<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >

While some scholars see the United States becoming increasingly secular, others observe a rise in fundamentalism. Compared to other democratic, industrialized countries, the United States is generally perceived to be a fairly religious nation. Whereas 65 percent of U.S. adults in a 2009 Gallup survey said religion was an important part of their daily lives, the numbers were lower in Spain (49 percent), Canada (42 percent), France (30 percent), the United Kingdom (27 percent), and Sweden (17 percent) (Crabtree and Pelham 2009). Secularization interests social observers because it entails a pattern of change in a fundamental social institution.

Thank god for that touchdown: separation of church and state

Imagine three public universities with football games scheduled on Saturday. At University A, a group of students in the stands who share the same faith decide to form a circle amid the spectators to pray for the team. For fifteen minutes, people in the circle share their prayers aloud among their group. At University B, the team ahead at halftime decides to join together in prayer, giving thanks and seeking support from God. This lasts for the first ten minutes of halftime on the sidelines of the field while spectators watch. At University C, the game program includes, among its opening moments, two minutes set aside for the team captain to share a prayer of his choosing with the spectators.

In the tricky area of separation of church and state, which of these actions is allowed and which is forbidden? In our three fictional scenarios, the last example is against the law while the first two situations are perfectly acceptable.

In the United States, a nation founded on the principles of religious freedom (many settlers were escaping religious persecution in Europe), how stringently do we adhere to this ideal? How well do we respect people’s right to practice any belief system of their choosing? The answer just might depend on what religion you practice.

In 2003, for example, a lawsuit escalated in Alabama regarding a monument to the Ten Commandments in a public building. In response, a poll was conducted by USA Today , CNN, and Gallup. Among the findings: 70 percent of people approved of a Christian Ten Commandments monument in public, while only 33 percent approved of a monument to the Islamic Qur’an in the same space. Similarly, survey respondents showed a 64 percent approval of social programs run by Christian organizations, but only 41 percent approved of the same programs run by Muslim groups (Newport 2003).

These statistics suggest that, for most people in the United States, freedom of religion is less important than the religion under discussion. And this is precisely the point made by those who argue for separation of church and state. According to their contention, any state-sanctioned recognition of religion suggests endorsement of one belief system at the expense of all others—contradictory to the idea of freedom of religion.

So what violates separation of church and state and what is acceptable? Myriad lawsuits continue to test the answer. In the case of the three fictional examples above, the issue of spontaneity is key, as is the existence (or lack thereof) of planning on the part of event organizers.

The next time you’re at a state event—political, public school, community—and the topic of religion comes up, consider where it falls in this debate.

Summary

Liberation theology combines Christian principles with political activism to address social injustice, discrimination, and poverty. Megachurches are those with a membership of more than 2,000 regular attendees, and they are a vibrant, growing and highly influential segment of U.S. religious life. Some sociologists believe levels of religiosity in the United States are declining (called secularization), while others observe a rise in fundamentalism.

Short answer

Do you believe the United States is becoming more secularized or more fundamentalist? Comparing your generation to that of your parents or grandparents, what differences do you see in the relationship between religion and society? What would popular media have you believe is the state of religion in the United States today?

Got questions? Get instant answers now!

Further research

What is a megachurch and how are they changing the face of religion? Read “Exploring the Megachurch Phenomena: Their Characteristics and Cultural Context” at (External Link) .

Curious about the LGBT religious movement? Visit the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and Human Rights Campaign (HRC) web sites for current news about the growing inclusion of LGBT citizens into their respective religious communities, both in the pews and from the pulpit: (External Link) and (External Link) .

How do Christians feel about gay marriage? How many Mormons are there in the United States? Check out (External Link) , the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, a research institute examining U.S. religious trends.

References

Barrick, Audrey. 2011. “Church Trial Set for Lesbian Methodist Minister.” Christian Post , Feb 15. Retrieved January 22, 2012 ( (External Link) ).

Beck, Edward L. 2010. “Are Gay Priests the Problem?” ABC News/ Good Morning America , April 15. Retrieved January 22, 2012 ( (External Link) ).

Bird, Warren, and Scott Thumma. 2011. “A New Decade of Megachurches: 2011 Profile of Large Attendance Churches in the United States.” Hartford Institute for Religion Research. Retrieved February 21, 2012 ( (External Link) ).

Bogan, Jesse. 2009. “America’s Biggest Megachurches.” Forbes.com , June 26. Retrieved February 21, 2012 ( (External Link) ).

Crabtree, Steve, and Brett Pelham. 2009. “What Alabamians and Iranians Have in Common.” Gallup World , February 9. Retrieved February 21, 2012 ( (External Link) ).

Hartford Institute for Religion Research a. “Database of Megachurches in the US . ” Retrieved February 21, 2012   ( (External Link) ).

