On this, Charles Darwin's 200th birthday, some intelligent commentary on religious diversity is a good thing:
This is one case of a much greater rule: Large populations are wrongly stereotyped by those who are ignorant of them.
Obviously, these data only compare the importance of religion in people's lives -- they say nothing about what being highly religious means in different parts of the world and among different faiths. Nonetheless, it's fascinating to note that in terms of religiosity, Americans span a range that invites comparisons to some predominantly Muslim countries in the Middle East and tribal societies in Southern Africa, as well as to some relatively secular nations in Europe and developed East Asia. Examining regional variations within many other large countries would almost certainly uncover similar diversity.Recognition of that fact should give Americans pause when we're tempted to apply blanket generalizations to other cultures; for example, to say residents in those nations are less devout or more prone to zealotry than people in America. It should also help those outside the United States avoid applying such oversimplified judgments to Americans.
The implicit challenge for me: Recognize diversity among conservatives.
In recognition of (historical) diversity among Republicans, let me also celebrate Abe Lincoln's 200th birthday. He was a liberal for his time and resistant to fundamentalist piety, though he was not godless.
Lincoln, the first Republican president, would find himself marginalized in the party he helped to found, by the political descendants of the Southern Jeffersonians and Jacksonians whom he opposed throughout his political career and defeated in war. While today's Democrats are not necessarily the party of Lincoln, the GOP definitely is not Mr. Lincoln's party anymore.Click images for Wikimedia Commons licensing information.