Faith: Few strong links to national identity

Feb 7, 2017

By Bruce Stokes

In all countries except Japan, the survey asked respondents whether being Christian or Catholic (reflecting religious traditions in the countries polled) was important to national identity. Across the 13 countries where the question was asked, a median of just 15% say it is very important to be Christian in order to be a true national. Only in Greece do more than half (54%) hold this view, while in Sweden fewer than one-in-ten (7%) make a strong connection between nationality and Christianity.

Religion and the sense of being ‘truly American’

In 2014, Christians accounted for 70.6% of the U.S. population. Non-Christians and those unaffiliated with any religion totaled 28.7%.

About a third (32%) of Americans say it is very important for a person to be a Christian in order to be considered truly American. Roughly three-in-ten (31%) contend that one’s religion is not at all important.

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32 comments on “Faith: Few strong links to national identity

  • In 2014, Christians accounted for 70.6% of the U.S. population.
    Non-Christians and those unaffiliated with any religion totaled 28.7%.

    If only an atheist would run as a presidential candidate in the US, many people here would possibly change and become secular just to hear the debate. That person would not have to win, just run! An atheist would not have to run as an atheist, but if asked he/she would then say so. What would follow would be great!!

    My first choice would be Bill Maher, or someone similar who had a sense of humor but also would be very knowledgeable. That candidate would never say “God bless America.”

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  • Hello, Jeriah Knox

    “While I believe the Christians would protect the secular and freedom of religion, I can’t say the same for the secular and the atheist.”

    Is there nothing in between? Some atheists, if they were in power, would seek to abolish the freedom of religion, as there are a great many atheists out there, and they all have their own individual proclivities, are good and bad, fair, unfair, etc. And there are many Christian believers who, if given the power, would seek to marginalize atheists and deprive them of equal status as citizens, or worse. History as shown that oppression can come from anywhere, from the Left, from the Right, from believers (for sure), and from non-believers.. Right now we are facing the rise of a belligerent nationalism, and the use of religion yet again as a way of consolidating power.

    When national becomes exclusive and oppressive it becomes destructive.

    Beware of concrete thinking and generalizations. “The Christians” do not form a monolithic entity. Beware of the temptation to present predictions or judgments based on bias and feeling.

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  • Jeriah Knox #2
    Feb 8, 2017 at 12:43 pm

    While I believe the Christians would protect the secular and freedom of religion, I can’t say the same for the secular and the atheist.

    This is a strangely reversed view, considering that both Christian and Islamic sects and denominations, seek to establish theocracies which discriminate against, and impose views on, all non-holders of their own dogmas, (as illustrated by religious wars) whereas secular people defend the rights of others to hold different views and consider evidence on its merits!

    What is Secularism?

    Secularism is a principle that involves two basic propositions.

    The first is the strict separation of the state from religious institutions.

    The second is that people of different religions and beliefs are equal before the law.

    While I believe . . . . . . . .

    This illustrates the essential problem with “faith-thinking’s” blind acceptance of “believing” erroneous views without checking information, rather than views based on checked evidence and facts!

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  • Jeriah Knox #2
    Feb 8, 2017 at 12:43 pm

    While I believe the Christians would protect the secular and freedom of religion, I can’t say the same for the secular and the atheist.

    Just last night I read a section in a book titled The Challenge of Things, Thinking Through Troubled Times by A. C. Grayling. The title of the section is The Advantages of Atheist Political Leaders The ever eloquent Grayling expressed the answer to your comment so much better than I could so I’ll include most of his section as my answer to your comment through him.

    Page 82-85
    In our present uncomfortable climate of quarrels between religionists and secularists it would be a great advantage to everyone to have atheists in leading government positions. Here are the reasons why.

    Atheist leaders are not going to think they are getting messages from Beyond telling them to go to war. They will not cloak themselves in supernaturalistic justifications, as Prime Minister Tony Blair and President George W. Bush came perilously close to doing when later talking about the decision to invade Iraq in 2003.

    Atheist leaders will be sceptical about the claims of religious groups to be more important than other civil society organisations in doing good, getting public funds, meriting special privileges and exemptions from national laws, and having unelected seats in the legislature and legal protection from criticism, satire and challenge.

    Atheist leaders are going to be more sceptical about inculcating sectarian beliefs into small children separated into publicly funded faith-based schools, risking social divisiveness and possible future conflict. They will be readier to learn Northern Ireland’s bleak lesson in this regard.

