Lindsay Lloyd – The No’s and the Facts and What They Do to Religion

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“In God We Trust”, the national currency, appears on every US dollar bill and coin. But what does this mean for the character of the country if it is no longer true?

Most Americans have long believed that divine providence has been central to the establishment and development of the nation. The story we have been taught begins with the pilgrims, who sought refuge in the new world to escape the persecutions of the old. Roger Williams founded the colony of Rhode Island as a refuge for those facing religious persecution in Massachusetts. Abraham Lincoln ended slavery in the Emancipation Proclamation by “the gracious grace of Almighty God.”


Religious belief has inspired social change throughout American history, especially the Civil Rights movement, which was largely led by the clergy and relied on religious education for much of its power.

Religious freedom is the cornerstone of a democratic society. In America, politicians and the general public have long maintained that the nation was ruled by a higher power. But the trend in the United States reflects a process that has been going on for decades in Western Europe: the increase in the number of people with no religious affiliation – the “nuns”.

In a 2019 study, Pew found that the portion of the population that described themselves as Christian had shrunk by 12 points in the space of a decade. While other religions, especially Islam, have grown as a proportion of the population, the most significant growth has occurred among people with no religious affiliation. According to Pew, the zeros fell from 17% in 2009 to 29% in 2019.

In Europe, secularization is several years ahead of the United States. While the percentage of non-Europeans is about the same as in America, European Christians are much less likely to attend church services or pray regularly than their counterparts across the Atlantic. How will America change when more and more Americans are not affiliated with religion, even though they see themselves as “spiritual” and believe in God?

Religious belief touches on many of the great conflicts in our society, including abortion, but also issues ranging from education and racial reconciliation to issues of equity and justice in the economy.

Reverend Richie Butler, who heads a major black church in Dallas, adds another category of unaffiliated people – the “facts” – those who have chosen not to participate in organized religion. Pastor Butler emphasizes the need for the church to engage in some soul-searching. “Some people want something more authentic and feel like they can find out for themselves rather than going to a place of worship,” he explains in his interview for Democracy Talks. Religious leaders need to ask where we dropped the ball.

Religious institutions have long served as a kind of societal glue. Eboo Patel, founder and president of the Interfaith Youth Core, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting interfaith dialogue, notes the importance of religious institutions in nurturing community institutions such as universities, hospitals and others. non-profit organizations. . Patel argues that we expect all of these institutions to welcome all comers and, indeed, they do. These institutions should not wither away, even as more and more Americans are avoiding religious services.

The effect on our long-term policy may be greater. Just look at the rapidly changing attitudes on LGBT issues. While overall societal attitudes have evolved towards tolerance, attitudes have changed more rapidly among the young and the uninitiated. Will these changes lead to greater support for abortion rights or civil rights measures, for example?

America’s historic allegiance to religious freedom is no longer just a sometimes reluctant tolerance of the other in a largely Protestant nation and culture. Just as the concept of religious freedom has broadened to include Catholics and Jews as fully Americans, this concept can be extended to include Muslims or Buddhists. Likewise, it can also encompass those who have no religious affiliation or belief, as the freedom to worship as desired also means the freedom not to worship at all.

Our conception of religious freedom has never been static. As the American concept of who is an American has broadened, so has our notion of religious freedom. Although not all of us can trust God, we can be sure that the idea of ​​religious freedom protects both believers and non-believers.

As Reverend Butler says, “We should all evolve, and those who have ‘done’ and those who ‘have not’ they are helping religion evolve. It’s clean.

Lindsay Lloyd is the Bradford M. Freeman Director of Human Freedom at the George W. Bush Institute. This essay was originally published as part of the Bush Institute’s Democracy Talks series. This is distributed by InsideSources.com.

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