Religiosity and the US

This graph comes from an Atlantic Monthly article And The Winner Is... (March 2008). The article has an extensive discussion of the various faiths around the world and how they are gaining or losing adherents. But the graph itself was very telling to me:

Last October, the Pew Global Attitudes Project plotted 44 countries according to per capita gross domestic product and intensity of religious belief, gauged by the responses to several questions about faith (a rendition of the Pew data appears on the opposite page). The pattern, as seen in the Pew study and a number of other sources, is hard to miss: when God and Mammon collide, Mammon usually wins.

Of course, you will note that the United States stands out pretty far from the remaining pattern, and substantially more religious than comparably wealthy nations:

Talk about an outlier—there on the Pew chart it stands, nearly alone, as the only country in the world, apart from Kuwait, that is both wealthy and religious. Americans are not only more religious than Europeans; they are more religious than the citizens of some Latin American countries. If proof is needed that religion will remain a dominant force in history for a long time to come, the fact that the world’s most affluent society is also well up among the faithful would seem to provide it. When the president says that his decision to invade another country was influenced by a call from God, or when school boards decide to include creationism in their curriculum, it appears safe to conclude that Americans are not living in the world envisioned by Marx or Freud.

Explains why, as an agnostic, I have generally felt out of step with the general tone and attitudes of this country. Also, it jibes well with the wag that the US is "just a very rich Third World country." Perhaps it is also why I felt a bit more at home while living in Canada (also supporting the contention that Canada is a bit more like Europe than the US).

I wonder what the graph would look like if they divided up the country by region--e.g, the North vs. South, Blue States vs. Red States, or coasts vs. heartland. Or is it far more blended than one would think--for instance, see the "blended" cartograms towards the bottom of this page recording the 2004 election.


At 6:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh mi god that is fabulous. Thank you - great graph! - Daniele

At 9:07 AM, Anonymous Perlick said...

What's crazy about that graph to me is not just the U.S. religiosity, but also that the U.S. leads the pack in per capita GDP by 25%. That's crazy when you consider that the US has the third highest population in the world. On the list of countries by population, the only other "developed" country in the top 10 is Japan at #10 (and only Germany and France appears in spots 11-20). And despite having that many people, America is still dominating the per capita GDP. Admittedly, that's an average rather than a median, so it's skewed by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, but still.


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