- Published on Saturday, 19 November 2011 06:26
- Written by John Draper
- Hits: 1831
Americans ARE different to Europeans; they may both be "western" but it might be better to think of Americans as simply American and not the same as other westerners. That's what a new Pew research poll shows. Looking at the numbers overall, I would describe the difference as being that Americans have a much stronger belief in being master of their own destiny while simultaneously having a much stronger belief that God is important. To me that's contradictory. How can you control your life if you have to worry about what a god might say? An answer that might be given is that following "God's will" results in more success. But "following" is not self-managing - someone else (god or his minister) is managing you.
But let's look at some numbers:
First, Americans strongly believe that they can control their own success in life and you could probably assume that this means they are more entrepreneurial. You'd also think that without that, you are unlikely to succeed. Yet Germany has had great economic success and they believe the opposite. Looks like simply believing you can manage your success is not the factor. Americans also believe much more than Europeans that religion is important in their lives - that is, it is a factor that effects their day-to-day life. This also cannot be a factor because Germany and Britain are almost as successful as Americans yet think religion is not important. There is no surprise in a similar split in thinking about the necessity for a God to make you moral. Europeans know that's nonsense but almost half of Americans are living under a delusion.
So do Americans have other delusions? Do they perhaps think that their way is best and are therefore intolerant of other values? Well not really - they are about the same as Germans and Spaniards although half of Americans do think they are the best. One surprise is France - they are often described as arrogant and very defensive of their culture but they are surprisingly open to the thought that other cultures may have advantages.
But are Americans team players? One measure would be whether they ask the U.N. to approve any international military action. I'm not personally in favour of the U.N. since it is dominated by dysfunctional middle east and African dictators but it does provide a forum to judge international reaction. If the U.N. does not approve, you better be ready to "take on the World" as only the U.S. military could.
Well maybe Americans are more patriotic? You'd think that patriotic people would put their country ahead of their parson, priest or minister. But maybe that's not right - let's face it, Islam integrates religion with politics so if asked a question "What's more important, Islam or your country", most of them would answer "Islam is more important". And that's what Americans do: they put their Christianity about equal with their country - just like fanatical Muslims. Does that mean if the Pope told Catholics (about 35% of Americans) to vote against Obama then they would? I don't think so. But it does mean that they will toe the line on such heinous sins (they say so anyway) as homosexuality and abortions. The good news is that the Church also says it's a heinous (mortal) sin to miss Mass on Sundays and 80% ignore that. So maybe they don't really mean that their religion is as important as their country. But look at the graph - unlike Americans, Europeans put their country first.
It is clear that Americans have a very different attitude to religion than Europeans but not all Americans think the same - how do their views divide?
As you'd expect, women are more religious and so are older people. What's not clear on that is whether that means younger people are better thinkers or whether they become more religious as they age.
Although education tends to favour a more secular view, it's not a major factor.
But Ideology is important. Conservative/ Republican/ right wing are much more religious than Liberal/ Democrat/ left people.
So what can we conclude from all this?
- Americans cannot be thought of as a New World version of Europe.
- Americans think religion is more important than Europeans - I would describe them as Christian fanatics in the same way as Middle eastern countries are Islam fanatics. Not true of everyone - but certainly a tendency.
- Compared to Europeans, Americans are not team players - they like to "go it alone". Again a generalization which is not true of everyone but true of many.