Monday, September 6, 2010
In response to my post, just below, about religiosity and G.D.P., Lew Daly -- author of, among other things, "God and the Welfare State" (here), writes:
The US is far less of a religious outlier among advanced countries if one takes into account our "existential security" deficit, as political scientists Pippa Norris and Ronald Inglehart argue.
I reviewed the book where they advanced this theory here:
Here is an excerpt from the review, describing their thesis, which they posit as a critical advance beyond the rationalist and functionalist theories of secularization advanced by Weber and Durkheim respectively:
"They argue that the varied decline and persistence of religion in the world today is most strongly correlated with differing levels of "existential security."
Essentially, religion persists where people bear high levels of risk due to inequality, poverty, and inadequate social provision by the state. Conversely, more equal, less impoverished societies, especially those with comprehensive welfare provisions, have become increasingly secular by every relevant measure. The authors' complex regression analyses show these correlations to be very robust across more than seventy countries-agrarian, industrial, and postindustrial."
In the U.S. case, the evidence shows that our welfare exceptionalism--with higher levels of poverty, violence, inequality, and private risk--goes a long way toward explaining our religious exceptionalism.
Hmmmm. Is this an argument in favor of our welfare exceptionalism? That it helps religion to "persist"? (I kid, I kid. Sort of.) Or (more seriously), are there things that a political community could / should learn from the findings Daly relates about how public-welfare and other (one hopes) existential-anxiety-reducing policies can be designed so as to avoid bringing about, as well, a reduction in public religiosity (assuming one thinks, as I do, that public religiosity is not necessarily something we should want to wane).