The religious differences between Europe and America are quite stark -- atheism is more common in Europe but among atheists a more assertive form of atheism is more common in America. Why? One possible factor is the prevalence of religious education in many European schools. Could increased religious education help increase rates of atheism and secularism?
Could it be due to the lack of Religious Education in Schools?
Not that the split in the US is clean between Atheist or Christian, but they both firmly believe the other is wrong, they know what their parents told them and they take that as fact instead of being taught to think for themselves?
In the UK, and the rest of Europe, it is normal to have a Christian, a Muslim, a Sikh, several luke warm christians, some with no religion officially, and an outspoken atheist and a Jehovahs witness in the same class for good measure (Though the JW's do not listen to the Religious Studies).
We had to learn about Christianity, Judaism, Sikhism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Atheism, Humanism, Aborigines, Native Americans, and studied their history, culture/festivals and belief ( or non-belief) systems. (2 hours a week over a 3 year period aged 11-14)
So when someone in the UK says they are an Atheist, it isn't a shock like it is to someone who has only been told "the Bible is fact, but there are crazy people out there who don't believe in the Baby Jesus and they are going to hell"
Different beliefs are much more easily accepted here in general.
Many of our politicians are luke warm Anglicans and pose no real threat to anyone's way of life, God is not generally spoken of in politics the way it is in the US, though going to Church a few Sundays before election day is an unspoken tradition
I personally agree that religion classes in public schools would be a good idea. It's reasonable to think that such classes would, at a bare minimum, have a moderating effect on religious extremism if not also religious belief. Extremism is easier to maintain when you're ignorant of what others believe.
In America, though, many parents object to such classes in public schools because the lessons have the temerity to place Christianity on the same level as all other religions. Christianity isn't treated as being more "true" or "valid" while other religions (like Wicca or Islam) are treated in an equally neutral (i.e., not negative) manner.
So while the absence of comparative religion classes may make intolerance more common, that intolerance makes the creation of comparative religion classes less likely. But are such classes really much of a factor in the differences between America and Europe? Would such classes make much of a change in America?