Friday, January 11, 2013

First Freedom Video

Back on 18 December 2012, PBS aired a video First Freedom: The Fight for Religious Liberty.  The video tells of the history behind the First Amendment, going back to the early pilgrims and tracing the development of religious freedom amidst religious persecution in the colonies.  You can watch it here.

The video shows how the religious freedom that emerged in colonial America is strikingly different from the European experience.  It also shows how certain aspects of colonial America, such as religious pluralism across the colonies, created conditions under which laws protecting religious freedom could emerge.

The video does less well in examining certain subtleties.  For example, religion, just like speech and other protected rights, are still regulated to some degree.  Do religious persons have the right to avoid taxes, avoid military service, educate their children outside of the public education sector, wear any kind of clothing, or sacrifice animals as part of their religious practice?  These kinds of behaviors can be challenged.

So use the video for historical background on the First Amendment but not for a more general examination of religious freedom.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Religious None Growing More Slowly?

A new Gallup poll suggests that growth of Americans claiming no religious affiliation is slowing.  Remember that this category includes anybody who does not claim a religious affiliation, many of whom are religious but just not affiliated.

Predicting the future growth of this category is tricky.  Many of the people are younger and religious but just not affiliated.  You might expect religious entrepreneurs to engage these people, thus potentially slowing or even reversing the growth.  However, the very notion of affiliation may be shifting.  Individuals may be happy practicing religion or going to church while not creating formal affiliations.  These growth in the religious nones is one of the biggest changes in American religion, but there is still much to be learned.