    Atheist leaders will by definition be neutral between the different religious pressure groups in society, and will have no temptation not to be even-handed because of an allegiance to the outlook of just one of those groups.

    Atheist leaders are more likely to take a literally down-to-earth view of the needs, interests and circumstances of people in the here and now, and will not be influenced by the belief that present sufferings and inequalities will be compensated in some posthumous dispensation. This is not a trivial point: for most of history those lower down the social ladder have been promised a perch at the top when dead, and kept quiet thereby; and the claim that in an imperfect world one’s hopes are better fixed on the afterlife than on hopes of earthly paradise is official church doctrine.

    Atheist leaders will not be tempted to think they are the messenger of any kind of Good News from above, or the agent of any Higher Purpose on earth. Or at the very least, they will not think this literally.

    …As things stand, religious groups get a slice of the pie vastly greater than their numbers or merits truly justify. The big advantage of an atheist prime minister or head of state would be that he or she would see that fact, and act accordingly. An atheist is not going to have the lingering sense that because someone has chosen to believe one or another ancient dogma, and put on funny clothes, he is to be respected and honoured, listened to , given the public’s money to bring up other people’s children in the same beliefs, and exempted from some of the laws of the land.

    The only thing I have any confidence in when it comes to Christians in positions of power is that they will protect their own particular favorite version of dogma and all of the self-serving rights and privileges that they assume go with it and they may possibly tolerate with eye-rolling disdain the dogma of everyone else but when their numbers reach a level where they have the ability to throw their weight around politically, then we really can’t be surprised to watch them take advantage of this to impose their own private world view on the rest of us whether we want that or not. From the perspective of fundamentalists of all stripes, the sacred word of God must be followed to the letter for entrance to heaven. We must all follow that word and if someone doesn’t like that idea then they will be made to follow it anyways – for their own good.

    Now that the Christian fundamentalists have been placed in positions of political power here in the US by Trump & co. we will unfortunately get to see what they will do with this power. It’s not a mystery what they want to do. They state their intentions and I have no reason to believe that they won’t try to implement them.

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  • It would be a mistake for any atheist president to attack any religion or even all religions equally. The best strategy would be to strengthen laws that protect secular people from any growing theocracy or theocratic based indoctrination of children as might occur under the influence of Secretary Devos. An atheist leader would simply use his/her influence to promote freedom of thought without the delusionary threats of a so called “afterlife” in “heaven” or “hell.”

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  • To LaurieB #6:

    I’m not sure I agree with this quote:

    Atheist leaders will by definition be neutral between the different religious pressure groups in society, and will have no temptation not
    to be even-handed because of an allegiance to the outlook of just one
    of those groups.

    There are some religions that drive to impose their absolute dogma on everyone else with threats of excommunication, torture or even death. I would hope an atheist president would oppose such atrocities.

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  • cbrown

    The quote you’ve presented in #8 was by Grayling and not by me. (Just to clarify).

    I’m trying to put myself in the place of an atheist President or PM right now. What I think Grayling is getting at is that to an atheist in a pluralistic society, one delusional fairy tale is as ridiculous as the next. How would I favor one fairy tale over another? But the different religious groups do act up at different times and one can be worse than the other with its bad behavior. Here in the States we have bad actions by Christians, Jews and Muslims. (We probably have no shortage of atheist idiots too). As an atheist leader, I hope I would give no special privilege to any when it comes to applying the law. Also, no especially harsh treatment to those who believe in religious dogma that I wasn’t raised with.

    No special privilege and no special persecution. Why? Because they’re all a bunch of bunkum and I don’t want to hear about it!

    Have I understood your point well enough?

    Hey, don’t be a stranger around here. It’s turning into a sausage fest. 🙁

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  • I have no religion, and at times I wish all religions at the bottom of
    the sea. He is a weak ruler who needs religion to uphold his
    government; it is as if he would catch his people in a trap. My people
    are going to learn the principles of democracy, the dictates of truth
    and the teachings of science. Superstition must go. Let them worship
    as they will; every man can follow his own conscience, provided it
    does not interfere with sane reason or bid him against the liberty of
    his fellow-men.ürk

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  • I am truly perplexed. I cannot for the life of me figure out what it is that the conservatives in America want. I do not think it is a theocracy. I don’t think that Republicans like Cruz and Pence and the rest of them can possibly think that they are leading the kind of life that Jesus (whoever that was) advocated. The literary character called Jesus was a profound critic of wealth. He never tires of pointing out that you are not supposed to be all that wealthy. He also hated war, by the way. Republicans (and Christian Democrats, the neocons among them) have waged many unjust wars, which have cost us the lives of countless innocent people.

