Free Custom «Religion in American Universities» Essay Paper

Free Custom «Religion in American Universities» Essay Paper

In spite of the fact that religion is a full subject of study in its own, the modern universities that are generally concerned with research may not have a room for its growth. Religious studies have been adversely excluded from the main courses in several universities today. In the recent past, religion has been corrupted in the modern society and the trend has not been any different in the American Universities. In fact, there are various aspects of the religion that have been compromised to suite the modern advancements as well as change of lifestyle. A look at the trend of religion in the American Universities since the post civil war to the pre-world war II shows that there has been a widespread alteration of ardent religious beliefs into a total compromise. The changes encountered on religion in the American universities have been characterized by several phases that have altered the aspects of religion in great extents. Moreover, the increased levels of interaction between diverse people from various religious backgrounds have facilitated the extreme erosion of the religious culture in American universities. There are various aspects of American universities that have been at the forefront in eroding the religious strongholds formerly witnessed in American universities. An analysis of the progressive alteration of behavior and unprecedented influence by modernity has played a critical role in turning around the course of religion in American universities since the Post Civil War to the Pre-World War II.

There are three faces through which religion in the American Universities have undergone since the 1870s. The first phase is estimated to have occurred from 18760 to 1925. During the first phase of religion there were various religious scholars as well as leaders of the protestant Christian faith that who advocated for an Enlightenment in Christianity. The scholars and religious leaders made a proposition that the University curriculum needed to include this form Christianity. Their main proposition was that whenever religious studies was included in the university curriculum, it could have been done better with emphasis in science as well as non-sectarian focus. For instance, Andrew Dixon White and Charles Eliot were of the opinion that the study of religion in American universities needed to be purely scientific. As part of defense for their propositions, they argued that it was imperative for the universities to be completely free from all forms of dogma. Nevertheless, several leaders of the Protestant churches campaigned for a perpetual maintenance of a culture and environment of Christianity throughout the American universities. They suggested that such an atmosphere could be enhanced through emphasis of Christian faith in the curriculum.

The second phase of religion in American universities occurred in 1925 and ended in 1965. During the second phase, religious studies in major American universities reached the historical peak. Furthermore, major scholars were able to successfully argue for the inclusion of religious studies in the curriculum as an integral part of the enhancement of liberal democracy in America. They argued that religious studies were imperative in cultivating a sense of dedication on the part of the students and scholars to ideals of democracy. The major reason for the embrace of the argument by scholars was especially the eruption of the Civil War after the World War II had just ended. In fact, anything that was seen as having the effect of heightening democracy was highly recommended for study in the universities. In fact, it was thought that the emphasis of religious studies would be relevant in prevention of the threat that communism posed in the American society. Nevertheless, it was assumed that America could benefit highly in a religion that was broad as well as one that embraced liberal Protestantism. Such a religion was thought to eschew wrangling in theological perspectives concerning doctrine. Such form of religion was thought to solely focus on the benefits America stood to accrue from religion.

The third phase of religious studies in the American universities is assumed to be 1965 to the present. It is during the same period that America is thought to have entered the age of Post-Protestantism. It is actually during the period that religion was said to have entered various anomalies. Moreover, diverse norms in the study of religion were created based on different aspects that the university had emphasized earlier. In fact, the norms created outside the university were mainly created by the church with its emphasis of doctrine rather than what the scholars has proposed. Additionally, other disciplines of professional studies focused on what sorely affected them and sidelined religious studies. Nevertheless, departments of religious studies emphasized the study of the history of the church, its ethics, as well as the biblical studies. As all the transformation and debate between different disciplines progressed, universities tried to put some level of control and protection of the external interference from external forces; it became more and more difficult to successfully maintain such control. Actually, the universities were unable to adequately explain how religious studies were contributing towards the democracy and the justification of a department of religion in universities. In fact, more liberal scholars were of the opinion that religion was only a facet of culture that needed to be absorbed by other disciplines.
Liberal Protestantism was later dropped as being a way towards the promotion of democracy in America.

However, this came as a result of intense debate and war of words between the leaders of the protestant Christian faith and scholars. The elimination of religion as the light of American democracy attracted intense reaction by religious leaders with an introduction of a study based on non-western faiths. However, this did not solve the problem; instead, it persisted. The discussion over the place of religion in the American society has been extensively discussed by enumerable scholars who have had their different views based on the alteration of the importance of religion in university education. Some scholars have proposed that religion has a crucial role in the American universities even with the advent of the modern form of academic pursuit. There has been widespread articulation by a vast majority of scholars that the extent of inclusion of religious studies in American universities highly affects the level of morality as well as other forms of behavior among students. In fact, Hart argues that "In the end the university's disregard of religion may not only be a good thing for higher education but also for religion itself.... Because the university is incapable of evaluating dogmatic claims and supernaturally inspired texts, the religion it tolerates tends to be the thin variety that Mencken described".

