Monthly Archives: April 2014

Losing Religion

 

As time progresses we can see a shift away from religion. People are no longer clinging to it in times of trial and tragedy, no longer looking to it to give thanks. It is slowly becoming an institution that no longer functions in society. A recent study has shown that there has been an increase in how many people identify as being non-religious. It shows that young people are more likely to take this stance, with over 70% of the non-religious being under the age of 50. The unaffiliated group also experienced the largest growth making up a fifth of U.S. adults.

Yusuf

The onset of the information age is a huge contributor to why people are steering away from religion. One of the people spoken to by NPR Yusuf Ahmad (raised Muslim) cites the reason for his leaving the church was due to his disbelief in the stories. People can no longer believe in a book that claims a man would sacrifice his son because a voice in his head told him too (the story of Abraham). For me and many people alike it is hard to fully believe in something that I have been taught cannot be true. People are taking a logical approach to believing in religion, in a similar way to David Hume’s critique of miracles

                “No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous, than the fact, which I endeavors to establish…We are faced with a choice between two possible miracles A) that a violation of our uniform experience has actually occurred as reported or B) that the testimony of the witness is false”

People tend to choose the latter option because it is easier to not believe than to have to try and put faith in something that claims to have done the impossible. The knowledge we have today does not allow us to put our faith into religion because many of the claims made by religious texts are said to be impossible.

Another reason for this shift is social issues. Many religions have a strict set of moral codes that directly conflict with the beliefs of more liberal thinking people. It is hard for adults to stay a part of an organization that finds something fundamentally wrong that you support such as abortion, stem cell research, gay marriage, pre-marital sex, drugs, and women’s rights. If you are gay how can you be expected to voluntarily participate in services that condemn you, of course you would leave your religion. A single mother who gets pregnant has an abortion then goes to church only to hear how abortion is murder, of course she would leave. Women who see how this institution does not recognize their rights as equal humans will not stay in this culture. A decline in religious affiliation is on the rise.

Perez

Before the information age most people only knew their religion that they had been indoctrinated with since they were young. It is all they knew. They were not much aware of other religions, and were not aware of exactly how miraculous the miracles they learned about were. Now with the ability to learn anything at your fingertips with the aide of the internet many people know that there are countless religions in the world and the question of which one is the true religion is much more complicated. So instead of choosing one religion they choose none. There is no longer the need to explain how the world works, we know much of how it works. The need for community is drifting away as other outlets become available. The ex-Seventh Day Adventist Rigoberto Perez finds his community with his fellow veterans and does not have to turn to church.

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American Christianity: A Story of Pick-and-Choose Protestantism

The Affordable Care Act has constantly been making headlines since its inception back in 2009, and now is no exception. As previously mentioned on this blog, Hobby Lobby, an American crafts company, has a case against the Obamacare contraception mandate that is headed to the Supreme Court. Hobby Lobby is not the only organization complaining about this apparent infringement on its freedom of religion—there have been several other cases like this one in the past.

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Americans protest Obamacare on the grounds of religious freedom.

Hobby Lobby is an Evangelical company, so it only makes sense that it would fit the Evangelical political mold in its displeasure with certain contraceptives that are believed to be similar to abortions in their use. But have Evangelicals always thought this way? As Jamelle Bouie, author of the Slate.com article entitled “God Does Not Regard the Fetus as a Soul”, tells it, Evangelicals certainly have not always been “obsessed” with abortion and contraception. As the article explains, Evangelicals—and most other Protestant Christians—in America, at the time of Roe v. Wade, were actually quite apathetic to abortion. Some Evangelical denominations, namely the Southern Baptists, openly preached during the 1960s and 1970s that the use of abortions in most situations was perfectly acceptable. It wasn’t the Evangelicals, but the Catholics who firmly discouraged abortion consistently throughout these culturally-turbulent decades. By the 1980s, however, most Evangelical and other conservative Christian denominations came to join forces with their Catholic counterparts and advocate the moral flaws inherent with abortion.

But how can such a change happen, and in so short of a time?

The American attitude has always been one of freedom and preservation of the individual. Among the first settlers of what would become the United States were those who sought religious freedom. Those men and women would inevitably establish a Protestant America, a trend that remains even to this day—51.3% of Americans self-identify as Protestant Christians, according to the most recent PewResearch Report on American religious affiliation. Why has Protestantism thrived throughout American history, even with over two centuries of immigration introducing other denominations and religions to the public?

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Some of Protestantism’s many denominations and how they’ve evolved across time.

Protestantism and the American identity grew together as the country established itself. America has been a hotbed of Protestant thought, fostering the creation or maintenance of several thousand denominations, by some estimates. The ideals of both American thought and Protestant thought are essentially the same. They were founded off the same notion.

