United States of America
United States of America
United States of America
PROTESTANT 52 percent
ROMAN CATHOLIC 24 percent
JEWISH 3 percent
OTHER (OTHER CHRISTIAN, NATIVE AMERICAN RELIGIONS, BUDDHIST, HINDU, MUSLIM, NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS, SHAKER, MORMON, SEVENTHDAY ADVENTIST, JEHOVAH'S WITNESS, NONRELIGIOUS) 21 percent
The United States of America occupies roughly the middle third of the North American continent and is bordered by Canada to the north, Mexico to the south, and the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans on the east and west, respectively. The states of Alaska (attached to northwestern Canada) and Hawaii (in the middle of the Pacific Ocean) do not abut any of the contiguous 48 states. Its lengthy coastlines, broad expanses of fertile land, and extensive deposits of natural resources, including coal, oil, and timber, have made the United States economically prosperous and thus a magnet for immigrants from around world, who have also been attracted to the country's political and religious freedom. These immigrants have, in turn, arrived with their religious traditions, resulting in a religious pluralism probably never before known in human history, even in the Roman Empire.
The United States has sometimes been described as "the first new nation," referring to its component states voluntarily coming together in 1776 and then under a constitution of their own devising in 1789. The peoples who constituted the new nation at the time of its founding included indigenous Native Americans (misnamed "Indians") with a variety of traditional cultures; enslaved (and, by this time, some free) Africans, mainly from northwestern Africa, whose owners systematically tried, with considerable success, to deprive them of their own cultures; and Europeans, primarily Protestants from Britain and other parts of northwestern Europe but including small numbers of Jews and Roman Catholics as well. Since that time vast numbers of immigrants, at first from Europe and more recently in substantial numbers from Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America, have diversified the U.S. population to a point that it has become virtually a microcosm of the entire world, as is especially apparent in large cities, such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Miami. In addition, a number of new religious groups have been founded in the United States, including Shakers, Mormons, and Christian Scientists among Euro-Americans; Peyotism among Native peoples; and the Nation of Islam among African-Americans. As a result, nearly all the world's religious traditions coexist in relative harmony, although the wide variety of Christian denominations still form more than three-fourths of the population. Running counter to this diversity are pressures toward Americanization (involving cultural adaptation in language and many other ways), which has resulted in the gradual transformation of most religious traditions of foreign origin.
A distinctive feature of the American experiment in government has been the religious tolerance mandated by the First Amendment (1791) to the U.S. Constitution, which provides that the federal government shall neither directly support nor interfere with the practice of religion, at least within the broad limits that have emerged through generations of court decisions. The 50 states have all adopted similar measures as well. In practice, patterns and instances of religious intolerance have occurred over the years despite the law and have generally been directed by the Protestant (or more broadly, Christian) majority against minority groups seen as threatening to the status quo and its values. Anti-Catholicism, once common in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, is now rare, but expressions of anti-Semitism, though never as toxic as in Europe, still occur. Occasionally Mormons and other minority religious groups have experienced hostility from time to time. In recent years Muslims and Asian and Middle Eastern immigrants have been targeted, especially in the wake of the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., on 11 September 2001.
NATIVE AMERICAN RELIGIONS
DATE OF ORIGIN 1607 c.e.
NUMBER OF FOLLOWERS 145.9 million
The word "Protestantism" denotes those Christian bodies derived, directly or indirectly, from the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century and therefore is difficult to discuss as a unified tradition or institution. English Protestants first established permanent settlements in the United States in Virginia in 1607 and New England in 1620. Probably more than 1,000 groups in the United States today could be classified as Protestant. Some of these, such as the Southern Baptist Convention and the United Methodist Church, count their membership in the millions, while many others are independent congregations with only a hand-ful of members. The best way to describe the history of Protestantism in the United States may be to trace the development of several of the most important traditions that have usually been called Protestant. These include the Anabaptist, Anglican, Lutheran, Reformed, Free Church, Wesleyan, and Holiness-Pentecostal. (Other groups that have Protestant backgrounds but are sufficiently distinctive to qualify as "other religions" are dealt with in the section by that name below.)
Anabaptists arose in Switzerland in the 1520s. Two of the major groups who survived early persecution were the Amish and the Mennonites, who had split over issues of church discipline and began to settle in south-eastern Pennsylvania in about 1700. The more conservative Amish, who still drive horses and buggies rather than automobiles, can be found today mainly in parts of Pennsylvania and Ohio. The Mennonites, their spiritual cousins who do not reject modern technology, live primarily in Pennsylvania and the Midwest. The Hutterites, who share all property, live primarily on farms in the upper Midwest, as well as the Canadian prairie provinces. All of these groups are pacifist and try to live as simply and traditionally as possible.
Anglicans are followers of the tradition of worship that originated in the Church of England in the sixteenth century. American Anglicans since 1784 have usually been members of the (Protestant) Episcopal Church. Episcopalians worship according to the Book of Common Prayer, which today consists of liturgical texts similar to those used by Lutherans and Roman Catholics. The Episcopal Church is often described as a "bridge church," or the "middle way," because its beliefs and practices draw on those of Catholicism, various Protestant traditions, and Eastern Orthodoxy.
Lutherans are followers of the tradition founded by Martin Luther in Germany in 1517. This tradition was the ultimate source for most later Protestant movements, including those in the United States. German and Swedish Lutherans began to arrive in Pennsylvania and vicinity in the mid-1700s; later German and Scandinavian Lutheran immigrants settled primarily in Ohio and the upper Midwest. The largest Lutheran group in the United States today is the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, made up of many earlier groups that had become Americanized. Two smaller, more conservative groups are the Missouri Synod and Wisconsin Synod Lutherans.
"Reformed" is a term used to describe the movements led by John Calvin and Huldrych Zwingli in Switzerland in the 1520s and '30s and their descendants. Central to the early Reformed churches were a belief in the almighty power of God, the radical influence of original sin on human nature, the predestination of all humans to heaven or hell by God's will, and a simple preaching-centered style of worship. The English Puritans who settled New England beginning in the 1620s were part of this tradition, as were the Presbyterians who migrated from Scotland to the middle colonies in the 1700s and who constitute a major, though much more liberal, denomination today. The Puritans later came to be called Congregationalists after their style of church governance. Many of these churches today, together with their German and Hungarian Reformed counterparts, belong to the liberal United Church of Christ. The descendants of Dutch Reformed immigrants of the nineteenth century today are found in the Reformed Church of America and the Christian Reformed Church.
"Free church" is a generic term for the tradition that includes mainly Baptists, whose roots are both in the Reformed and the Anabaptist traditions. American Baptists trace their descent from Roger Williams's exile by the Massachusetts Bay Puritans to Rhode Island in the 1630s. Their distinctive practice is to baptize only adult believers rather than infants, as most other Christian groups do. Baptists today are divided into many large and small denominations. African-American Baptists usually belong to one of three denominations with the common name National Baptist. The American Baptist churches are a moderate mainline group, while Southern and independent Baptists tend to be much more conservative.
