Links for 2005-09-29

3 replies on “Links for 2005-09-29”

Like Chris Applegate, I’m very sceptical of that religion study – if you look at the data, the clusters are very loose and the US point is often an outlier. The authors say themselves “The most theistic prosperous democracy, the U.S., is exceptional … [it] is almost always the most dysfunctional of the developing democracies”, but they haven’t really drawn in the line of increasing dysfunction and increasing religiosity – let alone shown priority for religion.

I am similarly sceptical. The problem with these surveys is that they deal with highly schematised, and often very narrow, definitions of what religion and religiosity is constituted in. For example, prominent secularisation advocate and sociologist Steve Bruce persists, even in his new books, in making statistical data about churchgoing the driving resource for his thesis. To understand the nature and role of religion in Western democracies we need to look much wider, towards the appeal of astrology and similar “superstitions”, towards the language and hermeneutics of desire and appeal, towards the semiology of films such as Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, etc., all of which contain strong religious and quasi-religious themes. I, for one, do not consider the popularity of these films to be coincidental. Looked at in this way, it becomes clear that the image of the USA as “more religious” than Europe is fragile to say the least, and may even be downright wrong.

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