer I stayed there, the more I perceived the great political consequences resulting from this new state of things. In France I had almost always seen the spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom marching in opposite directions. But in America I found they were intimately united and that they reigned in common over the same country.
Generally, Parramore is something of a doomsday prophet who sees Americans going to hell in a handbasket, becoming more paranoid, traumatized, and economically unstable. In the midst of these negative trends, however, the one ray of hope she finds is the growth in the religiously unaffiliated. So what if Americans are losing their grip on reality, as long as they can slough off God in the process?
In the school of the late Christopher Hitchens, who would blithely lump “religions” together as if one was pretty much the same as another, Parramore rejects all religions equally. Like all good liberals, Parramore refuses to mention Islam by name, referring instead to “fire-breathing religion” that is figuring prominently in global conflicts. She does, however, mention Christianity by name, placing it side-by-side with global terrorists as if ISIS could just as easily be a Christian sect.
Parramore notes that the rise of nones is principally a coastal phenomenon, with the highest percentages predictably in states like Oregon, Washington, and New Hampshire. She also recognizes that while the unaffiliated have grown most in absolute numbers, percentage-wise the growth of Evangelicals is higher still.
John Lennon’s vision of a world without countries, religion, heaven, or hell is still just a creature of the left’s collective imagination. For all its flaws, the United States remains a nation firmly grounded in religious belief and practice.
There is no country in the world where the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America, and there can be no greater proof of its utility and of its conformity to human nature than that its influence is powerfully felt over the most enlightened and free nation of the earth.
Amen to that.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter at @tdwilliamsrome.