Wesleyan is the name of the tradition stemming from John Wesley, the eighteenth-century Anglican who worked to supplement Church of England worship by organizing small groups to meet outside church for Bible study and spiritual growth. In the United States, Methodists (as Wesley's followers came to be called because of their disciplined spiritual life) first came together as a denomination in 1784 in Baltimore. Through their use of circuit riders (preachers on horseback), they grew rapidly on the southern and western frontiers early in the nineteenth century, but they divided nationally over the slavery issue as the Civil War approached. Today the largest Methodist body is the United Methodist Church, the result of several mergers of smaller groups and now second only to the Southern Baptists among Protestant groups in membership.
The Holiness and Pentecostal traditions both developed from Methodism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Holiness denominations, such as today's Church of the Nazarene, focus on Wesley's teaching that, after conversion, believers may have a second religious experience, known as entire sanctification, that would result in a state of holiness, or freedom from voluntary sin. Pentecostals built on this teaching but added the belief that all believers should experience the gifts of the Holy Spirit, especially glossolalia (speaking in tongues).
Today American Protestants may be subdivided into three broad categories. First are the predominantly African-American denominations, mainly Baptist, Methodist, or Pentecostal. Next are the mainline denominations, which range from 1 to 9 million in membership and include members who interpret their traditions in a variety of ways, from the most conservative end of the spectrum to the most liberal. These include the American Baptist Churches, the Disciples of Christ, the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Methodist Church, and the United Church of Christ. And finally there are the evangelical denominations, independent congregations, and "parachurch" groups (those whose work is intended to augment rather than rival established denominations). Evangelical Protestants affirm the authority and centrality of the Bible; the need for a personal experience of God's grace (being "born again"); the need to try to convert others by setting an example and evangelizing; and, for many, the second coming of Christ to earth in the near future. Evangelicals can be found to some extent within the inclusive mainline denominations but in greater numbers among Holiness and Pentecostal groups, Southern and independent Baptists, and organizations such as Campus Crusade for Christ and Women Aglow Fellowship. Fundamentalists are ultraconservative evangelicals who stress that the Bible is completely without error.
As H. Richard Niebuhr first pointed out in the 1920s, American Protestant denominations have frequently reflected social, economic, racial, ethnic, and regional divisions among Americans. Episcopalians and Presbyterians have historically attained the highest educational and economic levels, while Baptists and Holiness-Pentecostals were the least prestigious in worldly terms. By the twenty-first century such distinctions had begun to erode. Regionally the South has been dominated by Baptists, Methodists, and Holiness-Pentecostals; Lutherans have been strongest in the upper Midwest, where many Germans and Scandinavians settled; Congregationalists have done best in New England and the areas of the Midwest and Pacific Northwest that were settled in the nineteenth century by New Englanders; and Presbyterianism was originally planted by Scots and Scots-Irish settlers. African-Americans, who have had primarily southern origins, organized their own individual churches and denominations within the Baptist, Methodist, and Holiness-Pentecostal traditions beginning in the late eighteenth century.
EARLY AND MODERN LEADERS
There have been many leaders (in addition to the theologians mentioned below under MAJOR THEOLOGIANS AND AUTHORS) in the long and complicated history of Protestantism in the United States. Some denominations have elected national leaders who stay in office for a fixed period, such as the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church. In recent years few of these leaders have attained a great deal of attention beyond their own denominations. Evangelicals have generally been more likely to generate leaders who attain public recognition than the mainline denominations. In Puritan New England both lay leaders (such as John Winthrop, the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony) and clergy (such as Increase Mather and his son Cotton) were prominent members of a community in which church and state worked in close coordination with one another. By the mid-eighteenth century a new style of evangelical religious leadership, that of revival preacher, emerged; the eminent theologian Jonathan Edwards was also known for the religious revivals that he preached to his congregation. George Whitefield, an Englishman who traveled the colonies preaching wherever he could find an audience, has been described as the first American celebrity because of the attention his work attracted.
During the nineteenth century revivalists (such as Lyman Beecher, Charles G. Finney, and Dwight L. Moody) similarly became public figures. Beecher in the 1820s and '30s also became known for his championship of a number of reform movements, as did Finney, who worked to abolish slavery. Among the twentieth century's mainline Protestant spokesmen were antifundamentalist Harry Emerson Fosdick in the 1920s, the ecumenist Eugene Carson Blake in the 1960s, and, beginning in the 1970s, evangelicals such as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, who were particularly skilled in the use of the mass media. (Other leaders are listed below under SOCIAL JUSTICE.)
MAJOR THEOLOGIANS AND AUTHORS
Although many Puritans in colonial New England wrote theology, the most influential in the long run has been Jonathan Edwards, who helped precipitate the widespread religious revivals known as the Great Awakening in the 1740s and who wrote extensively as a latter-day Calvinist, interpreting the revivals and other traditional topics, such as original sin. In the 1830s Charles G. Finney defended revivalism, and in the 1840s Horace Bushnell attacked it. William Ellery Channing in the early nineteenth century defended the liberal creed called Unitarianism, and the Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson soon afterward challenged even Channing as being too traditional. In the mid-twentieth century the brothers Reinhold and H. Richard Niebuhr adapted the European theology known as neoorthodoxy in an American context. More recently African-American theologians (such as James Cone), feminists (such as Carter Heyward, Phyllis Tribble, and Beverly Harrison), and womanists (or African-American feminists, such as Delores Williams and Katie G. Cannon) have developed distinctive new lines of religious thought, blending traditional Protestant themes with contemporary social issues. Other important twentieth-century theologians include Paul Tillich and Langdon Gilkey.
HOUSES OF WORSHIP AND HOLY PLACES
The early Puritan settlers in New England built not churches but meetinghouses, utilitarian structures where the Word of God could be preached effectively and which were not considered sacred in themselves. Anabaptists followed the same logic but worshiped mainly in private homes. This concept of the house of worship as a site for preaching has informed some strains of Protestant building to the present day. By the eighteenth century most Protestant churches in North America began to resemble their European Anglican predecessors, although a central pulpit was retained in many cases. The medieval revivals of the nineteenth century (Romanesque and Gothic) influenced most denominations, especially externally. Since the mid-twentieth century many churches have adopted more modern designs, including circular or semicircular plans intended to diminish the distance between clergy and people.
WHAT IS SACRED
The Calvinist (Reformed) strain of piety so influential in colonial times has generally worked against the notion that earthly things or places should be considered holy. Although this attitude has influenced most branches of American Protestantism to some extent, the tendency to regard religiously significant places, such as churches and cemeteries, and persons, such as founders of traditions, as sacred without using such explicit terminology has been widespread. In liturgical traditions, such as the Lutheran and especially the Anglican, such attitudes have tended to emerge with regard to the places and rituals of worship in particular.
No holidays or holy days other than the Sabbath were considered special in Puritan New England, although today's Thanksgiving Day has early Puritan origins. Since then German and English practices, such as those for Christmas and Easter especially, have been incorporated into American observance. In many cases, however, commercialization has blurred the religious significance of such observances.
