Religion in America: Now What?

Mark Oppenheimer – Yale University

No country has as many indigenous religions as the United States of America. Although we think of our religious past as being defined by groups that came here to flee persecution elsewhere, what’s astonishing is not the transplanted religions but the ones native to our soil: Shakers, Mormons, Seventh-day Adventists, Scientologists, numerous varieties of Baptists, and many more. These and other groups were born here, took root, and flourished, helping to create the country that we know today—a deeply religious place, where voters of faith control political discourse in half the states and, to a great extent, in every presidential campaign. As faith withers on the vine in Europe, the United States—along among all wealthy, educated countries—continues to defy all expectations of “the death of God,” proving that religion can thrive, even in an age supposedly marked by science and reason. That’s where we are, but what does the future hold for religion in America?