Well this is (once again) from the viewpoint from one from Europe, specifically the Netherlands.

During the 50s and 60s we had a very strict religious "pillars" in society, where one only interacts with their own pillar and follow the religious views to the letter.

Now in the late 60/early 70s due to influence from the US the hippie movement also bursted here. One of the big effects were breaking of said "pillars" where different people actually started going to the same shops etc.

Now this "movement" actually continued to this day, and we can still see the effect in a constant reduction of people going to the church or considering themselves religious: this is hence a direct consequence of the hippie movement.

Now considering the hippie movement was way stronger in the US, with some amazing protests and speeches, I wonder: how come the US in modern day is still so religious. And actually getting more religious nowadays.

Where did the people of said movement stay, and what happened with the change in morals introduced during the 60s?

  • 4
    You are attributing to a general trend (secularization of modern first world countries) a very specific cause (the hippie movement of the 1960's). Can you back that up? Otherwise it's just noise in the question. A better question (or more solid rewording of this one) might be "why is secularization proceeding much more slowly in the US than in Europe"? Preferably with a link to evidence (shouldn't be hard) that such is in fact the case. Commented Feb 15, 2019 at 13:49
  • @JaredSmith while it is difficult to find a causal proof, there is definitely a correlation, while I find these in Dutch (I have a hard time finding them in US paper though, which is what also correlates to me asking this question): maatschappijleer3.wordpress.com/culturele-veranderingen nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ontzuiling - you can see those two (protest culture and seculirisation share a lot of the same things, and spawned at exactly same time, both effects are considered a cause for the other as specifieid in the first link). -- Translation has to wait till afterhours.
    – paul23
    Commented Feb 15, 2019 at 13:55
  • @paul23 please edit the link into the question, (along with a loose translation of some relevant bits, since it's in Dutch). I don't know that I agree with the premise that the hippies brought about the downfall of Christianity, but asking about a source making that claim is a little more specific. Commented Feb 15, 2019 at 13:57
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    "And actually getting more religious nowadays." This is just flat out factually untrue by pretty much every conceivable measure. The U.S. is more non-religious than it has ever been and has fewer people attending church. Mainline Protestantism and white Catholicism are in demographic free fall, and Millennials are much less religious than older generations - the younger you are the less religious you are likely to be. The U.S. did secularize later than Europe, but it has definitely moved in that direction.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Feb 15, 2019 at 23:18

4 Answers 4


Hippies in the U.S. were always a small segment of the population who got a lot of media coverage.

Many of them grew up, sold out, and joined the system they claimed to reject or oppose, and many of them just had some fun times with the hippie lifestyle and then got on with their lives. Source

The 'morals' of the hippie movement still remain, like relaxed attitudes toward drug use, promiscuity, vaguely New Age spiritual inclinations, rejecting social convention on general principle, and distrust for 'the establishment'.

It's also important to remember that the hippie scene injured a lot of people, and people were glad when the whole thing was over.

People liked the free love, but sexually transmitted diseases tore through the population, and many children were born out of wedlock to mothers more interested in the hippie lifestyle than building a family for their children.

Drugs claimed victim after victim, leaving many young people permanently injured or dead. Source

With increased drug use came increased crime and violence.

Many Americans despised the hippies for a variety of reasons, like...

Hippies' association with the Charles Manson murders. One of the Manson Family, a woman called Squeaky Fromme, attempted to assassinate President Gerald Ford. Source

Hippies' prominent role in protesting the Vietnam War, including their role in the disgusting abuse heaped on many returning soldiers. The hippies, because of the way they dressed, were very visible even though they were not the majority of the people doing this.

Greene reprinted 81 letters detailing Vietnam veterans being spat upon in the first section of Homecoming. The persons described as assailing the veterans came from a wide spectrum of American society. Assailants of the veterans are variously described as "a woman about forty", "middle-aged lady", "youngster", "college types", "group of people", "sweet little old lady", "well groomed little old lady", "rude couple", and "teenagers"—as well as "hippies" and "flower children". The veterans assaulted were not just ordinary soldiers; they ran the gamut of military occupations, including such noncombatants as a surgeon, a dentist, a West Point cadet, and a Catholic priest. In one case, a passerby remarked that a soldier who had been killed in action deserved to die. Reported locales did not just include airports, but bus stations and ordinary street settings; in one case, the spitting occurred in New Zealand. In several cases, the spat-upon veteran related minor retaliation upon his assailant, although most vets avoided such.[9] [Source]4 This kind of abuse still continues today though thankfully much reduced, and it has happened to contemporary veterans I personally know.

Many Americans viewed this as an utter betrayal by a bunch of drugged out losers.

These negative effects of the hippie movement are a contributing factor to the majority of the American population ignoring it and turning away from it once many hippies got older.

This article provides a very good overview of what the hippies were about and what happened to them.

Here is another interesting article about where the hippie movement may have come from.

