The American nation was built as a Christian society consisting of mainly Protestants and Roman Catholics. However, as the melting pot brought together people from different countries and cultures, religious landscape has altered significantly. Today, there are many different congregations including Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Jewish, and so on (Alper & Sandstrom, 2016). Christians, in turn, are divided into several large denominations, such as the Catholic Church, Southern Baptist Church, United Methodist Church, the Church of God in Christ, and many others. Although Americans have always been considered a religious nation, recent studies show that the society becomes less religious (Kuruvilla, 2015). In this short essay, I aim to provide a brief overview of religion in America and discuss current trends and changes in this sphere.
It is a well-known fact that the Pilgrims came to America in search of religious freedom (Davis, 2010). Quakers, Puritans, Catholics, and Anglicans gradually moving to this promising land established their colonies to be able to practice their religion without any restrictions. Religious freedom has become the foundation of the emerging American society, where everyone could choose what to believe in without the fear of being oppressed or discriminated. Given the critical role of religion in the formation of the American nation, it is not surprising that the social, cultural, and political spheres have been shaped by it immensely (Porterfield & Corrigan, 2010). Although the government has secured the political sphere from religious interference, religious beliefs have significantly shaped the attitudes and worldviews of both political leaders and regular citizens.
There are many religious groups in the United States that differ by tradition and denomination. The largest group is Christians, who constitute more than 70% of those religiously affiliated (Pew Research Center, 2017). This group is divided into Evangelical Protestant, Mainline Protestant, Historically Black Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox Christian, Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness, and other Christian churches. Non-Christian denominations include Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, and others. The majority of religiously affiliated Americans claim that religion plays a central role in their lives and that it contributes to their psychological and spiritual well-being.
However, research shows that the American society becomes less religious. A large study including thousands of Americans showed that the number of citizens believing in God, praying, and regularly attending services has decreased considerably (Pew Research Center, 2015). A growing number of the so-called “nones”, mainly belonging to the Millennial generation do not identify themselves with any religion. In fact, these Americans constitute the second largest religious group after Christians (Blumberg, 2016). Most of the atheists and religiously unsure claim they lost their belief in God because of the opposition to the organized religion or under the influence of science. It appears that many Americans have replaced organized religion with spirituality as a way of achieving a sense of peace.
So, what does this information mean in the larger context? Has the American society changed its basic beliefs once and for all? It is difficult to give a conclusive answer to these questions. Apparently, many Americans have lost their connection with religious communities, and religion currently occupies an insignificant place in their lives. Yet, there are still millions of citizens believing in God, regularly attending services, and being guided by religious postulates in their everyday life. As far as I am concerned, the role of religion may further decline because religious denominations have clearly lost their connection to regular citizens and cannot satisfy their spiritual needs. I think they need to adjust to the social and cultural changes within the society to remain relevant for every American irrespectively of age, race, and sexual orientation.
Alper, B., & Sandstrom, A. (2016). If the U.S. had 100 people: Charting Americans’ religious affiliations. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/11/14/if-the-u-s-had-100-people-charting-americans-religious-affiliations/
Blumberg, A. (2016). American religion has never looked quite like it does today. Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/american-religion-trends_us_570c21cee4b0836057a235ad
Davis, K. C. (2010). America’s true history of religious tolerance. Smithsonian. Retrieved from http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/americas-true-history-of-religious-tolerance-61312684/
Kuruvilla, C. (2015). America is getting less Christian and less religious, study shows. Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/12/pew-religious-landscape-survey-2014_n_7259770.html
Pew Research Center. (2015). U.S. public becoming less religious. Retrieved from http://www.pewforum.org/2015/11/03/u-s-public-becoming-less-religious/
Pew Research Center. (2017). Christians. Retrieved from http://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/christians/christian/
Porterfield, A., & Corrigan, J. (2010). Religion in American history. Malden, MA: John Wiley & Sons.
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