    American conservative Christians – and I mean the ones that hold public office and not the private citizens – are as absurd as they are insufferable and destructive; their lives are completely inconsistent with the model that Jesus (their God) established. If I were a religious man I would say that the American conservative movement is Satanic.

    Steve Bannon, a true American psychopath, wants to “deconstruct the administrative state”, to get rid of all financial regulations, and all taxes for the wealthy – and he is a believer, a Christian. He is no more extreme than the others, just more aggressive and driven. He says what the others think.

    Someday maybe I will understand these madmen, what their modus operandi is. Perhaps they are all simply deranged, literally deranged. Perhaps that’s a piece of the puzzle: perhaps we are dealing with psychopathy, mental illness. (I’ve heard Republicans say that about the Democrats; so be it; what can one do?)

    Right now I feel nothing but contempt, profound resentment, and confusion.

    Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me.

    Proverbs 30:8

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  • Laurie #11

    Its happening as we speak.

    But here we have an athiest leader who put together a system to protect his aims, in the form of the army to watch the government who in turn watches the army and religion who watch each other. So what do we have to do to get a system that works. Was the failure due to religion, the army or because they are Turks and haven’t got the ability to govern themselves (remembering an empire preceded!). Should he have dismantled religion all together, as Jeriah fears an atheist leader would do? To me, it does not matter who the leader is but a good stable system is needed and, most importantly, a friendlier and good intentioned world. As long as the leader is of sound mind and can surround himself with the right experts then the system should take care of the rest. I think, if Ataturk did not have to unite the rabble of people left in the newly formed Turkey, he would have sent national identity to the bottom of the sea with religion.

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  • Forgot to mention that the common consensus (from the inner language of atheism) is that anyone who believes in fairies is not of sound mind and should be disqualified from the start. That cannot be true if we use the sliding scale of all things. But……that moment of Bush and Blair wrestling naked in front of a Whitehouse open fire, working themselves up into a frenzy to send the whole world into turmoil and then blaming an invisible god…is kind of scary.

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  • Olgun

    Interesting questions. Maybe my husband and a few other Algerian intellectuals are right when they wish for a benevolent dictator to appear on the horizon. Group wistful sigh….

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  • LaurieB #15
    Mar 23, 2017 at 11:22 am

    Maybe my husband and a few other Algerian intellectuals are right when they wish for a benevolent dictator to appear on the horizon.

    Well the PR. statements from their propaganda ministries and pet media, usually portray them as benevolent dictators!
    People who make public contra-statements, or expose government lies, tend to disappear in such regimes!

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  • A4d

    haha. Yes that’s true. A resourceful strongman who makes it to the top in these fascist regimes has a low probability of turning into a benevolent humanist leader. Contradiction in terms. But is that what Ataturk was or not?

    Realizing that I need to read a biography of Ataturk and answer my own question!

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  • Laurie #15

    If I am to be honest, the inner me wishes the same. I do think its a cop out though. I posted Ataturk as an example of the past, another time, but am more interested in the system.

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  • Laurie

    As Alan says, the trappings come with it I am afraid.

    I enjoyed; Ataturk, The Birth Of A Nation/Patrick Kinross

    but…If you want to get in the mood first, Birds Without Wings is excellent. It really sets the scene for whats to follow.

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  • Olgun

    its a cop out though

    Yes! Definitely! I want everything to be fine and dandy with none of the hard work necessary for this to happen 😉 Every time someone says – Oh…if only a benevolent dictator would show up and fix everything… or Oh…if only I could be elected benevolent dictator, the first thing I’d do is….!! This is when others snort and jeer of course. It’s sad though because outside of the magical solution of the B. dictator, we don’t know how else N. Africa and now maybe Turkey can ever break free of the corruption of the government and massive harm of the fundamentalists.

    Since you insisted…heh…the first thing I’d do is…pull the rug out from under the mosques. I’d actually send a fleet of heavy construction equipment to crush them into dust, making sure no person was in them at the time. (ethical solution as usual). Cities and large towns will be allowed to keep their large old historic mosques. I have a soft spot for ancient old big arks that are half rotten to bits. That’s it. No public money will given to the mosques or their employees. Not a single fucking dinar!!!

