Religion and American Culture

Religion is the realization of faith and worship towards a deity, beliefs, or moral values. It is a set of beliefs that is concerned with the existence, purpose, nature, and cause of the universe that normally involves a devotional or ritual observance and in most cases, sets ethical or moral guidelines for human conduct in the society. Religions are based on sacred texts, oral traditions, rituals, and practices that were set to unite its followers. On the other hand, superstition is nothing but belief in magic, myth, or irrational thoughts that people develop over time, from word of mouth, or from false conceptions. Most people may not be religious, but they are superstitious to one thing or the other.

One of the most common superstition is that when players and sportsmen get their lucky numbers printed at the back of their jersey, or fans wear a particular cloth or do illogical stuff, it can get their team to win. If such activities could win matches for the team, that team would be invincible. Men may choose to follow a religion of their choice, but should not be fooled to put their beliefs in superstitions.

Factual evidence is necessary for everything. It is not wise to just state issues to people without having a factual evidence to back them. Even while writing research papers, one must provide sources. Similarly, facts are needed for anything to be proved. The Christian religious values should determine fact-based evidence. Some scientific logic, reality, proof, or facts should accompany Christianity. The Bible can be considered as a factual guideline to follow. Similarly, non-Christian religions must also have some logic, science, common sense, or any fact-based evidence to support their beliefs. Each of them have their sacred books and novels that contain several facts and theories.

If religious values determined fact-based evidence, scientific education would be eliminated in the United States. Science is based on facts and not mere theories. Every theory proposed must be supported by facts to be regarded as scientific. But, if every religious proposition were to be proven, the education system would teach less science and more religious texts. To some extent, having knowledge of the religion is a good thing, but science should always dominate it. Even America would no longer be considered a prime force in world economics if people tried to change the educational system here. There would no longer be a strong need for money flow and people would move backwards towards the uncivilized practice of the barter system, which is not an ideal thing for economics.

Religious behavior discourages immoral behavior. Child marriage, polygamy, child sacrifice, assassination, incest, murder, suicide bombing, or genocide are not at all acceptable in the American culture or any religion. These practices are inhuman and should not be tolerated. Some followers misunderstand the preaching of their original leaders and indulge in antisocial activities. Their leaders set out with the rule of showing the divine path to their followers and not to enforce their teachings using violent means. No religion, for example, initially campaigned for the murder of nonbelievers. Their main idea was to get rid of evil in the society. Their followers split up and started preaching a different doctrine. Some believe that forcefully recruiting new believers get them a place in heaven. Others believe that killing believers from other religions would lead to the removal of other religions from the world. God would never want his children to fight among themselves. Every religious grouping thinks that their God is superior, but forget that there is only one God referred by different names in different social groups. When it comes to morality, God will always be superior and his commands would never be immoral. It is people who interpret it the wrong way.

Abraham as Prometheus is a man of morality. He would be a perfect role model for the people today. People do not want obedient servants amongst them, rather they look for leaders who are morally and ethically correct. Even at the workplace, people want their supervisors and managers to be impartial towards everyone. Everyone wants leaders to have a sense of morality and ethics. Abraham was portrayed as a man of morality when he disobeyed God’s orders of sacrificing his own child. He refused to kill his son and asked God to carry out the assassination Himself.

The Early Middle Ages (Dark Ages) made cultural, societal, and religious contributions to the world. Not only did they give the world a windmill and the heavy plow, they also made many other contributions to the world. Dark Ages arrived with the invasion of Huns and other stronger powers from Asia. This period has relatively less historical records than other periods and extends from 313 to 1000 a.d. Petrarch termed the period as the Dark Age as there were social, political and economic setbacks in Europe. The age is also marked as the decline of the Roman Empire and the development of Feudalism in Europe. The important contributions came from the spread of Islam in different parts of the world.

In spite of its name, Dark Age contributed by development of banking system, metallurgy, usage of stained glass, the Guild System, paper currency, spread of Islam, gradual Christianization of the European people, new forms of political leadership, development of astronomy, scientific methods, Mosque architectures, early capitalism, development of arch in the Churches, heavy plows to for improving agricultural productivity, and art being used to educate the uneducated society. It is during this period that the stories of the great work, Arabian Nights, developed that included many marvelous characters like Ali Baba, Aladdin, and Sinbad the Sailor. It is a classic tale that has entertained the West for centuries with its inelegant style.

In the early middle ages, the concept of making stained glass, came into existence. Architects started developing windows for their Churches and Monasteries with stained glass. Several pieces of colorful art on the glasses have been found in Europe that date back to the seventh century. During the 8th century, the production of color glass began along with techniques of creating artificial gemstones through them. In the same period, paper currency notes came into existence in China where it was used as promissory notes to buy different objects. Another important cultural contribution of the Dark Ages were the development of Arch on the Church architecture due to which the height of the Romanesque and Gothic Churches increased.

