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Religious Traditions

Religious traditions are one way to measure religious affiliation. The RELTRAD schema, developed by Steensland and colleagues (2000), divides religious traditions into Black Protestant, Catholic, Evangelical Protestant, Jewish, Mainline Protestant, no religion, and "other" religion based on both doctrinal and historical changes in religious groups. The ARDA uses a modified version of this general scheme in several features.

Evangelical ProtestantEvangelical Protestant denominations and churches emphasize conversion and evangelism, hold biblical authority in high regard, and tend to seek more separation from the broader culture. Evangelical Protestantism is usually seen as more theologically and socially conservative than mainline Protestantism, although there is obviously variation among evangelical denominations, congregations, and individuals. Evangelical Protestant denominations include the Southern Baptist Convention, Assemblies of God, and the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Mainline ProtestantMainline Protestant denominations typically emphasize a proactive view on issues of social and economic justice and a tolerance of varied individual beliefs. While mainline Protestantism is usually seen as more theologically and socially liberal than evangelical Protestantism, there obviously is variation among mainline denominations, congregations, and individuals. Examples of Mainline Protestant denominations include the Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Methodist Church, the Reformed Church in America, the Episcopal Church, the United Church of Christ, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Black ProtestantBlack Protestant churches are those that minister to predominantly African American congregations in the United States. The first black churches were founded by free blacks in the 18th century. Historically black churches have long been the centers of communities, serving numerous important functions. While the religious-meaning system and social organization of these denominations are similar to those found in white evangelical denominations, African American Protestants emphasize different aspects of Christian doctrine, especially the importance of freedom and the quest for justice. Black Protestants tend to be liberal on economic attitudes and conservative on social issues. The seven major Black Protestant denominations are: the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, the Church of God in Christ, the National Baptist Convention of America, the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., and the Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.

CatholicThe Western Liturgical family represents the Roman Catholic Church or churches that originate from it. Such offshoots include the Old Catholic Church and the Polish National Catholic Church, which differ from the Roman Catholic Church in their rejection of the authority of the pope.

OrthodoxOrthodox Christianity represents one of the three great divisions of Christianity; the others are the Protestant churches and the Roman Catholic Church. The Catholic and Orthodox churches originally were united, but they parted in the 11th century when they differed over several points of doctrine, including the supreme authority of the pope, which Orthodox Christians reject. Since the 20th century, the Catholic and Orthodox churches have made greater efforts toward reconciliation. Orthodox churches include the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and the Orthodox Church in America.

OtherThe “Other” category includes disparate groups that did not fit into any of the other religious traditions, such as Bahá'í, Jainism, Sikhism, and Shinto; it also contains smaller groups not associated with any particular religious tradition, such as spiritual or theosophical groups, and independent meditation centers.

IslamIslam is the religion founded by the Prophet Muhammad (570-632), who is believed by followers to be the final prophet. The word "Islam" means "submission." Muslims follow the sacred text of the Koran, stress the oneness of God, and practice the Five Pillars: praying, fasting during Ramadan, almsgiving, pilgrimage, and a testimony of faith. The two main branches of Islam are Sunni and Shi'ite. This split occurred in 632 due to different opinions on leadership succession. Following the passage of the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, which allowed for more immigration from Muslim majority countries, the Islamic population has grown rapidly in the U.S.

JudaismJudaism is a monotheistic and ethnic religion that encompasses the religious, cultural, and legal tradition of the Jewish people. For religious Jews, Judaism is the expression of the covenant that God established with Abram, Moses, and other Hebrew prophets. Based on the Hebrew Bible (including the Torah) and the Talmud, Judaism stresses careful observance of the rites and practices given in the Torah. Both Christianity and Islam are identified as Abrahamic traditions tracing their history back to the Jewish religion. There are several Jewish traditions, including Orthodox, Conservative, Reform Judaism, and Reconstructionist.

HinduismHinduism is the name given for the majority religion of India. There is no central authority in Hinduism, although most Hindu groups and traditions believe in reincarnation and venerate gods and goddesses who are viewed as manifestations of God. Sanskrit texts known as Vedas are sacred scriptures in Hinduism and were composed between 1200 and 900 BCE. Major traditions within Hinduism include Vaishnavism, which is devoted to worship of the god Vishnu, and Shaivism, organized around worship of the god Shiva. Following the passage of the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, which allowed for more immigration from India, the Hindu population has grown rapidly in the U.S.

BuddhismBuddhism is a world religion founded by Siddhartha Gautama, who became known as the Buddha, in the sixth or fifth century BCE in India. Teaching reincarnation and freedom from worldly attachments, Buddhism has three major branches: Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana. According to Buddhism, the origin of suffering comes from ignorance, and one must follow the Eightfold Path to reach nirvana. Following the passage of the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, which allowed for more immigration from Asia, the Buddhist population has grown rapidly in the U.S.

Jehovah's WitnessesThe Jehovah's Witness tradition emerged out of the Bible Student movement begun by Charles Taze Russell, who founded the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society in the 1880s. The organization took its present name in 1931.

Latter-day SaintsChurches in the Latter-day Saints (Mormon) tradition follow at least some of the teachings of Joseph Smith, Jr., who published the Book of Mormon in 1830.

Other ChristiansThe "Other Christian" category includes non-sectarian Protestant or Christian groups that do not fit well into other categories.

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