America’s boring deity

by Kim on July 24, 2010

“American Protestants do not believe in God because they believe in belief. That is why we have never been able to produce an interesting atheist in America. The god most Americans say they believe in is just not interesting enough to deny. Thus the only kind of atheism that counts in America is to call in question the proposition that everyone has a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…. Americans continue to maintain a stubborn belief in a god, but the god they believe in turns out to be the American god.”

Stanley Hauerwas, “America’s God Is Dying“, in ABC Religion and Ethics, 20th July, 2010

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1

Delme 07.24.10 at 11:04 am

Very interesting and challenging quote.
Have a blessed day.
Delme

2

Richard 07.24.10 at 12:37 pm

I came within an ace of blogging this yesterday, and got distracted. It’s a great article.

3

PamBG 07.24.10 at 4:13 pm

Amen. Having moved back to the US, I think that observation is right on. The American god really hit me in the face after moving back here.

4

Allan R. Bevere 07.24.10 at 4:38 pm

So, how interesting is the U.K. God?

5

Kim 07.24.10 at 6:42 pm

Check out our atheists (the Ditchkins lot). They too are intellectually uninteresting, if, in their melodramatic spite and malice, theatrically entertaining. And the god they deny is uninteresting, but not because, as in the US, he is the deity of state, democracy, and capitalism - he is definitely not British - but because he is a straw man altogether. He is the construct god of the 18th and 19th century European rationalists, the god who is a hypothesis, reputably a humungous and powerful creature (rather like the Loch Ness Monster), yet evidentially unavailable and therefore presumed non-existent.

In fact, in the UK, unlike in the US, faith has very little purchase in public life, banished to the margins of the “spiritual”, the inward and private, where the “religious” themselves are largely happy to house him, a Jeeves who looks after my personal needs. In short, if America’s god is dying, Britain’s god is already dead.

6

Allan R. Bevere 07.24.10 at 7:50 pm

Kim,

Thanks for your response.

It doesn’t bode well for either side of the pond, does it?

7

Kim 07.24.10 at 8:15 pm

Not for the short term, no. Exile is a judgement - so beware of false prophets who cry “Revival! Revival” and predict (premature) homecoming (cf. Jeremiah 29:8-9) - we’ve got to do our time, our “seventy years” - but exile is also a blessing. Indeed, I think it’s the way in and for the world the church is called to be. Besides, as Emily Dickinson wrote:

Winter under cultivation
Is as arable as Spring.

8

PamBG 07.24.10 at 9:59 pm

And the god they deny is uninteresting, but not because, as in the US, he is the deity of state, democracy, and capitalism - he is definitely not British - but because he is a straw man altogether.

Niggle. I think that there is a vestige of The god of The British Empire still present. It briefly rears its ugly head on Remembrance Day along with some minor gods of ancestor worship. But, I agree that the British god is not quite so powerful post-Empire as the US and it is not woven into the life and history of the UK.

9

PamBG 07.24.10 at 10:00 pm

Winter under cultivation
Is as arable as Spring.

Hah! Not in Northeast Ohio!

Which might, although symbolic, be a pertinent point. :D

10

Pam 07.25.10 at 5:15 am

Ha, the Australian God is easygoing, suspicious of extremists and benign. Also likes to take a sickie now and then. :)

11

Richard 07.25.10 at 5:42 am

Cue Crocodile Dundee:
“That’s not a god. This is a god!”

12

Pam 07.25.10 at 6:27 am

Thanks, Great White Hunter.

13

dh 07.26.10 at 6:00 pm

Why the need to be drawn to “interesting atheists”? Isn’t the point of Christianity to “be able to give an answer to the hope of your calling.”? Why the need to have any atheism count? If one is a Christian then one wouldn’t find the need to “deny God”. “If you deny Me I will deny you before My Father in heaven.”

Thank God that my belief in God is not an “American God”.

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