MODE OF DRESS
Except for Anabaptists and other small sectarian groups, especially those of German origin, who have preserved Reformation-era (sixteenth-century) modes of dress, American Protestants have not usually dressed in any religiously mandated style. Clergy in some traditions, however, wear special robes while conducting services.
American Protestants, other than groups not usually classified as Protestant (such as Seventh-day Adventists and Mormons), have seldom advocated specific dietary prohibitions. More general counsel toward temperance in the use of food and drink, however, has been characteristic of evangelicals from John Wesley to contemporary Pentecostal women. Many conservative or fundamentalist groups eschew smoking and drinking alcohol.
Worship in Protestant churches varies among traditions. Episcopalians and Lutherans follow a fixed liturgy similar to that of the Roman Catholic Church following the Vatican II council (1962–65). Churches in the Reformed and Wesleyan traditions are usually not as elaborately structured but rather combine the reading of formal prayers, preaching, and hymn-singing by choirs and congregations. The Holiness-Pentecostal tradition favors less formal worship, including the delivery of testimonials to the individual experience of God's grace and, among Pentecostals, speaking in tongues.
Marriage is almost universally recognized as a religious ritual, to be performed by a member of the clergy in a church. Funerals are usually conducted by clergy as well, although ceremonies may take place in a funeral home. Most denominations do not maintain separate cemeteries, as do Catholics and many Jews. Many Protestants now prefer cremation rather than burial of the embalmed body.
RITES OF PASSAGE
Most Protestant denominations other than Baptists take their infant children to church for a baptismal or christening ceremony. Some observe confirmation, in which teenagers formally join their congregations as consenting members.
The roots of American religious freedom lie in part in the teachings of some Protestant groups, especially the Baptists. Although some denominations, such as Congregationalists in New England, were initially negative about loss of support from the state, most came rapidly to accept religious pluralism as desirable and also as an opportunity for evangelism. The desirability of spreading the "good news" of the Christian gospel has generally been a priority for American Protestants, especially those known as evangelicals. Since the Second Great Awakening of the early nineteenth century, missionary outreach to both North Americans and foreigners has been a priority for evan-gelicals, who since the twentieth century have been particularly adept at using mass media, especially television and radio, to propagate their message. In some areas membership in particular groups may be encouraged by social pressure, especially where particular denominations hold majority status or enjoy prestige as an elite group.
During the twentieth century religious leaders could be found across the theological and ideological spectrums. Walter Rauschenbush and Washington Gladden preached a social gospel declaring that Christians were called to the reform of social, political, and economic structures. The revivalist Billy Sunday denounced all things German, such as beer and biblical criticism, during the World War I era. His successor, Billy Graham, began to attract attention for his preaching the imminent second coming of Jesus (premillennialism) in the 1950s and in the early twentyfirst century had achieved the status of admired elder statesman in the eyes of Americans of many denominations.
Beginning in the 1950s clergy of different denominations and ethnic backgrounds began to participate in the movement for civil rights for African-Americans, especially in the South, with Baptist minister Martin Luther King, Jr., emerging as one of the most eloquent and effective spokespeople. By the late 1960s many mainline clergy, such as Yale chaplain William Sloan Coffin, began to call for active resistance to U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia. In the 1970s a reaction against Protestant church involvement in liberal causes began to set in, led by such evangelicals as Jerry Falwell of the Moral Majority and Ralph Reed of the Christian Coalition. Such groups have continued into the twenty-first century to focus on sex- and gender-related issues, including abortion, pornography, and gay and women's rights. More liberal groups have generally taken stands against capital punishment and in favor of legalized abortion and full rights for gays and lesbians, without necessarily endorsing such behaviors.
Given the great diversity of belief and practice among U.S. Protestants, it is difficult to generalize about social practice. Until the later twentieth century divorce was forbidden or frowned upon by most groups, even those considered liberal today. In more recent years, however, most mainline churches and many evangelicals recognize the necessity of divorce, even while promoting the traditional family as the norm. Homosexual partnerships are not yet accorded the same status as heterosexual marriage by most, although in some liberal circles the blessing of such unions is practiced.
American Protestants have since the nation's colonial beginnings been active in promoting social reform based on their own interpretation of biblical principles. Throughout the nineteenth century they were especially powerful nationally, because no other religious groups had yet attained significant economic and political power outside of a few northeastern cities. Although the Protestant-dominated campaign to bring about the national prohibition of alcoholic beverages resulted in the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1918, its repeal in 1933 signified a diminished Protestant influence on public policy. Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal succeeded in the government's taking over many charitable functions previously carried out by churches. The realignment of political parties that followed the desegregation of the South in the 1960s resulted in a major shift of southern—especially southern evangelical—support to the Republican Party, which has since closely aligned itself with evangelical groups and causes.
Since the emergence of Darwinism and biblical criticism in the nineteenth century, American Protestants have been divided over a number of issues. In general, evangelicals are conservative on issues involving morality, although since the 1970s the emphasis has shifted from tobacco and alcohol usage to questions of sexuality and gender. Evangelicals also usually stress a literal interpretation of the Bible and oppose the teaching in public schools of scientific theories of human origin, which seem to contradict such an account. More liberal Protestants, including many found in the mainline denominations, tend to oppose public regulation of morals and are frequently opposed to capital punishment and supportive of the rights of women and minorities, government action to ease economic and social inequality, and free choice on sexual issues, including homosexuality and abortion.
During the colonial era, especially in New England, the influence of Protestantism was allpervasive. During the nineteenth century its impact was less direct. Theological themes dominated much of the fiction of Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Mark Twain, although their answers were less than orthodox. Some popular writers were at times more direct about their religious views, as in Harriet Beecher Stowe's antislavery polemic in Uncle Tom's Cabin (1851). Music and the arts also became more compartmentalized during this period, with secular and sacred themes and styles occupying separate cultural niches. The liturgical arts began to flourish in the later nineteenth century, and stained glass, such as that produced by Tiffany Studios, became prominent in many wealthier churches as the older Protestant suspicion of the arts began to fade. The same separation continued into the twentieth century: While some "secular" writers, such as William Faulkner, explored religious themes in their novels, only a small number of "serious" writers, such as Peter de Vries and John Updike, might be classified as Protestant. In the popular realm, however, Protestant religious themes have been more visible, as in Christian rock music artists of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, such as Amy Grant and Jars of Clay, and in the best-selling Left Behind series of millenarian novels.
DATE OF ORIGIN 1565 c.e.
NUMBER OF FOLLOWERS 67.3 million
The earliest Roman Catholic presence in North America was that of the Spanish, who first settled in what is now the southern rim of the United States, beginning in Florida in 1565. Their empire included most of what is now referred to as the Sunbelt of the United States, stretching from California through Texas to Florida. The French also had an imperial presence in the colonial era, focused on the Mississippi River down to New Orleans. English Catholics first arrived in the 13 original colonies in Maryland in 1634. Catholics remained a small minority in the new nation until massive immigration caused by the great potato famine in Ireland in the decades prior to the American Civil War, together with a growing number of Germans seeking political freedom and economic opportunity, swelled the ranks of the church. Later in the nineteenth century large number of Catholics from Italy and central Europe (Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, and the former Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia) further swelled Catholic ranks, with considerable conflict developing between predominantly Irish and Irish-American clergy and bishops and lay Catholics from other ethnic backgrounds. During the era between the Civil War (1861–65) and the Great Depression (1929–c. 1939), a vast infrastructure, including churches, schools at all levels, seminaries, convents, hospitals and asylums, and cemeteries, was built up in the growing cities of the East and the Great Lakes region. Religious sisters, again in large numbers from Ireland, helped to staff hospitals and parish schools.
