Protestants and Catholics: Drunken Barbarians and Mellow Romans?

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Indiana University
The United States, as a nation, has great confusion concerning drinking. It does not appear to be able to come to a consensus regarding alcohol consumption or what constitutes moderate and responsible drinking. More awareness concerning the importance of religion in shaping aptitudes toward drinking may shed light on this ambivalence. Different religious backgrounds along with differences in cultural attitudes, that originated "in the old country" among the ancestors of immigrants of many Americans today, still shape every day thinking and assumptions concerning alcohol. Numerous studies from both the United States and Europe have suggested that Protestants consume less alcohol but perceived great problems with the substance. In contrast Roman Catholics consume more alcohol but do not perceived its consumption as problematic. The reason for this may be based in the distant past as from antiquity different drinking cultures developed in the Northern and in the Mediterranean areas of Western Europe that still influence modern drinking patterns. These different drinking cultures were due to a number of factors the expansion and decline of the Roman Empire.
This Paper was originally published on Dr. Engs' academic webpage in 2000 which is not a permanent repository. The paper discusses the reasons for differences between Southern European Catholics and Nordic Protestants drinking cultures, behaviors and attitudes. Related articles on origins of drinking patterns and attitudes in western Europe from antiquity and the influences of the Roman Empire, its continued influence on modern society including American Prohibition cycles, alcohol control policies, attitudes and beverage preferences due to religion, climate, and European homeland can be found at the following IUScholarWorks links: ;;;;;;
Catholic, Protestant, history, drinking patterns, Roman Empire, Nordic, feast drinking, Mediterranean, wine drinking, alcohol control policies
Engs, Ruth C. (2000) Protestants and Catholics: Drunken Barbarians and Mellow Romans? Alcohol Research and Health History webpage, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN. Retrieved from the IUScholarWorks repository at
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This work is licensed for reuse under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial license. For permission to reuse this work for commercial purposes, please contact Dr. Ruth Engs or the IU Archives.