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What are the core beliefs and values of your religion, and how do these religious values correspond and/or conflict with American values we’ve discussed over the year? March 19, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — americancivilizationclaire @ 7:24 pm

Roman Catholicism is one of the three major branches of Christianity, along with Eastern Orthodoxy and Protestantism. The Roman Catholic Church traces its history to Jesus Christ and the Apostles. It is the second-largest religion in the United States after Protestantism[1]. In 2007, it had about 19,000 churches and 69.1 million members[2]. Broadly, the Roman Catholic faith is rooted in the New Testament. Modern interpreters of the New Testament, for instance, agree to a description of faith as the personal knowledge of God revealing himself in Christ. In general, Roman Catholicism corresponds quite well with American values, as far as family and freedom of religion are concerned. However, Americans, in general, are more individualistic people who prefer relying on themselves in certain domains, and that does not really correspond with the Roman Catholic faith.

Most Americans consider that family is in the social and moral center of the community. That is also the case for Roman Catholics, who believe in a traditional form of family[3]. Besides, abortion and gay marriage are controversial issues for Roman Catholics, but also for some Americans, Republicans in particular. The most conservatives of both Catholics and Americans would like to ban abortion and same-sex marriage, which are considered as going against traditional moral values.

Furthermore, freedom of religion is also important, not only for Americans, but for Catholics too. The Bill of Rights stipulates that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof[4].” Many religions coexist in the United States, and sometimes, problems can occur. Nevertheless, the country is seen as a haven of peace where everyone can follow his own religion while respecting the other ones. Roman Catholicism has not always been a tolerant religion, but the popes of the 20th century estimate that the Church should not be involve in political power. They also believe that the state should guarantee the human rights and dignity of all citizens. Freedom of religion in Roman Catholicism corresponds to the core values of most Americans.

However, Roman Catholicism also advocates the care of the poor, sick and others in need, which is not exactly a core American value. Of course, this does not mean Americans are selfish and do not want to help weakest people, but some of them prefer a more individualistic behavior, that is, taking care of yourself, because it is not the role of the state. On the other hand, Catholicism has always conducted charitable activities in order to “carry on the healing mission of Jesus[5].” Nowadays, the American government provides assistance for some of the needy, but the Catholic Church keeps giving assistance to the weakest people.

Nevertheless, this religion still corresponds to some aspects of American values and beliefs. Roman Catholicism is losing members in the United States, but also in other parts of the world. Today there are as many as five million Catholics but of these only about one million attend church regularly[6] and the community is becoming less strict. According to a survey[7], 86% of Catholics believe they “can disagree with aspects of church teachings and still remain loyal to the church”. The religious landscape of the United States is changing, but maybe that the core values Americans share will stay the same, apart from their religion.

 

Sources:


[1] American Civilization: An Introduction, by David Mauk and John Oakland

[2] Idem

[3] “Roman Catholicism.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2012. Web. 18 Mar. 2012. <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/507284/Roman-Catholicism>

[4]   The Bill of Rights, Amendment I (1791), in American Civilization: An Introduction, by David Mauk and John Oakland

[5] “Roman Catholicism.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2012. Web. 18 Mar. 2012. <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/507284/Roman-Catholicism>.

 

How does religion both unite and divide Americans? March 12, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — americancivilizationclaire @ 4:49 pm

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof[1].” A shown in the Bill of Rights, religion has always been an integral part of the United States since several religions coexist in the country and Americans quite often attend church. Much more than Belgians do actually. However, religion both unites and divides Americans. In fact, it can be a source of comfort in troubled times: after the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, people’s faith helped them to go through the difficulties they encountered. Moreover, religion can help Americans to be united and to fight for their rights, as the American colonies did in 1776. But faith can also be a source of problems when several religions are found in the same place.

