However, Pew researchers find Christianity across 15 countries is “not just a ‘nominal’ identity devoid of practical importance.”

Religiously unaffiliated Americans are, unsurprisingly, less likely than their Christian countrymen to attend church regularly or say religion is important in their lives. However, on several common measures, “nones” in the United States exhibit nearly equal levels of spirituality as self-identifying Christians in Western Europe.

A new study by the Pew Research Center, surveying more than 24,000 individuals across 15 countries in Western Europe on their religious beliefs and practices, reveal striking disconnects between Western Christians across the Atlantic.

Equally striking is how similarly religious nones in the United States and Christians in Western Europe match up:

  • Only 27 percent of American nones say they believe in God with absolute certainty; only 23 percent of Western European Christians say the same.
  • Only 13 percent of American nones say religion is “very important” in their lives; only 14 percent of Western European Christians say the same.
  • Only 20 percent of American nones say they pray daily; only 18 percent of Western European Christians say the same.

“By some of these standard measures of religious commitment,” stated Pew researchers, “American ‘nones’ are as religious as—or even more religious than—Christians in several European countries, including France, Germany and the UK.”

How can it be that self-identifying Christians in Europe describe less religious behavior than Americans who don’t claim any religious affiliation at all?

Part of the key to understanding this riddle may lie in semantics: What do people mean when they identify as Christian?

About 7 out of 10 Western Europeans call themselves Christians (according to the median …

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