by Dr. Stefanie Claudia Müller, Grace Galino, Victoria Vallejo, Madrid
In the current presidential election campaign, God and religion play a very important role. It doesn’t make Americans more obedient, it just brings Christianity to life. In the worldwide fight against terrorism, religion plays the main role. The conflict with the Muslim world has made the religious space in the American’s public life stronger, even if the number of Christians slightly decreases. Around 40% are Protestants according to the US-Market Research Institute Pewresearch. 21% are Catholics.
Trust in God helps Americans to go through their daily life
According to surveys, the longing to religion increases due to the growing uncertainty of Americans insecurities about terrorism. The actual presidential election campaign this fall will also be affected by religious values. In a survey done by PewResearchCentre it shows that for the majority of US-voters it is important that the next president believes in God. The US government preaches the same thing Arab countries preach: God is the only one we can trust. On the Dollar-Bills, in public schools and in politics the church is always present.
The phrases: “In God we trust” and “God bless America” shape the national consciousness of Americans and also the pride in their currency and their presidents. It doesn’t really have to do with Christian spirituality, but it keeps the American believes alive.
The religious range is very wide, there’s many different protestant and catholic church movements. For American psychologist Nigel Barber, it also has to do with the fact that Americans don’t feel protected by the state, unlike Europeans : “There is barely any social benefits and our population density is very low. A lot of people live in very lonely areas, religion gives us a feeling of security, it brings us together.”
Religion is everywhere, while in Europe it is absolutely a private thing
Every small town of 1000 residents has at least five different churches: “There is always something for everybody’, says Daniel Arenas, lecturer at the Spanish Business School Esade in Barcelona. The Americans have , in his opinion , a ” light version ” of the Christian religions , where everyone , even other faiths , can find their place. “This also explains their success as a nation and as a country of the 1000 opportunities”, says Arenas.
Even though popular TV-preachers don’t tend to manipulate the audience, there are sects in the USA that take advantage of people’s believes and fears and also American TV shows Jesus as a pop-star. The majority of the people questioned in surveys explain that religion is very important in their lives. Such numbers are only seen in developing countries (see graphic). In Germany, it’s only a little bit above 20% of the population who are so involved with their believes.
Christians lose importance, according to the graphics, in absolute terms in the USA, but the country is not less religious than a few years ago, because the space for spirituality in everyday life is not tied to a church , it is filled by a mix of values that do not necessarily have to do with Christianity such as the right of self-defence with weapons , a strong sense of ownership , strong competition and elitism , but also neighbourhood solidarity and a strong sense of community.
In America religion is more vivid than in Europe
Arenas says: “I wish European churches would be more active in the everyday life especially in the economy”. The Spanish economist has worked on the report ” Believers in the Boardroom “, which was published by the Jesuit Esade 2012. His conclusion: ” In the United States there are no barriers between stock market, church and entrepreneurs. This is positive. Priests speak with CEOs and advise investors. Methodists and American Catholics put their money only where it suits their beliefs”, says Arenas.
Also the 21 year-old US-student Meghan Morris, does not see a conflict between capitalism and Christianity. She wants to study journalism. Already when she was 8 years old she started reading the Wall Street Journal: “Being a good person should also be a part of a good curriculum” The very ambitious American, studying journalism at a Boston elite university, says: “Spirituality drives me forward in my career.”
American Christianity is less abstract than in Europe
The omnipresence of religion in American life, similar to the situation in islamic countries, causes the American youth to research the US organization Child Trends is much more active in the community. Voluntary and neighbourly support is for many part of their education.
The young and very open-minded family Painter from Illinois is an example of this. They live with their seven children , five of them are adopted and two even hindered and they are an example of an everyday Christian family. Before the meals they pray, they show solidarity by helping neighbours, doing community work and Sundays are church days.
The Painters are Baptists. They are modern, accept exchange students from Europe and they do not try to impose their faith . Every Sunday they go to church for 30 minutes to find in their spiritual peace. Jeremy, the father, conducts the choir, while their own children sing. The food is brought from home, and you eat together with the other believers : “For us, faith is like food , we need it every day and we try to implement our values every day . Not only once a week when going to the mass. ”
But as in Europe the US suffers a lack of interest in religion among youngsters
In the US young and active Christians are getting less and less each time. According to the study “The American Freshman” religious activity has reached a historic minimum on campus. Including denominational universities suffer from this trend. Nevertheless, Spirituality is still higher than in many other Western democracies.
Although the number of atheists increases in the US and the Christian activity at universities decreases, it is surprising, that after a survey done by the American Research Institute Child Trends among 3290 adolescents aged 13 to 17 years, 84 percent said they believe in God. 50 percent of those surveyed even admitted that their everyday decisions are influenced by their faith. A survey of an 18 year old US student, Sami Lindberg, below 100 teens of the same age at her high school in Galva , Illinois, is surprised from a European perspective.
Lindberg’s conclusion: “There are more and more classmates , that put the Christians beliefs and God in question, particularly when they get older , because they have no evidence of its existence . But more than 30 percent of the interviewed by me express that they believe in God and practice the Christian religion thouroughly.”
Europe lacks Christian actions in everyday life
In contrast, Catholic Spain belongs, according to the study by Child Trends, to those countries where the everyday life of young people is still influenced by religion. In Europe, the only places where this is different are Poland and Italy. Although there are many religious schools in Spain, only 10 percent of the surveyed said that religion is important in their lives. In Germany it was even less.
Alvaro Bernat previously belonged to them too. He is an exchange student in Illinois. The half German half Spanish student is living with the Painters in Bradford with a population of 800 people for a year . A few times the 17 year old has gone with the Painters to the Baptist church: “A four hour mass is a little too much for me.” The teenager from Madrid is an atheist, but one thing he has learned from his American host family is that: “There are no prayers that are said uselessly, everything is sincere . I don’t care what their religion is, but their concept of life is exemplary. Everything I have learned from them, will help me in my future professional and social life.”