As we know, religious practice and affiliation has greatly declined but more importantly, religious practice and belief have changed in the U.S.. These trends can be observed and identified in the Pew Research Center’s U.S. Religious Landscape Survey.
For example, one trend that was identified is that belief in god has wavered: according to a Gallup survey, in 1966, 98% of Americans said they believed in God, and when Pew Research surveyed Americans in 2014, the number had dropped to 89%.
Another trend is that overall Christianity has declined and new groups have emerged. In 1948, Gallup found that about 91% of Americans identified as Christian, and in 2014, that number fell to 70.6%. Nearly one in three Americans under 35 today are religiously unaffiliated, as a whole, these “nones” make up the second largest religious group in the U.S., after evangelical Protestants.
In addition, although religious practice has declined, spirituality appears to be stronger than ever. The term “spiritual but not religious” has emerged in recent years to describe how more and more Americans identify. Even among the “nones” and there are those who say religion is important; spiritual sentiment is strong and growing. According to Pew Research, between 2007 and 2014, the percentage of atheists who said they felt a deep sense of wonder about the universe on a weekly basis rose a full 17 points from 37 to 54%.
Lastly, there has been a slow, but steady rise in non-Christian faiths in the U.S.. Pew Research predicts that by 2050, Muslims will surpass Jews as the second largest organized religious group after Christians and that Hindus will rise from 0.7% to 1.2% of the U.S. population in 2050.
In class this week, we discussed several forms of organized religion, one of these ways being “charismatic” organization. As we know, in the United States, there has been a decline in the number of people who attend organized religions services over the past few years. Speaking from personal experience, I would have to say that this phenomenon could be attributed to the lack of entertainment that church provides for younger generations, and sometimes even older ones.
Growing up, I remember going to church and my parents always walking up to the pastor and thanking him for his beautiful sermon. Eventually that pastor left our church (for reasons unknown) and we got a new one, who my parents weren’t so fond of, he was older, slower and not as entertaining; he had no charisma. My family, along with many others, actually stopped going to mass because he was that boring. When presented with the idea of a charismatic polity on class, I realized that, for my family, church isn’t about the story that is being told, but rather, HOW it is being told and the emotions that the speaker evokes from their audience.
It is interesting to see this pattern repeated over and over again throughout the US. In Lakewood Church, Texas, Lakewood Church, one of the flagships of the megachurch phenomenon in America, more than 40,000 member each week attend service, and yet when asked what denomination it belongs to, the typical answer would be “none”. There is a uniquely American quality to the new post-religion spirituality that is emerging in the US. The Big Round Church that is replacing America’s Little White Churches incorporates Christian themes into a consumer-oriented experience and the authority of religious denominations is being replaced by the magnetism of a charismatic pastor.
Throughout chapter 1, McGuire discusses how sociologists may define religion and explores the challenges in doing so. A part of the chapter that really stuck out to me was the “Official Religion” paragraph on page 14. This reminded me of what I stated in my religious autobiography and provided me with a potential reason for my thoughts. I had stated that I “now consider myself spiritual rather than religious for fear of judgment…”. I have throughout my life felt like “not a proper Christian” for various reasons and would rather not even claim to be one anymore.
I grew up in a very conservative state and it’s a bit of an unspoken rule that Christianity (especially Protestant) gives the basis for human experience and understanding in the small community. On page 14, McGuire describes the changes in definition which further separated acts which were considered “religious” versus “nonreligious” and created rigid boundaries between the two. She states that these definitions created by the Christian churches are culturally accepted in the United States. I suspect that this may be even more true in small, tight-knit communities which are conservative and view religion and belief as highly important aspects of life.
Although I have not changed too much from when I was a child going to the Methodist church every week, I have fallen victim to the “accepted definition” of what it means to be a religious person. I feel that because I no longer attend church services and because I am interested in religion as a topic and study multiple religious texts, I would no longer be considered “religious” in the cultural definition of the word. I feel that gaining a higher education may have added to this feeling of uncertainty regarding my own experience and rather it would be considered “religious” or not. I have gained a wider understanding of the world and now recognize how much gray area there really is. Placing a definition on anything can be quite difficult, and once you understand that, the world becomes much more abstract.
On Friday, March 31st, the Pakistani Taliban planted a bomb near a mosque in a northwestern city in Pakistan, Parachinar. The city is located in an area with a large Shia population. Twenty two people were killed and seventy people were wounded and needed to be hospitalized. The bomb was in a remote area, near the women’s entrance of a Shia mosque in the central bazaar. Before the bomb went off, gunfire was heard, so it is assumed that it was a suicide attempt. Now after this stunt, people in Afghanistan or anywhere in the surrounding area are afraid of terrorism targeting sectarian religion. Many people have been killed this past year due to hate for certain religions or ethnic groups in their country.
As we learn more about religion and what is composed of them, I’ beginning to realize how intense religion is for people. It’s a belief system, but it’s also something that can cause havoc and horror in some people’s lives. Because sectarian views are so specific and demanding, people are definitely not going to agree with them. It’s unfortunate though that these people who share these beliefs get punished for what they believe is correct.
A consistent theme throughout the articles we have been reading is the religion means something different to everyone in and out of practice. Religion as a series of symbols, stories, experiences, and community appeals to different people and different ways. I am convinced that each person no matter how devote has a different interpretation of their religion or lack of. This week a three-year-old visited Rome and the Vatican City with her family. Those in the Pope’s presence and throughout the holy city, were there with some understanding of the religious significance. The toddler on the other hand had no experience yet to help her understand the significance of the city she was in let alone the man who she was being introduced to when she took his skull cap. Laughter erupted. Estella’s actions were funny because of the innocence behind the action. In a sense this was an action of undeveloped religion. Without understanding the stories or symbols denoting the significance of the pope Estella could not be expected to act according. This story clearly shows that one is not born with religion, but religion is acquired over time.
