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Author Topic: Culture of the USA & Religion  (Read 3566 times)

Juni

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Culture of the USA & Religion
« on: February 10, 2012, 10:36:10 pm »
For this week's Pagan Blog Project entry I decided to do "C is also for Culture"; I wanted to define American culture and how it impacts religion, especially pagan religions. The topic, though, is much too large for a single post, so I decided to bring it here. It's always been difficult for me to step back far enough to see the forest for the trees, and without being able to define the culture I was raised in, I think it's harder to enhance the good aspects and combat the negative aspects.

This is a portion of my blog entry:

Quote
So, what makes American culture?

We’re consumers. Materialistic behavior is rampant in the USA, with a strong vein of disposability and convenience. It’s always about the next something to acquire. And despite what my grandparents’ generation has to say about it, I think we’ve always been this way- look at “Manifest Destiny”. Americans have always been about getting more. And we are absolutely willing to sacrifice quality if it means we get it faster- just look at what passes for food these days. We are an impatient people.

How does this affect religion- pagan religions in particular? Well, there’s cultural appropriation, for one thing. (Hey, we got their land- why can’t we have their religion too?  ) There is a market flooded with Wicca 101 books that emphasize getting your altar tools and religious jewelry over actually understanding the religion, it’s real history, or the significance of the tools aside from elemental associations. And if the first spell from a 101 book doesn’t work right away, or we still feel awkward after making offerings in our backyard for a whole week, we decide it must not be right and move onto something new. The pagan umbrella gets crammed with people who have dabbled here and there but don’t have the knowledge or experience to do much or be of much use to anyone; and worse still, this is treated as normal.


So, I guess my question is- what aspects of American culture stand out to you? What affect do they have on religious behavior/mentality in Americans?
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Gore

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Re: Culture of the USA & Religion
« Reply #1 on: February 10, 2012, 10:49:35 pm »
Quote from: Juni;42261

So, I guess my question is- what aspects of American culture stand out to you? What affect do they have on religious behavior/mentality in Americans?


Having been an American all my life, what stands out to me the most in my practices are the changes/tweaks i've had to make to fit my urban area. I have to worship in somewhat cramped quarters due to where i live and it erks me a bit. We all must make do though!

Mentality wise i think it has made me more open-minded than most. I try new styles of worship frequently and i like that.
I like being an American personally :D:

yewberry

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Re: Culture of the USA & Religion
« Reply #2 on: February 11, 2012, 12:19:09 am »
Quote from: Juni;42261
So, I guess my question is- what aspects of American culture stand out to you?

Humor.  Especially of the sharp, socially-observant variety.

Quote
What affect do they have on religious behavior/mentality in Americans?

Polarization, for the most part.  Ultra-religion (of any stripe) tends to be antithetical to the kind of social observation humor bestows.  I'm always reminded of these scenes from Good Morning Vietnam:

[video=youtube;tDOH18D3l9o]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tDOH18D3l9o[/video]

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« Last Edit: February 11, 2012, 12:19:57 am by yewberry »

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Re: Culture of the USA & Religion
« Reply #3 on: February 11, 2012, 08:29:50 am »
Quote from: Juni;42261
So, I guess my question is- what aspects of American culture stand out to you? What affect do they have on religious behavior/mentality in Americans?

The consumerism that you point out and it's side effect: some people develop a brand loyalty so great that not only can their religion do no wrong but its users (members) are far better people than those who are users (members) of competing brands even if the brands are so close that the differences are mainly the brand name and a tiny handful of minor "ingredients".

Religions, on the other hand, sometimes seem to have bought into the the numbers game and will do nearly anything to to have more members -- even watering done their teachings a bit (often simply by not stressing unpopular but core beliefs) if needed to attract a larger membership.
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Re: Culture of the USA & Religion
« Reply #4 on: February 11, 2012, 09:03:11 am »
Quote from: Juni;42261
[/url]:


 
Not sure about tying Manifest Destiny to consumerism.