Meanwhile, in the early months of 1965, an astounding number of musicians, singers and songwriters suddenly moved to a geographically and socially isolated community known as Laurel Canyon in Los Angeles. Within months, the “hippie/flower child” movement started in Laurel Canyon and began to protest the Vietnam War.3 This article will show that this so-called peace movement was likely controlled by the same military/intelligence community that instigated the Vietnam War.

Link to the article


Regarding secularization:

The hippie movement in the United States was not a secularizing movement. It included and promoted many alternative spiritualities to mainstream American Protestant Christianity and Catholicism. These alternative spiritualities included Hinduism, New Age, Gaia, Hare Krishna, Astrology, Bhuddism, many cults like Jim Jones and the People's Temple, and even hippie Jesus movements.

The 1960s counterculture also contained a decidedly spiritual dimension that attracted a great deal of hippie interest. The movement incorporated meditation, the occult, Native American spirituality and Eastern forms of religion such as Zen Buddhism and the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (“the Hare Krishnas”). Source

The secularizing influences in the United States came from the education system, the legal system, and the media, not the hippie movement.

Americans are generally more individualistic than Europeans, so the social forces which discouraged religious participation in Europe were accepted or rejected by millions of individual Americans. The United States is also a very large country geographically, so many regions remained spiritually engaged and community social dynamics worked toward maintaining religious participation.

The United States also experienced periodic spiritual awakenings and revivals throughout its history, and this is part of the cultural fabric of the nation. Source

The Great Awakening, 1734-43. In December 1734, the first revival of historic significance broke out in Northampton, Massachusetts.

The Second Great Awakening, 1800-1840. By 1850 the nation's population exploded fourfold to 23,000,000 people, but those connected to evangelical churches grew nearly tenfold from 7% to 13% of the population--from 350,000 to 3,000,000 church members!

The Businessmen's Revival of 1857-1858. Revivals broke out everywhere in 1857, spreading throughout the United States and world. Sometimes called The Great Prayer Meeting Revival, an estimated 1,000,000 people were added to America's church rolls, and as many as 1,000,000 of the 4,000,000 existing church members also converted.

The Civil War Revival, 1861-1865. At the start of the Civil War in 1861, it seemed as though the soldiers for both sides had left their Christianity at home and gone morally berserk. By 1862, the tide turned, first among the Confederate forces. An estimated 300,000 soldiers were converted, evenly divided between the Southern and Northern Armies.

The Urban Revivals, 1875-1885. In 1875, Moody returned home and began revivals in America's biggest cities. Hundreds of thousands were converted and millions were inspired by the greatest soul winner of his generation.

The Revivals of 1905-1906. Billy Sunday, who became a key figure about this time, preached to more than 100,000,000 people with an estimated 1,000,000 or more conversions.

The Azusa Street Revival, 1906. The resulting Pentecostal Movement and the later Charismatic Movement, which both exploded worldwide in the twentieth century both trace their roots to this revival.

The Post-World War II Awakening. After World War II, in 1947 and 1948, Pentecostals experienced two strands of an awakening, one the Latter Rain Revival and the other the Healing Revival. An estimated 180,000,000 people attended Billy Graham's nearly 400 crusades, and millions more viewed on television.

The Charismatic Renewal and Jesus Movement. During the late 1960s and early 1970s more revivals of national scope developed. The first strand was the Charismatic Renewal which spread far beyond Pentecostal and Holiness churches to college campuses, the Catholic Church, and mainline denominations.34 The second strand, the widely publicized Jesus Movement, emphasized turning from drugs, sex, and radical politics to taking the Bible at face value and finding Jesus Christ as personal Savior.

The Mid-1990s Revivals. Despite the widespread secularization of society since the Cultural Revolution that began in the late 1960s, in the mid-1990s God once again brought a series of revivals, mostly to Charismatic and Pentecostal groups.

As you can see, the United States has experienced major religious revivals periodically, almost in every generation. These revivals have refreshed the religious participation of Americans, and the devastation of WW1 and WW2 did not fall upon the United States the way it fell on Europe. Therefore, Americans' religious faith didn't suffer from experiencing the horrors of WW1 and WW2, as did the faith of many Europeans.

The difference between American religious participation and European religious participation has nothing to do with hippies.

  • This (like all other answers) fails to show why the facts here have let to a difference between the US and europe.
    – paul23
    Commented Feb 14, 2019 at 21:22
  • His question was "Where did the people of said movement stay, and what happened with the change in morals introduced during the 60s?" I answered the question.
    – TheLeopard
    Commented Feb 15, 2019 at 0:57
  • @paul23: Is there a real difference between US and Europe, other than the political alliance of old-style conservatism and the "religious right"?
    – jamesqf
    Commented Feb 15, 2019 at 5:21
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    @paul23 I think this answers the question exactly. The question in the title was "Why is has the US not “followed through” with secularisation after the hippie movement?" In the body the question was "how come the US in modern day is still so religious?" He also covered "Where did the people of said movement stay, and what happened with the change in morals introduced during the 60s?" What else are you looking for?
    – RWW
    Commented Feb 15, 2019 at 14:51
  • 1
    @RWW Well what the big difference is then between europe and the US. Europe was highly religious in the wake of the second world war.
    – paul23
    Commented Feb 15, 2019 at 15:10

The United States is a big BIG country. While the 'hippie' movement was certainly notable and highly recognizable, there was still an overwhelmingly large percentage of the population that was completely unnaffected by it and probably didn't really take notice, no matter how prevalent it might have been in the media of the day. Also, there were many other important movements going in the United States at the time, many having nothing directly to with the hippie movement. Some of those were religious movements. And there was a notable widespread backlash to the hippie movement, and that backlash exists to this day.