Religion in Post Civil War

There is very limited research that discusses the relationship between religion and the American Civil War. In the past, civil war historians considered religion as the most peripheral aspect that linked the Civil war and the American history. However, there has been intense lobbying by researchers and historians towards an intense understanding of the aspects of religion as well as the relationship with the civil war. In 1998 when the book, "Religion and the American Civil War" was published, intense concern about the role played by religion in the war grew. Several historians contributed towards the publication of the book by providing various collections and stories meant to give more about religion and the civil war. Surveys made in the 1970s about the contexts of the American Civil War and religion provides a deep understanding of the historical perspectives of religion and the civil war. According to the perspectives of the modern historians, the issue of religion and the civil war has been approached through diverse perspectives. Nevertheless, there has been an overlap in the manner in which these historians have sought to approach theme of civil war and religion.

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The discussion into the existence of religion during the American civil war entails diverse aspects that are regarded essential for the successful understanding the role played by religion during the time. The impact of religion throughout American universities during the post civil war period has its origins in the perpetuation of close relations between the scholars and the people outside the educational settings. There are various aspects of the religion that are thought to have played a major role in the dissemination of religion during the civil war. For instance, it is thought that the debates on sectional issues were taught to the slaves through the use of religious languages. In fact, historians in the modern society have considered slavery as having had a crucial role in the growth of religion during the post civil war. The main focus of the "Religion and the American Civil war" is on the period of antebellum era which is considered to be the late period of the civil war. Moreover, the antebellum era which had been there before is considered to have had exceptional impacts on the relevance of religion in the civil war. In particular, the influence of Protestantism in the antebellum culture is thought to have been overly profound. When a second awakening in religion occurred in America during the 19th century, a new phase and dimension towards religion particularly in American universities was encountered.

The emergence of a new focus on religion in American religion during the 19th century created a complete renewal in religious interest. In fact, the renewed focus facilitated for the embrace of perfectionism in Christian matters by the northern Americans. At the same time, the southern Americans reacted to the new dawn by the northerners by embracing a completely different focus on religious issues through literary interpretation of the bible which promoted personal piety faith. The manner in which the southerners interpreted the bible did not involve any form of societal concern on aspects of the religion. However, it mainly focused on personal issues and the impacts of the interpretation on an individual basis. There are various roles that religion played during the post civil war as well as during the civil war. For instance, historians agree that religion was essential in enhancing harmony among the soldiers during the civil war. In fact, it is one reason that facilitated for the promotion of education in American universities during the civil war. Scholars and religious leaders agreed that religion was imperative in cultivating a culture that enhanced better relations in the society. In fact, it was a custom for the soldiers to attend church services during the civil war on are a regular basis. The trend was also embraced in all American universities as students and teachers alike made it a routine to attend church services.

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The secularization of the American university movement is said to have taken roots after the civil war. In fact, there are various academics that believed in the role played by religion in the post civil war period besides being strong believers of Christianity. For instance, great academics like Daniel Gilman, Andrew White and Charles Eliot earnestly professed the Christian faith. According to them, the university was a pleasant place where different religions would thrive. In spite of the fact that the founders of the university were Protestants, there was a widespread acceptance that other religions could also obtain a chance to grow within the environment provided in a university. The impact of enlightenment in religion in American universities has been extreme. For instance, the emphasis of the Scottish philosophy of common sense has adversely affected religion in universities. The American universities have also embraced individual judgment as well as freedom in spiritual matters; a fact that has made the interpretation of biblical teachings about Christianity and other religions less influential in universities. The full reformation of religion in American universities was enhanced by the cultural as well as political expressions in republicanism of America.

The secularization of the American universities

Various scholars have influenced the changes encountered in the religious aspects of American universities. Some of the scholars have been vocal in giving warnings about the embrace of secular practices in American universities. The story of religion and American universities is not wholly dismissed by the process of secularization. For instance, Perko noted that "even when religious influences appear to wane with the process of secularization, it needs to be investigated in order to capture the subtleties of the situation". In fact, Perko suggests that more attention need to be focused on issues such as the university curriculum, characteristics of the faculty, as well as the change of theology in colleges over the course of time. Actually, he suggests that a religious story exists even where a shift in religious practice has been undergone. There have been diverse aspects of religion and its influence in American universities for a long period of time. Some of the studies have focused on various aspects of Jewish religion and Catholicism. According to Paul Ritterband and Harold Wechsler in their book, "Jewish Learning in American Universities", various through which Jewish religious studies were included in the mainstream institutions are provided. The study also gives an account of the challenges faced by the Jewish religion in the struggle with the customs on religion that did not favor Jewish religion.

