Has a wide variety of meanings to a multitude of people. The definition of Religion is “a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.” An additional meaning of the word religion is “a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects.” For the majority of people, religion of some sort is extraordinarily important, for others, they do not recognize religion and have no belief in it.
President Thomas Jefferson wanted to be remembered for writing the Virginia Statue for Religious Freedom. The Virginia Statue for Religious Freedom was passed on January 16, 1786 and was the precursor of the first amendment protections for religious freedom. The first paragraph of the religious statue reads as follows: Whereas Almighty God hath created the mind free; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishment of burthens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the Holy author of our religion, who being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was his Almighty power to do.
This part of the statue allows man the freedom to choose his own religious beliefs. I strongly agree with this part of the statue. Everyone should have the right to believe in whatever religion they choose. The second paragraph states that an individual is free to worship with no discrimination and it reads as follows: Be it enacted by the General Assembly, that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in this body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities. (Virginia Historical Society)
I also agree with this part of the statue. Any man should have the right to worship freely and not be discriminated for it. In the third paragraph, Jefferson states that the statue is not unalterable, and it reads as follows: And though we well know that this assembly elected by the people for the ordinary purposes of legislation only, have no power to restrain the act of succeeding assemblies, constituted with powers equal to our own, and that therefore to declare this act to be irrevocable would be of no effect in law; yet we are free to declare, and do declare, that the rights hereby asserted are of the natural rights of mankind, and that if any act shall be hereafter passed to repeal the present, or to narrow its operation, such as would be an infringement of natural right. (Virginia Historical Society) Jefferson is saying that no law is unchangeable. Any law can be changed.
In the 1950’s, Christianity and the office of the President of the United States began forming a close connection. William Hitchlock wrote an article called “How Dwight Eisenhower Found God in the White House”. President Dwight D. Eisenhower played a role in spreading religious faith in America. He was the only president to have been baptized while in office. Eisenhower’s parents brought him up in church as a child. This played a big part in how he became religious. During his time in office, President Eisenhower displayed a great deal of effort to place faith at the center of national life. He had written a short prayer and said it before his inaugural address. He would start his Cabinet meetings with a silent prayer. He also welcomed Reverend Billy Graham as a spiritual adviser into the White House. Hitchlock wrote, “He heartily approved when, in 1954, Congress inserted “under God” into the Pledge of Allegiance and later made “In God We Trust” the official motto of the United States, even placing these words on the paper currency.”
Eisenhower and Graham shared comparable beliefs. They both believed that God and initiative formed the true significance of the American experience. Eisenhower gave a State of the Union address in January of 1954. He stated, “Though blessed with more material goods than any people in history, Americans have always reserved their first allegiance to the kingdom of the spirit, which is the true source of that freedom we value above all material things.” (Hitchlock) President Jefferson and President Eisenhower both believed in religious freedom. They both made a difference during their times in office. The picture below shows a special occasion for America.
“Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, President Eisenhower, Postmaster General Arthur Summerfield and Dr. Roy G. Ross of the National Council of Churches shown at a Post Office Department ceremony introducing the nation’s first regular stamp bearing a religious significance with the inscription ‘In God We Trust.’” (Credit: Bettmann Archives/Getty Images) (Hitchlock) Doug Blackmon, the host of American Forum interviewed Kathleen Flake and Peter Onuf on religious freedom. Kathleen Flake is a professor of Mormon studies and she was previously a professor of American Religious History. Peter Onuf is an American Historian and he also explored the life and beliefs of Thomas Jefferson. On this episode, Flake and Onuf talk about “Why do we believe in religious freedom?” Jefferson had pronounced that religion was the reason for going to war. Family morals were very important to Jefferson.
Peter Onuf is very knowledgeable of Thomas Jefferson. I believe this episode reflects on my last few paragraphs. Onuf says: We think of faith as something that deeply expresses who we are, and it’s very important to us because this is a fundamental. Yet, in Jefferson’s time, religion seemed to be a tool of the state leading to what you might call a kind of false consciousness when people were forced to conform to a particular set of religious practices and beliefs that supported the state. And the big challenge for Jefferson was to make sure that the republican government that the Americans were establishing would survive, and that was predicated on freedom of conscience.