Hartford Institute for Religion Research b. “Megachurch Definition.” Retrieved February 21, 2012 ( (External Link) ).

McKenna, Josephine. 2014. "Catholic Bishops Narrowly Reject a Wider Welcome to Gays, Divorced Catholics." Religion News Service . Retrieved Oct. 27, 2014 ( (External Link) ).

Newport, Frank. 2003. “Americans Approve of Displays of Religious Symbols.” Gallup , October 3. Retrieved February 21, 2012 ( (External Link) ).

Pew Research Forum. 2011. “The Future of the Global Muslim Population.” The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, January 27. Retrieved February 21, 2012 ( (External Link) ).

Ward, Jon. 2011. “Michele Bachman Says Hurricane and Earthquake Are Divine Warnings to Washington.” Huffington Post , August 29. Retrieved February 21, 2012 ( (External Link) ).

Questions & Answers

Where can a person with sociology certificates work
Enum Reply
What are the General Conception of Sociology
Maryam
What are the importance of medical sociology on health
Ha-ati Reply
I don't know
Matheus
What is subject matter of Sociology.
Zama Reply
hi
Joel
weakness of confluct
Falakhe Reply
have you heard of pakistan before?
ali
what is Neo Marxist perspective?
Md
ali mehr from which university u study in pakistan and in which semester studied
pakhtoon
Jewel Rana, I am from Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Science and Technology, Bangladesh.
Md
Can anyone suggest topics for research
joshua
is sociology a science?
Precious
yea...but social science
paul
how can education influence peoples culture.
Jones
correct the question
Muhmmad
correct the question
Muhmmad
correct the question
Muhmmad
how many types of questionnaire?
Muhmmad
hello! I am joel.
Joel
distinguish between qualitative and quantitative nature of sociology scope.
Ajay Reply
how social structure influence our lives?
ali
please help me. i have been given an assignment on above topic share your views about it.
ali
This is an interesting opinion. I think it influences our miracle and future
Thomas
The route is the goal
Thomas
Ali focus on social factors: Economics politics education religion family
owais
what are the advantages of social stratification
Lisa Reply
S.S encourages upward mobility to the undermined class
Tatenda
what to is a society
Gardner Reply
When did contemporary period in sociology begin?
Goodnews Reply
who is webber
Alieu Reply
Max Webber is a German Conflict Theorist, who appreciated the works of Karl Marx and made some additionals in some of K.Marx's theories
Tatenda
what are his theories
Umu
who is that woman that is one of the founder of sociology and what was har contribution
Aliyu Reply
Harriet martineau
Bupe
what is the scientific nature of sociology
Givemore Reply
Discuss the scientific nature of sociology: The best way in which we can discuss the scientific nature of sociology is by taking a look at the definitions of science and sociology, also the history or origin of sociology. Science can be defined as the systematic study of the structure and behaviour
ogbe
Auguste Comte, the founder of sociology century, called it The Queen of the sciences because he thought that it was the ultimate science as it was the science of people. Not long ago it was believed that human behavior was all to do with 'fate' and if you were destined to behave badly then you would
ogbe
Concepts can change over time and can be interpretated by different sociologists in different ways. Concepts are still very useful in sociology because they act as a system of shorthand, which helps in describing complex or abstract ideas. Sociology has many uses. Sociologists collect as much eviden
ogbe
you guys are the best i am killing my mates
Givemore
what is a norm?
ZACHARIA Reply
is a standard, model or pattern and also it can be a situation and type of behaviour that is expected and considered to be typical.
James
required and accepted behavior of a person in a society is called norm
Peerzada
acceptable pattern and behaviour of society.
MUHAMMAD
Hi I'm An A level students and I would like to know how to attempt a question properly? any idea plz help
Oc Reply
how should be a good teacher?
Hafiz
tomorrow I have a test of introduction to sociology can you help me please
saleh
yes we can?.just ask
mustapha
what you need to be a good teacher according to sociology is understand your students are different and each one has a different wish or way of thinking, read about Mark Weber and associate with What I said.
Matheus
who's Durkheim?
Matheus Reply
Durkheim is a Functionalist
Oc
his full name Is Emile Durkheim
Oc
Emile Durkheim Founding Father (1858-1917) • Division of Labor • Sociological Method • Suicide • Religion
Oc
what of max Weber?
Abdul
why is sociology a science?
Ali
Max Weber talk about the protesterians and catholicss
owais
as psychology it study group behaviour thats why it is science.
owais
yaa what about max weber
Priscilla
views that Marxism is adequate in explaining inequalities in society
Gabriel Reply

Get the best Introduction to sociol... course in your pocket!





Source:  OpenStax, Introduction to sociology 2e. OpenStax CNX. Jan 20, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11762/1.6
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'Introduction to sociology 2e' conversation and receive update notifications?

Ask