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The effort towards the promotion of Jewish religion was not treated as though it was all about religious studies; it was more of cultural study. In fact, the perception provided a truce for Jewish religious scholars to have a reasonable backing in the traditional mainstream religious studies. The progressive identity of religious beliefs as well as the ideologies based on civic foundations offered a chance for educators who subscribed to Protestantism to reconsider putting national interests above religious aspects. The motivation on the part of the educators towards the enhancement of religion in the universities was directed towards civilization. As a matter of fact, the universities were thought to accelerate the process of civilization vastly through the enhancement of genuineness in Christianity. Moreover, the scholars found out that there was some form of contemporary support on liberalism in religious studies. There is intense description of liberalism in theology. In fact, the manner in which Hart treated the first phase of the evolution of religion in the universities demonstrated some extreme level of benevolence. There are numerous explanations relating to the pedagogical as well as pastoral activities as carried on in religious studies.

There have been intense tensions between the commitment of religious studies in the attainment of academic standards and aims of the spiritual pursuits of the religious teachings. Particularly, the tensions have been based on the emphasis of neutrality towards research and teaching in the American universities. Due to the existence of the debate right from the inception of religious studies in the university curriculum, it has acted as the basis for the continued debates about religious studies and academic work in the universities. Similarly, tension was provided by the mainline Protestantism. The tension provided by Protestantism is thought to have been intensely hegemonic to the extent that there were assumptions by various people that it would furnish the subject matter in religious studies. The reason for such an assumption was the fact that Protestantism was the American religion. As a matter of fact, the curriculum used in the American universities during the introduction of religious studies was based on seminaries run by protestant churches. Nevertheless, the curriculum was later changed due to its major emphasis on biblical teachings and ethics to the detriment of professional courses. The dominance of mainline Protestantism in the American religious studies not only seemed acceptable but also natural. In fact, mainline Protestantism was the object of American religious studies throughout the second phase of religious story as provided by Hart. During the phase, maturity of academic movements was visible due to the emphasis of religion in an aggressive manner.

The Post Civil War and the Pre-World War II was characterized with immense integration between academic intellectualism in religious studies with developments in theology, education as well as politics. The combined efforts between all these aspects led to the enhancement of religious studies respectability. At the same time, the standard feature for the American universities was transformed to embrace religious studies. Nevertheless, explicit differences were encountered in the American universities with the increased emphasis on scientific research in the American universities. The commencement of the twentieth century was characterized with new dimension of secularization of the American universities. According to various historians, the accommodation of religious studies in the nineteenth century did not accommodate leaders who were religiously minded. In fact, such college leaders were excluded from decisions and debates concerning scientific discoveries. Other scholars and historians opted to focus their study on tracing the course of the liberal Protestantism towards the reverence towards the authority conveyed by scientific discoveries. The realization that science was a revelation by God offered a new focus towards religious studies in the universities and secularization in the twentieth century.

The synthesis of the American revolutionary towards evangelical Christianity progressed into the enlightenment period then to science and later to the expression of republican morality and principles. Nevertheless, there various dangers scholars attributed to the progressive alterations of the relationship between religious studies and scientific advancement. In fact, as science made advanced strides without the need for an explanation from the creator about the relevance of the discoveries, it was evident that there was no particular relationship between the advancement in religion and academic progress in American universities. According to different scholars, evangelicals in America had not been adequately prepared for the change that occurred in science and the lack of the need of biblical explanation. Therefore, the new dimension of religion and scholarship brought about different suggestions by scholars particularly on the emphasis of personal perspectives towards religion. Furthermore, there are various aspects of university education and religious studies that still have a room for re-interpretation. Most importantly, the focus needs to be on the relevance and influence that religion has had on the modern academics. In fact, a comparative examination of the interactions between Protestantism, Catholicism as well as other university religious studies reveal immense relationship with modernity.

A look at the studies by various scholars on religion reveals that there have been moments of success and failure between religious studies in American universities in Post Civil War and Pre-World War II. Additionally, studies on the relationship between Jewish religious studies and university education have revealed that studies on religion mainly derive their object of study from what communities of faith seek to attain. The basis upon which communal determinations of faith rely on are described as unscientific by a vast majority of scholars. The analysis of the religious studies in the American universities seems extremely well informed on account of the historians providing the analysis. Actually, the views several scholars is that there is no justification for religion to claim a place in the university due to its failure to meet the standards of the enlightenment period. The standards of the enlightenment period supported for the maintenance of neutrality towards scientific inventions as well as demonstration of rationality in all aspects.


The American universities understand that knowledge is based on postmodernist theories. On the contrary, various religious beliefs do not auger well with aspects of the postmodernism. Commitment to the epistemology of modernism has the effect of diluting religious beliefs. The fact that American universities adhere to the rationality of the enlightenment period means that there is a major contradiction in aspects of religion and university scholarship. As a matter of fact, it is widely known that universities have encountered challenges in interpreting the dogmatic claims texts inspired by supernatural beings. On the contrary, there has been a continuous rejection on the legitimacy of dogmatic claims by the university. Therefore, the view of historians and scholars alike is that scholarship based on faith is not likely to obtain acceptance as intellectual knowledge irrespective of the source of such scholarship.



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