O’Sullivan, Donie. “Girl Meets Pope. Girl Steals His Hat.” CNN. Cable News Network, 22 Mar.
- Web. 22 Mar. 2017.
Islam is a religion that is practiced in countries that are predominantly Muslim, but is slowly but surely becoming the fastest growing religion in the world. It is predicted that it will surpass Christianity by 2050 according to a recent Pew Research Center Study. From now till 2050, the Muslim population will have grown across the world by 73%, followed by Christians who will grow by 35% during the same time period. Women that are muslim tend to have more children than others, so more are born and raised into this religion. The Muslim population will only continue to grow larger and soon outgrow everyone else of different ethnicity/religion.
It is interesting to see what the world will come to think of Islam and people of Muslim background as their population begins to increase and Trump holds power in office. Trump planned on banning people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen from entering the US for 90 days and all refugees for 120 days. If this ban is passed, people from these countries will resent America and will have negative feeling towards us. And as their population begins to grow, I don’t think that is a good thing for America.
In a very recent article from USA Today, it reports a new decision in the EU that allows employers to ban visible religion symbols such as Islamic headscarves and Christian crosses. The article states that this decision came about from the firing of two Muslim women in Belgium and France for refusing to take off their headscarves. While the ban refers to religious symbols in general, it is clear this decision was targeted towards Muslim headscarves, as we rarely-if ever-hear news stories about people being frightened or feeling threatened from a Christian cross. Personally, I own many Crucifix necklaces gifted to me from friends and family from numerous religious occassions, and I have only ever received compliments when wearing them. I have never been asked to take off my Crucific necklance, nor have I have heard of such a thing happening in the workplace. This article was very disappointing to read, because I previously had the notion that European countries are more accepting of different religions since they are typically less religious than the United States, according to surveys. This does not seem to be the case. This ban is another opportunity for women and men to face prejudice in an already problematic society, and it is very unsettling to know that this degree of prejudice exists in a multitude of countries around the world. This article makes me hope that the United States will not follow in the EU’s footsteps, and that we can honor our basic right to freedom of religion and the personal use of religious symbols.
In class we discussed that religion changes society when religious people act out of faith and moral sense of what it means to be human, paired with the social setting of the point in history. Many people want to resist Trump’s presidency and that can be manifested in several ways. Resisting can be seen as activism, anger, violent, or nonviolent. Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh is considered to be on of the world’s leading spiritual leaders, and is known for creating the idea of Engaged Buddhism, a method of linking mindfulness with social action. His central message on activism is that mindfulness gives people the ability to find peace in themselves, so that their actions come from a place of compassion. The Buddhist teaching of interdependence is a tool to look at the presidency of Trump in a different light: that people we perceive as our enemies can be our greatest teachers, because they show aspects of ourselves that we might often hide. Some Buddhists are saying that Trump is a product of a certain way of being in this world, but we could have elements of Trump and it is helpful to reflect on that.
President Donald Trump’s nominee for the U.S Supreme Court has been announced to be Neil Gorsuch. With a long history serving on the Denver-based 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Gorsuch is clearly qualified for a position on the U.S Supreme court. Taking a look at his record, Gorsuch has upheld constitutional values regarding religious freedom. In one case Gorsuch defended a company’s right to deny health care coverage based on the beliefs of their faith, a controversial issue. Though, Gorsuch has also been noted to be a modest man, close friends, family, and co-workers expressed similar sentiments, stating the Gorsuch was typically reserved about his beliefs, but expressed those beliefs in his actions, specifically through his compassion for those around him. Gorsuch and his family are known to attend a “largely liberal [church] in a largely liberal city”. Growing up Gorsuch was raised catholic and attended mass regularly, but as he grew up he and his family have been attending regularly and have played an active role in church services St. John’s Episcopal Church, which is relatively liberal in practice. If Gorsuch is to officially be appointed the 9th seat on the U.S Supreme Court I would be interested to see how he balances his church practices with his practice of law and how each influences the other.
Mark K. Matthews | Mmatthews@denverpost.com and John Frank | Jfrank@denverpost.com | The Denver Post. “What Neil Gorsuch’s Faith and Writings Could Say about His Approach to Religion on the Supreme Court.” The Denver Post. N.p., 12 Feb. 2017. Web. 22 Feb. 2017.
At Harvard University, a graduate from 2007 named Sheehan D. Scarborough, recently took control of the LGBTQ student life office. He believes that one’s sexuality does not effect or relate to religion. He believes that one should not be prioritized more than the other when walking into church or the club. Scarborough had a very religious and strict upbringing and was not allowed to do a number of things. He struggled with his own sexuality and how to live with knowing that his decisions were against the Bible. Harvard’s faith groups are now very open to discussion about sexuality and it’s place in religion. Scarborough aims for positive conversations and outcomes for students who may be struggling with this internal struggle.
This past week, everyone shared their congregational visit stories and how different they were. I thought it was interesting that some churches were involved with the LGBTQ community and one pastor even had a lesbian pastor! The view that anything other than heterosexuality is wrong is something that is starting to evolve. I think it’s a good thing that the world and this generation are beginning to mix the two, because ultimately it’ll bring religious and non-religious people closer.