Changing Faith

Changing Faith: The Dynamics and Consequences of Americans Shifting Religious Identities

Darren E. Sherkat
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Changing Faith
    Book Description:

    More than anywhere else in the Western world, religious attachments in America are quite flexible, with over 40 percent of U.S. citizens shifting their religious identification at least once in their lives. InChanging Faith, Darren E. Sherkat draws on empirical data from large-scale national studies to provide a comprehensive portrait of religious change and its consequences in the United States.With analysis spanning across generations and ethnic groups, the volume traces the evolution of the experience of Protestantism and Catholicism in the United States, the dramatic growth of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam, and the rise of non-identification, now the second most common religious affiliation in the country. Drawing on that wealth of data, it details the impact of religious commitments on broad arenas of American social life, including family and sexuality, economic well-being, political commitments, and social values.Exploring religious change among those of European heritage as well as of Eastern and Western European immigrants, African Americans, Asians, Latin Americans, and Native Americans,Changing Faithnot only provides a comprehensive and ethnically inclusive demographic overview of the juncture between religion and ethnicity within both the private and public sphere, but also brings empirical analysis back to the sociology of religion.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-4128-3
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction: Making Sense of American Religion
    (pp. 1-30)

    Religious identifications play a profound role in how Americans relate to one another, influencing whom we marry, how we raise our children, our educational and occupational opportunities and choices, and our moral and political commitments. Yet, as a nation of immigrants, the way that religious identifications operate to structure social relations is also intimately connected to ethnicity, assimilation, and nativity. Religious identifications structure the social world differently for the ancestors of African slaves and the descendants of Anglo-Saxon slaveholders—even though both very often identify as Baptist, Methodist, or Pentecostal.

    Our diverse array of religious groups operate in an ethnically...

  5. 1 Religious Identification in America
    (pp. 31-49)

    Religious identification is a personal cognitive attachment to a religious group or tradition and may also reveal an actual or potential tie to religious organizations. Cognitive commitments to religious groups are important for structuring marital ties, for establishing childrearing patterns, and for providing lifelong socialization on how religion might impact the family, social life, status attainment, and political engagements. A connection to a religious group, even if it is only a cognitive identification, provides a source of institutional support for beliefs and behaviors. Identifications are usually a product of prior religious participation, and they are strongly associated with religious participation...

  6. 2 Religious Switching and Religious Change
    (pp. 50-89)

    Americans sometimes change their religious identifications over the course of their lives, and they are more likely to shift identifications than are people in other predominantly Christian nations (Breen and Hayes 1996; Hayes and McAllister 1995). Close to 40% of Americans shift their religious identification at least once during their lives (Roof 1989; Sherkat 1991). In most nations, religious identifications are bound by family and clan ties; yet Americans’ religious attachments are less fixed. The result of this freedom of association is considerable dynamism in American religion, and these patterns of religious change have substantial consequence in a variety of...

  7. 3 Belonging and Believing
    (pp. 90-114)

    Identifications with religious denominations and traditions are important because they are linked to distinctive beliefs about supernatural rewards and compensators, and they channel religious behaviors. Indeed, when we think about the religious character of the United States, distinctive beliefs, public piety, and private devotion are what mark the exceptional character of American religion. So far, we have focused on identifications with denominational groupings and their contours and dynamics. This chapter demonstrates how these identi-fications matter for religious beliefs and behaviors. Identification with religious groups indicates that a person has participated to some extent in that religious group and that he...

  8. 4 Faith, Family, and Fortune
    (pp. 115-144)

    Religion and family are intimately connected in American society. Religious congregations and denominations rely on families for participation and to provide the next generation of members, while families enjoy the multigenerational context of congregations and the mutual reinforcement of diverse values and beliefs related to family and religion. Religion is a valued part of culture for many Americans, and families socialize children into religious beliefs and identifications and reinforce these commitments through multigenerational interactions (Sherkat 1998, 2003). Religious prescriptions and proscriptions, often enforced by tightly knit communities, influence how individuals and families generate their children’s desire for supernatural goods, and...

  9. 5 Religious Identification and Politics in the United States
    (pp. 145-173)

    Politics is the process of engaging the state to try to obtain collective goods or to seek the mitigation of collective harms (Sherkat 2006), and in the United States, political activity occurs at municipal, state, and federal levels through party and nonpartisan electoral activity in the representative process of the democratic system. Beliefs and values are key schemata informing the valuation of collective goods generated by the state, and religiously inspired understandings can profoundly influence the value of collective goods—with some religious values turning what many people see as a collective good into a collective bad, and vice versa....

  10. Conclusions: Making Sense of Shifting Identities and Their Influence
    (pp. 174-192)

    This book has presented analyses of forty years of GSS data to examine the distribution and dynamics of religious identifications and to show how these identifications influence religious beliefs and behaviors, family values and commitments, stratification outcomes, and political beliefs and behaviors. We have seen that religious diversity is a product of distinctive identifications with sets of denominations and traditions and that this religious diversity is indelibly influenced by ethnicity. This book has provided several key insights about patterns and trends in religious identification and how these identifications matter. First, we have seen that grand theories of religious change do...

    (pp. 193-208)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 209-212)
    (pp. 213-213)