Christianity’s Decline of Influence in American Culture

Dublin Core

Title

Christianity’s Decline of Influence in American Culture

Subject

Christianity--21st century.

American culture
Same-sex marriage--America.
Marijuana Smoking legislation & jurisprudence United States.
America--Religion.

Description

This essay cover the decline of Christianity's influence in American culture by looking at the recent significant changes in American culture.

Creator

Robinson, Curtiss J

Source

Cadge, Wendy. "Vital Conflicts: The Mainline Protestant Denominations Debate Homosexuality." The Hand of God: Faith Based Activism and the Public Role of Mainline Protestantism. Ed. Wuthnow, Robert & Evans, John. Berkeley: University of California Press. Web. 15 April 2016.

Collins, Patricia Hill. 2005. Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender, and the
New Racism. New York: Routledge. Web. 15 April 2016.

David Sehat. Myth of American Religious Freedom, The. Oxford University Press, USA, 2010. Web. 15 Apr. 2016.

Egan, Patrick J., and Kenneth Sherrill. “Marriage and the Shifting Priorities of a New Generation of Lesbians and Gays”. PS: Political Science and Politics 38.2 (2005): 229–232. Web. 15 Apr. 2016.

Flannelly, Kevin. " RELIGION IN AMERICA—1972–2006: RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION, ATTENDANCE, AND STRENGTH OF FAITH”. The Spears Research Institute” HealthCare Chaplaincy, New York, 01 June 2010. Web. 15 Apr. 2016.

Founding, Fathers. "The Bill of Rights." N.d. MS. The Charters of Freedom. Web. 15 Apr. 2016.

Nelson, Robert H. "The Secularization Myth Revisited: Secularism as Christianity in Disguise." Journal of Markets and Morality 18.2 (2015) ProQuest. Web. 15 Apr. 2016.

Olson, Laura R., Wendy Cadge, and James T. Harrison. “Religion and Public Opinion About Same-sex Marriage”. Social Science Quarterly 87.2 (2006): 340–360. Web. 15 Apr. 2016.

Sherkat, Darren E., Kylan Mattias de Vries, and Stacia Creek. “Race, Religion, and Opposition to Same-sex Marriage”. Social Science Quarterly 91.1 (2010): 80–98. Web. 15 Apr. 2016.

Whitehead, Andrew L. "Politics, Religion, Attribution Theory, And Attitudes Toward Same-Sex Unions." Social Science Quarterly (Wiley-Blackwell) 95.3 (2014): 701-718. Academic Search Complete. Web. 15 Apr. 2016.

Publisher

None

Date

2015-04-15

Contributor

Robinson, Curtiss J

Format

PDF

Language

English

Type

Document, 8.5x11

Text Item Type Metadata

Text

Curtiss Robinson
Professor Steen
REL 1300 Intro to World Religions
April 15, 2016