After Congress passed a series of laws in the 1920s severely restricting immigration from Catholic areas of Europe, the Catholic population began to stabilize and Americanize. "Builder bishops," concerned with providing institutions for Catholic needs, set the tone and often ruled autocratically. Catholics, mainly of the working class, had not yet been fully accepted into American life, and their leaders sought to insulate them from secular and Protestant influences. During the early 1960s American Catholic culture was strongly affected by two events. In 1960 John F. Kennedy was the first Catholic to be elected president of the United States; since that time Catholicism largely has ceased to be a political issue. In 1962 Pope John XXIII convened Vatican II, an ecumenical council attended by all the bishops of the Catholic Church, in Rome. This council brought about sweeping changes in Catholic practice, notably celebrating the Mass and other sacraments in vernacular languages, such as English and Spanish, instead of the traditional Latin. A shift in tone from defensiveness to a new openness to other religions also resulted from the council, with considerable impact on Catholics in the United States. Moreover, the GI Bill, passed by Congress in 1944, provided veterans with money for college, leading to a rise in social and economic status for many American Catholics. The resultant move from old ethnic urban neighborhoods to the suburbs further promoted the blending of American Catholics into the population at large. Many of these Catholics became less dependent on Catholic Church teachings and generally ignored Pope Paul VI's 1968 encyclical letter forbidding artificial contraception.
The election of John Paul II as pope in 1978 was another landmark for American Catholics, who now experienced a dramatic reversal of the liberalization that had characterized the 1960s. This Polish pope began to insist on a strict adherence to the norms he advanced, and he removed bishops, priests, and sisters from positions of responsibility when they refused to conform. His appointment of reliable conservatives as bishops over his long pontificate further consolidated his power. Although he did not repeal Vatican II's reforms, such as the vernacular liturgy, he reaffirmed traditional Catholic teaching on matters of sexuality and gender in particular, making it clear that women and married and homosexual men were not welcome in the priesthood. The issue of the priesthood was particularly problematic in the United States, because large numbers of clergy had left the priesthood during the years of turmoil following Vatican II, and seminary enrollments dipped to new lows. Further damaging to the priesthood was a national scandal in the early twenty-first century over the sexual abuse of young people by priests.
Immigration continued, especially in the latter part of the twentieth century, from Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and other parts of Latin America, as well as from Vietnam and other parts of the old French Indochina. By the twenty-first century Latino Catholics represented a dramatic challenge to a church that had become largely English-speaking and middle class, and a substantial number left to join Pentecostal and other Evangelical Protestant churches. Although a Catholic presence among African-Americans was established early on in Maryland and Louisiana, and many inner-city dwellers prefer Catholic parochial schools to public schools because of the stricter discipline and higher standards of the former, relatively few blacks have abandoned their traditional Protestant allegiances in favor of Catholicism.
EARLY AND MODERN LEADERS
Because the Roman Catholic Church is hierarchical in structure, it is not surprising that many of the most influential Catholic leaders have been clergy and especially bishops. John Carroll, first bishop and then archbishop of Baltimore in the early nineteenth century, laid many of the foundations for later Catholic growth. By the end of the nineteenth century, a number of bishops in the Midwest, led by John Ireland of Saint Paul, Minnesota, advocated the embrace of American institutions and culture by Catholics, but their efforts met considerable resistance from other bishops as well as the Vatican.
Twentieth-century leaders include many Catholic bishops who have emerged as spokesmen for the Roman Catholic community, especially those from major cities, such as Chicago's Joseph Bernardin and New York's Francis Spellman. During the 1950s Cardinal Spellman spoke for the Catholic point of view on matters of public policy, such as Communism and sexuality, and his assistant, Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, attracted national attention through his popular television program, Life Is Worth Living. At the same time, laity (such as the social activist Dorothy Day) offered alternative paradigms of "grassroots" Catholic leadership, as did increasingly visible members of women's religious orders. By the early twenty-first century American Catholic leadership had grown increasingly conservative, and its authority had been undermined to some degree by the national scandal of sexual abuse of young people by clergy. This scandal resulted in the resignation in 2003 of Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston, who, together with many of his fellow bishops, was harshly criticized for not having dealt with offending priests more firmly.
MAJOR THEOLOGIANS AND AUTHORS
The large number of Catholic immigrants and the lack of an educated laity during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries worked against the development of a distinctively American Catholic intellectual and literary culture, and priests learned their theology from European textbooks. Two converts from Protestantism, Orestes Brownson and Isaac Hecker, produced some original theological work during the mid-nineteenth century, but this had little influence on the broader American Catholic community.
By the 1950s Catholic universities had begun to become centers of scholarship, and intellectuals, such as Father John Tracy Ellis, began to criticize publicly the lack of an American Catholic tradition of learning. During the 1960s the Jesuit John Courtney Murray had considerable influence on Vatican II through his arguments for Catholic recognition of religious liberty for all and his defense of the American system of separation of church and state. At the same time, Thomas Merton, a convert who had become a Trappist monk, produced autobiographical, spiritual, and antiwar writings, which attracted a wide audience. European theologians, such as Karl Rahner, Edward Schillebeeckx, and Hans Küng, attracted considerable attention from U.S. Catholics, as did liberation theologians from Latin America. Charles Curran became noticed in the mid-1980s when he was forbidden by the Vatican to teach theology at the Catholic University of American in Washington, D.C., after refusing to retract what many regarded as rather moderate stands on issues of sexual behavior in particular. Theologians and ethicists prominent at the beginning of the twenty-first century include Lisa Cahill, Bryan Hehir, John Langan, and Richard McBrien.
HOUSES OF WORSHIP AND HOLY PLACES
Few Catholic churches predate American independence, except for missions in the former Spanish borderlands. Until Vatican II (1962–65) most Catholic churches were built in revival styles; the Roman and Greek were popular during the early nineteenth century, and styles more directly associated with the European Catholic heritage (Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, baroque, and Spanish mission) dominated from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century. Liturgical change initiated by Vatican II favored new ground plans, such as the semicircle, in which the priest and altar were no longer isolated from lay worshipers, a model dramatically illustrated by the chapel of the Benedictine monastery in Collegeville, Minnesota. American Catholics also maintain a number of shrines that possess relics of saints and attract especially those seeking cures.
WHAT IS SACRED
What is considered sacred is much the same for American Catholics as it is for Catholics in other developed nations. Roman Catholic churches and chapels intended for sacramental worship are consecrated as sacred places. Sacramentals (material aids to worship, such as holy water) are blessed by priests. Saints (men and women who led lives of exemplary holiness and who are believed to have worked miracles) are revered, though not worshiped as gods, and their images are placed in churches, schools, and homes.