America was founded as a result of the Enlightenment and revolutionary philosophical ideas. Freedom was essential to the new nation. To be able to do as one wished was fundamental in the United States, and it still is to this day. Protestantism was founded as a result of the Reformation, which was also a revolution—but instead of rebelling against the British Monarch, the people were revolting against the established Catholic Church. This was the first step in forming what has become characteristic of what it is to be American: the ability to pick and choose what an individual wanted to belief. It was one of the first radical events to occur in the western world on the front of individualism.

America is a pick-and-choose nation. An individual’s ideals and preferences are almost sacred in this country. This environment has created the perfect setting for a religion as subjective as Protestant Christianity to thrive in.

Because of this, American Christianity is especially subject to change with the times, or, as Bouie put it, to not be “immune to the winds of the world around [it]”. American Protestants are especially vulnerable to this cultural-moral shifting, but American Catholics are not necessarily exempt, either.

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Breakdown of American Catholic legal views on abortion according to the Pew Research Forum.

Catholicism, unlike Protestantism, has maintained the same doctrine throughout the existence of the Church. It is required that Catholics follow this teaching in order to be in full communion with the Church. That doesn’t stop American Catholics from falling victim to their national environment, though: according to the PewResearch Forum, 16% of all American Catholics believe abortion is legal in all cases, and 32% believe it is legal in most cases. This is a far cry from the Vatican’s official teaching.

The American atmosphere is one that is inherently Protestant. Its very nature is to change and pick and choose its own ideals, and no two people are guaranteed to have the same ideals. Any religion introduced to America is almost guaranteed, upon some degree of assimilation, to become a little bit more Protestant and a little bit more American—those two things may not be quite as different as they seem. As Catherine Albanese puts it in her book America: Religions and Religion, there is a Protestant cultural establishment. All subsequent religions must either fight through or conform to this American, Protestant institution.

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Jewish Americans and the Democratic Party

ImageA common stereotype involving Jewish Americans is that they are single-issue voters whose support goes to the candidate with the most hawkish views on Israel. Furthermore, it is widely accepted that the Republican Party is generally the more pro-Israel party. So how many times in the last 100 years have Republican Presidential candidates won the Jewish vote? Once. In 1920, James Cox lost the Jewish vote as well as the Presidency to Warren G. Harding. Since then, Democrats have claimed the majority of the Jewish vote in 23 straight Presidential elections.

Leading up to the 2012 Presidential Election, media reports (Like this one titled “Does Obama have a Jewish Voter Problem?”) began to question if Barack Obama was losing the Jewish vote. This thought process originated following Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s staunch rebuke of President Obama’s proposal for Israel to accept 1967 borders with Palestine. The media speculation intensified when a Republican won the special election for New York’s 9th congressional district, which encompasses large Jewish communities, for the first time in almost 90 years. Ultimately, though, it was all for naught as Obama still won 69% of the Jewish vote. And although this was the lowest percentage since 1988, it was still a commanding victory for Democrats.

So why do Jewish Americans continually vote for the Democratic Party? Continue reading

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Passover and Immigrants

The Jewish festival of Passover begins next week. During Passover there is a tradition called the Seder (“order”) Meal where the story of the Israelites being delivered from captivity in Egypt is retold. The overall story is the same, generally, for Seder Meals, but there are many different variations for the Haggadah, the Seder narrative.

Huffington Post recently published an article of “25 Alternative Haggadahs” , one of which was a narrative that focused on justice of immigrants.

In class and our walkthrough of Albanese’s book “America: Religions and Religion” we have looked at the combination of religion and immigration and how the two affect each other. We have discussed a good bit of how immigration has affected religion in America. Because different peoples have come to America different religions have been introduced. Freedom of religion is no longer just a nice way to say we can tolerate all Protestants, Catholics, and Jews, but now religions with different gods and sacred texts are involved. It became a practice instead of simply an idea.

One thing we have not focused on as much, though, is how religion has affected immigration. One of the 25 unique Haggadahs mentioned in the Huffington Post article is one named “Immigrant Roots, Immigrant Rights.” This Seder narrative, written by Jews United for Justice (JUFJ) located in Washington D.C., walks through the story of Passover and the deliverance from Egyptian bondage, but there are additional readings. These additions range from personal stories of immigrants’ struggles for justice after coming to America, information about laws and bills written for rights of immigrants, and ties between the Passover story itself with modern day injustice and oppression.

This Haggadah calls for the Jewish people to recognize that they were once foreigners with no rights and challenges the community to stand up for immigrants of all kinds. At the end of the packet, there is a page full of campaigns and projects led by the JUFJ in order to help aid immigrants in its community.

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Like I said before, in class we have looked a lot at how immigration has influenced religion, and now it’s neat to see how religion can influence immigration.

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