brainwashing, waste, extreme
Catholic, God, Jesus
Christ, symbols, faith
Christianity, Judaism, Islam
church, faith
church, war, good
committment, faith, church
corruption, faith
deity, conservative, controlling
faith, internal
faith, legalism, structure
God, faith
God, life
important, G-d, community
opium, crusade, good
pervasive, fundamentalism,
spirit, asian, bible, church
the downfall of our earth

amour, tolérance, soutien, liberté de culte, intolérance, persécution,
Dieu, Amour, Paix
important, personnel, besoin, resourcement
importante, vrai, dieu grand,
intolérance, croyance, communauté, guerre
Jesus, amour, dévotion, vierge, partage, catholique, pape,
lien, force, beauté
politique, guerres, pouvoir, espérance
priere soumission
prédominante, importante, Dieu, amour, miséricorde, efforts
sacrée, interrogations, mystère
utopie, valeurs humaines, personnification, problemes, guerre
vitale pour l'épanouissement humain, éternelle


religion in America

It is true that the French seem to associate many more positive characteristics with religion than the Americans. I think it has to do with the fact that France is more religious than the United States, or so I hear. Among the people I associate with, most of them would not say religion is their primary source of hope or love. I cannot speak for all of America, though. For those people who aren't religious, the most visible effect of religion for them is the conflict that is caused, such as in the Middle East. They are rarely exposed to the positive aspects of religion. The most striking contrast between the two lists lies in the last phrase of each. While an American says religion is "the downfall of our earth", a French student claims it is vital for the eternal human blossoming"


Another observation of the difference between the two lists is that the French one has a much greater diversity of phrases, and is longer. Is this maybe because religion is a more apparent entity in France, and their is much more thought surrounding it than in the U.S.? The American responses to religion are pretty repetitive and even uninteresting, using words like "peace" and "unity" over and over again.


"peace" and "unity" are not commonly found on the religion list. I was reading the wrong list. Instead, commonly used words are "church", "God", and "faith"

negative for Americans

Note at least 9 negative words that Americans associate with religion: brainwashing, waste, extreme, war, corruption, controlling, opium, crusade, downfall...


The US has a rather large population of what I would call agnostics or perhaps "generic Christians" - people who may claim some form affiliation but either don't practice, or don't believe any of the existing religions have the right answer. To that end, religion is almost taboo, at least for some people - and thus the person who put G-d instead of God - perhaps to avoid having to write it. There are also a number of athiests, who, as mentioned by Nicholas, see nothing in religion other than the violence caused by religious bickering.


I don't think I would have expected to find "Love" in the list. While I do believe in a loving God, I'm not sure I feel that love is something that pours out from most religious groups, and, at least when I was responding to the word, I was thinking about what I think religion means here at MIT, in a more abstract manner, so left out words I felt were more specific to my faith.

Way of Life vs. Conceptual Thought

Americans seems to think of religion, and Christianity, mostly as a way of life, something structured and set in stone rather than something that you think about and apply in every day life. Conversely, the French seem to think of religion in terms of concepts, such as love, mysteries, truth, tolerance/intolerance, and though they might not practice these concepts, they seem to acknowledge that religion is much more than vehicle of human/spiritual reaction, but rather something from which fundamental truths of life may be revealed.


I am afraid I must disagree with the assesment of some of my fellow compatriots. In the US I think most people would agree with the analyses of the French students and have said the same thing. Most people in the US see religion as a very positive important thing, and not just as a way of life that leads to violence and war. In fact, in the US one cannot be elected President without invoking the name of God and making statements such as 'God Bless America' and talking about their own personal faith. Religion in the US has a very public component; it is not just contained in the private sphere. In fact, in many states in the Mid-West there is a push to teach religion and creationism in the schools. I think that we may generally be giving are French counterparts a slanted, biased view. In the intellectual, elitist, East Coast, and West Coast communities (which are all overly represented at MIT-MIT is, in fact, considered part of the intellectual elitist east coast community) what I said before does not apply as much. In these communities it is true that we tend to marginilize religion and see it as the cause of wars and violence and evil. Individuals in this community tend to be not as religious and observant as the average American. Freedom of Religion is one of are most fiercly guarded and regarded rights. Inded, the average MIT student might explain this right as the Iright not to have to be subjected to religion in the puiblic sphere. However, the average (non-intellectual elitist) American would tell you that this right is the right for everyone to have their own religion and even bring it into the public sphere. It is a question of whether we should have a Christmans Tree and Hanukah Menorah on the National Mall kduring the holidays or neither.

