Recent Republican debates have chided President Barack Obama for attacking American’s freedom of religion. These allegations are backed up by the Obama administration’s continued funding of contraceptives, abortion, and sterilization procedures. Additionally, conservatives feel Obama has harbored an openly pro-gay agenda which violates the sanctity of heterosexual marriage. While these criticisms about the Obama administration are well known and shared by a percentage of the US population, the administration’s actions may be indicative of a paradigm shift in the United States towards more progressive thinking and away from religious conservatism.
The United States has long thought of itself as a country defined by Puritan values and that same notion has reinforced itself through United States Census statistics which shows over 75% of American’s subscribe to some sort of Christian denomination. While people’s religious affiliations have remained intact, religion’s priority in their lives has dropped. A 2010 poll shows that people who believe religion is the most important thing in their life fell from 16% to just 9%, from 2006 to 2008.
These statistics exemplify a growing disconnect between the percentage of claimed religious affiliates and religions role in American’s lives. Perhaps the average American’s religious affiliation stands as more of a means of identification rather than guiding light in their lives; or maybe people refuse to cut ties from religions with which they have been historically affiliated (such as someone raised Catholic but no longer practicing). Either way, American’s are keeping their religious affiliation, which provides them with the groundwork for a sense of morality, but does not let religion take precedent over their family, health, or careers/education. This may be the source of America’s new found progressivism, particularly because of the United States’ emphasis on education.
In order to insure a more stable family life or health resources, the average American must invest more time and money into their education so that they may acquire a well paying job. The forced critical and analytical thinking of higher education may be leading to a less religious populous. This is not to say that people who are religious are stupid; but rather to suggest that religion plays a smaller role in educated people’s lives. Most notably, in the ever popular field of science, only about 7% of Western society doctoral scientists believe in a personal god.
Religion’s fall from American’s list of priorities is enigmatic in the sense that the new priorities-family, health, career, education-are not mutually exclusive from religion; those same values, in some capacity, are preached and revered in every mainstream religious text. American’s seem to be focused on improving the most fundamental religious values in their lives while casting aside the disputable specifics of religious texts. Essentially, the nation is adopting a more accepting, conscious, well-rounded, and open-minded mentality, without the untouchable sacredness that can characterize a devout, unquestioning religious individual’s viewpoint. Keeping that idea in mind…
What does a more progressive United States look like? What does it mean for the environment?
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