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Religious America, Secular Europe? A theme and variations

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Peter Berger, Grace Davie, and Effie Fokas
Ashgate (September 2008)

Cover of Religious America, Secular Europe? A theme and variationsEurope is a relatively secular part of the world in global terms. Why is this so? And why is the situation in Europe so different from that in the United States?

The first chapter of this book - the theme - articulates this contrast. The remaining chapters - the variations - look in turn at the historical, philosophical, institutional and sociological dimensions of these differences. Key ideas are examined in detail, among them: constitutional issues; the Enlightenment; systems of law, education and welfare; questions of class, ethnicity, gender and generation. In each chapter both the similarities and differences between the European and the American cases are carefully scrutinized. The final chapter explores the ways in which these features translate into policy on both sides of the Atlantic. This book is highly topical and relates very directly to current misunderstandings between Europe and America.

Dr Effie Fokas is director of the LSE Forum on Religion and a research fellow in the Hellenic Observatory, European Institute, LSE.

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'If you have heard Texans talking about Europe, especially France, or some Germans talking about the USA, especially its religion, you know there is a very big problem: this important book explains why.'
David Martin, London School of Economics, UK

'Once a global outlook makes evident that the secularization of Europe is rather exceptional, the old theory that explained the secularity of Europe in terms of its modernity is no longer plausible. This book turns the tables on the European theory of American exceptionalism. It is not the vibrant religiosity of America that is exceptional and requires an explanation, but rather the radical secularity of European societies. Why do Europeans believe that to be modern requires to be secular, leaving their old religion behind? The distinct voices of three prominent sociologists add up to a new interpretation of the complex European religious/secular puzzle.'
Jose Casanova, Georgetown University, USA