follow up question

My impression is that in France you would agree with the latter view. After all, haven't the numbers attending weekly church services in France and most of Europe has been on a steady decline for hundreds of years? In fact,I would classify 'freedom of religion' in France as 'freedom from religion', the freedom from having to encounter it or deal with it in the public sphere. My impression was that in France and much of Europe religion had been delegated to the private sphere and had become a private thing...which might explain why here in the US we see religion more as a way of life based on ideas and values and why you in France see it more as a concept full of ideas and values without some of the more practical implications we see here. Indeed, didn't French Prime Minister Chirac just finish chairing a blue-ribbon comittee a few months ago that was analyzing religion in the school. And, please correct me if I am mistaken, but I believe the committee's conclusion which has become law, is that France should ban (and, by now, has banned) Muslim girls from wearing hijab's in school, Christian students from wearing 'large crosses', and Jewish boys from wearing Yarmulkes/Kippas/religious hats in school. Indeed, Muslim girls and Jewish boys are required by their religion to wear these objects, yet, because Chirac and committee felt they were invading the public sphere, it was decided that they may only follow their religious law, their religious requirements, in private.

East-West Coast

While I do agree that the East/West coast is less religious than the mid-west and south, I'm not sure it's much less. I was always under the impression that there were just more extreemes in the mid-west and the south, so you hear about them more on the news.

Religion in public life

I don't want to argue about on which side of the sea the values of religion are better incorporated in everyday life. But the presence of religious (and more specifically, Christian or at least monotheistic) rhetoric in everyday politics hardly seems to make religion more "a way of life". (BTW, God Bless Our Troops.) I find it quite striking that the American responses do not contain a single example of a positive value promoted by religion, apart from very general concepts such as "faith" and "structure". Why is it that on the French side, specific Christian values appear more often than God, Jesus and Pope?

Religion in schools in France

I'm not sure I saw Chirac's move quite so harshly. I belive the harshest criticism I've seen outside of what Jonathan has said was that there are a number of Christian and Jewish schools that people can go to if they object to the new standards (and can thereby ignore the new law), and either no Muslim schools, or nearly none. I understood the problem to be that there was a problem with violence in schools related to the religion of different groups and that this new policy was intended to keep people's religious affiliations less noticable, in the hope that it will curb some of the violence - perhaps along the lines of "if everyone looks the same, there is less chance of conflict". Unfortunately, that seems to work, more times than not.

Religion as Christianity?

It seems that students from the US mostly relate religion to christianity. I'm wondering if this is also the case in France. The banning of head-scarves in schools has seemed slightly unreasonable to me... I'm wondering how students from France think about it,


Well, what I first noticed when I looked at the responses was that Americans tended to be more extreme. The French responses were much more...not exactly one-sided, but there weren't as many negative connotations with the word. I'm afraid I must disagree with Jonathan Mansfield on the religion case. I feel that, while there do seem to be a lot of people in the mid-west (and not only the mid-west) who feel really positively about religion, there is an equal number of people elsewhere who are disenchanted with it (despite the mandatory "God Bless America" which I see as more of a ritual than anything else). Thus, I can't see America as a group of people who tend to view religion in a positive way. Rather, I see America as many groups of people each with varying ideas about religion (positive AND negative).

Religion in the State

I also find the commentary by frederique d'Anjou (I'm sorry if I butchered your name) very interesting. It does seem as if the French has banished religion from public space. But it's interesting that the US has not. And while the US does not have a state religion, France is a Catholic country, no (bear with me, I could be completely wrong about this)? Then why is it that France is the one who banished religion from its public spaces when the US has not?

