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Eternal Salvation

The difference between politics in the USA and in Europe is often as small (or big) as one three letter word: God. In Sunday's debate on health care Rep. Dale Kildee (D - Michigan) mentioned the afterlife. "I'm not going to jeopardize my eternal salvation", he said, assuring listeners that federal money would not be used to pay for abortions and that he could vote for the bill. To many Europeans such words, especially in the context of a parliamentary debate, sound bizarre. Is this because most European countries have clear rules for the separation of church and state? Or is it because the secularization of the Old World has reached a point where people dare not even think along religious lines? Take Austria, a country rooted in Catholicism: In left leaning circles atheism is defended with a vehemence reminiscent of the fundamentalism of the Christian right in the United States. It will be interesting to see if and how things change over the next decades, as Muslim men and - hopefully - women enter politics.


Mike Diehl said…
The concept of separation of church and state is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.

However, we Americans pledge allegiance to "one nation, under God," and "In God We Trust" appears on our currency. These are but two of many examples of the blurring of that separating line.

The U.S.: Land of the paradox, home of the incongruous!
Thank you for your comment. There are some incongruities in Austria too. Here are a few:
Out of the 13 bank holidays in Austria only two are secular. The remaining eleven are Christian holidays.
There are 13 officially recognized religious societies in Austria. They may collect church contributions - commonly called church taxes - from their members. Some do (Catholics, Lutherans), others don't. Information about an individual's affiliation is recorded by the government and passed on to the religious institutions.
Officially recognized religious societies may provide religious instruction in public schools. This instruction is supported by the government financially.
The Government provides financial support to private schools run by any of the 13 officially recognized religious societies.

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