Christianity’s Decline of Influence in American Culture

Christianity has had a place in American history ever since America’s separation from England in 1776. The religious influence present in today’s culture was a direct result of the heavy establishment of Christianity in British governance and culture. Christianity’s impact on the Unites States' culture is slowly fading and consequently America has seen many changes such as the legalization of same-sex marriage, an increased use of marijuana along with legalization in some states, and an increase of Americans that identify as religiously unaffiliated.
Ever since the anti-gay crusades in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) groups have witnessed a significant increase of momentum of publicity regarding equal rights. This awareness has been a crucial step towards mobilizing “around issues of nondiscrimination, against police harassment, hate crimes, and HIV prevention and mitigation” (Sherkat, de Vries, and Creek 3). One of the most controversial issues in the political spotlight for America’s LGBT community was the legal recognition of same-sex marriages. Numerous studies have found that members of Protestant denominations view same-sex marriages as a sinful, therefore many members do not feel that homosexuals should receive equal rights regarding civil liberties involving marriage. “Individuals who frequently attend religious services or who consistently engage in private religious devotions such as prayer or scripture reading are less likely to be favorable toward same-sex unions” (Whitehead 702). An example of a Protestant teaching from the bible that speaks out against homosexuals is “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it [is] abomination”(New Jerusalem Bible, Leviticus 18:22). There are numerous teachings similar to the previous, which can be found throughout the bible. These teachings have caused same-sex marriages acceptance to always be met with stiff opposition from Protestant establishments. “We expect to show that involvement in religious activity increases opposition to same-sex unions because voices of organized religion do not frequently speak out in support of gay couples” (Cadge 268).
Considering that around 86 percent of Americans in 2002 claimed that they believed in God, it can be estimated that a majority of Americans would share similar ideals to sexuality within marriage. 86 percent is a staggering majority of the American population and this demonstrates that there is an inescapable bias carried over from religious affiliation to American politics. The link between such a long standing condemnation of same-sex marriage and an overwhelming majority of Protestant America just how non-secular America policy truly is. “The rationale for the moral establishment was internally inconsistent, claiming to support religious liberty while in fact promoting religious control” (Sehat 8). In 2008, six years later, another survey was conducted to determine how many persons identify with believing in God, the number dropped by 8 percent to a new total of 78 percent of American’s believing in God. That was a 1.34 percent increase of persons per year, not identifying Christianity as their main religious affiliation. This is a significant and downright dramatic shift in religious affiliation, this percentage roughly means 26 million American’s have shifted their views. To put this figure in perspective, the amount of Americans changing identification in 6 years is equivalent to the population of the state of Texas.
Applying that same trend of decline to present day, that number of religiously unaffiliated persons would have dropped all the way down to 67 percent. Paralleling the timeline of decreasing amount of Christian members in America and the legalization of same-sex marriage nationwide in June 26, 2015, there is obvious correlation between the two movements. As the number of persons that identify as religiously unaffiliated increases, the grip that Protestant establishment has on American’s culture loosens and civil liberties become less construed by biblical teachings. “While the association between politics, religion, and same-sex unions never disappears, it is reduced with the inclusion of attribution beliefs” (Whitehead 702).
Patricia Collins found an interesting correlation between religious view on sexuality and African American’s views on policy. Collins found that despite the decline of religious influence in America, “Clearly dialogues need to occur between conservative Black Christian churches that advance one stance on homosexuality and movements for LGBT rights that advance another”(Collins 16). These findings show that there is a direct correlation between demographic groups in America and the resulting conservative views centralized to that region. For example, “black Protestant denominations are less accepting of same-sex marriage or civil unions than mainline Protestants, Jews, and the unaffiliated” (Whitehead 702). This is a crucial discovery because it demonstrates that while the decline of Christianity is taking place, the institutional opinion set forth still have a lasting impact on public views in all demographics. The transition from such a long-standing influence is going to take quite a while for its effects to fully wear off on America’s most controversial subjects.
A more recent report of a study conducted from 2007 to 2012 concluded that persons who identified as religiously unaffiliated grew from 15 percent in 2007 to a staggering 20 percent in 2012. As stated earlier, this pattern still follows closely to the estimated 1 to 1.5 percent increase of people not recognizing themselves as Christians. This is an alarming rate and the fact that it has continued at a similar rate for over 15 years is remarkable. This study also found that the younger generation (persons between eighteen and twenty-nine years old), percentage of people categorizing as religiously unaffiliated reached 32 percent (Nelson 280). This shows a trend that the newer generation that is reaching adulthood is far less influenced by religious standpoints that currently have a stronghold in American politics. This movement easily illustrates the future of America and the forthcoming inevitable changes in shaping America as a more secular government.
Another area that shows the declining influence of Christianity from American politics is legalization of marijuana. From a biblical standpoint “the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (New Jerusalem Bible, Galatians 5:19-21). This verse in the bible makes it clear that the use of marijuana, or in other words a type of “sorcery”, is considered a sinful act in Christianity. It was only until recent years that marijuana legalization has been considered after a careful examination of why it is marijuana was criminalized, yet we have other drugs such as alcohol that are much more destructive. The most clear reason form criminalization is directly because of politics and the overwhelming disapproval rating from the Church.
In 1996, medical marijuana was legalized in the state of California and by 1998 three other states adopted similar laws. California is typically is one of the forerunners to pursue updating government policy so that it corresponds with changes in American culture. It is not a coincidence that California also ranks fourth the top ten states with largest percentage of people identifying as not religiously affiliated. This trend of policy making in California and decline of “believers” shows that there may be direct correlation between government policy and religious practices. Marijuana laws have very little justification to have such heavy penalties, but because of religious influence there was a long trend of a majority of American’s being in opposition of marijuana legalization. It is a strange phenomenon to see the change of public opinion on marijuana legalization shift so quickly. The momentum of this shift all over the last twenty years overlaps with the increase of religiously of persons identifying not believing in God.
One theory is that the increasing amount of persons in America identifying as religiously unaffiliated does not mean that there is a dramatic decline of membership in the church. Rather, it simply demonstrates the changing of perception of non-believers as a more social accepted way of faith identification. Persons in the past may have felt more pressured to choose a mainstream religion to follow because not doing so would make a person feel like an outsider. Another common misconception is that if a person is religiously unaffiliated it means that they are Atheist. This is a huge misconception because many religiously uninvolved persons believe in the possibility of a supreme being but are just not completely convinced that the Protestant God is what aligns with their faith.
The decline of American’s identifying as Christian is not a warning sign of the nation dividing into a segregated religious battleground. The decline should rather be viewed as an increase in religious diversity. After a decline of self-identified Protestants in Unites States “from 62 percent in 1972 to 48 percent in 2012” it is clear that Christianity’s heavy influence is slowly fading (Nelson 280). America continues to change and adapt to new religions and policies to create the most equal cultures found in the world. America was built on the foundation of Christianity but it was also built on the amendments that guaranteed equality for American citizens. It is crucial to recognize that the first amendment states “congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. This demonstrates that the founding fathers recognized the need of separation of church and state; however, naturally American opinion and decisions are heavily influenced by one’s tendencies and personal beliefs.
Christianity has not directly dictated governance, but it has made its place in American long-standing traditions, customs, and policies. America will forever continue to develop and it is the inevitable fate of every country to have several changes in popularity of mainstream religions and religious identification. Although it is difficult to predict what religions will shape America policy, it is clear that Christianity is currently in decline and has been for many years, only time will tell what will emerge next.
























