The information below is the last part of THIS ARTICLE, entitled Are Americans Generous? Shattering the myth of American stinginess. I encourage you to read that. I publish here the part religion takes in American exceptionalism and I urge you to read it.
The Religious Factor
It is simply undeniable that Europe and America are drifting apart culturally, and the drift is nowhere more evident than in the area of religious faith. The percentage of the population that has no religion (or never attends a house of worship) is higher in almost every European country than it is in America, and the percentage that goes to church every week is lower in most as well. In many cases, the differences are dramatic. For example, according to the ISSP data from 2002, a British citizen is three times as likely to be completely secular as an American (63 to 19 percent).
This divergence in religiosity may be one explanation for the huge trans-Atlantic charity gap, given what research has found about the way religious behavior affects American giving. For example, according to the Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey (a survey of about 30,000 Americans in 41 communities nationwide in the year 2000), Americans who attended their house of worship every week or more were 25 percentage points more likely to donate money to charity than secularists (people who never attended, or had no religion), and 23 points more likely to volunteer. Nor is this simply a matter of religious citizens giving to religious causes. Religious people were ten points more likely than secularists to give money to explicitly nonreligious charities and 21 points more likely to volunteer for secular causes. The value of the average religious household’s gifts to charity was more than three times higher than the average secular household’s.
This clear correlation between secularism and low rates of charity occurs across countries as well. The ISSP data tell us, for example, that 32 percent of Americans attended church regularly in 1998. The same year, 38 percent volunteered for nonreligious charities. Compare this with Germany, where 8 percent attended church and 10 percent volunteered for secular causes. Or Denmark, where 2 percent regularly attended church and 11 percent volunteered.
A precise way to compare religious participation and volunteering across nations is to look at individual citizens in each country. Holding constant the forces that are specific to each nation, as well as important sociodemographic characteristics, the relationship between religion and volunteering is quite large. For example, imagine two people from the same country who are identical with respect to age, sex, education, marital status, and income—but one is religious while the other is secular. The former will be 17 percentage points more likely than the latter to volunteer during a given year. And the impact of being both European and secular makes the difference explode. For example, take two people who are identical except that one is secular and Spanish while the other is religious and American. The secularist Spaniard will be an amazing 44 percentage points less likely to volunteer than the religious American.
In short, the most straightforward comparisons of giving and volunteering data in the United States and Europe support the stereotype of American generosity. Americans privately give and volunteer far more than Europeans do, and one likely reason for this difference is the dramatic gulf in religious participation we see opening between the United States and most of western Europe.
I am not arguing that one population—American or European—is inherently more virtuous than the other. Most of us have already made up our minds on that issue. Whatever our views, however, a full understanding of the evidence makes it clear that private charitable behavior is one way that Americans are truly exceptional.
Interesting, isn't it? Think about giving to somebody today......someone you know needs help, or a charity you believe in could use an extra $20 or more........As most of you know, Mr. Z was from Germany and he could never say enough about the generosity of Americans, whether it's taking dinner to a sick mom's family in the neighborhood or donating millions to Haiti.
(thanks, Elmer's Brother!) xx