Why is religion so diverse?
I believe that one ought to know the definition(s) of religion and diversity before they can even begin to find the answer(s) to the above question. Religion is the belief in, worship of, or obedience to a supernatural power or powers considered to be divine or have control of human destiny. Religion is an organized collection of beliefs, cultural system, and world views that relate humanity to an order of existence.
Diversity is a term used broadly to refer to using demographic variables including but not limited to race, religion, color, gender, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, age education, geographic origin and skills characteristics. America's diversity has given this country its unique strength, resilience and values.
Diversity has been one of the distinguishing features of religious life in North America ever since the first days of European settlement and even before with the wide variety of Native cultures. Religious groups have accommodated to one another where rampant ethnic and religious diversity forced various groups to find some way to coexist.
Religious diversity not only had an ethnic valence, it was racial as well. The story of religious diversity in the nineteenth century is tied inextricably to immigration. (Inextricably meaning to be incapable of being disentangled or untied.)
There were many Americans who were brought to the New World as slaves and chose to "adopt" the Christianity of their captors, while others chose to retain vestiges of their ancestral religions, against formidable odds. With the massive urbanization of American society late in the nineteenth century, various religious and ethnic groups-Jews from Germany and Eastern Europe, Roman Catholics from Ireland and Italy- were thrown together into the cauldron of urban life. Despite inevitable differences and conflict, these groups eventually learned to coexist in the cities. We ought to divert our attention to the Middle Colonies, present day New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland when we are talking about religious diversity. Why? Because this is where we find a rich pastiche of religious groups, ranging from Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Presbyterians, Quakers to Dutch Reformed, Swedish Lutherans, Baptists, Huguenots, and various German groups. The story of how all these groups learned to live together provides a rich contrast to New England, where the Puritans sought-unsuccessfully- to impose religious uniformity.
The twentieth century saw the spectrum of religious diversity expand even further, from Protestants, Catholics, and Jews to a range of Asian religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Shinto, Sikhism, Jaism and many others. At the same time, various indigenous religious gained in popularity: Mormonism, Christian Science, Jehovah's Witness, the Nation of Islam, to name only a few. And, just as in the nineteenth century, religious diversity in the twentieth century was also inextricably tied to immigration.
In the 1950s and the 1960s during the civil rights movements the way for a greater acceptance of religious diversity was paved, not only for African-Americans but for other Americans as well. Americans were confronted with religious diversity as Islamic Mosques, Shinto temples, Sikh Gurdwaras, Buddhist stupas, and Hindu temples literally transformed the religious landscapes of the United States. As usual though, the Americans tend to rise to their better selves and make good the promises in our charter documents the everyone is created equal and enjoys "free exercise" of religion-or, if they prefer, no religion at all.
In reference to the last line of the above paragraph, I am referring to The First Amendment's guarantee of "free exercise" or religion together with its proscription against a state church set up a kind of free market of religious life in the United States.
The absence of an established religion means that all religious groups...
Cited: McKim, Ronald: (2001, Religious Ambiguity and Religious Diversity, Oxford: Oxford Press.–––, 2008, “A Path to (and beyond) Tolerance,” in Religious Tolerance Through Epistemic Humility: Thinking With Philip Quinn, J. Kraft and D. Basinger, (eds.), Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Company)
Putnam, Robert D. : (“American Grace: How Religion Divides And Unites Us” November 2, 2011)
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