Celebrating Conservative Americans
A Norwegian atheist social democrat take on the positive aspects of conservative christian Americans. What the rest of us can learn from them.
Normally I don’t write much positive about conservative America. It is not surprising given that I am an atheist and a social democrat. I strongly dislike people like Donald Trump, news like FOX, and what I see as the hypocrisy of evangelical Christians.
Yet being a critique of your ideological opponents is easy. It is much harder to be charitable towards those you fundamentally disagree with in almost every aspect of life. So today I want to challenge myself, and try to focus exclusively on the positive.
A Strong Community
I have to start with a disclaimer. I primarily know conservative America through Mormons, who are not that representative. Mormons in my view probably represent some of the best conservative people you can find.
What I remember best living among Mormon conservatives was the strong sense of community everywhere. All the neighbors seemed to know each other and were on good terms, sharing cake recipes with each other. In Norway where I am from, every family lives in a more insular fashion and doesn’t have as strong interactions with neighbors. Especially I remember the strong Mormon family ties. How the family often got together for many activities and the extended family would get together often for things like vacations.
While I am a diehard atheist who strongly dislikes religion, there is no denying that the Mormon church community was quite exceptional. When visiting church I got such a warm welcome. I could see how important it was as a social institution. How it made people bond together. At times I must confess that I wondered if religion had benefits even if it was all a lie. If religion gives people this strong community and relations, then does it matter that it is all made up?
While Mormon churches are quite unique, I have still experienced a lot of the same in other American denominations. The community may not be equally strong, but it is still there. The Norwegian religious community, at least in our old state church, does not measure up at all. In fact, there is no community. It is more like something people do on autopilot. Old habit. It doesn’t really mean anything.