I promised, in my post Why the Gods are not Winning, that I’d have more to say about this same-titled article. I was a little distracted by the media ignoring Rep. Dennis Kucinich and his Articles of Impeachment. But, hey, it’s been 36 hours and I’m ready to move on too. That’s the way we Americans are.
Early in the article, the authors state:
"It is well documented that "
"The mass loss of popular faith in the Eurocultures is often waved away as an isolated aberration in a world still infatuated with the gods. After all, who cares what the "old Europe" of
At this point I was still furiously scratching my head. Are we not modern? Of course we are! Educated? Somewhat more problematic, but we are still well educated when seen on the grand world scale. How about prosperous? Most would argue that we are, but maybe we are closing in on some key differences between The United States and other “Western style” democracies. What is it that is going on “over there” that’s maybe a little different:
"Nor is it all that surprising that faith has imploded in most of the west. Every single 1st world nation that is irreligious shares a set of distinctive attributes. These include handgun control, anti-corporal punishment and anti-bullying policies, rehabilitative rather than punitive incarceration, intensive sex education that emphasizes condom use, reduced socio-economic disparity via tax and welfare systems combined with comprehensive health care, increased leisure time that can be dedicated to family needs and stress reduction, and so forth.
"As a result the great majority enjoy long, safe, comfortable, middle class lives that they can be confident will not be lost due to factors beyond their control. It is hard to lose one's middle class status in Europe, Canada and so forth, and modern medicine is always accessible regardless of income. Nor do these egalitarians culture emphasize the attainment of immense wealth and luxury, so most folks are reasonably satisfied with what they have got. Such circumstances dramatically reduces peoples' need to believe in supernatural forces that protect them from life's calamities, help them get what they don't have, or at least make up for them with the ultimate Club Med of heaven. One of us (Zuckerman) interviewed secular Europeans and verified that the process of secularization is casual; most hardly think about the issue of God, not finding the concept relevant to their contented lives.
"The result is plain to see. Not a single advanced democracy that enjoys benign, progressive socio-economic conditions retains a high level of popular religiosity. They all go material."
OK. Now we are getting somewhere. So what the hell is the problem here in the Untied States?
"Because they are afraid and insecure. Arbitrary dismissal from a long held job, loss of health insurance followed by an extended illness, excessive debt due to the struggle to live like the wealthy; before you know it a typical American family can find itself financially ruined. Overwhelming medical bills are a leading cause of bankruptcy.
"In part to try to accumulate the wealth needed to try to prevent financial catastrophe, in part to compete in a culture of growing economic disparity with the super rich, the typical American is engaged in a Darwinian, keeping up with the Jones competition in which failure to perform to expectations further raises levels of psychological stress. It is not, therefore, surprising that most look to friendly forces from the beyond to protect them from the pitfalls of a risky American life, and if that fails compensate with a blissful eternal existence.
"The effect can be more direct. For instance, the absence of universal health care encourages the utilization of faith-based medical charities. The latter, as well intentioned as they are, cannot provide the comprehensive health services that best suppress mortality at all ages. But charities extend the reach of the churches into the secular community, enhancing their ability to influence society and politics, and retain and recruit members."
I teased this post by saying that it all has something to do with
So I think I have the answer to our problems here, though I know a lot of people won’t like it. We have to move towards a more socialist society. We can still be a capitalist society, but it can’t be simply a free-market economy. We have to veer towards what I’ll call Capitalistic Socialism. Until the under-classes are secure in all aspects of their lives, religion will thrive. We have to have a culture in which adults can expect a decent paying job (that rather than being moderately likely to lose, would be extremely unlikely that they will be fired), have themselves and their families assured that their health problems will be taken care of without lose of home, and that their children will receive a top-rank education without making other sacrifices. This is what other democracies have done and those countries are now much more free of religious influence.
We certainly aren’t likely to move in this direction with Republicans in the White House and controlling the Congress. I’m not a Democrat and I’m not saying that voting Democratic is the only way to get to where we need to be. But we have to start somewhere and we need to do it immediately. Barack Obama has made universal heath care one of his top platform issues. That would be a great place to start.