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US Religion

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Barbara Liebel

on 9 July 2013

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Transcript of US Religion

in the USA

Historical overview
Contemporary American Religion
Church, State and Politics
Controversially discussed topics
Controversially discussed topics
Gay marriage
20th century
large number of immigrants from Europe, Latin America and Asia
18th century
Colonial Period
separation of church and state
most settlers were
Christian Protestants (Anglican Church)
Congregationalists (--> Pilgrims & Puritans --> Puritan work ethic! )
= emotional reaction to formalistic and unappealing nature of most religious practices
--> it made Christianity intensely personal to the average person
--> Anglican Church loses prestige due to its ties with England
--> American Protestant Episcopal Church
= Second Great Awakening
Many conflicts within the churches
19th century
formation of several new religious movements and sects (Spiritualism, Millerism, Perfectionism)
However, a new sense of liberality emerges and churches become involved in education
---> schools & colleges
during industrialization: churches as "social workers", i.e. they emphasize their social commitment
pluralism and ecumenism
20th & 21st century
Since 1970s fundamentalist evangelical groups have been growing:

--> strong media and popular attention
--> religious broadcasting on TV/ radio seems to be very profitable
--> powerful political voice among right-wing politicians
TV Evangelists, also known as "Televangelists", such as Joel Osteen at Lakewood Church (a megachurch) in Houston, Texas
Average weekly attendance: 43,500
plus additional 7million broadcast viewers
Civil Religion is wide-spread, i.e. a general belief in God and patriotism marked by national symbols:
-->"In God we trust" on all coins or the allegiance to the flag "One Nation under God"
Bill of Rights: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religions or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."
no church taxes
no legal or official religious holidays and no political party is "officially "affiliated to a particular religion
religious groups are independent organizations and depend on donations by their members (cf. Lakewood Church has a budget of $70million)
Religion influences public and political debates on issues such as abortion, death penalty or same-sex marriage and even military interventions
US Presidents have often belonged to religious groups (cf. Mitt Romney --> Mormonism) and referred to God and the Bible in their speeches (G.W. Bush: "God told me to end the tyranny in Iraq.")
Evangelical/fundamentalist groups influence public opinion and support conservative politicians in election campaigns or /and gain political offices (cf. Sarah Palin or the Tea Party Movement)
US Presidents' official oath of office is on the Bible
Various Protestant Sub- Groups
brought to the US by historic immigrant groups :
the largest are the Episcopal (English), Presbyterian (Scottish), Methodist (English and Welsh), and Lutheran (German and Scandinavian) churches

Evangelicals can be separated into three camps:
traditionalist (cf. television evangelist Pat Robertson as its most visible spokesmen
centrist (conservative, but not very politically engaged)
modernist (just a small minority)

Religion and Geography
Americans are in the so-called Judaeo-Christian tradition
--> 80% Christian
3 main faiths of largest influence: Protestantism, Catholicism and Judaism
220 different churches and sects: conservative, mainstream and liberal outlooks
Roman Catholics
large catholic immigration in 19th/20th century
(former working class religion)
second largest religion, predominately white membership
increasing due to Latin and Asian immigration
but reputation suffers due to bad press...
Jewish Community
mainly on East Coast (big cities, like NYC)
range from orthodox to moderate conservative and liberal reform groups
preserving jewish heritage and traditions
today assimilated in US society -> more intermarriage between Jews and Non-Jews
Race and Ethnicity
mainline tradition
evangelical tradition
historically black tradition
Other religions:
Islam in the US
native-born American Muslims are mainly African Americans (about 1/4 of total Muslim population) --> Many of these have converted to Islam during the last seventy years (cf. Muhammad Ali)
In 2011, The Learning Channel (TLC) broadcast a television series, the All-American Muslim, depicting the lives of different American Muslims in Dearborn, Michigan.
In a 2007 survey, 53% of American Muslims reported that it was more difficult to be a Muslim after the 9/11 attacks
0.5% of the US population are Muslim
to fight against prejudices:
Evangelical, Mainline, Catholics
11% Historically black churches
37% Evangelical churches
37% Catholic, 4% Jewish
African Americans:
78% Protestant (--> 59% hist. black)
1% Muslim
12% unaffiliated
White population:
78% Christian
2% Jewish
16% unaffiliated
84% Christian (->58% Catholic)
14% unaffiliated
45% Christian
14% Hindu
4% Muslim
23% unaffiliated
15% say humans evolved, but that God had no part in the process
58% of Republicans and 41% of Democrats believe in Creationism
In the United States, the states of Texas, Minnesota, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Missouri, South Carolina, and Alabama require in their science standards "students critically analyze key aspects of evolutionary theory." Louisiana and Mississippi have adopted legislation allowing teachers and students to discuss scientific evidence critical of evolution.
Death penalty
Young Christians
The Silver Ring Thing is a unique para-church youth ministry that promotes the message of purity and abstinence until marriage
about 75% of Evangelical Christinas support the death penalty
WASHINGTON — A record majority of Americans approve of same-sex marriage in the wake of two landmark Supreme Court decisions, a USA TODAY poll finds.
Vast Majority Of U.S. Counties Do Not Have Abortion Providers
Discussion topics
Can you think of reasons why such a large number of Christians are against abortion but at the same time they are supporting the death penalty?
Politics and Religion
Do you think an organization such as the Silver Ring Thing could also be successfully promoted in Germany?
How can it be possible that Creationism is part of the science curriculum in U.S. high schools?
mainly Protestants and Catholics
June 2013:
Wendy Davis (Texas state Senator, Democrat):
11-hour abortion filibuster to protest legislation that would close nearly every abortion clinic in Texas
--> friction, splitting and reshaping of churches
1730/40: First Great Awakening
permanent impact on American religion
War of Independence (1775-1783)
increasing religious variety
Mainline tradition
Evangelical/ --> fundamental
some figures... PART I
some more figures ... PART II
46% of Americans believe that God created humans in their present form and at one time within the last 10,000 years
33% of Americans believe that humans evolved, but with God's guidance
Religion and Education:
June 2013:
2 historic cases involving the marriage rights of gays & lesbians:
Justices could say yes or no to their marriage (California)
new "privileges" for married homosexual couples concerning federal benefits and social security (New York)
Full transcript