The Future of Religion in America

Religion is a system of beliefs, practices and ethics that are central to the lives of many people. It provides guidance on how to treat others, and it has often been shown to inoculate against such social problems as drug abuse, out-of-wedlock births and crime. Regular religious practice has also been linked to better health, including lower rates of depression, more self-esteem and higher family and marital satisfaction.

In the past, scholars have typically defined religion as something that appears in every culture. However, this type of definition has the downside that it can overlook religious practices and beliefs in some cultures. A better approach is to define religion functionally, as the beliefs and practices that generate social cohesion or provide orientation in life. This is an open polythetic approach that allows for the inclusion of some forms of religion that would be excluded by a substantive definition.

A number of recent developments have made it important to analyze religion from a more realist point of view. For example, a number of scholars have emphasized that human life is complex and that it cannot be reduced to the simple ideas of a single religion. They have also argued that the emergence of the notion of religion is not inevitable and that there are other ways to make sense of human life.

The Senate should play a leading role in this national debate on the future of religion in America. It has been an influential forum for such issues in the past, and it is a place where members can discuss the profound questions that are at the heart of our existence.