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Question a

Secularization can be observed both within the church and outside of it, through music, preaching, and the education system. This process occurs when society is transformed from close attachment and identification with religious institutions and values to being led towards secular institutions and nonreligious values (Taylor, 2007). According to the secularization thesis, while society is progressing, certainly through rationalization and modernization, religions are losing their grip on most aspects of governance and social life (Taylor, 2007). Music is one of the most common ways of secularization appearance within the church and the ‘world.’ For example, this happens when certain music is played inside and outside the temples by individuals, who identify themselves with a particular religion and choose to play a type of music of pagan origin and lyrically deviant from religious values. Thus, if secular music such as Thriller by Michael Jackson, which is popularly played in civil arenas, is played in a temple, it can be inferred that secularization has occurred both in church and outside of it. At the same time, if a musician that is identified with secular music and is not religious at all, such as Jay Z, is invited to perform in the temple, it will mean that the church has adopted secular tendencies. Secularization is embedded in religion and the world through the education system. The church ought to educate its congregants about the biblical perspective to everything in life. However, once it deviates from biblical standpoints and also includes worldly approaches to issues like success, sexual orientation, gender definition, wealth, and relationships, it becomes secularized. For instance, if Christian Universities and schools begin to teach the story of creation as a theory together with the evolution one and not as an absolute truth, rendering all others invalid, it will allow secularization to take place in that church institution.

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These forms of secularization occur with an increase in the urge to be tolerant and attract new people to churches. On the quest to be loving and open to all kinds of people, looking for spiritual nourishment, the church has adopted some secular tendencies. Consequently, this strategy has been harmful to its usefulness in society, since there have been no kinds of proof so far that the adoption of secularization habits in the church has led to positive outcomes in relation to the church agenda, such as soul-winning and the spread of the gospel.

The process of secularization is increasing in America. This claim is supported by research findings as well as observable tendencies. According to Pew Research Center (2015), there is a sharp decline in the Christian share in the US population, which is evidenced by a growing number of adults in the US not identifying themselves with any particular religion. Besides, these changes are occurring all over the place, affecting almost all the regions of the US as well as several demographic groups. Based on a major survey conducted among 35,000 Americans, Pew Research Center has found that the share of adults with affiliation to Christianity has decreased by about 8% over a 7-year period from 78,4% in 2014 to 70,6% in 2007 (Pew Research Center, 2015). Meanwhile, it has also become evident that the number of Americans without any religious affiliation, considering themselves as agnostic, atheist or “nothing in essence” has increased by more than 6 points from 16,1% to 22,8% (Pew Research Center, 2015). In addition, the number of individuals identifying with non-Christian faiths has grown by 1,2% from 4,7% in 2007 to 5,9% in 2014 (Pew Research Center, 2015). Thus, Islam and Hinduism have experienced the greatest growth. Additionally, the drop has been mainly driven by the decline among mainline Catholics and Protestants. The shares of each have shrunk by about 3% points over the last 10 years (Pew Research Center, 2015).

Question b

My religious experience has been fascinating. I have joined the church. In the temples, the preachers advocate for spreading love above all things because it is the greatest commandment. Therefore, I have found a group of loving individuals, who are not quick to judge someone based on faults but show concern and tender care. For me, the church has been the place to find emotional healing, social support, abundant joy, and refreshment whenever I face difficulties in my life. Thus, it is an important institution. Moreover, its doctrines play the main role in shaping the belief and value system of individuals, which is translated into character shown in the everyday life of a person.

Question c

Religions can provide order and cause conflicts in society through absolutism. In this context, absolutism occurs as the ethical belief that there are absolute standards existing, which cannot be questioned or judged, and certain actions are either right or wrong regardless of the context, under which they are practiced. In other words, philosophical statements, that support the concept of absolute truth, involve certain contention. Consequently, every statement in a particular domain is either absolutely false or absolutely true. In addition, religious claims that are interpreted to advocate for love, peace, unity, kindness, patience, and forgiveness will promote order. For instance, the biblical view that “love your neighbor more than you love yourself” promotes order in society whenever Christians transcend religious boundaries and barriers to show love to less fortunate individuals in society and in many cases chose to risk their lives by doing charity works in Islamic countries, where they are often persecuted for their faith. On the other hand, radical Muslims and Jihadist terrorists have promoted conflicts by citing certain lines from the Quran to justify their course. Thus, religion provides order, if it is used to defend absolute values that spread good in society but can also create conflicts when the absolute percepts are used to promote intolerance.

Question d

Stark’s four types of religious experience have been relevant in my spiritual journey as a protestant. They include confirming experience, responsive experience, ecstatic experience, and revelation experience (Baker, 2009). The confirming experience took place when I underwent water baptism in the church as a symbol of transformation to a new life, while the responsive experience occurred the first time I felt that God answered most of my prayers to him. Meanwhile, an ecstatic experience always comes every time I go to church, and the praise and worship create a divine atmosphere, where I feel drawn much closer to God. Lastly, the revelation experience occurs whenever I dream about something that I perceive as a divine message or an instruction from God. These experiences have greatly influenced my faith to this point, which is evidenced in my behavior, belief system, and character that, determine how I relate with everyone in my life.

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Question e

Kantar’s six commitment-building processes include showing up, speaking up, looking up, teaming up, never giving up, and lifting others up (Hall, 1988). I have practiced 6 of this processing in my former church and a current local one. They have been successful at gaining influence in my local temple and integrating into many activities in the church. The particular aspects that reflect these processes include attending almost all church services every Sunday, speaking up during church bible studies, asking and answering questions raised, mentoring other people through the existing discipleship programs, joining two departments in the church to team with people of similar interests and participating in difficult projects in the church.

Question f

My home church does not define religion substantively. In fact, much emphasis is put on faith rather than religion. Moreover, my church considers religion as an ordinance fulfilled by many people. On the other hand, faith is seen as an instrument for building a relationship with a supreme being, which is God. The specific programs and rituals that suggest this emphasis include personal devotions, personal prayer sessions, scripture reading, and Holy Communion. In my opinion, there should be no regressive changes but an additional emphasis on creating programs and rituals, that teach and support the personal faith of each member instead of corporate rituals.

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