Flake says, “I guess there are people who want to say that we cannot negotiate with religion, and I think we can. I think Mormons are an example, and the example is on gay marriage. Mormons have negotiated on gay marriage.” I think what Flake is saying is that religions can consult with the state on religious matters. Both Flake and Onuf believe in religious freedom because it is what Jefferson believed in. In the article, “At Miller Center, Kaine discusses religion in public life” written by Melissa Castro, Senator Kaine talks about his religion in the public life. Because Kaine is a Senator, he is always in the public and his views and beliefs on topics are often scrutinized. Castro says, “Kaine, who is seeking his second Senate term, says his Roman Catholic faith draws him to be out among people, to listen without assuming and to see the humanity in each person he encounters.”
Kaine is a Roman Catholic yet supports things such as abortions, gay marriage and women becoming priests. He immediately established a distinction between his personal faith and religious organizations. “He would describe his personal faith as a “spirituality of action” and an effort to “emulate, in a human and imperfect way, someone who is a role model for me.”” (Castro) Castro says, “Religion, on the other hand, is about participating in an institution as a mature adult and learning how to negotiate around the points of disagreement.” Senator Kaine is also a public figure just like President Eisenhower and President Jefferson. They all have been in the public eye and have supported religious faith.
On the American Forum, Doug Blackmon interviews Carla Power about “A journey to the heart of the Quran”. Quran is Islam’s fundamental text. Muhammad was the founder of Islamic faith. Power wrote a book called, “If the Oceans Were Ink” which comes from a scripture in the Quran. Part of that scripture from her book reads, “if the ocean were ink writing the words of my lord, the ocean would be exhausted before the words of my lord would be exhausted.” (Blackmon) She used this scripture because she was looking for ways to boost her beliefs in diversity.
Power went to Islam to explore and learn about the Muslim faith. It has helped her to better understand Muslims. She learned that their faith is comparable to Christians. I like the idea of her going to their country to explore their religion, instead of judging them before understanding their faith. In the article, “White Christianity is in big trouble. And it’s its own biggest threat.” written by Charles Mathewes, he talks about how the main threat to Christianity in America comes from American Christians themselves. Mathewes says, “When we’ve reached a place where good Christian folk think it’s a matter of major theological principle not to sell pastries to gay people but are willing to give pedophiles a pass, I think it’s safe to say that American Christianity today — white American Christianity in particular — is in a pretty sorry state.” Christians today are ruled by fear.
Gabe Bullard talks about a new religion in the article, “The World’s Newest Major Religion: No Religion”. When people are asked about religion, they don’t have much to say about it. It is not an important subject to many. Bullard says, “The religiously unaffiliated, called ‘nones,’ are growing significantly. They’re the second largest religious group in North America and most of Europe. In the United States, nones make up almost a quarter of the population. In the past decade, U.S. nones have overtaken Catholics, mainline protestants, and all followers of non-Christian faiths.” Many people don’t publicly identify their preference of religion. That is why they are called “nones”. “Scientific advancement isn’t just making people question God, it’s also connecting those who question.” (Bullard) The Pew Research Center finds that women are more likely to associate with a religion and pray.
Bullard says, “Religion has a place for women, people of color, and the poor.” Gary Nguyen wrote an article called, “Religion is Losing Importance Among Americans”. The Pew Research Center did two surveys during the end of 2017. The first question they asked people was to describe what makes their individual lives meaningful. The top answer was Americans love their family over anything else. A third of them mention their job or career and almost twenty-five percent lays stress on finances. Coming in third place, one- fifth of responses say religious faith, hobbies or friendships.
