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Thursday, 15 November 2012 12:15

Religion: Notes

Written by David Sheppard
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Chapter 8: Religion

Religion in the United States

Religion is likely as important in shaping an individual’s persona as gender, class, or ethnicity.

All religions and religious groups are important, especially to those who belong to them.

Religious Composition of Schools

The religious pluralism of the school in which one teaches will be determined, in great part, by the school’s geographic region of the United States.

The dominant Protestant groups have often determined the moral teachings that have been integrated into the public schools.

The First Amendment                       

The First Amendment clearly states that Congress is prohibited from making laws establishing a religion or prohibiting religious worship.

If an educator does not understand or ignores the role of religion in the lives of students, it may be difficult to develop appropriate instructional strategies, or even retain one’s job.

The Importance of Religion in Our Lives

In the United States, 84% of the population claim to have a preference for some religious group.

Religion influences the way many people think, perceive, and behave.

Freedom of Religious Expression

Religious Pluralism in the United States                 

Religion in the United States is dynamic, and constantly changing.

Americans tend to identify not only with major groups, but also with smaller groups or denominations.

Although religious pluralism in our past has often led to conflict, the hope of the future is that it will lead to a better understanding and respect for religious differences.

A Changing Religious Landscape

While the United States has remained primarily a Christian nation, with strong Protestant influence, the country has seen slow but steady changes in the last few decades.

Recent data suggest that Americans are becoming less religious, with nearly twice as many (almost 20%) choosing no religious identification in 2008 compared with 1990.

The End of Christian America?


Protestants make up approximately 47% of the U.S. population.

Although not a numerical majority, their influence is still continued in society and institutions.

Among Protestants there is considerable diversity in views (denominational pluralism).

Liberal/Conservative Protestants

Evangelical/Fundamentalist Christians

Fundamentalist and Evangelical Christians exert particular influence in education and politics.


One denomination, under a Pope, which has authority over all Catholics throughout the world.

Approximately 22% of the U.S. population identifies with the Roman Catholic Church.

Membership in U.S. Catholic churches involves many different ethnic groups.

The Roman Catholic Church in the United States has developed the largest private educational system in the world.


Judaism is one of the oldest religions known to humanity, and identity is a blend of historical, religious, and ethnic variables.

Judaism represents about 1% of the U.S. population.

Jews in the United States and throughout the world have been the targets of prejudice and discrimination, sometimes leading to attempted annihilation of the population.

Although a small percentage of the population, contributions of Jewish Americans in major fields of study and entertainment, business, economics, and politics have been profound.


Islam is also one of the fastest-growing religions in the United States, and has over 1 billion adherents worldwide.

Muslims make up 1.2% of the U.S. population.

Recent world and U.S. events, especially September 11, 2001, make Islam of particular importance to us.

U.S. Black Muslims form a unique identity of their own.


Buddhism is one of the world’s major religions.

Immigration of Asians into the United States brings thousands of additional Buddhists into the country each year.

Buddhist beliefs encompass the suffering which is part of all existence, and the solution to suffering and meaninglessness, which is Buddha.


Hinduism is the major religion of India.

It is the world’s third largest religion after Christianity and Islam (13% of the world’s population aligns with Hinduism).

It differs from other religions in that it does not have a single founder, nor a single system of morality or a central organization.

Other Religious Groups

Religion and Gender

Religion and Homosexuality

Role of Black Religious Groups

Civil Rights Movement and Black Churches

Disenchantment Among Younger Generations

Individual Religious Identity

Most Americans are born into the religion of their parents, later joining that same body.

In the U.S., individuals are always free to change their religion or to choose no religion.

Religion may be the primary micro-culture with which individuals identify.

Separating Church and State and Other Issues

Public schools are supposed to be free of religious doctrine, but many people believe that schools without such a perspective do not provide desirable values orientation for students.

Although schools should be secular, they are greatly influenced by the predominant values of the community.

Controversial Issues in Education and Religion

Classroom Implications