American Catholics do not celebrate any holidays or festivals outside the norm from those observed by Catholics in other developed nations. American Catholics follow the cycle of the liturgical year observed by the Catholic Church as a whole, which begins in Advent (the four weeks prior to Christmas) and continues through Christmas and Epiphany into the Lenten cycle beginning with Ash Wednesday and culminating in Easter. Holy days commemorating events in the life of the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus, are distinctive to Catholic (and Eastern Orthodox) worship.
MODE OF DRESS
The attire of Roman Catholics in the United States does not differ significantly from that of Catholics in other developed nations. Lay Catholics dress according to the customs and fashions of the general population. Prior to Vatican II (1962–65) clergy generally wore dark clothing with clerical collars, and women in religious orders wore habits that concealed all but hands and face. Now priests and women in orders frequently do not wear distinguishing clothing in public. Priests and deacons wear distinctive vestments during liturgical activity, such as the celebration of the Mass.
Prior to Vatican II (1962–65) American Catholics, like Catholics elsewhere, were supposed to refrain from eating meat on Fridays and certain other days. This practice has since then become more relaxed, with meat banned only on a few days in Lent.
American Catholics, like Catholics in other developed nations, regard the seven sacraments as the primary rituals, although other significant ceremonies, such as children receiving their first Communion (Eucharist) and women taking religious vows, are also practiced. Five of the sacraments are rites of passage (described below under RITES OF PASSAGE). The other two, in which Catholics are urged to participate frequently, are reconciliation (formerly known as confession or penance), in which individuals confess their transgressions to a priest and then receive absolution, and the Eucharist, in which believers receive bread and wine as the body and blood of Christ in the course of the ritual of the Mass.
RITES OF PASSAGE
American Catholic practice does not differ significantly from that of Catholics in other developed nations. Of the Catholic Church's seven sacraments, five are focused on rites of passage. Baptism, usually administered to infants but also to adult converts, marks an individual's initiation into the church. Confirmation, usually performed before age 16, involves a conscious reaffirmation of baptismal vows. Matrimony is the sacramental celebration of marriage. The anointing of the sick, in the past usually restricted to those in danger of death, is now administered to the seriously ill. Ordination to the priesthood is the only sacrament restricted to males.
As its history in the United States indicates, the term "Catholic" (meaning "universal") in "Roman Catholic Church" suggests that universal membership is the ultimately desirable goal. For many centuries until the time of the Protestant Reformation, Catholicism had been the official religion of most of western and central Europe and was carried abroad as Catholic nations (such as Spain) founded extensive overseas empires. Afterward it still remained strong in Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Italy, and much of central Europe. In the United States the Catholic Church had to adapt to the principle of free religious choice, as well as the welcome absence of persecution, and has emulated Protestant evangelization especially through its use of religious orders (such as the Paulists and Maryknoll) as missionaries seeking converts at home and abroad. The loyalty of immigrants from traditionally Catholic countries and their children, as well as a number of conversions, in part through marriage, has allowed the U.S. Catholic Church to attain and maintain the status of the largest single religious group in the nation, approaching (in the twenty-first century) one-quarter of the entire population.
During much of the nineteenth century the American Catholic Church was largely preoccupied with meeting the economic and spiritual needs of immigrants. The encyclical letter Rerum Novarum ("Of New Things"), issued by Pope Leo XIII in 1891, articulated the foundation for a distinctive Catholic social philosophy based on the concept of the "just wage"—that is, the amount of money needed for a worker to sustain a wife and family with basic dignity. Although criticized by conservative lay Catholics in the late twentieth century, this affirmation of the rights of labor remains central in contemporary American Catholic teaching. The Catholic Church also opposes capital punishment, although a majority of American Catholics favor it in the same proportion as non-Catholics.
The institutional Catholic Church in the United States has always upheld traditional values, including the centrality of the nuclear family, the indissolubility of marriage other than by church-granted annulment, and the impermissibility of abortion, artificial contraception, and homosexual behavior. Some liberal Catholics are opposed to many of these teachings, and Catholic practice in general does not differ greatly from that of other mainline religious groups.
During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, American Catholics were largely working-class immigrants or their children and were involved in the "boss" political systems of North-eastern and Great Lakes cities. Mayor Richard J. Daley of Chicago was one of the last of the prominent big-city bosses whose power was based in considerable part on grassroots ethnic Catholic loyalty. Franklin D. Roosevelt, after his election to the presidency in 1932, appointed many Catholics and Jews to federal judgeships and cabinet- and subcabinet-level posts.
As Catholic World War II veterans gained access to higher education as a result of the GI Bill, they also became more independent politically. The election of John F. Kennedy as the first Catholic U.S. president in 1960 largely removed Catholic identity as an obstacle to political success, even in the once firmly anti-Catholic South. As the Democratic Party became increasingly committed to a pro-choice position on abortion, many previously loyal Catholic Democrats voted for Republicans, most notably Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984. Catholics today continue to lean Democratic, but their voting patterns more closely resemble those of other white voters with similar socioeconomic status than a reliably monolithic bloc vote.
Official Catholic teaching cuts across the liberal and conservative lines of American politics. On issues of gender and sexuality, Catholic positions are conservative: Women are not allowed ordination as priests, and homosexual behavior, abortion, artificial contraception, and sexual relations outside of marriage are all prohibited. In the social and economic realm, Catholic teaching stresses economic justice for workers and opposes capital punishment. The opinions and practices of American Catholics, however, tend to be in line with those of other Americans and do not al-ways conform to the teachings of the "official" hierarchical church.
Little distinctive cultural production arose from the largely immigrant and working-class American Catholic Church during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The emergence of the popular music and film industries in the 1920s provided opportunities (as did athletics) for Catholics to enter the public eye. Such Catholic entertainers as Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Frank Sinatra, Spencer Tracy, and Gregory Peck all demonstrated the career possibilities for the Catholic minority. It was in the realm of film in particular—in movies about priests and nuns, such as Going My Way (1944)—that Catholic themes emerged into the public eye. Later movies, such as The Exorcist (1973), dealt with more controversial themes. It was not until the 1950s and '60s that significant American Catholic authors began to emerge as well. Prominent among them have been Flannery O'Connor, who wrote gothic stories about the South, and J.F. Powers, who satirized the lives of priests in the Midwest.
NATIVE AMERICAN RELIGIONS
DATE OF ORIGIN c. 20,000–10,000 b.c.e.
NUMBER OF FOLLOWERS Undetermined
Because traditional Native religion has been inextricably linked to the cultures of each of several hundred peoples, and those cultures have been subject to the often traumatic changes brought about by conflict with Euro-Americans and subsequent defeat and displacement, it is possible to trace these developments only in general terms. With the exception of relatively recent developments, such as Peyotism, Native American religions have been practiced since the arrival of Native peoples in North America, most likely across the Bering land bridge from Siberia, in prehistory. Many Native Americans today practice religions of European origin, including Catholicism and several varieties of Protestantism. Most Native peoples possessed belief systems expressed in myths that mainly dealt with the origins of a particular people. These frequently involve stories as to how the earth and its animal and human inhabitants were created by the gods and how those gods imparted to humans the knowledge necessary for survival. They might also address the introduction of evil and death into the world. These narratives were transmitted orally, at least until modern times, and would change subtly or dramatically in their retellings to reflect recent experience.
