The Gutless Pacifist is upset at Christianity Today's coverage of Bono. I only read the main article, which is basically quite sympathetic, and includes an interesting bit about Dublin's religious atmosphere at the time Bono converted:
Bono's spirituality is more than just a reflection of antisectarianism, said Steve Stockman, a chaplain at Queens University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and author of Walk On: The Spiritual Journey of U2 (Relevant, 2001). "At the time Bono was involved with Shalom, something unique was happening in Dublin," he explains. "There was a movement of the Holy Spirit that you simply cannot deny. In some ways I think it was the Jesus Movement hit Dublin eight years late. That radical, almost hippie attitude at some level, that this is a radical thing to live in the Spirit . . . It gave Dublin something that was vibrant and exciting and trendy, almost. Bono and [Alison] were certainly caught up in the middle of that. They've never been able to get over that, no matter how their faith has changed. The roots of what they're doing now are in whatever the Spirit was doing back then."
I have been thinking of this in context of what I wrote in the previous post, about American religious vitality vs. European secularism. There have been new religious movements in Europe, but they don't seem to really take off the way they do here. I don't know enough about European culture to really know why, but it does seem to follow that if you're in a society where almost everybody at least nominally belongs to one church, it'll be harder to bring in a new one.
Some hint of that attitude, I think, can be seen in the European moves against "cults." As the State Department reported, several European countries in the last few years have fought against small religious groups working in their countries. And their ideas of what makes a "cult" are, uh, different from Americans'. As the report says: "In Belgium, the Center for Information and Advice on Harmful Sectarian Organizations collects and disseminates information on harmful sectarian groups and devises evaluative criteria to assess the risk for brainwashing, financial exploitation, and isolation from family. The Belgian list of sects includes Baptists, Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists, the Roman Catholic prelature of Opus Dei, and the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA)."
Any country that thinks the YWCA is a dangerous cult has got to be a tough place to start a new church! Although Americans have our own intolerances, of course, we seem to accept religious weirdness a lot more easily than Europeans. If it produces the occasional disaster like Jim Jones or Heaven's Gate, we accept that risk. So to reiterate my original point, I think cultural factors are influencing Europe's and Japan's secularization at least as much as wealth and education are. There's no rule that because it happened a certain way in a couple cultures, it will play out the same in all of them.