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Religion in America: Why Many Democrats and Europeans DOn't Get It

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  • Scott Atran

    ()
    (IJN - Institut Jean-Nicod - CNRS : UMR8129 - Ecole Normale Supérieure de Paris - ENS Paris - Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS))

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    Abstract

    If people vote rationally for their economic interests, one would expect Democrats to be perennial favorites among working poor and middle class, and especially so in this year of economic downturn. Why then does polling show the election a tossup? A culture's moral compass is not an innate or logical determination, but an underdetermined product of historical contingency and willful choice. Belief in moral "rightness" or "truth" is always a matter of faith rather than reason. Only some professional philosophers, jurists, scientists and academics believe that the principal point of political argument (or most any argument) is, or ought to be, truth rather than persuasion, and that an argument's principal appeal should be reason rather than passion. The fundamental social constituent of economic and political culture in the United States was neither the individual nor the state, but the sectarian community. The religious community in the USA was a civic as well as moral community, a combination which infused American economic and political culture with particular dynamism. As Darwin noted, in competition between groups with similar levels of technology and population size, those groups will tend to win out that favor and transmit willingness to sacrifice some self interest for group interests (that also promote individual interests in the long run). Religions with morally concerned deities arguably made the rise of civilization and large-scale cooperation between genetic strangers possible (historical and cross-cultural analyses of 186 societies finds that the larger the population, the more likely it has deities who are concerned with management of morality and the mitigation of selfishness).

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by HAL in its series Post-Print with number ijn_00505423.

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    Date of creation: 13 Sep 2008
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    Publication status: Published, Huffington Post, 2008, 000
    Handle: RePEc:hal:journl:ijn_00505423

    Note: View the original document on HAL open archive server: http://jeannicod.ccsd.cnrs.fr/ijn_00505423/en/
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