    That’s my first task.

    If you want to get in the mood first

    Oh yes, Olgun. That’s a given. 😉

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  • @OP- About a third (32%) of Americans say it is very important for a person to be a Christian in order to be considered truly American.

    Perhaps they slept through the history lessons on the native tribes of the Americas! – Or just looked through their bias blinkers as usual!

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  • I wouldn’t give a rat’s furry behind what any leader believed about any topic. Belief is the asshole of personality. If your entire personality is what you “believe” then you are an asshole. Also, belief is an asshole because everyone has one and they all stink.

    Here’s the deal. The __________________ in charge and their ___________ assistants (fill in the blank with word of your choice) are no worries to any of us as LONG AS THEY GOVERN THROUGH RATIONAL THOUGHT AND MAKE DECISIONS BASED ON EVIDENCE AND DATA DRIVEN CONCLUSIONS.

    I simply do not care (and it is none of my business) about what you believe until YOU make your existence (and mine) about what you”believe”. Leave that shit at the door and we are fine. Bring it in and start beating people with it and we have a problem.

    Clearly, right now we have a problem.

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  • Benevolent dictator. Kind of like Plato’s “enlightened ruler” (Republic). It has some theoretical meaning; but, finally, it could never work in practice. Plato’s Republic is, in my opinion, his worst dialogue – although there is a lot in there. But the idea of a ruler that somehow knows what’s best for everyone suggests to me a very static and rigid, and dreary conception of what constitutes a healthy state and individual.

    His logic is frightening. Reason, it seems to me, can be as much an enemy of the passions as the passions can be to reason.

    (I haven’t read the Republic in years. My apologies to Plato if I failed to represent his political vision adequately.)

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  • Dan

    it could never work in practice.

    I won’t even attempt to argue that and when people wish for the benevolent dictator I assume it’s with the picture of the current disaster of their own particular country juxtaposed with the country as they ideally imagine it could and should be. When the chasm is immense in this picture then that’s when the fantasy of the b.d. floats to the front of the mind. I must admit that I’m having a few of those fantasies myself these days.

    For example:
    Breaking news!!! Huge asteroid wipes out the entire capital city of Washington D.C. and all of it’s conservative politicians! The horror! Luckily Bernie Sanders has survived and taken control of the government, declaring himself to be the interim benevolent dictator. As his first act of emergency governance he has declared…

    disclaimer – I never want that to really happen. It’s a fantasy. Absolutely unbecoming. Fantasies can be dark (as every one of us already knows).


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  • Olgun

    “but he has done a lot for Turkey”!


    I hate that! It’s cowardly. While trying to keep in mind that people who say these things may be ignorant of the facts and have no good tools to sort out right from wrong and true from false, I really have a hard time maintaining my patience with them!

    More of the same:

    Religion does some really good things

    The Bible has some good parts too

    Bill O’Riley comes off as a blowhard but deep down he’s a really good person

    Trump isn’t a perfect person but he’ll fix America’s problems.

    My answer (now with steam coming out of my ears) Hey, right! and Hitler made the trains run on time!!

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  • A coerced morality isn’t worth the fatty tissue it is embedded in.

    Benign dictators are dictators and coerce, albeit sweetly.

    My fantasy is that two black holes collapse into each other and generate extremely high energy photons, One intersects with Jeff Bezos’ brain and unblocks his psychopathic short circuit. He sees the light and his $80bn fortune and all future Amazon profits are channelled into superb education for all under eights in the USA. This intellectual inoculation of children, softening indoctrination by fundamentalist parents, is all that is needed to return the USA from its path to theocracy to one of increasing decency and compassion.

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  • Damn. Now I have to deliver. Pressure!!

    The point is though that its all doable, apart from the black hole and the aiming thing.

    We have to change minds and this is best achieved before they are made up.

    Changing young minds to maximise their own adult free-choices is both ethical and sufficient.

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  • Phil

    Now I have to deliver.

    Ahhhh, Feels good to be off the hook.

    ~sits back sipping fine wine and pondering fluffy clouds~

    Changing young minds to maximise their own adult free-choices is both ethical and sufficient.

    Yes, this is the only plan we can count on.

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