Perhaps The Netherlands was more susceptible because of its smaller size and population, perhaps. But I do wonder if your proposed correlation, "...reduction of people going to the church or considering themselves religious: this is hence a direct consequence of the hippie movement", is really valid. I suspect that there are a lot more factors to religious practice in The Netherlands than the long-since passed hippie movement.

  • 1
    That correlation I said is something historians have very often cited. While I lack the ability to directly find any reputable source it is something that is so often said here that it is considered "common knowledge". But while the Netherlands can be small, it happened in all of US-influence part of europe. (This is stark contrast with the sovjet influenced part of europe where one can see increase in religious importance now).
    – paul23
    Commented Feb 14, 2019 at 17:21
  • 1
    Also the whole "there are many opinions" in a country is a non-argument: as that means discussion is impossible. And it also doesn't show why one region does something and another does not. (In other countries the same also holds true, so the question then becomes why has country A a critical mass and B not).
    – paul23
    Commented Feb 14, 2019 at 18:17
  • @paul23, I'm not sure what the "there are many opinions" argument is. Would you mind elaborating on that a bit? Thanks.
    – ouflak
    Commented Feb 14, 2019 at 19:51
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    Correlation is not causation. You could likewise argue that the legalization of contraception caused man to go to the Moon, because they happened in the same decade. But that would be silly.
    – user15103
    Commented Feb 15, 2019 at 23:19

The US overall is not really all that religious. For instance, only 20-40% (depending on who you ask) of the population attends church regularly: https://news.gallup.com/opinion/polling-matters/242015/church-leaders-declining-religious-service-attendance.aspx https://churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-articles/139575-7-startling-facts-an-up-close-look-at-church-attendance-in-america.html It also varies considerably by region, with the south and midwest being much more religious than the west or northeast: https://blog.capterra.com/church-attendance-by-state-how-does-your-state-stack-up/

You may be confusing religion in everyday life with (lip service to) religion in politics. This is something that dates back to the Reagan era, and the (unholy, IMHO) alliance between political/economic conservatism of the Barry Goldwater sort, and the social/religious conservatism of the "religious right". Neither one could reliably win elections on its own, but together they could. Unfortunately, this means that all but the most popular of the political/economic conservatives must show public support for, or at least not display open opposition to, the policies of the religious right. So if you're trying to judge the whole country by the speeches of people who want to be (re-)elected to public office, you're getting a misleading impression.

  • Define irony: using the term "unholy" as objection to religious influence. (also, that imho was the only thing preventing me from upvoting and otherwise excellent answer, fwiw)
    – user4012
    Commented Feb 15, 2019 at 16:42
  • @user4012: Well, what's holy or unholy really depends on your particular religion, doesn't it? Since I am not a Christian, I tend to think of anything promoting the more fundamentalist aspects of Christianity as unholy. Just as I dare say a number of Christians think Satanic displays are unholy, e.g. usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2018/12/06/…
    – jamesqf
    Commented Feb 15, 2019 at 19:14
  • 3
    The U.S. is still more religious than almost all other developed countries in the world, with Ireland a close runner up.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Feb 15, 2019 at 23:21
  • "dates back to the Reagan era". Actually, it dates back to the Nixon era, when the latter decided to pick Spiro Agnew as his VP to win the Southern and Mid-Western states. Picture a neocon ultra-christian Trump, and that's basically Agnew in a nutshell. MSNBC did a great podcast on the chap a while back: msnbc.com/bagman Commented Feb 27, 2019 at 11:35
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    "The U.S. is still more religious than almost all other developed countries in the world, with Ireland a close runner up. " Are Italy, Poland, and Portugal not developed countries? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Importance_of_religion_by_country
    – John
    Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 18:26

I'm not sure that this question can be answered in the normally accepted manner for Politics.SE because it's going to be hard to find correct citiations. First of all, the United States as a whole, has not had a culture of "very strict religious "pillars" in society, where one only interacts with their own pillar and follow the religious views to the letter." There are certainly individuals like that, even small communities. But that doesn't reflect reflect our society in general. The practice of "different people actually started going to the same shops etc" has always existed here (at least, regarding different religious groups). Also, because of our history we take a different view of religion than other countries, both secular and non-secular.

It should also be noted that the hippie movement here wasn't neccessarily anti-religion, although it did tend to be anti-organized-religion. Additionally, while you could probably find hippies anywhere, they were mostly concentrated in certain parts of New York City and San Francisco, which are 2,555 mi (4,113 km) apart. That leaves a lot of space in between to not be affected by them.

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