Monday, June 06, 2005

A new AP poll shows that the U.S. is the most religious nation among several surveyed, and the one where the most people are willing to countenance clergy interference in politics: Religious Devotion High in U.S.
Religious devotion sets the United States apart from some of its closest allies. Americans profess unquestioning belief in God and are far more willing to mix faith and politics than people in other countries, AP-Ipsos polling found.

In Western Europe, where Pope Benedict XVI complains that growing secularism has left churches unfilled on Sundays, people are the least devout among the 10 countries surveyed for The Associated Press by Ipsos. Only Mexicans come close to Americans in embracing faith, the poll found. But unlike Americans, Mexicans strongly object to clergy lobbying lawmakers, in line with the nation's historical opposition to church influence....

The polling was conducted in May in the United States, Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, South Korea and Spain.

Nearly all U.S. respondents said faith is important to them and only 2 percent said they do not believe in God. Almost 40 percent said religious leaders should try to sway policymakers, notably higher than in other countries. "Our nation was founded on Judeo-Christian policies and religious leaders have an obligation to speak out on public policy, otherwise they're wimps," said David Black, a retiree from Osborne, Pa., who agreed to be interviewed after he was polled.

In contrast, 85 percent of French object to clergy activism - the strongest opposition of any nation surveyed. France has strict curbs on public religious expression and, according to the poll, 19 percent are atheists. South Korea is the only other nation with that high a percentage of nonbelievers [my suspicion is that this number may include non-theistic Buddhists who would be considered religious by other measures - RL]....

But even in Italy, home to the Catholic Church, resistance to religious engagement in politics is evident. Only three in 10 think the clergy should try to influence government decisions; a lower percentage in Spain, Germany and England said the same...

The poll found Republicans are much more likely than Democrats to think clergy should try to influence government decisions - a sign of the challenges ahead for Democrats as they attempt to reach out to more religious voters.

It seems to me that there is a direct connection between my previous posting and this poll. It would be interesting to see a more nuanced poll - who are, exactly, the 40% of Americans who think that clergy should try to sway politicians? I imagine this number doesn't include very many Jews, and probably a lot of evangelical Christians and some Catholics.

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