Religion et extremisme

En regardant tous vos commentaires, une chose me vient á l'esprit. Si en France la religion ne semble pas avoir de place dans la vie publique, je pense qu'on peut y voir un lien de cause á effet. En fait, trop souvent la religion dérive vers des extrêmes et le fait est que toutes les religions comportent en leur sein des extrémistes. Ces gens contribuent á décrédibiliser l

religion en France

je reprend un message que j'ai mis autre part mais qui a plus sa place ici :La religion aujourd'hui n'est plus du tout adapté á notre monte et a un accumulé un retard sur la progression des valeurs des gens. La religion est le fruit de l'homme qui a besoin de se sentir dominé et protégé s'est donc créé une personnalité supérieure : Dieu. Mais existe t il vraiment??? J'attend de voir pour le pour le moment je n'ai rien vu

suite et fin

Ces gens contribuent á décrédibiliser la religion. Mais en analysant la situation, on se rend compte que beaucoup de religions se basent sur un même livre saint, quelqu'il soit, mais qu'en allant plus loin, on retrouve une infinité de courants, de mouvements internes, qui en fait, sont bien loin d'unifier plusieurs personnes avec les mêmes croyances. Pourquoi alors tant de religions et de courants inter-religions ??? De plus, je crois que pour beaucoup, la religion, de part son passé, ses conséquences et son présent, repousse plus qu'elle n'attire. Pour ce qui est de la France, je crois que le banissement des signes ostentatoires a pour but d'empêcher cette dérive vers l'extrémisme. Est-ce la bonne faחon de faire ?? Je pense personnellement que l'école, l'université doivent pas être le théגtre de débats religieux ou politiques : c'est cela pour moi la laicité. Chacun a le droit de penser ce qu'il veut et d'adhérer á une religion, mais je pense que chacun a aussi le droit de ne pas subir la propagande d'autres personnes, même bien intentionnées, á l'école. En dehors, chacun a le droit de défendre ses opinions et de les faire partager, mais certaines limites n'ont pas á être atteintes. Pour répondre á Jonathan Mansfield, je tiens d'abord á dire que mr Chirac n'est pas "prime minister" : he is actually "president"!! Le premier ministre franחais est Raffarin... Enfin, je considère que cette association politique-religion, comme elle a lieu aux états-unis est révélatrice : comment nier le fait que la religion est une des premières causes de guerres (et ce, depuis des siècles...) et que cela est lié á l'intolérance, principalement religieuse. En fait, l'intolérance appelle l'intolérance, et cela est vrai dans to

Religion in Schools

While I agree with Cyril that school should not be a shrine to religion, I must say that I find the prohibition of wearing religious symbols a bit...extreme. With all the extremity in religion recently (and not so recently), doesn't it seem that extremity is at fault, not religion itself?

apology to Cyril for my grevious error...

First of all, let me give my deepest apologies for my slip of the pen. I did know that Chirac was President and not Prime Minister, but in the heat of typing, I misspoke. No insult was meant by it.


However, I do indeed deny the accusation that religion is one of the primary causes of wars and that it leads and causes intolerance. While I agree that intolerance often furthers intolerance, there is no reasonable way to say that religion is the cause.

however continues....

A parallel would be to say that computers and technology cause war as many recent wars have only been able to be fought due to advances in technology. Indeed, without advances in communication many of the recent wars would not have been able to happen. In fact, there would be no reason to go to Iraq if technology had not developed nuclear bombs. Alternatively, we might say that having men in government causes wars. After all, it is the men leading the respective countries who decide to go to war. Perhaps, we might blame it on people with brown and black hair as that I am sure could be correlated to being a characteristic of politicians who go to war. Furthermore, we should demolish all cars in the world because they lead to more deaths in car accidents then gun violence does. Obviously, these notions are absurd as is the notion that religion causes war and intolerance. Religion, like technology, is a tool (whether given by God or not). We can use it for either good or evil. I can use my computer to create a website and disseminate information and raise money for the Red Cross or I can use it to make a virus that will cause destruction and monetary harm. In the same way, I can use and abuse religion as an excuse to go to war and kill people and treat others as inferior. On the other hand I can use and utilize my religion to increase tolerance, fraternity, civility, equality, and human dignity in the world. Indeed, that is percisely the point of religion, whether you believe in God or not. The point of advancing technology is to increase the quality of human life, not to destroy it. Guns are not dangerous, people are; guns do not kill people, people kill people. It is a mistake to blame relgion or any tool for the abuses of its users; it is up to us, as people and human beings, to use and utilize tools in the proper manner

religion = tool?

I'm not sure if religion is supposed to be a tool for somebody to use.
If you compare religion to cars, computers, or weapons, you only support the view that religion is an intellectual device, whose divine authority is perfectly useful for anybody to justify their dubious actions. Religion actually claims authority over human morality and conscience. If that's a tool waiting for somebody to "use for good or evil", we should all be pretty scared.

