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The disintegration of religion
Secularism is understood as the disintegration of religion from democratic process of a state. In our society, social, political and economical values and decisions are highly integrated and, more often than not, are created and based around a backbone of theology and religion. It is because of this structure that secularism cannot be a functional element of the western world.
For the purpose of this paper I will concentrate on America’s continued infatuation with religion and religious practices. To be more specific on Secularism in the western world I want to concentrate on America to be able to expand and fully understand the close ties that exists between America’s government and the religious right. American economic and social policies have created a sort of free market when it comes to its citizen’s desire for religious choice. Since there is a large variety of religions within the United States, it is only natural for people to be interested in what these different ‘denominations’ have to offer and if these offerings appeal to them. According to Anderson, “the amount and intensity of religiosity a culture exhibits depend on the quality and quantity of religion available.” (Anderson) The ease of accessibility of religion in America can thus be perceived as the flood of religion, and when religious becomes pluralistic it also becomes more active, energetic and integrated into people’s lives. It is important to recognize the dominance of religious belief in America to fully understand the integration of religious ideas and practices into democratic decisions.
“Upward of 60 percent of Americans (nearly thrice the European percentage) claim that ‘religion plays a very important role’ in their daily lives, and more than 80 percent of Americans profess belief in God.” (Anderson) If there is such a high percentage of Americans claiming that religion plays a direct role in their daily lives, the heavy incorporation of religion into democratic procedures and decisions comes as no shock. With many Americans using religion to help them make decisions on a day to day basis through their interaction with others it is difficult to persuade them to disintegrate Church and State. The United States has more religious institutions per capita than any other nation on Earth. With religion being so profoundly integrated into American society, it follows that religion must also play a key role in their democratic and social practices.
The general opinion is that government in the United States can be separate from its member’s religious views. Although this seems like an ideal situation for governing a state of many people, this is not reality. American foreign and domestic laws are put in place in an attempt to halt perceived evil doings. These perceptions are created and bestowed into our minds because of our individual religious beliefs. These evil doings are understood and thought as being evil because of some sort of religious connotation and backbone of belief that the acts that these laws are restricting are bad. A large reason why people look for religious truth is to reinforce some form of ‘good’, or light at the end of the tunnel. The notion of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ comes from the issue of human morality and human morality steams from some sort of religious belief.
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“Religion is now the most powerful predictor of party identification and partisan voting intention.” (Anderson) American political parties are shaping the message they convey to their people based on what these people want to hear. When people of a state are told what must be done in order to achieve and create a better country for its citizens they are expecting to hear what they, themselves would do in particular situations that arise when governing a country. In order for political parties to gain confidence from their projected voting populous they must present their arguments for change in ways their voters can agree and rejoice upon. With the majority of Republican supporters commencing from Christian faith it is a matter of excellent political strategy to completely integrate your potential governmental policies around that of the Christian faith, to also have party leaders who are committed Christians themselves, and to show and promote an agenda of Political change according to the doctrines of that religious faith.
Through polling, it has become evident that Republican supporters throughout the United States are heavily involved in religious practices. Many believe that the Republication Party is becoming an extension of the Religious Right in the United States. The Republican Party, its members and its followers all share a similar religious view, and many consider the Party to have a faith-based initiative and agenda for the American people. This integration of beliefs between Party and people is essential to the Party’s political success. The Party’s views on domestic and foreign policy are fueled by these similar beliefs that they share with their devoted followers, which are rooted directly within religion. Even through present modernization of the world, its understanding how things work, and advances in modern science, American political parties, government, and social organizations are holding onto their devoted religious values and stick to their known right of religious practice. “American secularists must face the fact that most U.S. citizens believe in God” (Stout). These people are going to elect representatives that they believe have the ability and willpower to protect the constitutional rights as fellow believers and to also act on those beliefs as deemed necessary.
