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Feb 27 2005
Purdue Study: Religious Diversity Finds Place In America

By Kristen Sutherland

Staff Writer, The Purdue Exponent

Two-thirds of Americans believe that public schools should teach the Ten Commandments.

This statistic was just one of the many findings of Robert Wuthnow, a professor at Princeton University, in his study on America's response to religious diversity.

Wuthnow's study examined key writings of historical leaders, conducted over 300 in-depth interviews and surveyed 2,910 adults all over the nation on their religious views. The study was conducted one year after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, and ended one year before the war in

Iraq began.

Various questions ranging from religious stereotypes and government restrictions of religious groups to people's individual beliefs and religious practices made this study unique, said Wuthnow.

Wuthnow discovered that there has been an increase in interactions between Christians and non-Christians, such as Buddhists and Hindus.

"Most of this contact has occurred in the workplace," said Wuthnow. "However, two-thirds of those surveyed never discussed religion with members outside of their respective religion."

Wuthnow discovered that most Americans are very unfamiliar with other religions, maintaining an attitude that it is better to avoid these other religions.

Among some of the more ironic findings was that most Americans claim to be familiar with Christianity, but could not name the four gospels or the city of Jesus' birth, said Wuthnow.

"Overall, the United States has become more diverse through immigration, and this has added to the range of religious traditions in the country," said Wuthnow. "Foreign travel, mass communication, higher education and the Internet are just some of the factors that have increased awareness of other religions; however, most Americans still think of America as a Christian nation."

Wuthnow’s findings can be found in his book, America and the Challenges of Religious Diversity, which will be available this summer.

Sean Barry, a senior in the School of Liberal Arts, attended Wuthnow's lecture.

"I thought his presentation was very informative," said Barry. "It would be nice to see more people on campus interested in (the topic of religious diversity)."

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