The American Religion in Decline


The wall of separation between church and state in America, so described by Jefferson, has always been porous. The separation doctrine is constitutionally established and has been successful in guaranteeing freedom of religious worship in America and not establishing a particular denomination as America's official religion. Nonetheless, there has been a fervent devotion to religious belief in American culture from the beginning, and while the connection between church and state has been informal, it has been real in its influence on public, as well as private, morality. Now, however, this informal but real bond between church and state in America is undergoing dissolution. There has been an undeniable change over the past fifty years in the religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices of the American people. In general, this seems to be due to the decline of the influence of Protestantism in its various forms, which has largely dominated the American ethos. The decline probably began in the 1950s rather than the 1960s, at a time when American self-confidence was at its highest, when social mobility became available to all classes, when self-definition seemed the prerogative of every American citizen and of the nation itself, and when sexual mores were loosening.
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