Religion in Post-World War II America | National Humanities Center

TeacherServe Essays

Religion in Post-World War II America

By Beckman, Joanne

Contrary to what many observers predicted in the 1960s and early 1970s, religion has remained as vibrant and vital a part of American society as in generations past. New issues and interests have emerged, but religion’s role in many Americans’ lives remains undiminished. Perhaps the one characteristic that distinguishes late-twentieth-century religious life from the rest of America’s history, however, is diversity. To trace this development, we must look back to the 1960s, when a new vista of lifestyle options was introduced into mainstream America. In the religious sphere, this meant that mainline Protestantism or even the tripartite division of Protestant-Catholic-Jew no longer represented all of society’s spiritual interests. Americans now had to take into account different kinds of spiritualities and practices, new kinds of leaders and devotees. In the post-1960s era, the religious scene has become only more diverse and complex. Three key examples illustrate the pluralistic nature of American religion at the close of the twentieth century: 1) the “boomer” generation of spiritual seekers; 2) the growth of non-European, ethnic-religious communities; and 3) religious rights in the public square.

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History / Education Studies / Protestantism / Spirituality / Religious Pluralism / Freedom of Religion / Secularism / American History /