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Religion In America

Religion in America

As a nation founded on the principle that individuals should be able to practice their faith without any influence by the government, it is only natural that the United States possess a great deal of religious diversity. The definition serves as a useful starting point for an examination of religion in America, the contributions made to society by Christianity in particular, and the areas in which Christianity in America falls short of meeting the needs of its followers and of society in general. Additionally, this paper will look at some of the major challenges facing Christianity today.

As of 2014:

  • Nearly half the country identifies as Protestant
  • Nearly 21% identify as Catholic.
  • When coupled with the nearly 2% of Americans that identify as Mormon and the same number who identify as some other form of Christianity, more than 70% of the people in this nation are Christian.
  • Practitioners of Judaism only make up 2% of the nation
  • Muslims make up less than 1%

Interestingly enough, religion in the United States is often marked by an absence of religious beliefs such as:

  • Atheists, who believe there are no deities, make up more than 3% of the country;
  • Agnostics, believing that divine beings are unknowable, comprise 4%.
  • Even more striking is the fact that nearly 16% of Americans identify as having no religious beliefs of any kind, a number that is much closer to the number of people who practice a religion as common as Catholicism than many would believe.

Religion in the United States runs the gamut, despite the vast majority of people falling into expected categories of belief systems. What sets religion in the United States apart from religion in so many other countries is that, according to the foundational documents of the nation itself, the government is to keep out of religious matters. While there has been some crossover when it comes to particularly contentious moral and ethical issues, such as abortion and same-sex marriage, for example, the separation of church and state has long been largely upheld.

America, as a country of immigrants, has a population that reflects the religious makeup of the world. In this country one finds well-represented the three largest of the world's religions: Christianity, Judaism and Islam. In smaller but still very significant numbers one finds Buddhists, Hindus, Pagans and others representing hundreds of faiths.

Christianity is divided into more than a dozen branches.

  • Roman Catholics make up the largest single group of Christians
  • Major Protestant groups in America include:
    • the Southern Baptists
    • Episcopalians
    • Methodists
    • Lutherans
    • Presbyterians.
    • Fundamentalist Christians

Following Christianity in numbers of adherents are the world's other two Abrahamic religions - Judaism and Islam. All three are monotheistic - they attest to the existence of a single God - and share many tenets and beliefs.

In addition to the three "major" American religions - Christianity, Judaism and Islam - this country is home to followers of so many religions that it is possible only to name a small fraction so as to give some idea of the scope of American religious diversity. Just a few of the religions represented in America are the Branch Davidians, the Christian Reformed Church in America, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the Falun Gong, the Hare Krishnas and the Quakers.

America reflects the world from which it drew its population, with followers of most of the world's religions making up the American populace. The contribution made by all of these religious people, including Christians, has been significant. Today, the Catholic Church, in particular, is at a crossroads. It is a crisis that the Catholic Church can, and almost certainly will, weather. But prevailing will require strength and a great deal of soul-searching on the part of the church's leaders, and faith and strength on the part of the Church's followers. It remains to be seen what kind of Church will emerge from this crisis, but society stands to lose a great deal if the Church is significantly damaged by the present crisis.

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