Work Cited
Cadge, Wendy. "Vital Conflicts: The Mainline Protestant Denominations Debate Homosexuality." The Hand of God: Faith Based Activism and the Public Role of Mainline Protestantism. Ed. Wuthnow, Robert & Evans, John. Berkeley: University of California Press. Web. 15 April 2016.

Collins, Patricia Hill. 2005. Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender, and the
New Racism. New York: Routledge. Web. 15 April 2016.

David Sehat. Myth of American Religious Freedom, The. Oxford University Press, USA, 2010. Web. 15 Apr. 2016.

Egan, Patrick J., and Kenneth Sherrill. “Marriage and the Shifting Priorities of a New Generation of Lesbians and Gays”. PS: Political Science and Politics 38.2 (2005): 229–232. Web. 15 Apr. 2016.

Flannelly, Kevin. " RELIGION IN AMERICA—1972–2006: RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION, ATTENDANCE, AND STRENGTH OF FAITH”. The Spears Research Institute” HealthCare Chaplaincy, New York, 01 June 2010. Web. 15 Apr. 2016.

Founding, Fathers. "The Bill of Rights." N.d. MS. The Charters of Freedom. Web. 15 Apr. 2016.

Nelson, Robert H. "The Secularization Myth Revisited: Secularism as Christianity in Disguise." Journal of Markets and Morality 18.2 (2015) ProQuest. Web. 15 Apr. 2016.

Olson, Laura R., Wendy Cadge, and James T. Harrison. “Religion and Public Opinion About Same-sex Marriage”. Social Science Quarterly 87.2 (2006): 340–360. Web. 15 Apr. 2016.

Sherkat, Darren E., Kylan Mattias de Vries, and Stacia Creek. “Race, Religion, and Opposition to Same-sex Marriage”. Social Science Quarterly 91.1 (2010): 80–98. Web. 15 Apr. 2016.

Whitehead, Andrew L. "Politics, Religion, Attribution Theory, And Attitudes Toward Same-Sex Unions." Social Science Quarterly (Wiley-Blackwell) 95.3 (2014): 701-718. Academic Search Complete. Web. 15 Apr. 2016.




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Robinson, Curtiss J, “Christianity’s Decline of Influence in American Culture,” Religion @ Florida State University, accessed July 24, 2024, https://religionatfsu.omeka.net/items/show/293.

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