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Olivia Eyring Instructor: Malcolm Campbell English 1103 September 11th, 2012 Topic Proposal: Religion Today: How Religions Influence Our Lives and Culture Introduction/Overview I will be researching and studying the influences that organized religions, including Christianity, have on our society and the consequences, both positive and negative, of these influences. Specifically, I am interested in the contradictions between the United States being a country without a religious affiliation and how it is still perceived to be a Christian nation, and why the recent increase in people speaking out against religion in legal settings has sparked a belief that there is a war on Christianity being waged. According to a 2008 survey conducted by the US Religious Landscape Survey, 78.4% of the United States population identified themselves as some sort of Christian. 16.1% of people did not identify with any particular religion, and only 4.7% of the population followed a nonChristian faith. The extreme dominance of Christianity as the religion of choice in the United States has led to a belief of sorts that it is (or should be) a Christian nation. However, this country was founded by Deists, not Christians, on the principle of religious freedom. Seeing one religion favored over others is contrary to the values upon which this country was founded. The religious undertones of the constitution were intended to unify the people and grant them all rights (We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.)

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In May of 2012, North Carolina passed Amendment One, an amendment to the state constitution that says, marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state. What does this do? It removes the rights of couples in civil unions and non-married relationships. It also makes gay marriage, which had already been illegal in North Carolina, impossible to be recognized. Gay and straight couples alike took a hit with this amendment. Why would it be passed, though? The only true reason that the majority of people voted for Amendment One, as shown in various polls, is that their religion of choice frowns upon homosexuality. "It's not a right that they have. God designed marriage between one man, and one woman. That's it," was said by Diane Bridgeman, a Christian supporter of Amendment One. This brings up other issues: should laws be passed that, despite a majority vote, are simply passed for religious reasons? Does this not go against the countrys aim for religious freedom? If laws are passed that pander to the beliefs and desires of one religious denomination, do those who follow other belief systems have to obey them if the law is based solely on religion? There is obviously a conflict between those who wish for their personal beliefs to be those of all and people who desire a freedom of speech and religion; each side believes that they are doing the correct thing, and each side has their arguments rooted in their personal moralities. Can you put prayer into the school system without insulting, offending, or repressing the religions or convictions of other students? What if you believe that your rights are in jeopardy if you cannot have public prayer in school? Personally, I believe that anyone has the right to pray or practice their beliefs in any situation, but that they should keep it private. When religion is publically displayed, especially in places of education where science and spirituality collide, it can have disastrous results. As famous scientist Neil Degrasse Tyson said, I dont

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have an issue with what you do in the church, but Im going to be up in your face if youre going to knock on my science classroom and tell me theyve got to teach what youre teaching in your Sunday school. Because thats when were going to fight.

Initial Inquiry Question How do religion, science, and legislature coexist in our society today? If the majority of a group agrees on a law, should it still pass even if it has a basis solely in religion? How should the separation of church and state be approached when the majority of the population is religious? How can morality without a religious basis be justified to those whose moralities with a religious basis conflict with it (i.e. homosexuality and gay marriage)?

My Interest in this Topic I am deeply, deeply interested in conflicts between religious beliefs and morality. As an atheist, I feel as if I need to educate myself in religious matters to be able to understand why certain things are believed. Without a belief in a deity to tell me what I should believe is right or wrong, I get to make my own decisions on how I view the world, and currently I see it as a large conflict. There is a common belief that morality cannot exist without a religious basis. I disagree; how can someone blindly follow what was written in a book thousands of years ago regarding morals today? In many places, especially the South, there is a feeling that a war on Christianity being waged. The basis for this is often a simple we cannot teach creationism in schools, we cannot

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have public prayer in schools, and this means that our rights are being oppressed. My opinion on this is that, because this country has no religious affiliation, you are free to practice whatever religion you want, but the point at which your freedom to practice becomes your freedom to force it on others is the point at which we have lost our religious freedom. There have been many pieces of legislature passed and proposed recently that are supported by religion only; I wish to look deeper into these issues and research what basis they are legalized upon and what actions, if any, can be taken on them in the case that there is no justification beside a religion. Next Steps I will be researching laws passed recently based on religion (such as Amendment One), ones that were overthrown in the past, the reasoning behind certain beliefs, and how science and religion have coexisted so far. I plan on using government websites to find reputable sources for the legal issues. I also plan on discussing my paper on a particular forum where I hope to be given sources that I otherwise would not have located myself. The library may also prove to be helpful in locating more information, especially on past laws that were based on religions, but I will be wary that if I go too deeply into my intents with this paper I may offend someone I speak to in person (you never know who will be offended if they hear that you disagree with their beliefs, no matter how well you defend yourself). Overall, however, I expect my research and writing to go smoothly; I have a wide variety of sources and knowledge compiled already, and my interest in the topic should keep me more than motivated to learn more.