The Lonestar
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The Lonestar

America: One Nation Under God?

This article is written by Lucy Wu, Gubernatorial Chief of Staff.

“Secularization: Its Impact Upon America and Americans.” John H Armstrong, 4 Mar. 2013, johnharmstrong.com/secularization-its-impact-upon-america-and-americans/.

America is known for its love of bald eagles, fried food, and… God? Our nation’s official motto, “In God We Trust”, once very relevant during the religious revivals of the 1950’s, is becoming increasingly unsuitable for the cultural makeup of our country. Over the past couple of years, the number of people who mark “none” when asked about their religion has increased. These individuals marked “none” consist of atheists, agnostics, and those not part of any organized religion. In fact, for the first time in history, the religiously unaffiliated are the largest group, at 23.1% of our population, just slightly over both Evangelicals and Catholics, both respectively at 22.5% and 23%.

The main reason the US is starting to see a decrease in religious affiliation is that nominal Christians, meaning those who only call themselves Christian because of parental influence or because they attend church for reasons other than faith, are rejecting their beliefs. However, those with strong beliefs and practices are still holding fast to them. Experts have pinpointed many different reasons as to why nominal Christians are losing their faith. Primarily, the internet has become a major factor, as it connects people who may spread similar ideas of non-belief to one another. The second major reason for this trend is the hypocrisy of the church. Many non-religious people cite bad experiences with churches or issues such as sexual abuse in the Catholic church as reasons for their disbelief. The third major issue is the emphasis on education and science in the US. The level of education per person in the US has increased in the past couple of decades, and with that, so has the emphasis on scientific thought. As more people rely on science, more people start coming to the conclusion that religion is improbable.

However, despite secularization, the US doesn’t follow the Secularization Theory like other Western countries. The Secularization Theory states that as countries get more educated, they become increasingly secular. This trend is seen in European countries such as France and the Netherlands. But while the US is a highly educated country, we are still a highly religious and spiritual country, with both aspects affecting American society and politics.

For example, even though the percentage of people claiming to be religious is decreasing, the percentage of people claiming to be spiritual is still on the rise. The Pew Research Center finds that 27% of Americans claim to be spiritual but not religious. The increase in this group has led to the planting of secular churches, like Sunday Assembly. These secular churches gather once a week to listen to secular sermons and sing nonreligious songs, trying to create the same sense of community provided by churches, but without true religion. However, after a few years, membership in these organizations has started to dwindle due to lack of interest. Secular church leaders have found it challenging to retain members due to a lack of a unifying system, as members’ non-belief wasn’t reason enough to sacrifice their Sunday mornings. Generally, the religiously unaffiliated have failed at secularizing the culture held by churches in the US for a couple hundred years.

Furthermore, while the American people have begun to secularize, our politics are still tinged with religious beliefs. While our Congress is becoming increasingly diverse and representative of the true makeup of our country, with Muslims, LGBTQ, and Native Americans, there is one area where diversity is lacking: religion. The Pew Research Center finds that, out of all 535 members of the 116th Congress, only 1 member is atheist. That’s only 0.2% of Congress, in comparison to 23% of the general public. FiveThirtyEight furthers this argument, stating that 38% of Americans won’t vote for a presidential candidate who isn’t religious. In fact, this can be seen directly in the 2020 presidential elections. While Christianity is usually associated with the GOP, many democratic candidates are also bringing their faith into the campaign spotlight. Specifically, both Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren have been very vocal about their faith, and how it affects them and their policies. This supports the idea that there is still a stigma against non-religious politicians, and that there’s a strong disconnect between the beliefs of the people and the political scene of America.

Besides the changing religious identity of the American people, the secularization of the US hasn’t had much impact upon the social, cultural, and political values of this country. Perhaps as secularization continues, the US will follow the trend of Western European countries and its impact will permeate through all aspects of society. But regardless of our own religious affiliation, let’s not allow the struggle between secular and religious values create strife within our country.

Works Cited:

“5 Facts about the Religious Makeup of the 116th Congress.” Pew Research Center, www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/01/03/5-facts-about-the-religious-makeup-of-the-116th-congress/.

Hill, Faith. “They Tried to Start a Church Without God. For a While, It Worked.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 24 July 2019, www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/07/secular-churches-rethink-their-sales-pitch/594109/.

“More Americans Now Say They’re Spiritual but Not Religious.” Pew Research Center, www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/09/06/more-americans-now-say-theyre-spiritual-but-not-religious/.

Perrybaconjr. “A Lot Of Americans Say They Don’t Want A President Who Is Over 70. Really?” FiveThirtyEight, FiveThirtyEight, 17 May 2019, fivethirtyeight.com/features/a-lot-of-americans-say-they-dont-want-a-president-who-is-over-70-really/.

“Secularization: Its Impact Upon America and Americans.” John H Armstrong, 4 Mar. 2013, johnharmstrong.com/secularization-its-impact-upon-america-and-americans/.

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