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Re: Culture of the USA & Religion
« Reply #5 on: February 11, 2012, 09:09:06 am »
Quote from: Juni;42261

I think if you look at America before about 1940 or maybe as late as the late 1950s, you'd find a lot more differentiation in culture within the US.  Northern New England was different than CT / NYC, different from the South, different from upper midwest.
« Last Edit: February 11, 2012, 12:36:54 pm by Marilyn/Absentminded »

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Re: Culture of the USA & Religion
« Reply #6 on: February 11, 2012, 09:31:06 am »
Quote from: Juni;42261
So, I guess my question is- what aspects of American culture stand out to you? What affect do they have on religious behavior/mentality in Americans?

 
À la carte, mix 'n match. In religious behavior it means going for the parts you like, and ignoring things that challenge you. It can mean warping a religion so that your gods hate the same people you do. In the pagan world, it produces the shallow kind of eclecticism, in which people grab the shiny bits from every pantheon. It can also mean taking an ancient deity, Sekhmet for instance, completely ignoring everything from that tradition and making up your own goddess with the old name and face pasted on.
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Re: Culture of the USA & Religion
« Reply #7 on: February 11, 2012, 11:11:12 am »
Quote from: Juni;42261
So, I guess my question is- what aspects of American culture stand out to you? What affect do they have on religious behavior/mentality in Americans?

 
The thing I've seen most affecting people new to paganism is the idea that white-suburbia-culture is not actually a culture - that "culture" is a thing for minorities, foreigners, and quaint other people.  And that religious seeking is a process by which people with no identity can find a culture.

The cola wars, Super Bowl, trick-or-treating, not-actually-going-to-church-on-Sunday stuff?  That's just normal people stuff.  It's not culture.

(And that perception feeds into some people's tendency towards cultural appropriation: it turns beleaguered minorities desperately trying not to drown in the overwhleming waves of Western exportage into the haves and the American youth into the have-nots, culturally speaking, leaving all those whiny, petulant people wondering why they are being denied access to a culture, they have none at all.)
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Juniperberry

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Re: Culture of the USA & Religion
« Reply #8 on: February 11, 2012, 12:27:37 pm »
Quote from: Juni;42261


So, I guess my question is- what aspects of American culture stand out to you? What affect do they have on religious behavior/mentality in Americans?



I recently read about Frau Holle in folklore and connections witb Holle /Hulda as deity and the author mentioned a startling difference between the popularity of certain Grimm tales in Germany vs the US: the male rescuer.

In the US tales like Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White are all highly popular and they feature a prince-hero that rescues the girl, instills justice, and provides a happy ending. Meanwhile, tales like Frau Holle, which is incredibly popular in Germany, have no male characters whatsoever, and is strictly the females journey and relationship with supernatural beings.

I'm mainly thinking aloud, but I do think part of American culture that relates to religion is the idea of a male authority figure. Preacher, God, Jesus... our President. We're also still rather Puritan and conservative and I would guess that this has a lot to do with people seeking out Goddess paths, mother nature religions, etc.
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Re: Culture of the USA & Religion
« Reply #9 on: February 12, 2012, 01:30:24 am »
Quote from: Juni;42261

So, I guess my question is- what aspects of American culture stand out to you? What affect do they have on religious behavior/mentality in Americans?

This is actually hard for me to do lol. I don't want to be too general because I know what I could be dealing with is stereo-types that certainly don't apply to all, and I'm taking a crack at my national identity in the process, but....

I'm not sure if it has anything to do with our Puritan roots, but there definitely seems to be a knack for fundamentalism. The rest of the world knows it well seeing media coverage of America's Islamophobia, but the conservative Protestantism is likely stemmed from Puritan stock, and sure took off in the 19th century, with our history of issues with religion and state all contributing to our Bible Belt stereotypes of being crazy conservative Christians.  

We're also known for being fanatically patriotic, which I think contributes to elitist attitudes. I know from growing up witnessing the rampant attitude of many not caring what happens beyond their door step. Just the other week I was listening to an Irish radio program with an American guest who was appalled and thought that Ireland must be backward because the presenter didn't know who the "Kardashians" were. I actually didn't know myself until I saw them in a magazine waiting to get my hair cut coincidentally a few days later, but the presenter in turn asked her if she knew who "Jedward" were, which she did't, but still quickly gafted them off as "un-important" to "them" taking up her opportunity to educate "us" on how important the feckin Kardashians were.