Dear Jonathan

Concernant ton commentaire sur les technologies, j'ai du mal á te comprendre. Quand tu me dis que la technologie est la cause de la guerre en Irak, je me pose des questions. En ce qui me concerne, je ne comprends pas pourquoi tu (ou vous) "pardonne" ce mensonge á Bush ( car aucune "massive destruction weapon" n'a été trouvée á ce jour...) alors que Clinton a eu de bien plus gros soucis pour un mensonge sur sa relation avec Monica... Juste une petite question : as-tu une carte du RNA ??? Parceque ta vision du rפle des armes est assez spéciale. En ce qui concerne le dilemme "religion=cause de guerre?" je pense que le passé de toutes les religions est assez explicite pour que j'en parle. La religion a trop de liens avec la politique, et comme vous le fait remarquer, ce sont les politiciens qui prennent les décisions d'aller en guerre ou pas. Mais quand par exemple Bush demande la bénédiction de Dieu pour tuer des gens alors qu'un des premiers commandements est "tu ne tueras point", je ne comprends pas! Le prétexte de la sécurité, de la guerre pour la paix ne tient pas debout. Pendant la deuxième guerre mondiale, le pape n'a-t-il pas "béni" Hitler alors que tout le monde savait ce qu'il faisait des personnes d'autres religions (juifs...). Personnellement, je pense, pour répondre á Katherine, que l'extrémisme est indissociable de la religion, même si c'est l'oeuvre d'une minorité, et que c'est dommage...

Rectificatif pour Jonathan

Je voulais parler du NRA de Charlton Eston... I'm so sorry...

Dear Cyril

To be honest, I must admit to not being a card carrying member of the NRA (btw, it is not Charlton Heston's NRA; he is simply a leader; it is the NRA of all those who want to protect their constitutionally given right to bear arms). Indeed, I do not own any assault rifles. In fact, I do not own and have never owned a handgun or rifle. I freely admit to not being a member of the NRA but I am deeply offended and insulted by your implication that my view of the role of weapons is 'special'. I resent the implication that my belief that people should be responsible for themselves suggests that I am a member of what you obviously consider a fanatical organization. Indeed, I beleive that the point of this forum is to have a well-reasoned calm discusssion about the differences and similarities of our cultures and our respesctive societies in a tolerant open setting. I personally think that name calling and trivializing beleifs will not lead to greater understanding; in fact, it precludes Chirac's vision of a multipolar alliance.


Additionally, I do not see how you can say that Bush lied about Saddaam trying to use technology to develop weapons of mass destruction. Evidence has been found of his attempts. It seems that he did not succeed, but lack of success does not imply lack of attempts, for in this case Sadaam did indeed attempt. The presumption that Bush lied is a falsehood perpetuated by a liberal biased media. It would be nice if everyone were good but that is not always true; sometimes, it is important to stand up and fight evil. So, to answer your question I do not see what there is to forgive for. After all President Bush has brought freedom and hope to the Iraqi people. It may take months or years but I think now the Iraqis have a real chance at peace and prosperity and the chance to pursue their goals in a free and open society. Would you prefer they remain under the yoke and regime of a ruthless dictator? Would you prefer that they remain scared through the night, worried about being picked up, tortured, and murdered, and never seeing their family again? Would you prefer that they worry at night about how many family members will be seen in the morning? Worried about Saddam seeing their daughters and deciding to take them and rape them? Worried about ending up in one of the mass graves? Would you prefer that they worry about needing to fight another useless war with Iran using chemical weapons? Would you prefer that they remain quiet about injustices because there if they spoke out they and their family might be killed?


Furthermore, your comments about Clinton are inaccurate as well. He may have had problems with the American public for acting immorally with Monica and lying about it. But the truth is that this was not the cause of most of his problems. The cause was that he lied under oath. Lying under oarth is called 'perjury'. In the US this is illegal. You can go to jail if you commit this crime. He was prosecuted and impeached for this and not for lying to the American people. Even the media has not yet implied that Bush lied under oath. Are you suggesting this?

