Religion in America


I snapped the photo above during the Iron River Independence Day parade last week.

I think sometimes people forget that America is a very religious country. Many people came to the USA seeking religious freedom. Pennsylvania was founded by Quakers, there are large colonies of Amish and Mennonites, and there are many more examples. In my state of Michigan, in the lower peninsula near the city of Holland, Dutch Reformed (Calvinists) church settlers from the Netherlands came and still form a majority in that part of the state. Many of the early settlers in New England were Puritans, as well as other Protestant religions fleeing the Catholic church.

The religious beginnings of America are still seen today. That is one of the things that foreigners need to realize to understand America. I have a large number of friends and acquaintances that mention Jesus daily in conversation like he is a neighbor. There are many fundamentalist, enthusiastic Christians like the marchers above. I noticed in the Iron County Summer Fun Guide, published by the local newspaper, the Iron County Reporter, on the Church Guide page, there were over 30 churches listed for our county. Iron County has a population of 13,000 and is about one-third the size of Kosovo. The churches run the gamut of Protestant religions. There are seven different Lutheran churches, three Catholic, and several Baptists. The high number of Lutheran churches probably is a result of large numbers of Swedish and Finnish immigrants to Iron County. Other interesting points are as follows;

There are two Episcopal churches. They were formed after the Revolutionary War because the clergy of the Anglican Church had to pledge alligiance to the monarch in England. To avoid this, they formed their own church.

An American religion, the Seventh Day Adventists, have a beautiful stone church in Iron River.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses have churches in Iron County. The term “Jehovah” is a mis-translation of Yahweh.

There are no non-Christian parishes. The Upper Peninsula is mostly Caucasian with very few Jews and people of color. I’ll be surprised if there ever is a mosque or synagogue built here.

The number of Catholic churches is dwindling. The Catholic churches were originally affliated with ethnic groups. In my town of Caspian, the St. Cecilia Parish was founded by Italian immigrants. In Iron River, the Assumption Church, which is no longer functioning, was founded by Polish immigrants. I know of three Catholic churches that are no longer in service and parishes have consolidated.

I was surprised not to find the fastest growing American religion, the Church of the Latter Day Saints (mormons) do not have a church here.

There are many smaller, Bible-based churches. These as well as the evangelical churches are very popular in the USA.

It is nice to have such a variety of faiths able to practice together peaceably. I don’t particularly like the effects of a high percentage of religious people have on America. As a former science teacher, I find it ridiculous to walk around with a placard denouncing evolution and human reasoning. It is denying the Enlightenment and humanity’s progress. But there are huge numbers of Americans who think like this and literally take every word of the Bible as truth. It is very similar to Islamic countries and the Koran. I know that an atheist could never be elected President. The strong religious nature of America is the greatest in the south and small towns like the one I am from. It coincides with the Red State / Blue State dichotomy of US politics.

I respect the American ideals of freedom of speech and the separation of the church and government. I am happy that people like those above can do this, but I don’ t have to agree with their message. I am raising my children to be secular humanists and to think for themselves. That doesn’t mean ignoring right and wrong and many of the messages of the organized religions. Our family has a strong sense of ethics.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s