The United States has long touted itself as a nation where citizens have the right to follow whatever religions they so desire. Though Christianity has always remained the most popular of spiritual belief systems in America, recent reports highlight how there have been some noteworthy shifts from this norm. Review these facts to gain a better understanding on how religious views have changed in the United States.
Puritanism Is on the Decline
In the 1500s, Puritanism was the most popular type of Protestantism in England. When colonizers from Western Europe first began arriving in North America, they brought with them their religious beliefs. Due to this, Protestantism became the most widespread form of Christianity across New England. It remained the top religion in America for hundreds of years after this, remaining the dominant religious system of the country until more recent times.
A study conducted in 2007 pointed out that over 51% of Americans identified as Protestants. However, this number began to drastically shift over the next seven years. When similar research was done in 2014, the number of citizens who claimed Protestantism as their religion dropped to roughly 45%. Experts believe that this number will continue to drop over the course of upcoming decades.
The Average American Can Freely Change Religions
The concept of religious freedom allows citizens of the United States to follow whatever system of belief they desire. In addition to this, it gives people the flexibility to change their religious affiliations if they wish. According to a recent paper published by the Pew Research Center, roughly 35% of Americans claim to have switched to a religion other than the one they were born into or raised with. Experts attribute the overall decline of Protestantism in the United States to religious switching and the rise in popularity of various Eastern religions.
The Internet Plays a Huge Role in American Religion
Community is an integral component of most religions. While gathering in churches and other religious spaces might be the norm, people in America also take advantage of modern technology when looking to share their beliefs with others. In fact, reports point out that about 68 million Americans use the internet weekly to discuss, research, or share information about their religious views.
This is not an entirely new concept, either. Before the rise of the internet, America was home to more television and radio programs centered around religion than any other country. Beyond this, Americans also tend to get more creative with how they observe their religions. A solid example of this is Christian Rock, an American genre of music that combines the popularity of rock music with the messages and teachings of Christianity.
Religion Is Less of a Concern When Dictating Social Issues
The media does a good job of portraying America as a nation where intense religious beliefs stand in the way of progressive social policies. However, research suggests that the problem is not as severe as most people believe. Prior to 2014, Christian beliefs were used as the main argument against the legalization of same-sex marriage. When citizens were polled about the topic in 2015, more than 56% of individuals who identified as religious also supported the LGBT community. Still, the people who are most supportive of same-sex political issues tend to be individuals who have no religious affiliation whatsoever.
Americans are also very divided when it comes to how much of a role religion should play in business practices. For example, about 45% of people believe that a business owner has the right to refuse service to potential customers who live lifestyles that conflict with their religious beliefs. About 50% of citizens believe that religion should not dictate business in any capacity.
Change Is on the Horizon
Though religion has long played an important role in American society, research does suggest that major shifts are taking place. By looking at how religious views have changed over the years, you can gain a better understanding of the direction the future will take with such issues.