Throughout history, religion has united America. A recent example is the explosion of the BP oil rig that has caused long-term damages, not only to environment, but also to the economy of the Gulf Coast region. Many fishing families were struggling, but, shortly after this accident, the community united thanks, in part, to religion. People were persuaded that God would not abandon them. In this case, religion brought them hope and helped Gulf Coast residents to recover. As we can see, religion has had a positive impact.

Another example of the benefits of religion is the fact that religion gave American colonies the will and the courage to rebel during the Revolutionary War. The colonists protested that God gave all human beings the same rights, and that they were “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights[2]”. Faith unified them and was one of the strongest sources of motivation they had. A common goal is not always enough to achieve one’s ends. In this case, religion gave the colonies what they deeply lacked: the feeling that they were not alone to defend their cause and that they would be supported by a greater force, namely, the good Lord.

However, religion may also have some negative aspects, especially when different ones coexist in a country. This is the case in the United States, and that is one reason why the building of a mosque near Ground Zero arouses so many debates. Those in favor of this mosque are persuaded that it would reinforce the ties between non-Muslim Americans and the Muslim-Americans. Yet, opponents think the mosque would remind them of the dreadful September 11 attacks. Religion is here the core problem: two different cultures are seen as opposed, whereas they could live in harmony. Faith is thus one factor that hinders good relations between these people.

In the past, religion has had many positive effects on societies: equal rights and democracies often result from battles led by people of faith. However, partly because of an increased secularization, religion has become a source of debates. Religion must be combined with the changes brought to the society to fully benefit from it. With so many different religions nowadays, a country that wants to live in harmony has to move through the first stage, that is accepting pluralism and being more tolerant.


[1] The Bill of Rights, Amendment I (1791),in American Civilization: An Introduction, by David Mauk and John Oakland

[2] The unanimous declaration of the thirteen United States of America, in American Civilization: An Introduction, by David Mauk and John Oakland

 

Betty Friedan November 16, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — americancivilizationclaire @ 7:48 pm

Women were considered as a minority for a very long time: they were seen as second-class citizens and had no right to vote until the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920. Betty Friedan was one of the major figures of the “second wave[1]” of American feminism: she founded the National Organization for Women (NOW), the National Abortion Rights Action League (an organization that supports a woman’s right to end a pregnancy), and the National Women’s Political Caucus.

Born in 1921, Betty Friedan studied psychology as a graduate student at the University of California at Berkeley. She was also a journalist and continued to write articles while she was raising her three children. However, she realized that she felt unfulfilled by her role as a mother and a wife. That is why, fifteen years after graduation, she wrote to her classmates to ask them a series of question. She discovered that she was not the only woman who felt unhappy. She then decided to write an article based on her findings but the magazines with which she decided to work refused to publish it. Rather than abandoning her project, she became more motivated than ever and she decided to write a whole book on this subject, The Feminine Mystique.

Her book describes what she called “the problem that has no name.” She encouraged women to find other meaningful activities, defying the idea that “biology is destiny,”, according to which women should abandon other occupations and devote their lives to being a mother and a wife.  She received responses from many grateful housewives experiencing this problem. The book also argued that women are as capable as men to do any type of work, contrary to what educators, psychologists and the mass media considered as the fulfillment of every woman’s dream. The book had a great influence on many women who began to campaign against social views that restricted women. It also encouraged them to push for reforms.

There have been some controversy and debates on Friedan’s work, and she was accused of being involved in radical politics in her youth. Others said she was only focused on the plight of middle-class white women, not giving enough attention to women in less stable economic situations, or women of other races. Besides, she has been criticized for prejudice against homosexuality. However, she also received letters from many housewives, who wanted to thank her.

In 1966, Friedan cofounded the National Organization for Women and became its first president. The aim of this successful organization was to secure legal equality for women. For instance, they campaigned for Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prevented employers from discriminating against workers on the basis of sex. They also spoke in favor of abortion, which was finally legalized in 1973 by the Supreme Court. In 1970, Friedan organized the national Women’s Strike for Equality, and led a march in New York City.

