Presentation of self in America
Americans tell pollsters they’re religious as all getout, very very very religious, as religious as it’s possible to be. But they’re not.
Beyond the polls, social scientists have conducted more rigorous analyses of religious behavior. Rather than ask people how often they attend church, the better studies measure what people actually do. The results are surprising. Americans are hardly more religious than people living in other industrialized countries. Yet they consistently—and more or less uniquely—want others to believe they are more religious than they really are.
Oh yes? Well if that’s true, it’s yet another reason gnu atheism is a useful and helpful thing. As gnu atheism spreads and seeps into the broader culture, people will begin to grasp that there’s really no good reason to want others to believe one is more religious than one actually is.
Religion in America seems tied up with questions of identity in ways that are not the case in other industrialized countries. When you ask Americans about their religious beliefs, it’s like asking them whether they are good people, or asking whether they are patriots…Asking people how often they attend church elicits answers about their identity—who people think they are or feel they ought to be, rather than what they actually believe and do.
There again. Gnu atheism, by being gnu – outspoken, movement-like, shared, popular – will free some people to stop feeling they ought to be religious. It will make that option more available to a lot of people. There are atheists who think that believers’ desire to cling to their beliefs should trump items like that option, but I think those atheists are wrong.