As we have discovered throughout this semester, religion is one of the most controversial and indefinable topics in the United States, as well as the rest of the world. The texts we have explored and the sacred religious sites that we have encountered have impressed upon us the vital realization that every individual has their own religious beliefs, as well as their own views and opinions on religion and its role in society; it is truly impossible to attempt to define religion in a way that every religious person would agree with. However, after all of our scrutiny of how difficult it is to define religion, it still appears that we can safely come to our own generalizations about the presence and impact of religion in America. I believe that religion in the United States is predominantly Christian-founded, yet it has progressed to become identified as what could simply be called the most religiously-diverse nation in the world.
There were many instances throughout the semester that shaped and reinforced my beliefs about religion in America. Reading Winnifred Sullivan’s The Impossibility of Religious Freedom exposed me to the true diversity and individuality of religious practices in America. While there were few instances that reinforced my belief that American religion has a Christian influence, viewing the film “In The Light Of Reverence” proved my point, as it states that one in every three Native Americans identify Catholicism among their religious beliefs. The most profound experience for me was visiting the various religious sites throughout the semester and vividly experiencing the drastic differences in religious beliefs throughout the United States, as well as the variances in religious practices amidst these religions that we discovered. For example, while visiting the Bharatiya Temple of Lansing during our analysis of the Hindu religion, we learned that each individual has their own personal way of observing their beliefs; every adherent chooses the deities that they worship and the ways in which they do so. Examining Buddhism and its many facets especially showed me how diverse religion in the United States can be, as it is the only religion we covered that does not focus its beliefs on a god or deity. It is also a belief system that allows you to maintain your values and traditions in another religion while practicing its rituals. Visiting the Zen Buddhist Temple was the most meaningful occasion of religious discovery for me this semester; in a way, I consider it my epiphany of this semester, in how truly diverse and unique religion in America can be.
Personally, I am doubtful that there will ever be one clear, universal definition of religion. I think that religion mainly revolves around personal experience and individual beliefs, which makes it nearly impossible for everyone to come to a general conclusion about what the one explanation for religion could be. I believe that religion in the United States is predominantly Christian-founded, yet it has progressed to become identified as what could simply be called the most religiously-diverse nation in the world. However, religion itself is clearly indefinable and impractical to fairly regulate.
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