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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


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