Prior to the arrival of Europeans in North America, Native life was anything but static and involved frequent wanderings and conflicts that periodically resulted in conquests and relocations. This same pattern continued in the post-Columbian period, but Native technologies of warfare proved no match for those of European origin. Native peoples were also decimated by European-introduced diseases, as well as demoralized by the social disintegration that frequently followed defeat. Beginning during the presidency of Andrew Jackson in the 1830s, Native peoples in the southeastern states were forced to relocate to what is now Oklahoma. Their journey, which came to be known as the Trail of Tears, resulted in considerable suffering and death. Subsequent governmental policies brought about the creation of the reservation system, in which Native peoples were forced to resettle on tracts of land provided by the federal government, almost exclusively west of the Mississippi River. Government policy at times allowed Native Americans to sell their lands, usually at a considerable loss. Many drifted away from the reservations into the cities, where they often found it difficult to adapt successfully. The impact of this massive dislocation on religion manifested itself in the weakening of traditional tribal myth and ritual, conversion of many to Christianity, and an openness to new forms of religious expression after it had become clear that traditional cultural patterns were no longer viable.
The massacre by U.S. soldiers of several hundred Sioux at Wounded Knee (South Dakota) in 1890 was a turning point in the development of Native life and religion. This event had been precipitated in part by the spread of the second Ghost Dance, a movement that had begun in Nevada and California and rapidly spread throughout the Native peoples in the West. According to a vision by the prophet Wodziwob, if the Ghost Dance were performed properly, it would result in the transformation of the earth, the elimination of the Euro-American intruders, and the restoration of the earlier life of the Natives. Its performance alarmed U.S. troops, and the wearing of "ghost shirts" (believed by Native peoples to confer invulnerability) may have emboldened the dancers to take risks. The disastrous result at Wounded Knee put an end to the Ghost Dance and was the last episode of serious resistance to governmental control.
Other movements among Native peoples that represented adaptation to a changed state of affairs rather than overt resistance include the Gaiwiio of the Seneca and the Peyotism that originated in the Southwest. The first movement was founded early in the nineteenth century by a Seneca chief named Handsome Lake. A series of visions prompted him to promulgate a new teaching that combined elements of traditional Seneca lore with others from Christianity and became known as the Gaiwiio. This teaching was originally apocalyptic and predicted the end of the world within three generations. These elements were later discarded, and many Seneca today still follow the Gaiwiio. Peyotism, which began to spread among many tribes following the defeat of Wounded Knee, involves the ritual use of the peyote cactus, which contains a number of consciousnessaltering chemicals. The goal of this ceremony is the transformation of individual consciousness rather than social change, and the teachings surrounding it, which differ from place to place, contain various mixtures of Christian and traditional Native elements. Many Peyotists are members of Christian churches as well.
Since the forcible removal of most Native peoples to reservations by the U.S. government beginning in the 1830s, traditional customs have often been displaced by a more Euro-American way of life. Beginning in the 1960s, however, deliberate revivals of traditional customs and rituals have appeared selectively.
In the 2000 census 4.1 million Americans, or 1.5 percent of the population, described themselves as entirely or partially Native American. Of these, a considerable number were Christians but may also have been practitioners to some extent of traditional Native religious rituals or newer movements such as Peyotism. One survey estimates that there were 103,300 practitioners of Native religions in the United States in the early twenty-first century. Because of this selective adherence to custom as well as the decentralized character of Native society, it is impossible to give even rough figures on participation, except to say that peoples such as the Pueblo of the Southwest, who have led relatively stable existences, have generally succeeded in maintaining traditional practices better than others who have been dislocated and assimilated to a greater extent.
EARLY AND MODERN LEADERS
Religious leadership among Native peoples has often come from shamans, which are visionaries capable of relating insights from dream journeys to a contemporary situation. Some notable examples in the past have been the "Delaware prophet" associated with Pontiac in the latter's "conspiracy" of 1763; Handsome Lake of the Seneca; Tenskwatawa, the brother of Tecumseh; and Wodziwob and Wovoka, the prophets of the two Ghost Dance movements.
MAJOR THEOLOGIANS AND AUTHORS
"Theology" is not a useful term in discussing Native American religions, because it represents a mode of discourse foreign to peoples whose traditions are orally transmitted in narrative form. It was not until the nineteenth century that Native American traditions began to be transcribed into print form. Black Elk Speaks, the 1930s transcription of interviews of a Lakota Sioux leader by the Nebraskan poet John Neihardt, is an interesting account of the rituals and historical experience of his people in the late nineteenth century, but Neihardt's rendering is not always reliable. Later twentieth-century writers, such as Vine Deloria, Jr., and Dee Brown, have helped publicize the unfortunate history of Native Americans under U.S. rule. Contemporary Native fiction of high quality includes work by Leslie Marmon Silko, N. Scott Momaday, Linda Hogan, Sherman Alexie, and Louise Erdrich and often deals with religious themes, especially as they reflect and are affected by the breakdown of traditional ways of life.
HOUSES OF WORSHIP AND HOLY PLACES
Places for worship vary considerably among the different Native peoples, although most have not used fixed places except under Christian influence. Holy places may consist of already existing natural phenomena (such as the four mountain peaks that define the traditional homeland of the Navajo in the Four Corners region in the Southwest and the cottonwood tree used by the Lakota Sioux for the sun dance) or of human-made artifacts (as illustrated in the Pueblo ceremony involved in the construction of a new house).
WHAT IS SACRED
Many Native languages have special words for sacred power, such as orenda, wakan, and manitou. Such power may be manifested in virtually any part of the natural world; in this aspect "enspiritedness" is a good term to evoke its potentially universal character. Such power can be accessed through ritual, which is usually conducted by a religious specialist—a visionary shaman or a learned medicine man—who is endowed with the power to achieve visions of the supernatural world or who possesses the necessary traditional lore.
Holidays and festivals are usually calendrical, especially among agricultural peoples, and mark major events in the annual cycle of the life of a people. Events that might be celebrated include the planting and harvesting of crops.
MODE OF DRESS
Dress varies greatly from people to people, although the use of some ritual garments, such as masks, is a common part of ritual celebrations. The kachina dancers of the Pueblo are a good example. They don special costumes kept in underground ceremonial chambers, or kivas, when they reenact the emergence of their earliest ancestors from below the surface of the earth.
Traditional dietary practices of Native peoples have varied considerably, especially between seminomadic hunting peoples and settled agriculturists. One possible generalization is that the procurement, preparation, and consumption of food have been informed by an awareness of the reciprocal relationship between humans and the plant and animal worlds and that all activities concerning food have been based on ritual practices invoking this reciprocity.
