God and Country: Religion, Religiosity, and National Identity in American Public Opinion
39 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2009 Last revised: 4 Sep 2009
Date Written: 2009
Despite the absence of a state religion, American today remains a more religious country – as measured by both belief and church attendance – than any advanced democracy. Religiosity is a central element of American national identity, a point made by a number of historical and contemporary analysts who have remarked on the country’s self-concept as a “city on a hill.” The relationships between religious and national identities, however, are less well-explored. Based on this literature as well as social identity theory and the “threat” hypothesis, we use public national public opinion data to address the following questions: first, how important is “Christianity” as a criterion for measuring up as a “true” American? Second, where do Americans stand on this question relative to citizens in other advanced democracies? Third, how does Christianity as a marker of inclusion or exclusion relate to other significant traits defining “American-ness”? Fourth, how do respondents’ religious denomination and level of religiosity influence how they conceive of the “true” American? Fifth, what are the consequences, in terms of other attitudes related to immigration and diversity, of a more highly religious conception of American national identity? Finally, have these dynamics changed over time in response to the heightened perceived threat from Muslims in the post 9/11 world?
Keywords: American politics, national identity, religion, religiosity, public opinion
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