Betty Friedan also became involved in politics. She founded the National Women’s Political Caucus, and in 1972, she ran as a delegate to the 1972 Democratic National Convention in support of Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to Congress. She also continued writing, teaching, and speaking throughout these years. Her second book, It Changed My Life (1976) is an account of her campaigns of the 1960s and early 70s. It is mainly composed of speeches, interviews and essays.

Betty Friedan was a very influential figure of the feminist movement. The Feminine Mystique is said to be one of the cornerstones of American feminism. Her work influenced many women who felt incomplete and lonely, and she set up several feminist movements that are still active today. The fight for equality is not completely over: women are still under-represented in the highest levels of politics and business management. But, despite the problems she encountered, Betty Friedan inspired women and pushed them to take action to achieve full equality.

 

Sources:

American Civilization: An Introduction, by David Mauk and John Oakland

Britannica Encyclopedia, 15th edition

http://www.americanwriters.org/writers/friedan.asp

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/05/national/05friedan.html?pagewanted=all

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/02/04/AR2006020401385.html

http://www.notablebiographies.com/Fi-Gi/Friedan-Betty.html

http://www.now.org/press/02-06/02-04.html

http://www.stephaniecoontz.com/articles/article59.htm


[1] From the early 1960s to the early 1990s

 

Introduction October 12, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — americancivilizationclaire @ 7:06 pm

If you moved to the U.S., which region would you like to live in? Why?

If I had to move to the United States, I think I would live on the West Coast. I would like to go to California, the “Golden State.” This nickname can be traced back to the discovery of gold in 1848, and fields of golden poppies can be seen each spring throughout the state[1]. It may sound a bit clichéd, since this state is one of the most representative of the “American dream”. But there are mainly three reasons for this choice: the weather, which is much sunnier than it is in Belgium, the educational programs that greatly interest me, and finally the people’s mentality.

California may not be among the 10 hottest states of America, the weather is still milder than that in Belgium[2]. And sunny weather helps to be in good spirits! That is important, because if I moved to the U.S., I could have some gloomy days without my family. I would also like to travel in the surroundings, which seem to be really beautiful and wild. Moreover, there are many touristic sites that are worth seeing, such as the Yosemite National Park or the Napa Valley, a region known for its vineyards. However, it is true that there is a danger of earthquakes in this part of the United States. Indeed, there are earthquakes every day, and several times a day, which is very surprising and quite worrying. Luckily, most of them are not powerful enough to cause problems[3].

Education is also something one should take into account. There are several universities, like Berkeley or Stanford, which have very good programs and reputations. Berkeley English Department offers courses in literature, in language and in writing[4] that seems really interesting. That could be a wonderful opportunity to improve my English skills. Besides, Stanford Law School offers courses that introduce the first-year students to legal institutions, legal reasoning and case analysis[5]. I have always been interested in law, so that could be a chance to discover another course of study and the educational system of another country.

Finally, the West Coast seems more attractive to me because of the political opinions in this region. Indeed, most citizens in California and Texas do not have the same opinions on abortion, same sex marriage or gun control. California seems more open-minded and liberal than the South. The number of Democrat representatives is higher than the number of Republicans[6] in the current state legislature, immigration is more accepted (even though some people still consider it as a major problem), and the death penalty is used less than it is in some other states. I think I could feel like home there.

There are many states that fascinate me, but California is maybe the most representative of what I would like be looking for if I had to move to the United States. These are just examples of things I would take into account, but what I really would appreciate, is a real adventure. For instance, I would love to undertake a journey along the West Coast: that would be my American dream.

Sources:

American Civilization: An Introduction, by David Mauk and John Oakland

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_earthquakes_in_California

http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/recenteqscanv/Quakes/quakes_all.html

http://www.ca.gov/

http://www.usatourist.com/english/destinations/california/california-main.html

http://www.deathpenalty.org/article.php?id=48