Myths were told at, and formed the basis of, Native rituals, including life-cycle ceremonies (see below under RITES OF PASSAGE) and those performed in conjunction with materially essential and socially important activities, such as hunting, harvesting, and warfare. Among the northern Salteaux a hunter would address and propitiate a bear prior to killing it, thus acknowledging the reciprocal role that both played in the broader spiritual economy of the universe. The Green Corn ceremony of the Creeks (an agricultural people), celebrating the arrival of the first fruits of the annual corn crop in midsummer, included a ritual of individual and collective purification to begin the new year. The Pueblo used a special ritual for dedicating a newly constructed house, ensuring its alignment with the broader cosmic forces. All of these rituals were based on the notion that every aspect of human life, when performed according to correct ritual practice, would integrate those activities into the broader spiritual forces of the cosmos. The Pueblo are among the few Native peoples who have been able to continue to practice many of their traditional customs into the twenty-first century.
RITES OF PASSAGE
Rites of passage are a special kind of ritual performed to mediate such life-cycle events as birth, puberty, and death. The Apache had a first moccasin ceremony, marking a baby's first steps, which usually occurred when the baby was between seven months and two years of age. The sun dance of the Plains Indians was a puberty rite in which an adolescent male would undergo painful ordeals designed to induce a vision. Among the Lakota Sioux, young women were sequestered at the time of their first menstrual period and underwent a purification ceremony in a sweat lodge. Funeral practices varied considerably, including permanent interment in burial mounds as well as more temporary arrangements, such as the Huron's practice of placing the remains of the dead on an elevated platform, followed by a ceremony every 15 years in which such remains would be collected and buried prior to the relocation of the entire village. Most of these practices died out after prolonged contact with Euro-Americans in the nineteenth century.
In traditional Native societies the social and religious spheres were coextensive, so that each religious system was unique to a particular people. Pan-Indian movements, such as Peyotism, have not been exclusive; however, because there has never been an effective central organization or authority that transcends individual tribes, their character has varied from place to place as it has been adapted by different peoples at different times.
The new prophetic religious movements among Native peoples in the nineteenth century, such as Handsome Lake's Gaiwiio and the Ghost Dances, can be interpreted as quests for social justice, usually in the form of ignoring or eradicating Euro-American cultural influence and either restoring old ways or selectively adapting to the new. Beginning in the late 1960s pan-Indian movements to arouse Native consciousness have focused on more strictly political issues, such as the recovery of funds mismanaged by the federal government, the improvement of living conditions on reservations, and the ongoing fight against alcoholism, which is common among Native Americans.
Because traditional Native American culture did not differentiate sharply between sacred and secular, rules governing marriage and family life gained their legitimacy as part of a broader tribal culture mani-fested in myth. Common in traditional Native society was matrilocality—the practice of men living with their wive's people after marriage. Also common was exogamy (marriage outside one's immediate family group). Differentiation of gender roles was also the rule. Men, for example, usually served as warriors and hunters, while women raised children and performed domestic chores. Although unfaithfulness was frowned upon, serial monogamy was common among many peoples, with children raised more as part of an extended kinship group than solely by the nuclear family.
Political activity since the 1960s has involved select religious issues. Owing to small numbers, economic weakness, and the division of Native peoples into a large number of tribal groups, political impact has been weak except on a local scale. The ability of Native peoples to claim exemption on treaty grounds from gambling laws has led to the erection of many casinos, some extremely successful. In a few cases, such as that of the Onondaga, opposition to gambling has been based on religious grounds—in this case, the Gaiwiio of Handsome Lake. A more clearly religious issue has been Native opposition to the desecration (by government or private business interests) of traditional burial grounds and religious landscapes; this opposition has had mixed results in the courts.
Various issues concerning the relationship between Native Americans and the broader society have generated controversy since the 1960s. The Lakota Sioux, for example, have denounced the misappropriation of their spiritual traditions by non-Native peoples, such as followers of New Age practices. Commercial efforts to exploit lands sacred to a particular people have met with Native opposition throughout the United States. The ritual use of peyote has provoked a number of court cases; this and other issues resulted in the passage by Congress of the Religious Freedom Act of 1993, which was later declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. The exemption of Native peoples from laws governing gambling and the taking of fish and game have also led to conflict.
Throughout the first half or more of the twentieth century, Native peoples were generally depicted in film and fiction as bloodthirsty enemies of Euro-American settlers and were often defeated by the superior power of cowboys and U.S. cavalry. A countertradition of depicting Native peoples as "noble savages" had roots in nineteenth-century European and American romanticism, as in the portraits of them by George Caitlin. This tradition was revived by the 1960s counterculture, as in Carlos Castañeda's best-selling and most likely invented accounts of the shaman Don Juan, who taught enlightenment through consciousness-expanding drugs; it was also perpetuated by the popular film Dances with Wolves of 1990. Tony Hillerman's police stories set on the Navajo reservation in the Southwest have been widely praised for their accuracy in depicting Native life, especially religious beliefs and rituals, as well as for their literary interest.
Several traditions with origins in Euro-American Christianity have been founded in the United States and are sufficiently different in fundamental beliefs to place them outside the realm of Protestantism in its usual definitions. Among these traditions are the Shaker, Mormon, Seventh-day Adventist, Christian Scientist, Jehovah's Witness, and Unitarian Universalist.
The Shakers, or United Society of Believers in the Second Appearance of Christ, originated around the time of American independence with the coming of Ann Lee from Britain to the United States. Mother Ann, as she came to be known, was hailed by her disciples as the second, female incarnation of Christ. Her followers organized themselves into about two dozen colonies in the northeastern United States and lived communal lives of celibacy in which the sexes were equal and all goods were held in common. They flourished in the early nineteenth century but today are represented only by a hand-ful of believers at the Shaker community in Sabbathday Lake, Maine.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), or Mormons, originated in the 1820s when Joseph Smith, a young man living in Palmyra, New York, claimed to have had revealed to him a set of golden plates that spoke of a group of Hebrews who had crossed the Atlantic, had founded a new nation in Central America, and were visited by Jesus after his appearance in the Old World. This revelation was translated by Smith and published as the Book of Mormon. Together with the Jewish and Christian bibles and other, later revelations to Smith, it forms the basis for the LDS religion. After being forced to flee from several early settlements in the Midwest and enduring the death of their leader, the early Mormons followed Brigham Young to the Great Salt Lake in Utah, where they settled and where their world headquarters, in Salt Lake City, now stands. Although the Mormons were forced to make some compromises with the U.S. government—most notably the abolition of polygamy—their stress on evangelization has led to continual growth. Their major source of strength is still in the American West, but they continue to open new temples (where their distinctive rituals are performed) both in major U.S. cities and through many other parts of the world.
Seventh-day Adventism is a movement based on the religious experiences of Ellen Gould Harmon White. White was a follower of William Miller, who calculated (using biblical texts) that the second coming of Jesus would take place in 1843 or 1844. When Jesus failed to appear, many of Miller's followers rallied behind White, who claimed to have had visions in which she received distinctive teachings on the observation of the Sabbath on Saturday, as well as on proper dietary and sexual practice. The denomination today is noted for its maintenance of well-known health-care facilities in the Midwest.
