Religions in the USA

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					Religions in the USA
  What We Believe – or Not
Demographic maps are from American Ethnic Geography:
     “No Religion” Identification
          Agnostic: 0.5%

          Atheist: 0.4%

          “No religion”: 13.2%

So – secularists aside for the moment, we are
a religious country. But how do we believe,
area by area?
World Religions Distribution
    Most Unified to Most Diverse
   Baha'i
   Zoroastrianism
   Sikhism
   Islam
   Jainism
   Judaism
   Taoism
   Shinto
   Christianity
   Buddhism
   Hinduism
 How Are Religions Counted?

In order to rank religions by size, two
    parameters must be defined:

     How is "size" determined?
     What constitutes a "religion"?

   Meaning and End of Religion
 Faith – the substance of religious life
     The subjective experience or transformation of
     our relation to reality

     For the philosopher, the important thing is to
     understand “what it is like” to live as a believer (p.

 For Smith, the universal goal of religion is to
 introduce a person to “that which is without limits.”
 (p. 29)
 Meaning and End of Religion, 2
 Cumulative Religious Traditions – the
  external embodiment of religions

     There is no “essence” of either Religion or
     religions (p. 30, 31)

     What is called religion is really religious
     history – an “…evolving context of
     observable actualities…” (p. 33)
        The Seven Dimensions
 The abstract or non-physical dimensions
   • Practical/ritual – practices through which a community
     shares its religious life
   • Experiential/emotional – the numinous something, mystical
     experience, conversions, etc
   • Narrative/mythical – unifying stories of beginnings (universe,
     the religion itself), founding or emulative figures, defining
     events, etc
   • Doctrinal/philosophical – formalized or rationalized
     theology/doctrine validating and clarifying the significance of
   • Ethical/legal – principles, laws and values of a religion
    The Seven Dimensions, 2
 The embodied or material dimensions

    •Social/institutional – the ways interpersonal
    relations are organized within a religion; how
    religions relate to the rest of society
    •Material – the physical forms of a religion
    (buildings, art)
 Comparing the Definitions
Both question the idea that there is an “essence” of
religion – a trait or set of traits that all religions must
have to count as a religion

     This suggests that there is not just diversity,
     but a diversity that is irreducible to some
     common ground.

Both minimize the propositional content of religion

       Smart: this is only one of 6 other dimensions
       Smith: all Gods are idols
      Contrasting the Definitions
 Smart focuses more on the     Smith focuses more on
  observable or describable      pairing the phenomenal
  aspects of organized           experience of religious
  religion                       persons with an historical
                                 study of the “externals” of
 Smart eschews reference        religious traditions
  to the transcendent,
  studying religion as a way    Smith includes reference
  in which humans conceive       to the transcendent,
  of themselves and act in       suggesting a purpose of
  the world                      religion
    Assessing the Definitions
A good definition will:

 Focus only on what is essential to the
 definens (the concept being defined)

 Help us distinguish between things which are,
 and things which are not, members of the class
 named by the definiens.
      Applying the Definitions
How do either or both of these approaches to religion
help you better understand:

      The true richness and diversity of human

     The problem(s) we can encounter in trying to
     find an “essence” of religion?

     The aspects of religion that are most
     important to you – and why?