President Bush got the mandate he wanted from the American people. What some Europeans fear is that he will interpret it as a message from God.
"He's convinced he's right, and he's almost got this feeling he has a quasi-divine mission to fill as the president of the United States," said the Rev. Michel Kubler, executive religion editor for La Croix, a Roman Catholic newspaper in France.
"His reelection will only reinforce these convictions, and he'll feel infallible," Kubler added, reflecting the views of a number of European analysts. "Which of course will only increase European disquiet."
A transatlantic divide has existed for years between increasingly secular Europe and religious America, shaping perceptions on issues ranging from abortion and stem cell research to the death penalty, same-sex marriage and conflicts in the Middle East. As the results of the U.S. election sink in, the early consensus among European religious and political thinkers is that the religion gap is likely to widen.
Eleven states in the United States passed constitutional amendments outlawing same-sex marriages, yet much of Europe is heading in the opposite direction. In the four years since Bush took office, the Netherlands and Belgium legalized such marriages. Spain is expected to follow suit next year. Finland, Germany and Denmark have passed laws that stop short of marriage but grant far-reaching rights to gay couples.
Stem cell research, restricted in the United States under the Bush administration, is blossoming in British and Swedish laboratories, although the European Union is split on the matter.
Abortion rights and death penalty bans, hotly contested in the United States, are undisputed facts of life in much of Western Europe.
Underlying the policy differences are starkly different views on what role faith and morality should play in public life. In an increasingly secular Europe, where church attendance is plummeting, the short answer is: little or none.
"We Europeans live in a very secularized society, especially in France," said Andre Kaspi, a U.S. history professor at the Sorbonne in Paris. "Europeans don't understand just how deep an influence religion has in American public life."
Just how little organized religion factors into public life here is underscored by the failure of the Vatican and other advocates to get any mention of religion or faith inserted into Europe's new constitution. And by France's controversial ban of students wearing head scarves and other religious symbols in public schools, a prohibition that passed easily despite objections by many Muslims.
European religious groups carry nowhere near the political clout of America's evangelicals, who emerged as a powerful force in Bush's reelection campaign and in shaping the Republican agenda.
Once-mighty Christian political parties now are in the opposition in Spain, Belgium and Germany. And few European politicians publicly discuss their religious or moral convictions.
Those who do speak at their peril. Remarks about homosexuality and women sparked outrage in Europe last week, costing Italy's Roman Catholic candidate, Rocco Buttiglioni, a spot on the European Commission.
"The Buttiglioni furor, and the very negative reaction he got, is clear evidence of the move toward secular politics in Europe," said Daniel Keohane, senior analyst at the Center for European Reform, a London think tank. "It's not that most Europeans have a problem with religion per se. It's more whether they suspect religion affects a politician's choice on policy."
Bush's victory is another reminder that the United States has a far more faith-conscious electorate.
"Religion is not pushed to the margins of public life in America, the way it's been in Europe," said Joseph Loconte, William E. Simon Fellow in Religion and a Free Society at the Heritage Foundation.
A CNN exit poll Tuesday reported that 8 percent of voters, almost all Bush supporters, cited religious faith as the most important quality in a president. Nearly a quarter of voters considered moral values the most important issue affecting their decision.
The response to religious candidates is radically different in Europe, said Pierre Hassner, an expert on transatlantic relations at the Center for International Studies and Research in Paris. Europeans massively preferred Democratic challenger John F. Kerry, an old-world-style Roman Catholic, to America's born-again president. What Bush referred to as "flip-flopping" by Kerry would be called pragmatism in Europe, Hassner said.
"Bush looks like a preacher to many Europeans, and Kerry like a lawyer -- somebody able to adapt to a situation, not be stubborn," he said. "The majority of Europeans prefer the lawyer."