Christian Science is a movement that was founded by Mary Baker Eddy in late nineteenth-century Boston. Eddy believed that she had been miraculously healed and had thereby found the key to a scientific interpretation of the Jewish and Christian scriptures—that matter is an illusion and that only the mind is real. She also taught that disease and death are therefore illusions as well and that a proper understanding of Christian revelation can overcome them. Her movement flourished in U.S. cities in the early twentieth century but has since experienced a considerable decline.
Jehovah's Witnesses, a group founded in 1872, have focused on the imminent second coming of Jesus and maintain that the number of full saints is limited to 144,000. Their refusal (on biblical grounds) of blood transfusions and the flag salute has resulted in a number of significant court cases on freedom of religious practice.
Unitarian Universalists (UUs) are the result of a 1961 merger of two liberal, originally Christian groups that began in the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century in New England. Because their theological positions were essentially alike in their rejection of the doctrines of predestination, original sin, and the Trinity, they eventually overcame differences that were more sociological than theological and merged. Today a majority of UUs do not consider themselves Christian but are open to the insights of a wide variety of religious and philosophical traditions. A smaller, explicitly Christian faction has its center in New England.
"Cult" is a pejorative term usually applied to "new religious movements" (a more neutral term) by those who find them beyond the bounds of acceptability. Most of the religious movements listed above have been labeled "cults" at one time or another. Beginning in the 1970s a new wave of new religious movements began to emerge in the United States, attracting widespread media attention through their unconventional beliefs and practices, which sometimes involved accusations of brainwashing of potential recruits. These movements included the Unification Church (members of which were often called "Moonies," after the name of their founder, Sun Myung Moon, who claimed to have come to create a new perfect human family, a task that Jesus was unable to accomplish); the International Society of Krishna Consciousness, based on a devotional strain in Hinduism; and, most notoriously, the People's Temple of Jim Jones, who led hundreds of his followers in a mass suicide in the South American nation of Guyana in 1978. Many of these movements have been short-lived, but some have survived over a longer term, usually through the alteration of beliefs and practices to be more in line with the American norm.
Although the large majority of Americans since the arrival of Europeans in North America have belonged to Christian churches, including the Eastern Orthodox traditions, a small but significant number of Jews have been present since colonial times. In addition, the Hart-Cellar Act passed by Congress in 1965 opened the door to immigrants from Asia and other parts of the world who had previously been prohibited from entering the United States in significant numbers. These included Hindus from India, Buddhists from East and Southeast Asia, and Muslims from a wide range of countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Smaller numbers of Sikhs, Jains, and followers of other traditions also arrived in the United States during this period.
Greeks, Russians, and other peoples historically associated with Eastern Orthodoxy began to arrive in the United States in large numbers during the "new immigration" of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and settled primarily in the industrial and mining areas of the Mid-Atlantic and Great Lakes states. The landscapes of these areas are still dotted with Greek Orthodoxy's characteristic round-or onion-domed churches. In 1970 the Orthodox Church in America was declared autocephalous (independent and self-governing). Although it emerged from Russian Ortho-doxy, it has lately begun to attract Orthodox Christians of a variety of backgrounds as a panethnic Orthodox community.
Sephardic Jews (from Spain and Portugal) first began to settle in the cities of the eastern seaboard during the colonial era; they prospered but never grew large in number. Much greater numbers of German-speaking Jews began to arrive in the early nineteenth century and settled in such Midwestern cities as Cincinnati as well as in New York City, which would soon become the center of American Jewish life. Still larger numbers of Ashkenazic (northern European) Jews from eastern Europe, who were mainly Yiddish speakers, arrived as part of the new immigration that began in the 1870s and continued until World War I cut off transatlantic travel. The German Jewish community, led by Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise of Cincinnati, helped institutionalize Reform Judaism (which had originated in Enlightenment Germany) as a new form of Jewish religion adapted to modern life. Reform was opposed not only by the Orthodox community but also by a new, American-born movement known as Conservative Judaism, which rejected both the rigid traditionalism of Orthodoxy as well as the Reform movement's willingness to jettison all aspects of tradition, including the kosher dietary laws. During the twentieth century Jews in the United States continued to assimilate rapidly, attaining levels of education and career achievement in proportions far greater than their small numbers (about 3 percent of the population) would indicate. Although anti-Semitism was less serious in the United States than in Europe, American Jews were nevertheless deeply affected by the Holocaust, and even Reform Jews became more sympathetic to tradition following World War II. Most American Jews, including the roughly 50 percent who today consider themselves Jewish by heritage rather than by religious belief, strongly support the nation of Israel as an international Jewish homeland. By the twenty-first century a major challenge for U.S. Jews was the high rate of intermarriage between Jews and gentiles (non-Jews).
Although an indeterminate number of African slaves may have been Muslims, the first major wave of Islamic immigration to the United States began in the 1920s, when both Muslims and Christians from the Middle East went to work in the auto factories near Detroit. The U.S. Muslim presence remained small until the Hart-Cellar Act of 1965, which encouraged skilled professionals to immigrate. Since then Muslims from a wide variety of countries have settled in the United States, mainly in major cities and their suburbs. Although small mosques, often located in private homes, still exist in many poorer urban areas, well-to-do Muslims have supported the erection of sizable Islamic centers in many suburbs, providing space not only for worship but for a variety of educational and recreational facilities as well. Although the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., on 11 September 2001 generated anti-Muslim sentiment and a handful of violent incidents, Islam remains a rapidly growing faith in the United States. Much of this growth has come not only from immigration but also through the conversion of many African-Americans. The Nation of Islam, associated with W.D. Fard, Elijah Muhammad, and Malcolm X, gained considerable attention during the 1950s and '60s but was not based on historical Islamic tradition. More recently Wallace Deen Muhammad, the son of Elijah Muhammad, has led the American Muslim Mission, a movement recognized by other Muslims.
Hindus, who were scarce in the United States prior to 1965, have, like Muslims, immigrated in considerable numbers in recent years. Also like Muslims, Hindus from all across the Indian subcontinent, accustomed to differing local and regional styles of observance, have had to cooperate with coreligionists of differing cultural backgrounds in the United States. The result has been the building of Hindu temples in the suburbs of most good-sized American cities. These temples differ from any found in India; for example, many in the United States have shrines to a variety of gods and goddesses rather than to a single one, and facilities for education and social interaction are often located on the ground floors of temple buildings.
Buddhism has been taken to the United States by various nations and cultures of East and Southeast Asia since the late nineteenth century, when Japanese and Chinese settled in Hawaii and in the West Coast states. Restrictive laws barred further immigration until 1965, and Buddhism, especially of the Pure Land sect, was practiced mainly in ethnic communities in a few cities, such as Honolulu and San Francisco. Since then many versions of Buddhism have begun to flourish in ethnic communities. The other major locus of U.S. Buddhism has been among Euro-American converts, often highly educated professionals, who are attracted to Zen and occasionally become recognized as Zen masters. Zen centers can now be found throughout the United States, with a mixture of Asian and Euro-American clientele. Tibetan Buddhism has also been popular, especially through the charismatic appeal of the exiled Dalai Lama.
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