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Old 02-16-2014, 11:12 AM
 
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Regarding religion's prevalence in public discourse in the United States: It's important to remember that the U.S. is a huge, diverse country of 300 million people, and standards on this vary from region to region. In large parts of the Southeastern U.S., I understand (I've never experienced it myself, but I haven't spent much time there) that it's very common to ask "what church do you go to?" of someone you've just met. But here in New England, where I live, religion isn't really discussed ever. In some parts of the country, it's impossible to get elected to political office unless you claim your entire political philosophy springs from your personal relationship with Jesus. Meanwhile, the nation's largest city, New York, just elected a new mayor who is unaffiliated with any religion, and this wasn't at all an issue during his campaign.

Minnesota, where people of Scandinavian descent are most heavily concentrated within the U.S., is another part of the country where I haven't spent a lot of time (and unfortunately so, because I like it a lot there). But my understanding is that while a lot of people may be religious there, there is in general a culture of accepting others' beliefs, or lack thereof, and not pushing yours on anyone. Of course, Minnesota is also home to Michelle Bachmann, a prominent right-wing religious conservative politician of Norwegian descent, but I think statewide she's more the exception than the rule. Her area has often been cited as the most conservative in the state.

To attempt to answer the original question, I think it does have something to do with the fact that cultures get somewhat frozen in time after a group emigrates to America. The alternative is assimilation, but insofar as a distinct culture remains, it exists in a bit of a vacuum.
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Old 02-16-2014, 11:18 AM
 
Location: State of Transition
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Originally Posted by boulevardofdef View Post
Regarding religion's prevalence in public discourse in the United States: It's important to remember that the U.S. is a huge, diverse country of 300 million people, and standards on this vary from region to region. In large parts of the Southeastern U.S., I understand (I've never experienced it myself, but I haven't spent much time there) that it's very common to ask "what church do you go to?" of someone you've just met. But here in New England, where I live, religion isn't really discussed ever. In some parts of the country, it's impossible to get elected to political office unless you claim your entire political philosophy springs from your personal relationship with Jesus. Meanwhile, the nation's largest city, New York, just elected a new mayor who is unaffiliated with any religion, and this wasn't at all an issue during his campaign.
No, it's NOT common at all! In the Bible Belt states, people who aren't religious, or who follow non-Christian religions, complain that they're often asked their religion in work and social contexts. But elsewhere, it's not acceptable at all to ask such a personal question. In liberal areas of the West Coast, most people aren't religious, anyway. The question wouldn't occur to anyone.
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Old 02-16-2014, 11:21 AM
 
Location: 59°N
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Originally Posted by ABQConvict View Post
Don't discount the fact that many of the Scandinavians who emigrated to America were among the most religiously fanatical population in the countries of their origin.
I believe most emigrated due to economic reasons. The Homested Act attracted many poor farmers. The salaries were also much higher "over there".
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Old 02-16-2014, 11:30 AM
 
Location: State of Transition
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Originally Posted by sskink View Post
As far as the current US definition of "conservative" goes, you're correct. It wasn't all that long ago that "conservative" in a political context had nothing to do with religion, only political policy. But religion was a huge talking point in JFK's (Catholic) candidacy and election and even to a certain extent Nixon's (Quaker).
I didn't know that about the Nixon candidacy, or about Nixon himself.

True, Kennedy's Catholicism was an issue. But that's different than today, where due to the (Bush-assisted) rise of fundamentalism, candidates feel pressured to declare their religiosity in general. Kennedy's Catholicism was actually a liability. In the 2nd Bush Jr. election, Kerry was compelled to demonstrate his church-going activity, which is ridiculous. And prior to Kennedy, religion hadn't been a topic in Presidential races in the 20th Century.

Hopefully this fundy madness will die down after a few years, and life can get back to normal in that respect.
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Old 02-16-2014, 12:11 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Ruth4Truth View Post
Linguistic studies show that emigre communities tend to conserve their language as it was when they left their home country, while the language back on its home turf continues to evolve and modernize. I'd bet the same holds true for culture. An immigrant community may tend to keep their culture somewhat frozen in time, while back in the "Old Country", the populace is open to change and innovation.
I've noticed this, too. Immigrant communities tend to be conservative in terms of retaining many aspects of culture, while the culture in the countries they came from evolves.
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Old 02-16-2014, 08:24 PM
 
Location: San Antonio/Houston/Tricity
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Originally Posted by strad View Post
I don't think this is true. In France I do not know anyone under the age of 35 who still believes in god (except for recent immigrants from more religious countries), and I spent some time working in Berlin and would say it was about the same.

According to Wikipedia only 18% of Swedes profess a belief in God, for example. I think religion in Europe is more of a cultural thing than a personal belief. Religion is part of our history so we may still go to mass on Christmas or take a holiday on Assumption, but I don't think many people are actually celebrating the birth of Christ or Mary going to heaven.
^^^ I think you described it very well...
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Old 02-16-2014, 08:37 PM
 
Location: State of Transition
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Originally Posted by strad View Post
I think religion in Europe is more of a cultural thing than a personal belief. Religion is part of our history so we may still go to mass on Christmas or take a holiday on Assumption, but I don't think many people are actually celebrating the birth of Christ or Mary going to heaven.
That describes it in many parts of the US, too. People celebrate Christmas not because they're Christians and believe in the divinity of Jesus (which many aren't, and don't), but because it's a holiday about goodwill towards others and provides an occasion for extended families to hold a reunion and renew their ties.

It also supports the economy, with all the purchases involved for the holiday.

What is "Assumption", btw? Do you mean Easter? That's mainly a children's holiday in the US. Some hard-core believers participate in Church rituals (Catholics, Eastern Orthodox), but for most people, it's about giving candy and painted eggs to the kiddies.
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Old 02-16-2014, 10:06 PM
 
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Originally Posted by sskink View Post
As far as the current US definition of "conservative" goes, you're correct. It wasn't all that long ago that "conservative" in a political context had nothing to do with religion, only political policy. But religion was a huge talking point in JFK's (Catholic) candidacy and election and even to a certain extent Nixon's (Quaker).

I'd agree with the point made about pretty much all of Western Europe being less religious than the US. Here's an excerpt from a recent Pew study on "values gap" difference between the US and EU:



So as was noted previously by another poster, it's not just Scandanavia, it's pretty much the entire EU, save possibly Ireland.
Even a country like Ireland has become a lot less religious.

Since 2005, the percentage of people in Ireland who describe themselves as ‘a religious person’ has declined from 69% to 47%.

Read more: Ireland abandoning religion faster than nearly every country in the world - NY Daily News
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Old 02-16-2014, 11:03 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Ruth4Truth View Post
What is "Assumption", btw? Do you mean Easter? That's mainly a children's holiday in the US. Some hard-core believers participate in Church rituals (Catholics, Eastern Orthodox), but for most people, it's about giving candy and painted eggs to the kiddies.
Assumption is in August and celebrates when Mary (the mother of Jesus) went to Heaven. It's a bank holiday in France.
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