One of my former history professors and I were chatting about my future in academia during one of the coffee breaks at the conference today. He asked where I was from in the States and said, ‘Oh yes, San Antonio. The Riverwalk. I’ve been there.’ Everyone who’s visited San Antonio has. I told him that the Riverwalk had been expanded, mentioning offhand that my church used to be at the end of the Riverwalk but isn’t anymore.
‘Americans take religion much more seriously than we do,’ he said. ‘I expect that Americans find Britain to be a very godless country.’
Occasionally I speak my observations even when doing so is treading onto dangerous ground—hoping that objective truth will save me, and if not, the stereotype of the ignorant (and/or arrogant) American. I said, ‘I wonder if it has something to do with Britain having a state church. When you have to choose to have a church, you take it more seriously.’
‘Yes. It is a classic example for not to have an established religion,’ he answered.
It was time to go back into the conference room then, so I didn’t have a chance to remind him that freedom from a state church was one of the foremost reasons people crossed the terrible, wide sea to a new world.
As for whether I find it ‘very godless’—I suspect Britain is no more and no less godless than the U.S., or any other country on this earth.