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The Most Religious Nation?

by Christopher A. Ferrara
December 30, 2009

According to the Baltimore Sun (December 16, 2009), a worldwide survey by Religion Monitor found “the United States is the most religious nation in the industrialized world.” But the survey does not address the central question: What exactly is meant by “religious”?

If by “religious” is meant having some notion of some sort of God, and some idea that after death there is some sort of happy place where one can expect to go, so long as one is some sort of decent fellow, then no doubt America would qualify statistically as “the most religious nation in the industrialized world.”

According to the survey, “85 percent of Americans believe in God and life after death, 80 percent pray regularly, and 75 percent attend religious services or visit a place of worship, with half going at least once a week.”

Sounds impressive, but at the level of such “details” as morality and divine revelation, the vaunted American religiosity would no doubt be revealed, to put it mildly, as rather superficial.

How about such moral questions as: Do you believe that God forbids divorce and remarriage? Do you believe that contraception is immoral? Do you believe that abortion is always murder?

How about such questions of divine revelation as: Did Christ found one true Church for the salvation of souls? Is there one true religion? Is there an infallible teaching authority to guide men in matters of faith or morals? Did Christ establish seven sacraments as the ordinary means of obtaining saving grace, without which one cannot be saved?

One doubts that a survey of “the most religious nation in the industrialized world” would produce a positive response to the stated moral questions from anything even remotely approaching 85 percent of the population, or even a majority. For it is well known that the majority of the American population approves of divorce, contraception, and even abortion at least in some “hard cases.”

As for the questions pertaining to revelation, I would be surprised if even one percent of the population of “the most religious nation in the industrialized world” answered in the affirmative. But then, Christ came to earth precisely to proclaim that the answer to all of these questions is a resounding Yes.

“The most religious nation in the industrialized world” has in fact rejected the very core of the Gospel — just as the philosophes of the so-called Enlightenment envisioned in their relentless propaganda for a “reasonable” Christianity that did away with the Church, the priesthood and the sacraments. Or what is the same thing, the abolition of the Christian religion itself.

What, then, is the meaning of the term “religious” in a society that condones obvious violations of the Ten Commandments and does not believe in the Gospel as Christ preached it? “Religious” means whatever the people wish it to mean. Which is nothing other than the Protestant principle of private judgment in action.

But the picture is more complicated than that. Here are some data from another survey of “the most religious nation in the industrialized world.” It seems that, according to a Harris poll reported by Reuters on November 29, 2007, “Born-again Christians are more likely to believe in the traditional elements of Christianity than are Catholics or Protestants. For example, 95 percent believe in miracles, compared to 87 percent and 89 percent among Catholics and Protestants.”

No poll is necessary to confirm that finding for me. Some forty years after the close of Vatican II, which was supposed to mark the beginning of a “great renewal” of the Church, it is perfectly obvious that the average Catholic is more liberal than the most conservative Protestants on issue after issue. As Ignatius Press reports, Barack Obama “captured 53% of the Catholic vote, a 13-point swing from 2004 and the largest advantage among the group for a Democrat since Bill Clinton.” Need one say more?

Then again, even the most “conservative” evangelical Protestants, who overwhelmingly voted against Obama — something like 3-to-1 against him — also overwhelmingly condone contraception, divorce and “hard case” abortions. So, of course, does an overwhelming majority of Catholics.

In sum, if America is “the most religious nation in the industrialized world,” then the “industrialized world” — along with the rest of the world — is doomed.

That is precisely what Our Lady of Fatima was trying to tell us when She spoke of a coming annihilation of “various nations.”