Richard Posner, a Federal Appellate Court judge and a Univ. of Chicago law professor, said in his 1992 Sex and Reason that America, alone in the world, was heavily influenced by both Catholicism and Puritanism. He cited Catholicism's strict rules and lax behavior, and Puritanism's lax rules and strict behavior.
Another influence, I believe, is American capitalism's cruel "don't give a damn about the little people" attitude. Its cruelty, augmented through all of America's history by the government's favoritism to business and hostility to working people, leaves most people frightened for their future.
Yes, a few people who'd learned some self-confidence use the energy their fear creates and start small businesses. They work hard and with a bit of luck prosper.
Many people do not learn self-confidence and turn to religion. Their religions, instead of helping them overcome their fear, use it to manipulate and control them.
European capitalism is kinder--universal health care, family leave, longer vacations and more. This and their centuries of experience with religious warfare, contribute to their lack of religiosity.
BTFW, Posner said he wrote his book to educate his fellow judges. They often rule on sexual issues, yet know little more about the subject than they did when they were teens. Posner added that the appointment process, especially the extreme care taken in background checks, disadvantages nominees who have had any sexual experience outside the most traditional.
BTFW2. In 1992 Posner found homosexuality difficult to accept. Three years later, in Overcoming Law, he came around.
BTFW3. Some of Posner's fellow judges did read and learn from his book. A few years later the US Supreme Court reversed the infamous 1986 Bowers v. Hardwick ruling that the Constitutional right to privacy can be outlawed by states.
What say you? Does American capitalism cause, or contribute to, American religiosity?
Ethan, an interesting post. Thank you.
Corporatism - in New Oxford American Dict.(NOAD), the control of a state or organization by large interest groups.
That's certainly true of the US of A now, thanks in large part to the US Supreme Court's (SCOTUS) Lewis Powell, a former corporate attorney whose work brought the rights of natural persons to "paper persons" (corporations). It was true a century and a few years ago before the trusts (Rockefeller's Standard Oil, etc) were broken up, and when SCOTUS ruled newly-forming labor unions an illegal restant of trade.
Universal health care is socialism? NOAD says the word "socialism" has used to describe a variety of positions, but this stretches the definition. (Sorry, the Urban Dictionary is fun to read but here I'm relying on a more creditable dictionary.)
The religious right? Did early-1900s fundamentalism also contribute? Did the older First and Second Great Awakenings contribute?
If employee ownership, rather than Wall Street gambling addict ownership, leads to a new industrial age, a forty-hour week will indeed be history. When I was a kid unions were fighting for a forty-hour week. If they had instead fought to distribute the surplus value (the profits) to employees instead of the few owners, ...well, America's working folk weren't ready for that much democracy. Are we?
Interesting question and observations Tom. The Abrahamic religions were founded largely in response to persecution, imagined and real. In the US today, some of the most religious are descendants of slaves, Native Americans and other 'defeated' cultures such as old Dixie. Look at other large nation-states that have developed societies not so unequal as that of the US -- they generally exhibit less, or at least falling, religiosity. Much smaller weak states or tribal regions tend to be very religious, possibly because their inhabitants feel insecure and glom onto any hedge against harsh reality.
Capitalism unchecked will engender class striation that of itself can eventually become a check (Gandhi). Capitalism worshiped (Ayn Rand, Ronald Reagan, Paul Ryan et. al.) supercharges the effect to create an untouchable upper stratum. Capitalism denied (Marx) transfers nature's role of brutal balance onto the state. All of those are examples of unbalanced societies that are fertile ground for religions that play on the (most often rightly perceived) persecution complex. Cultures begin to outgrow religion when their members feel secure and fairly treated, as is becoming the case in many Scandinavian nations and a few others.