“The Rich Tapestry of Religion in the United States” features three lessons that help students assess the religious diversity of the United States, explore different religious and non-religious worldviews, and consider how freedom of religion relates to their own lives and the lives of others.
The religious landscape in the United States is shifting rapidly. In the past, most Americans identified as Christian; today there are not only more Christian sects but also growing numbers of people who belong to other faith traditions—and many people who are unafilliated with any religion.
According to the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, religious affiliation in the United States is both very diverse and extremely fluid. Every major religious group is simultaneously gaining and losing members. With this series, students learn about many belief systems and consider the benefits of religious freedom.
However, teaching about religion can be controversial. According to the First Amendment Center’s A Teacher’s Guide to Religion in the Public Schools, “For most of our history, extremes have shaped much of the debate (about teaching religion). On one end … are those who advocate promotion of religion (usually their own) in school practices and policies. On the other end are those who view public schools as religious-free zones. Neither of these approaches is consistent with the guiding principles of the Religious Clause of the First Amendment.” Comparative religion studies need taught through a neutral position, by teaching, not preaching.
This series has been designed to focus on religion through the lens of understanding, awareness and tolerance. As teachers move through the lessons, their goal should be to academically inform students about all religious and non-religious worldviews.
Lesson One: One Nation, Many Beliefs introduces students to several different religions and asks them to examine data to determine how many people across the United States follow those religions as well as how many people do not have a religious affiliation.
Lesson Two: My Way Is Not the Only Way asks students to identify similarities and differences between different belief systems.
Lesson Three: Free to Believe! introduces freedom of religion to students and asks them to consider how they might respond in an authentic situation related to religious freedom.
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