That same attitude occurs in religion. If you're not with "us", then you're wrong. Even within paganism. America was forged taking foreign ideas&traits, and then putting our own "twist" on it. The English Beatles go to India, and then America embraces Eastern spirituality by becoming hippies. Even within Wicca, it reached the shores, and then the Goddess movement has to be announced to the rest of the world. Even in the Trad communities, the majority of downlines in the States originally stemmed from one coven. Therefore across the pond where there were originally multiple downlines, the diversity in praxis is much more common in Europe, and attitudes much more relaxed(especially the UK where it came from), but at least I've seen the attitudes in the States are a lot more conservative, contributing to all of the well known witch wars, and in-house fighting that we all know of. That attitude has to be linked with something?

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Re: Culture of the USA & Religion
« Reply #10 on: February 12, 2012, 06:37:34 am »
Quote from: Micheál;42362
...the presenter didn't know who the "Kardashians" were.

 
It's 21st Centurese for "Gabor".

Hmm, not quite off-topic; "exoticization of the (pretty) other" is a cultural feature, too.

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Re: Culture of the USA & Religion
« Reply #11 on: February 12, 2012, 07:38:07 am »
Quote from: Micheál;42362

Just the other week I was listening to an Irish radio program with an American guest who was appalled and thought that Ireland must be backward because the presenter didn't know who the "Kardashians" were. I actually didn't know myself until I saw them in a magazine waiting to get my hair cut coincidentally a few days later, but the presenter in turn asked her if she knew who "Jedward" were, which she did't, but still quickly gafted them off as "un-important" to "them" taking up her opportunity to educate "us" on how important the feckin Kardashians were.

 
Not to get too off-topic but...

Are you saying there is a country who don't know who those devil women are?  Where do I sign up to move there?


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Re: Culture of the USA & Religion
« Reply #12 on: February 12, 2012, 07:50:05 am »
Quote from: Juni;42261
what aspects of American culture stand out to you? What affect do they have on religious behavior/mentality in Americans?


I'd have to say individualism. "Do your own thing" is a strong undercurrent throughout our culture. (In marked contrast to, say, China, where it seems community is central.) It's what brought so many immigrants here and sent so many migrating West (where this ethos is particularly strong). It's why we have fundamental liberties enshrined in our Constitution, why there's such a reservoir of resistance to government intervention, why we exalt celebrity, why capitalism thrives here, why our country is such a great laboratory for generating new ideas, products, etc.

This last is probably where it influences religion the most. The existing religions aren't working for you? Start a new one.
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Re: Culture of the USA & Religion
« Reply #13 on: February 12, 2012, 02:03:30 pm »
Quote from: SunflowerP;42380
It's 21st Centurese for "Gabor".

Hmm, not quite off-topic; "exoticization of the (pretty) other" is a cultural feature, too.

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Re: Culture of the USA & Religion
« Reply #14 on: February 12, 2012, 05:31:51 pm »
Quote from: Altair;42390
I'd have to say individualism. "Do your own thing" is a strong undercurrent throughout our culture. (In marked contrast to, say, China, where it seems community is central.) It's what brought so many immigrants here and sent so many migrating West (where this ethos is particularly strong). It's why we have fundamental liberties enshrined in our Constitution, why there's such a reservoir of resistance to government intervention, why we exalt celebrity, why capitalism thrives here, why our country is such a great laboratory for generating new ideas, products, etc.

This last is probably where it influences religion the most. The existing religions aren't working for you? Start a new one.


Do your own thing, but do it the way we tell you to do it, otherwise you're ickybad. Not even "of the devil", but we have such a fetishistic obsession with the idea of reason and logic in this country, that anything that isn't deemed "reasonable" by some of the self-identified enlightened people is just plain morally and ethically wrong, and quite a waste of time. Think second wave feminists and their stance on BDSM.

So yes, someone said polarized... I'm going to add to it that it's a veritable minefield no matter what circles you run in.

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