Diversity of American Religion

Celia - East Lansing, Michigan
Entered on December 3, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30

I believe that religion in the United States is diverse, but also that a majority of the public is ill-informed and therefore unable to act appropriately towards the nations changing religious identity.

It is obvious to me that the United States is one of the most religiously diverse nations in the world. This belief only makes perfect sense considering that this country was founded on very basic rights; the rights that entitle everyone to freedom, freedom of speech, freedom of press, and most importantly, freedom of religion. These freedoms, which are not as common in some other areas of the world, are what made the United States a place that many people desired to live. That was until the Immigration Act of 1924, which drastically restricted the number of immigrants that could live in this country.

When the act was lifted in the 1960’s this nation was predominantly Christian. The nation’s identity began to change in the nullification of this Act. Immigrants from India and Asia brought with them beliefs such as Hinduism and Buddhism while immigrants from the Middle East brought Islamic religious traditions. This helped to contribute in diversifying this country as Diana Eck says it “pained a religiously diverse American landscape”. However, it is apparent that not all of the natural citizens were keen to welcoming their new neighbors. The old saying that you are afraid of what you don’t know, is perfectly exemplified in this situation. Where the natural citizens fear their new neighbors simply because they do not know anything about these other religions. American Christian citizens may have lived their entire lives in communities with a Christian majority that does not have any education of Islamic traditions, and the all of the sudden a Muslim family moves in next door. The American family can easily identify their new neighbors and quickly be frightened of them because there traditions seem odd of different from their own.

Some natural citizens may find this religious diversity to be threatening to their nation’s Christian identity, even though the United States has a secular constitution. These are the kind of beliefs that can end in terrible hate crimes. Some natural citizens have been known to act violently towards those of other religious groups. I believe this could be prevented with the education of all citizens about different religious beliefs.

I was taught as a freshman in high school, about Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islamic religious traditions. I believe that educating the youth about a variety of religions is a step in the right direction for America. Yes our nation’s identity is changing, but I believe it is changing for the better. I believe that the only way for the rest of our citizens to accept this change is by teaching them about different religious traditions. So that even if they are still scared of what they don’t know, what they don’t know will not be different religious traditions.