America Religious Diversity

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America’s Religious Diversity Transcript

Speakers: Robert Wuthnow, Stephen Prothero, Woman, Man

ROBERT WUTHNOW: What we’re facing right now are huge questions about what shall we do with respect to church and state, especially as we become a more diverse society. For instance, do we say “one nation under God” when we recognize that there are an increasing number of Buddhists in the United States or Hindus in the United States who are people of faith but the phrase “under God” doesn’t really fit?

STEPHEN PROTHERO: Well one of the fascinating things about America is this is the most Christian country on Earth but it’s also one of the most multi-religious. So often this question is ill-posed I think. People say is this a multi-religious country where the secular law, the first amendment, provides an opportunity for a tremendous range of religious expression or is this a country that is dominated by Christians? And I think the answer is just clearly both. It’s just an ill-posed either/or question. So is the United States a Christian nation? Well, yes, of course, in some ways. And is it a multi-religious state? Well, of course it is.

WOMAN: You can see this is any city in town or at least a big one in the United States. In many places you see it very intensely where the Hindu temple and the mosque and the evangelical Presbyterian church are all you know, in juxtaposition with one another. And yet we do not worship together. We don’t pray together. We have religious lives that are vibrant and can contribute to the common good but are different. So it means, really, that all of us need to be able to distinguish our theological language form our civic language.

ROBERT WUTHNOW: This definitely becomes a political issue. For instance, more than half of the public thinks it’s a good idea to teach the Ten Commandments in public schools. And among those who think the United States is a Christian country and was founded on Christian principles, the percentage who think that is much larger than among those who – who doesn’t think that the United States is a Christian country. In fact, one of the interesting political dimensions of this is if one looks at several of