• The most prevalent religion in the U.S. is Christianity. Northern European peoples introduced Protestantism, while the Spanish, French, and English introduced Catholicism.
  • The Jewish community in the United States is composed predominantly of Ashkenazi Jews who emigrated from Central and Eastern Europe, as well as their U.S.-born descendants.
  • American Islam effectively began with the arrival of African slaves. Research indicates that Muslims in the U.S. are generally more assimilated and prosperous than Muslims in Europe.
  • Buddhism entered the U.S. during the 19th century with the arrival of the first immigrants from Eastern Asia.
  • Sikhs have been a part of the American populace for more than 130 years.
  • Buddhism entered the U.S. during the 19th century with the arrival of the first immigrants from Eastern Asia.
  • The first time Hinduism entered the U.S. is not clearly identifiable.
  • Sikhs have been a part of the American populace for more than 130 years.

Key Terms

  • American Islam: From the 1880s to 1914, several thousand Muslims immigrated to the United States from the Ottoman Empire and from parts of South Asia; they did not form distinctive settlements, and probably mostly assimilated into the wider society.
  • Protestantism: Protestantism is one of the major groupings within Christianity. It has been defined as “any of several church denominations denying the universal authority of the Pope and affirming the Reformation principles of justification by faith alone, the priesthood of all believers, and the primacy of the Bible as the only source of revealed truth. ” More broadly, it means Christianity outside “of a Catholic or Eastern church. “
  • Judaism: A world religion tracing its origin to the Hebrew people of the ancient Middle-East, as documented in religious writings known as the Torah or Old Testament.

Religion plays a “very important” role in the lives of most Americans, a proportion unique among developed nations. Many faiths have flourished in the United States, including later imports spanning the country’s multicultural immigrant heritage and those found within the country, These disparate faiths have led the U.S. to become one of the most religiously diverse countries in the world.

READ MORE:  The Sweet Lowdown: Exposing the Unhealthy Truth About Sugar

The largest religion in the U.S. is Christianity, practiced by the majority of the population. From those queried, roughly 51.3% of Americans are Protestants, 25% are Catholics, 1.7% are Mormons, and 1.7% are of various other Christian denominations. Northern European peoples introduced Protestantism. Among Protestants, Anglicans, Baptists, Puritans, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Quakers, and Moravians were the first to settle in the U.S. The Spanish, French, and English introduced Catholicism. The religion came with the arrival of Hispanics/Latinos, Irish, Highland Scots, Italians, Dutch, Flemish, Polish, French, Hungarians, German, and Lebanese immigrants.

American Jews are citizens of the Jewish faith or ethnicity. The Jewish community in the U.S. is composed predominantly of Ashkenazi Jews who emigrated from Central and Eastern Europe, as well as their U.S.-born descendants. Depending on religious definitions and varying population data, the U.S. is home to the largest or second-largest Jewish community in the world, after Israel. In 2007, the population of American adherents of Judaism was estimated to be approximately 5,128,000, or 1.7% of the total population.

Hayley Fields at the Beth Israel Torah Dedication Ceremony: Two weeks after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, volunteers with an Israeli charity rescued seven Torah scrolls from the synagogue.

American Islam effectively began with the arrival of African slaves. It is estimated that about 10% of African slaves transported to the U.S. were Muslim. Research indicates that Muslims in the U.S. are generally more assimilated and prosperous than Muslims in Europe. Like other subcultural and religious communities, the Islamic community has generated its own political organizations and charity organizations.

Buddhism entered the U.S. during the 19th century with the arrival of the first immigrants from Eastern Asia. The first Buddhist temple was established in San Francisco in 1853 by Chinese Americans. The first time Hinduism entered the U.S. is not clearly identifiable. During the 1960s and 1970s, Hinduism exercised a fascination that contributed to the development of New Age thought. Sikhs have been a part of the American populace for more than 130 years. Around 1900, the state of Punjab of British India was hit hard by British practices of mercantilism. Many Sikhs emigrated to the United States and began working on farms in California.

  • The secularization of society refers to the process it undergoes when it shifts away from closely identifying with religious values and institutions towards affiliating with nonreligious values and institutions.
  • The term secularization was coined by the British writer George Jacob Holyoake in 1851 and is most closely associated with the Age of Enlightenment in Europe.
  • In a political context, secularization is the separation of the state from the church.
  • When speaking of social structures, secularization refers to the increasing division of labor and occupational specialization in society (differentiation).
  • Evidence suggests that “no religion ” is becoming an increasingly prevalent religious status in the United States.

Key Terms

  • Age of Enlightenment: A period of time ranging from part of the 17th Century through much of the 18th Century, characterized particularly by the importance of logic and reason.
  • separation of church and state: The separation of church and state is the distance in the relationship between organized religion and the nation-state.

In studies of religion, modern Western societies are generally recognized as secular. This is due to the near-complete freedom of religion, the fact that beliefs on religion generally are not subject to legal or social sanctions. Some societies become increasingly secular as the result of social processes, rather than through the actions of a dedicated secular movement; this process is known as secularization. Secularization is the transformation of a society from close identification with religious values and institutions toward nonreligious values and secular institutions. The secularization thesis refers to the belief that as societies “progress,” particularly through modernization and rationalization, religion loses its authority in all aspects of social life and governance.

Secularism

Coined by the British writer George Jacob Holyoake in 1851, secularism is often associated with the Age of Enlightenment in Europe, and it now plays a major role in Western society. In political terms, secularism is a movement towards the separation of church and state. This can refer to reducing ties between a government and a state religion, replacing laws based on scripture with civil laws, and eliminating discrimination on the basis of religion. This is said to add to democracy by protecting the rights of religious minorities. Due in part to the belief in the separation of church and state, secularists tend to prefer that politicians make decisions for secular rather than religious reasons. In this respect, policy decisions pertaining to topics like abortion, contraception, embryonic stem cell research, same-sex marriage, and sex education are the prominent issues many secularist organizations focus on.

Secularization in Different Realms

When discussing social structures, secularization can refer to differentiation. Differentiation refers to the increasing division of labor and occupational specialization in society. When discussing institutions, secularization can refer to the transformation of an institution that had once been considered religious in character into something not thought of as religious. When discussing activities, secularization refers to the transfer of activities from institutions of a religious nature to others without that character. Finally, when discussing religion, secularization can only be used unambiguously to refer to religion in a generic sense. For example, a reference to Christianity is not clear unless one specifies exactly which denominations of Christianity are being discussed.

Responses to Secularization

Because religion continues to be recognized in Western thought as a universal impulse, many religious practitioners have aimed to band together in interfaith dialogue, cooperation, and religious peacebuilding. Recent interfaith initiatives include “A Common Word,” launched in 2007, which is focused on bringing Muslim and Christian leaders together, the “C1 World Dialogue,” the “Common Ground” initiative between Islam and Buddhism, and a United Nations-sponsored “World Interfaith Harmony Week. ”

Some evidence suggests that the fastest-growing religious status in the United States is “no religion” Irreligion is the absence of religion, and indifference towards religion, a rejection of religion, or hostility towards religion. When characterized as the rejection of religious belief, it includes atheism and secular humanism. When characterized as hostility towards religion, it includes antitheism, anticlericalism, and antireligion.