During the American year 2000 election, four out of every ten votes George W. Bush received were from Christian voters. This is a very significant amount of votes when understanding the impact they have to decide the winner of an election. The interests of a religious group can be taken care of when one can ensure the candidate is willing to push Christian values and gets voted in through the power of numbers. Amongst American voters, white Evangelical people now make up nearly two thirds of American registered voters. (Anderson) Through the power of election, these religious conservatives shape the way American society interacts with itself and dictates America’s foreign policy through a very specific religious agenda. American views on family life, charity, correctional facilities, drug laws, welfare, etc. are all fueled by the backbone that the country has in its administrations present and past religious integrations. The hidden shadow of religious belief surrounding all aspects of American life acts to quietly regulate their national and domestic agenda with an attempt to avoid a backlash from ‘non-believers’. These actions have the approval and they resonate with many American peoples, (though they horrify countless secular, relativistic American and European peoples), with the power of democracy; majority wins. In European countries there is a trend shifting away from the integration of Church, people, and State as many people in these countries are now removed from their religious constraints.
It is believed that the push towards modernity in a state brings about secularist changes. This is most noticeable in European countries where attendance at religious services is declining considerably. Religious organizations within Europe are seeing a decline in attendance, an increase in the median age of believers, and indifference in beliefs. Almost all of Western Europe’s spiritual existence now conveys the sagacity of collapse and lack of interest. Young Europeans are apt to a more individualistic and secular approach in their daily lives and this is reflected in their social, democratic, and economic views, which can be directly correlated with their dealings- not only domestically but abroad as well. If the modernity of Western European countries is pushing social and democratic views towards a more secular state, then why has this not occurred within the United States and the rest of the western world? “If modernity inevitably brings secularism, a ‘disenchantment of the world,’ then how is it that the United States-the modern nation par excellence-is so religious?” (Anderson) The European modernity movement has fashioned a division of church and state, while the modernization of the Unites States has brought about very heavy integration of Church and State, thereby further uniting religion and democracy in solitary. With the continued integration of religious beliefs into American Politics, many around the world are concerned over where the American political agenda is headed in terms of foreign relations and policy.
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There is a thought that the fundamentalist views located within American politics are slowly hijacking the United States and their state of being. With modern science being so integrated into people’s lives it is startling to believe how many American’s believe perceived absolute religious truth over scientific evidence and testimony “Three times as many Americans believe in the Virgin Birth as in Evolution.” (Anderson) Many believe that America’s foreign policy during the Bush administration was fueled by a religious agenda. Forcing the religious nature of the United States and their Christian values on whomever they see as different and less superior has been seen in many instances throughout the Bush administrations term in office. America’s crusade in the Muslim world is seen as a push of their religious views on people whom they see as different and with less superior religious conclusions; this is all said to be masked by a war on ‘terror’. Many believe that this religious crusade could also push the United States to cut its foreign aid to countries that use the acquired assistance in ways that may not be religiously accepted at home, i.e. to hand out birth control to its citizens. On the other hand there are various specific historical instances where true change would not have been able to come about had secularist views been followed, for example the South African triumph over apartheid and the Polish triumph over Soviet oppression. (Stout) If during the African triumph over apartheid Nelson Mandela had taken a secular stance against the apartheid then he would have not gained the support of African and World Churches. If during the Polish triumph religious intervention did not exist then Poland would be at a standstill and a dead end. In these instances the integration of Church and State is very important and helped break constraining and persecuting road blocks.
The integration of Church and State within the United States dictates how America interacts with other nations, and with other nations focusing on becoming more secular by disintegrating Church and State foreign relations between America and many countries is being severely tainted. Understanding the implications of a secular world living with a very non-secular United States is very important when understanding and contemplating the correction of foreign relationships throughout the world.
Secularism is understood as the disintegration of religion from democratic process of a state. In America, social and political standards are greatly incorporated, shaped and implemented based around a composition of theology and religion. It is because of this very integrated structure that secularism is not a practical component of the western world, more particularly in the United States of America. Democratic secularists in America face a very difficult predicament and when they take their opinions, attempt to act on them through action, they are likely to fall short when attempted to be fully put into use. True secularists in America seem to lack strategy and their means have no end, and that “at the crucial point in the argument, everything becomes vague” (Stout).
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