Religion - one of the most important among the many ways in which Americans are involved in the life of their community and society as a whole. Religion in the United States has traditionally played a major role. At all times, America was a virgin land to many religions, as well as the non-interference in religious practice has led to that the U.S. has become very comfortable shelter for small foreign sects. Americans donate more time and money to religious organizations and societies than all other voluntary associations together. About 40% of Americans participate in worship at least once a week (i.e., much more frequently than people in Western Europe and even in Canada), and about 60% of the total U.S. population - members of religious organizations. The brightest feature of religious culture in the United States is the diversity of religions, which is closely connected with the history of the country.
Diana Eck, author of the book "A New Religious America», believes that the processes that have occurred in the U.S. over the last century, had no analogues in the world history. No country for several decades turned from a predominantly Christian state in the country, where practically all religious faiths exist. Quantitative changes in the numbers of certain religious communities are not so much due to the missionary activity but as a result of mass emigration. Prerequisite for the formation of the multiculturalism program was a "revolution" of civil rights, within which was adopted by the "Civil Rights Act" in 1964, which weakened the whole Anglo-Saxon dominance in the United States, as well as "Immigration Act" in 1965, which opened the way to the U.S. huge influx immigrants from the "third world". For example, in the last decade in the wake of mass emigration from India, the number of American Hindus increased by almost 240%, although cases of appeal to the Hindu of Americans are single. Similar "recruitment" received American Buddhists, Baha'is, Sikhs and Muslims. In multicultural U.S. policy the trend familiarizing the immigrants to the values of American society is clearly identified. At the same time, the adoption of multicultural policy shows a lack of the required ethno - cultural homogeneity of American society and the formation of additional mechanisms to contain ethnic and racial extremism. A significant increase in the number of Hispanic Americans and Asian Americans changed the overall picture of religious diversity in a multicultural country, smoothing the former Anglo-Saxon superiority percentage of the population.
In order to prove the religious diversity of the USA, she shows some important facts and figures:
- 163 million Americans (63 percent) consider themselves as belonging to any particular denomination;
- The Roman Catholic Church is the largest denomination, with about 60 million followers;
- The total number of followers of Protestant churches in America reaches 94 million people; they are divided into 220 different currents.
- In the U.S. there are more than 300,000 local congregations;
- The number of clergy exceeds 530 thousand people;
- About 3.8 million Jews proclaim their religious affiliation (2 million people declare their affiliation to Jewish culture or their ethnic Jewish origin);
- -In America live about 3.5-3.8 million Muslims, Islam is the fastest growing religion in the United States.
- With regard to religious self-identity, the fastest growing group in the United States is atheists / agnostics (now about 8 million).
As the religions spread geographically and interpenetrate each other, traditional Churches are forced to define their positions. In many countries, there is a tension between religion, most closely connected with the national history, and others which are already a part of the population confession or just come to it. People of a more organized religion seek to find a balance between the freedom of religious belief for all, and a threat to traditional values, customs, a sense of national certainty.
The diverse religious community in some sense makes Americans, at one time or another, the religious minorities. Different groups often change their positions on some issues, on the basis of their private interests. The Catholic Church, for example - very firmly supports the movement of supporters of the "preservation of life", which stands for a ban on abortion. In this regard, it occupies a position different from the position of American Jewry or liberal Protestant denominations. But for some other issues, they are at the forefront of public religious activities, as they worry about a variety of problems. So Catholics can change their position, Jews can sometimes interact with the Protestants, and sometimes not.
American religion is moving towards even greater diversity. Since then, in 60 years have changed the immigration laws, the number of adherents of Eastern or Asian religions, has increased significantly. And I think that in some sense this is the future of religion in America: the growth of diversity, diversity even within the same religion. For example, Southern Baptists are experiencing, apparently, the process of splitting into two separate denominations. Already there are two different directions. American Jews are divided into 4-5 different traditions or religions. So the development is towards more and more differentiation. So I think that this is good as it becomes less likely that any one denomination will dominate.
Living in a religiously diverse country, Americans are very tolerant to other beliefs: for example, 77% of Christians believe that every religion has the elements of truth. Three quarters of the Christians claim that religious diversity of America is a source of strength and vitality of religious faith of every U.S. resident. This tolerance is not based on knowledge of the religious tenets of other religions, but rather on the state traditions of the country (United States became one of the first countries in the world where equality and religious freedom of all religions was founded in the Constitution). In my opinion, people, who don’t live in such religiously diverse country, are not able to understand and tolerate other religions, because the respect to other faiths is gained only religious practice. The tolerance and understanding will be in those countries, where religions of different countries and nations live side by side.
Dr. Diana L. Eck. A NEW RELIGIOUS AMERICA. http://beijing.usembassy-china.org.cn/uploads/images/-MkZAIE4J07WLHQCGJJ7xQ/a_new_religious_america.pdf