From the political point of view, the contributions from the Early Middle Ages came in the form of development of Feudalism. After the Roman Empire fell, there was a political disintegration and chaos in the West followed by the uplift of law and order in the state. In these dark times, Tyrants, Vikings and Nobles started fighting against each other leading to the rise of Feudalism. Though people were forced to submit in front of the tyrannical feudal system, it restored law and order in the West. The private individuals, who were powerful, controlled the government and started running it. The system had a huge hierarchy, on the top of which there was a king who gave governing rights to noble men in exchange of military or other services.

Dark Ages also made serious contributions to the society by the development of heavy plows and windmill. With the invention of heavy plows, it became easier to tilt the heavy and wetter soil which led to a dramatic rise in the agricultural productivity and in turn, the population of that area. Farmers started developing three-field crop rotation in the early 8th century. Besides technological advancement for the betterment of the society, art and craft was also being used to educate the uneducated masses. Church influenced heavily in developing the education system in the Early Middle Ages. Christianity and Islam started spreading across Europe and carried with them widespread literacy. They started preaching the teachings of Mohammed and the Christ. Illuminated books and manuscripts has their roots in the Dark Ages where the text and illumination were done by the same person.

During the Early Middle Ages, the most important contributions came in terms of religion. Islam and Christianity gradually started spreading across the world. Though there was a rise in the superstitions among the people, the religious contributions cannot be ignored. Leaders rose into power and started uniting tribes by converting them to Christianity and forming alliances with the Catholic. Mosques and Churches were being developed in the entire Europe. The first Arab architectures were developed in these period by experimenting in the Mosque designs. Arabs had a golden age during this time and made contributions in the field of astronomy, architecture (as in Mosques at Spain and Turkey), economics, and philosophy (expanding upon the works of Aristotle and Plato).

Early Middle Ages, also known as the Dark Age of Europe, was not merely a setback for the society and the world. There had been several contributions in different fields. Though war and cruelty increased in those days and people started preferring war techniques over education systems, there were centers of education and religious hubs that helped in the development of the world. If not in Europe, other parts of the world had a steady development. In China, for example, paper currency, gun powder, and time keepers were developed during this phase. Stained glasses and artificial gemstones were also developed. Looking back at the golden period of the Roman Empire, contributions are far less in comparison and there has been a major step back in the history of mankind, but at these difficult times also, people did not fail to invent and innovate.

Science explains only the natural world, but religion digs deeper and explains the purpose and meaning behind the natural world. Religion is about WHY and science is about HOW. Scientific researchers do not contradict the religious beliefs and scientific knowledge does not even aim to challenge the religious faiths. Science does not say anything about the meaning of the world and the purpose of life. These questions can only be answered by religion. Religion is a spiritual system. It includes philosophy, science and technology. It invades all systems. Science and religion both ask questions about reality. Science interprets the world based on facts but religion interprets the world differently. Since they are so different, hence they can co-exist.

There are a variety of religious experiences and practices in a wide range of cultures. For most people, religion influences their daily life activities. Many find similarities and differences in the primary beliefs held by major religious traditions and the cultures in which these religions evolved. Different religions teach people about the good and the bad. For example, Zoroastrianism teaches that the earth is a battleground where a great struggle is fought between the spirit of good and the spirit of evil. It also teaches that after life on earth, God judges the human soul to determine whether it was holy or evil in its life. At the time of final judgment, all the good and the bad acts of humans are integrated. Zoroastrianism teaches people to be dedicated at work and have ethical and moral values to excel.

In the liberal North and West, the number of Christians is rapidly shrinking. Christianity in the global South and East is experiencing a phenomenal growth. Jenkins notes that of the 18 million Catholic baptisms recorded in 1998, eight million took place in Central and South America, three million in Africa, and about three million in Asia. In the Philippines alone, the number of baptisms annually was higher than the totals for Italy, France, Spain and Poland combined.

The human race evolved thousands of years ago from the apes according to the theory of evolution. Scientists have found cultures growing among apes as well and from there it evolved in humans. Apes have been found to have moral cultures among them, sense of hierarchy, social structures and rules and regulations of the community in which they live. Some animals have been found to possess the quality of sensitivity among them. They have shown signs of social behavior when being experimented upon or observed. A rhesus monkey could starve himself for days if he is asked to get the food by pulling a chain which gives an electric shock to his companion or others. Similarly, Chimpanzees would drown themselves in order to save others, reconcile after fights among themselves, and even make peace. These social behaviors shown in apes are the precursor of cultural evolution among humans.

