Some thoughts regarding religion and national perspective.....
I am currently working on my Master's degree in Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature in Performance and am taking a class called "Shakespeare's History." It's basically an English History class that focuses on the reign of Henry VIII though James I. Currently I am writing a research paper on the populous' reaction to Queen Mary's attempt to bring Catholicism back to the country. For those of you who are not familiar with the religious reforms of the English Renaissance, here they are in a nutshell: it is illegal not to be catholic in England until Henry VIII declares himself head of the English church (as apposed to the Pope) and then it becomes illegal to be catholic, over the years he and his son Edward VI make England look more protestant (close the monasteries, allow priests to marry, do away with many of the sacraments, etc), Mary I takes the throne and declares England Catholic again and burns about 300 people at the stake for being Protestant, Mary dies six years later and Elizabeth makes it illegal to be Catholic again. All this while, all citizens were required by law to give 10% of their earnings to the church which, by the 1530s, went straight to the crown. Hmm.
Let me make this clear: I'm not English--I'm American. But it seems to me that with this history of religious confusion and blatant government use of religion as a political tool, that it would be really easy for an English person to be cynical toward religion. It's no wonder church numbers are dropping there.
The history of America is a little different, but the stooge that is in the White House now is bringing us closer to the English Renaissance model. America was founded on religious freedom, and although the "founding fathers" based much of their law on Christian morals, this country would not exist without the notion that people can worship as they choose. So it's no wonder the USA is a much more religious country than England. Granted, George W isn't helping my theory, but you get the idea.
Interestingly, this group seems to represent a microcosm of what I'm talking about. The most vehement supporters of religion are Americans, while the most vehement opposer of religion (I'm talking about you micklawson) is English. Just an observation.
So anyway, what I'm getting down to is that so many of our own thoughts about religion are tainted by where we come from. Just a thought. Any agreements/disagreements?