After Easter and the beginning of Ramadan, the Islamic fasting month, after a year of COVID-19 closure and social distance, the worship hall can gradually welcome their congregation.
But even as the religious community begins to regroup, the stronger challenges of polarization continue to threaten American religion and religious freedom.
A March 29 Gallup reports that the number of members of churches in the United States is less than 50%. For the first time in Gallup’s 80-year poll history. By 2020, only 47% of Americans said they belonged to a church, synagogue, or mosque. Two years ago, that number was 50%. In 1999, 70% of Americans were members of the chapel.
The numbers track a recent increase in the number of “none” — Americans without religious affiliations. The percentage of American nothingness has increased from 8% in 1998-2000 to 21% in the last three years, and one-third of Americans under the age of 30 are classified as nothing.
However, many expert commentators point out the deeper causes of the decline of American religion. In particular, the politicization of religions by Christians who claim that America is a Christian nation that prioritizes Christianity over all other religions.
Political scientist Michele Margolis explains“Because religion is so closely linked to conservative politics, Democrats opt out of organized religion or are less involved, and Republicans opt in.”
Partisan is religious freedom and division
In addition to the division of partisans on religion, there is also an increase in partisans on the issue of religious freedom.To In his November national survey, political scientist Andrew Lewis When a general statement of religious freedom was attributed to then-President Donald Trump, people were more likely than when the statement was attributed to then-Presidential-elect Joe Biden or the unnamed “both presidential candidates.” He did not support religious freedom.
Also in 2020 University of Chicago Divinity School and Associated Press-NORC Public Relations and Research Center Found When it comes to the protection of American Muslims, the disparity over religious freedom is particularly serious.
While the White Evangelicals are deeply concerned about their own threat to religious freedom, only three in ten say that American Muslims are facing challenges. For evangelicals, “religious freedom” is as defined by Trump, a tool to protect Christian interests from attacks on liberal religions, and when Trump despises Muslim rights. Even, it’s a point that I repeatedly emphasized.
Among many other examples, the COVID-19 shutdown shed light on this gap. In April 2020, Paul Sperry, co-author of the conspirator, The Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld Conspiring to Islamize America, tweeted. ) Like they did a church during Easter.. “
Trump retweeted Perry, and when asked about his retweet during a briefing on the White House Coronavirus Task Force on national television, he replied: I have seen a big gap. … They are chasing a Christian church, so I would like to see it, but they do not tend to chase a mosque. … I don’t know what happened in our country, but I think the Christian faith is treated much differently than before. Very unfairly treated.. “
“They” in Trump’s statement referred to Democrats. In Trump’s view, his job was to protect Christianity from the Democratic threat as well as the Democratic favor towards Islam.
In this paradigm, Muslims and Christians are divided into opposing political camps. One side — GOP — protects Christians and the other side protects Muslims. One side believes that it is primarily Christians who face threats to their religious practices. The other side thinks that Muslims are making it much worse.So Numerous studies showThe White Evangelicals believe that they face far more discrimination and alienation than American Muslims. For the Democratic Party, that’s the exact opposite.
“Mega identity” influences religious views
This phenomenon is described by political scientist Liliana Mason.Mega identity.. Our partisan affiliation has changed to identity, and moreover, identity includes many things that have nothing to do with social policy.
Now, what we eat and drive, where we live and shop, our religion, race and sexual orientation are all wrapped up in our political identity. Group Americans in hybrid driving, latte drinking, and Whole Foods Shopping to the Democratic Party, and Land Rover-driving cracker barrel customers to the Republican Party.
This grouping also affects the religious community, so Christians (mainly white and conservative) are associated with the Republican Party, and religious minorities, especially Muslims, are associated with the Democratic Party.
The impact of such grouping is serious. When one tribe opposes the other, it opposes the full range of “traits” that are part of the opposite megaidentity. Today, many of the battles for religion and religious freedom are embraced in this very kind of tribal war.
The irony of the tribal approach is that much of it is driven by the desire to protect American religion and religious freedom, but tribalism itself poses the greatest threat.
Many Americans have been abandoned by division and have left religion. The battle for religious rights continues among those who maintain religion. Ultimately, religious individuals and communities are the biggest losers.
As the place of worship reopens during this spring season of religious holidays, obstacles to this religion continue to loom. Some of the antidotes seem obvious: depolarize religion and resist taking a tribal approach to religious freedom.
Perhaps more Americans will understand the value of religious communities — and they may go back and adventure.
Asma Uddin is the author of “Politics of Vulnerability: How to Heal Muslim-Christian Relations in Post-Christian America.”
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This article was originally published in USA TODAY: How Political Polarization Threatens American Religious Freedom