Human beings, like other primitive apes, have a sense of empathy and self-awareness levels. After a fight or a competition, chimpanzees were found to console the loser just like people do on moral grounds. Consolation requires a creature to have a feeling of empathy for others. This culture has greatly been observed among chimpanzees. Cultures evolved and changed at an extremely fast pace than the evolution of humans themselves. Culture is thought to have evolved right from the evolution of man in history. It is reasonable to believe that people first developed the sense of morality among themselves, followed by religion. The sense of community came from the warfare that were prominent among the primitives earlier.

Religious beliefs are a determining factor in the child rearing process. Every religion has their own beliefs and practices and parents get influenced by these religious beliefs and raise their child accordingly. The three main religions of the world, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam emphasize on the family size and encourage parents to spend quality time with their children. Religious parents are likely to be more involved and affectionate with the child. The employment status of parents also determines how the child is parented. Certain jobs ask for more time from the parents who then gets less time to spend with their children. This affects the attachment between the child and the parent. Stress, social support, and neighborhood environment are also determining factors of parenting.

There are four basic components of sociality – empathy (the ability to feel for others by keeping oneself in their position), learnability and following of the social rules (the ability of a living being to learn and acquire knowledge with the help of his brain and follow the social rules that are set for the entire society), reciprocity (the ability of a race to respond to the action by others), and peacemaking (the ability of a race to make peace after conflicts, fights, or wars). These four components are the basic roots in any culture and people have developed such traits since time immemorial. As humans evolved out of the primitives, they became socially and culturally more dominant than other species and even started to rule over them. As humans evolved, more cultural traits were developed and people became more social.

There are several cultures in the world today and not each of them is the primary culture of humans. In fact, most of them have evolved with time as a result of the intermixing of human race, globalization, expansion in the world, and hybridizing with others. Most cultures that people see around the world are a hybrid mixture of other primitive cultures. A child inherits the culture from his family and friends and if he originates from a family having diverse cultural backgrounds, he is bound to have a blended mix of all of them. It has been supported with statistical research and observation among the apes that humans have a culture that evolved from them since the evolution of humans themselves. As the human beings developed their brains and made advancement in the field of technology and science, the cultures developed as well.

The United States is the third largest country in the word with a population of more than 320 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Because of this, the United States is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world. Nearly every region of the world has influenced American culture, as it is a country of immigrants, most notably the English who colonized the country beginning in the early 1600s. U.S. culture has also been shaped by the cultures of Native Americans, Latin Americans, Africans and Asians. The United States is sometimes described as a “melting pot” in which different cultures have contributed their own distinct “flavors” to American culture. Just as cultures from around the world have influenced American culture, today American culture influences the world. The term Western culture often refers broadly to the cultures of the United States and Europe.

There is no official language in the United States. While almost every language in the world is spoken in the United States, Spanish, Chinese, French and German are among the most frequently spoken non-English languages. Ninety percent of the U.S. population speaks and understands at least some English, and most official business is conducted in English. Nearly every known religion is practiced in the United States, which was founded on the basis of religious freedom. America is ultimately a nation of immigrants and as a result is a cultural mish-mash in every sense of the word. Not only is the country populated by people from foreign countries but all Americans in one way or another trace their ancestry back to another culture, whether Irish, German, Italian or Scottish. The most popular religion is Christianity.

The United States has an Anglo majority that is politically and economically dominant. One of the defining characteristics of the country as a nation is its legacy of slavery and the persistence of economic and social inequalities based on race. The U.S. culture has significant regional inflections. Most Americans are aware of these differences despite the fact that these regions have experienced economic transformations and that Americans are a mobile people who often leave their regions of origin. The Northeast is densely populated. Its extensive corridors of urbanization have been called the national “megalopolis.” Once a leader in technology and industry, the Northeast has been overtaken in those areas by California’s Silicon Valley. The Midwest is both rural and industrial. It is the home of the family farm and is the “corn belt” and “breadbasket” of the nation. In the Great Lakes area of the upper Midwest, the automobile and steel industries were central to community and economy. As those industries declined, the upper Midwest became known as the rust belt.

The South of America was shaped by its secession from the Union before the Civil War and is associated with slavery and with subsequent battles over civil rights for African-Americans. In contemporary terms, these are the sunshine states, retirement havens, and new economic frontiers. The West, the last national frontier, is associated with national dreams and myths of unlimited opportunity and individualism. It has the nation’s most open landscapes. California, along with the southwestern states were ceded to the United States by Mexico in 1848 after the Mexican-American War. The Southwest is distinctive because of its historical ties to colonial Spain, its Native American populations, and its regional cuisine, which has been influenced by Native American and Spanish cultures.

References

Marsden, G. (2001). Religion and American culture (1st ed.). Fort Worth: Harcourt College Publishers.

Zimmermann, K. (2015). American Culture: Traditions and Customs of the United States. Live Science. Retrieved 2 February 2017, from http://www.livescience.com/28945-american-culture.html

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