Taking Exception

I am not absolutely sure what you are saying with regards to Hitler but one way or another I take exception with your not too subtle comparison of Bush to Hitler and the US armed forces to the Nazis. In this country we fought long and hard against them; we did not surrender right away. We fought for our freedom and for your freedom as well. Today we are not just fighting for our freedom and not just fighting for the freedom of our civilization (which coincidentally includes you) but we are also fighting for the freedom of the Iraqis and Afghanis. Finally, I am not sure where you get the idea that extremisism is an integral part of religion. When is the last time you heard of Bahai terrorists? Maybe never? I have not for that matter met too many Christian or Jewish terrorists in my life either. In fact, beleive it or not, but I happen to know and have met many Muslim students at MIT. Guess how many of all the Muslims I met are terrorists and extremists. If you guessed 0 then you were right. I believe your comment is without foundation. As with politics there will always be fanatics; but to imply that it is an integral part of relgion is erroneous.

Dear dear Jonathan

Premièrement, je tiens á te dire que mes commentaires n'avaient pas pour but de te choquer ou de "t'insulter". Mon but est d'exposer mon point de vue, tout en restant ouvert á tous les points de vue. Concernant le NRA, quand j'ai dit que ta vision du rפle des armes était "spéciale", cela ne veut pas dire "fanatique" ! J'ai juste voulu dire que ta vision ne correspond pas á la mienne, dans le sens oש pour moi, le fait d'invoquer la défense ne justifie pas l'utilisation qu'on en fait. Concernant Mr Bush, je crois que cela ne sert pas á grand chose de débattre : tu as une opinion dictée par les médias américains et je pense que ton patriotisme ne te permet pas d'avoir assez de recul sur les évènements. En France, comme dans d'autres pays, nous avons une vision plus critique et sans faits avérés, sans de solides preuves et pas seulement avec des suspicions, on ne peut que condamner ces "mensonges". Tu as, de plus, une vision très optimiste sur la situation en Irak... Pourquoi Bush a-t-il mis en avant la menace sur la paix que représentait Saddam si son seul but était de libérer le peuple Irakien ? Je pense que c'est plus le pétrole qui l'intéressait que le bien être des autres... Enfin, je crois que chacun a le droit d'avoir son point de vue, et je respecte donc le tient.


Par contre, je ne suis pas d'accord avec l'interprétation que tu fais de mon commentaire. Je n'ai jamais voulu lier Hitler et Bush, Jonathan ! Mon but était de mettre en évidence les liens qui existent et qui ne peuvent être niés entre la religion, la politique et les guerres. J'ai parlé de Bush pour monter aussi ces rapprochements évidents entre politique, religion et guerres : Bush n'a-t-il pas demandé á Dieu de bénir les soldats US en guerre ? Le fameux "God bless our troups" en est la preuve. Je trouve que ce rapprochement est choquant et dangeureux. Par contre, lá oש je ne te comprends pas du tout, c'est quand tu parle du 6e commandement. Tu as l'air de connaמtre la Bible, well. Par contre, je trouve complètement déplacé ton "this prohibition refers to murdering, not to killing". Es-tu sérieux ??? It's a joke or what ?? Le commandement dans la Bible ne dit pas "Do Not Murder" mais "Do not kill" at all... Tu fais lá un abus de langage pour aller dans ton sens, en fonction de ce qui t'arrange, comme la majorité des chefs religieux. Tu dis que my "comment is without foundation", mais en ce qui te concerne, je pense que quand on essaie de tourner des textes á son avantage ou que l'on n'est pas de bonne foi, חa ne sert á rien de débattre. Toutefois, je respecte ton point de vue et je pense que la tolérance me permet de dire ce que je pense, pas ce qu'il faut que je pense.


Quand je dis que dans toutes les religions il existe des extrémistes, je ne veux pas dire qu'il existe aussi des terroristes dans toutes ces religions. Je veux donc dire que les religions comportent toutes des fanatiques, qui s'écartent de leur livre saint, et qui ont des croyances qui n'ont plus rien en commun avec ce que dit leur livre saint. N'es-tu pas d'accord ??? Toutefois, je tolère toutes les religions et les croyances, car je pense qu'il s'agit d'une liberté fondamentale. Chacun a le droit de penser ce qu'il veut, n'est-ce pas ? Pourquoi donc faire la guerre a ceux qui n'ont pas les mêmes croyances ou la même religion ? J'espère avoir ton point de vue sur la question. Je te souhaite donc une bonne journée et une bonne semaine. See you Jonathan !