The second one was a question set asking them to rate the significant of fulfillment and meaning. Family came first again, then spending time outdoors and with friends and thirdly came music and caring for pets. Finally, coming in at twenty percent, Americans said religion was important in their lives. Sadly, religion is losing importance “Imagine a World with No Religion”, an article written by Tom Trinko. “All the following exist because countries reject religion and adhere to moral codes generated by men. The casual killing of those whose lives ‘aren’t worth living.’ Murdering 56,000,000 unborn babies each year because they are inconvenient, or because they are women to be.
The mass murder of 100,000,000 people in the last century. Sexual objectification of women. The use of violence to silence ‘offensive’ speech. A hedonistic ruling class oppressing all who object to its ‘values.’” (Trinko) Trinko stated, “Thomas Jefferson, a Diest, not a Christian, also said our rights wouldn’t be respected if people weren’t religious: God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever.” Trinko believed Christianity is a belief worth fighting for because it is the foundation which allows people to practice whatever faith they wish.
Harriet Sherwood wrote an article titled, “Religion: why faith is becoming more and more popular.” She talks about how faith is on the rise with 84% of the world’s population is identifying with a religious group. Based on figures from 2015, with 31.2% of the total world population of 7.3 billion, Christians form the biggest religious group. Muslims come next at 24.1%. Hindus at 15.1% and then Buddhists at 6.9%. 16% of people said they have no religious affiliation. Sherwood says, “Three-quarters of religious people live in a country where they form a majority of the population; the remaining quarter live as religious minorities.” In conclusion, the majority of the world’s population belongs to some sort of religious group. They may not all agree on the same religious views, but they mostly all believe in faith. Faith is the building blocks that form religion. Faith gives people the courage to stand up for something they believe in. The world today is failing. We need to keep God in it and not take him out.9
- Bullard, Gabe. “The World’s Newest Major Religion: No Religion.” National Geographic. 22
- Apr. 2016, news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/04/160422-atheism-agnostic-secular-
- Castro, Melissa. “At Miller Center, Kaine discusses religion in public life.” The Daily Progress.
- 14 Sept. 2018, www.dailyprogress.com/news/local/uva/at-miller-center-kaine-discusses-
- Flake, Kathleen. And Onuf, Peter. “Why do we believe in religious freedom?” American Forum.
- 27 Dec. 2017, millercenter.org/american-forum/why-do-we-believe-religious-freedom. Hitchlock, William. “How Dwight Eisenhower Found God in the White House.” History. 20
- Mar. 2018, www.history.com/news/eisenhower-billy-graham-religion-in-god-we-trust. Mathewes, Charles. “White Christianity is in big trouble. And it’s its own biggest threat.” The
- Washington Post. 19 Dec. 2017, www.washingtonpost.com/news/posteverything/wp/2017/12/19/white-christianity-is-in- big-trouble-and-its-its-own-biggest-threat/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.e35242439ef7.
- Nguyen, Gary. “Religion is Losing Importance Among Americans.” World Religion News. 21 Nov. 2018, www.worldreligionnews.com/religion-news/religion-losing-importance- among-americans.
- Power, Carla. “A journey to the heart of the Quran.” American Forum. 29 Apr. 2016, millercenter.org/american-forum/journey-heart-quran.
- “Religion,” def. 1. The American Heritage Idioms Dictionary, 2018, www.dictionary.com/browse/religion. Accessed 30 Nov 2018.
- David 10
- Sherwood, Harriet. “Religion: why faith is becoming more and more popular.” The Guardian. 27 Aug 2018. www.theguardian.com/news/2018/aug/27/religion-why-is-faith-growing-and- what-happens-next.
- Trinko, Tom. “Imagine a World with No Religion.” American Thinker. 1 May 2018, www.americanthinker.com/articles/2018/05/imagine_a_world_with_no_religion.html.
- Virginia Historical Society. “Thomas Jefferson and the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom.” Virginia Museum of History and Culture. 25 Nov. 2018, www.virginiahistory.org/collections-and-resources/virginia-history-explorer/thomas- jefferson.