Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on ReligionInstitute for Studies of Relgion
IJRR :: 2018 Volume 14 :: Article 13
2018 Volume 14, Article 13
Religious Identity Formation: Constraints Imposed on Religious Institutions and Implications for the Meaning of Religious Affiliation

Author: Marc von der Ruhr (St. Norbert College De Pere, Wisconsin), Paul Ngo (St. Norbert College De Pere, Wisconsin), Joseph Daniels (Marquette University Milwaukee, Wisconsin)

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Religiosity in the United States remains a strong social force. The United States persistently demonstrates higher religious participation than Europe. Some recent trends documented by the Pew Research Center in its 2008 and 2015 publications on the U.S. religious landscape, however, cite evidence that different religious groups are experiencing very different trends in participation. These trends show a recent and significant decline among many moderate Protestant denominations but a modest increase in participation at fundamentalist churches. The Pew Research Center similarly documents significant inconsistencies between what a religious hierarchy teaches versus what individuals personally choose to believe. For example, and perhaps most strikingly, one-half of Christians believe that non-Christian religions can lead to salvation. This finding presents a significant challenge to a religious hierarchy: will members of the church actually embrace and live what the church teaches? Another implication is to argue that an “us” versus “them” perspective with respect to religion is counterproductive and can lead to increased tension between faith traditions and the members of those faith traditions. This paper appeals to an interdisciplinary approach in order to help better understand the factors that explain these trends. This paper suggests that religious identity is personal and a consequence of a myriad of potentially interactive factors that leave traditional measures and definitions of religious identity poorly suited to the study of religious behavior.

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