Politics In American Religion Today Essay

1006 words - 4 pages

Religion and Politics in America advances five theories for placing in a meaningful context the sometimes bewildering complexity of relations among religion, politics, and culture in American society. The culture wars thesis illuminates the contours of religion and politics today by emphasizing Americans' deep social divisions over values and lifestyles. Conservatives stress the importance of traditional values: religion, marriage and family, discipline, heterosexual behavior, and opposition to abortion and gay sexuality. Liberals stress the value of choice and diversity in every area of life, including religion, family, and sexual lifestyles. Both groups oppose abortion, support public expressions of faith, criticize secular public schools, and decry the effects of the sexual revolution. A cultural alliance has formed between conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists, some Catholics, and a few ultra-orthodox Jews. (Fowler, 1999) This ecumenism of orthodoxy is pitted against liberal Protestants from the old-line denominations--Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Congregationalists, and members of the United Church of Christ and the Disciples of Christ. (Craig, 1992) Together the old-line liberal Protestants make up about 33 percent of the American churchgoing population. When liberal Catholics and most Jews join them on social issues, this coalition makes up a formidable 45 percent of religionists in America. Mutual stereotyping, polarization, and inflamed passions have created hostile camps, and opponents often have become enemies.In the secularization thesis, religion is declining worldwide and secularism is advancing. As modernity spreads, secularism spreads in its wake. (Wald, 2003) The high degree of religious involvement with politics in the United States is said to be the dying gasp of religious forces that are using politics in an effort to postpone their demise. Karl Marx was sure that class struggle and the triumph of communism would become the tale of modern life, while religion would soon be a mercifully finished chapter. (Adams, 2000) Max Weber believed that in modernity's wake the mighty forces of rationalism and bureaucratization would defeat religion, if not entirely eliminate the religious. Sigmund Freud hoped that "the future of an illusion" would prove poor as people saw that the modern world gave them a chance to be free of religion.In modern societies rational, scientific approaches to life do indeed dominate, whereas in traditional societies a religious world view does. Education advances secularization as it teaches science and denigrates supernatural explanations of life. The capitalist marketplace mutes religious enthusiasm as it captures people in the consumer culture and the workaday corporate world. Seven in ten Americans express a belief in life after death.In the civil religion thesis, America's political religion, commonly called the civil religion, is the most important one. It exists alongside...


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