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What are some of the historical reasons for why certain Americans are more religious than similar Europeans? For example, there are pronounced differences in Church attendance; Extent of belief in god.

To narrow things down, let us restrict 'America' to Protestant America and 'Europe' to Protestant Europe. (I have written it this way, since historically the majority of early American settlers arriving prior to 1800 have come from the Protestant regions of Europe.)

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closed as too broad by Pieter Geerkens, Razie Mah, American Luke, Kobunite, Rajib Apr 14 '14 at 9:00

There are either too many possible answers, or good answers would be too long for this format. Please add details to narrow the answer set or to isolate an issue that can be answered in a few paragraphs.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Why the close vote? –  Jeroen K Apr 13 '14 at 22:28
This is an important question with implications for history. The common answer is colonists chose their religion, while European monarchs chose the religion of their countries. Why this has persisted is a subject of continuing research. –  Mark C. Wallace Apr 13 '14 at 23:29
@RazieMah: "Historically the majority of Americans have come from the Protestant regions of Europe." That's true of the early "settlers" (whose families came before 1800). I did my best to "patch" the question. –  Tom Au Apr 13 '14 at 23:56
@MarkC.Wallace: If the comment by you (attached) is accurate then isn't the question eminently unsuitable for the site, due to no answer possibly existing: "Why this has persisted is a subject of continuing research." –  Pieter Geerkens Apr 14 '14 at 0:59
I think this would be a good question if you left out the word "some" in the title line. I think that at a statistical level the percentage of regular church goers in the USA is higher than in Western European countries (including the Catholic countries). The reasons for this are worth discussing. –  fdb Apr 14 '14 at 9:34

1 Answer 1

traditionally, Europeans were told what to believe in, Americans came to American to believe in things of their own choosing.
Of course this is not wholly the case any more, many European countries are as religiously liberal as the US are now. But a strong monoculture exists in those countries still, with the majority of churches being of a specific denomination.

And of course at least on paper many European countries still have an "official religion", usually the one held to by their royal family.
Enforcement of these religions on the population may no longer happen, but remember that the last of the organisations like the Spanish Inquisition were disbanded only a few decades ago (though the Spanish Inquisition was officially ended in 1834, some of the laws under which it and similar organisations elsewhere operated existed well into the 20th century).
Many would flee from such things, often to the Americas. The sacrifice of doing so was high, high enough that it stands to reason that it would be those of very strong religious beliefs would be the more likely to go to the Americas rather than convert (at least in public) to the official religion of their home countries.
Leaving everything behind for an uncertain future in a rough, violent, country, rejected by your friends and family, probably with a death sentence over your head if you give up to return to Europe isn't something for the faint of heart.

And those of strong religious conviction (rather than those who are religious in order to be accepted by their society) are more likely to pass on that conviction to their children.

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@JeroenK think the UK where the Church of England is still the official religion (at least in England). In fact the king or queen is by definition head of the Church of England. In Spain the Roman Catholic church was the state religion until 1978, in Sweden until 2000. Of course there's not been enforcement of that (by the way of criminal prosecution for people adhering to other religions) for quite some time. –  jwenting Apr 14 '14 at 11:37
@JeroenK - Check on the wikipedia page on State Religon. Europe is one of essentially 3 areas of the world that still have them. However, the other two areas aren't exactly notable for their lack of belief in God, so I have to think there's something else behind this. –  T.E.D. Apr 14 '14 at 12:16
@JeroenK it isn't, and for long it's been optional and a non-religious variant has been available. A state religion would be a state requiring its citizens to be for example Roman Catholic and punishing those that aren't. The USA by the constitution doesn't have that. The wording of the phrase "so help me god" doesn't say which god, a major difference. It's not like Saudi Arabia or Iran where you are by law required to be a Muslim and can be put in jail (or even killed) if you're not. –  jwenting Apr 14 '14 at 14:22
@JeroenK You are not required to swear by God, no. Although most of the reason for this is because some Christians believe it is a violation of the Matthew 5:34. –  Razie Mah Apr 14 '14 at 18:37
I think the theory helps explain why the US is religious, but it doesn't explain why Europeans are not. I simply don't agree with the bottom up theory here. Atheism started and was promoted and many cases forced on people violently by intellectuals and elites in Europe. –  Razie Mah Apr 14 '14 at 19:01

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