Religion and Politics

Protest on campusReligion - Politics

Religion

The US was founded on the principle of religious freedom and the idea that everyone has the right to exercise their own religious beliefs or to not celebrate any religion at all. With this as a base, the US is just as varied in religion as it is in culture, which is reflected in university life. Public universities usually have a great deal of religious diversity due to their large student populations.

Churches, synagogues, temples and other sites for worship can be found on or near campus and will have large student congregations or even special services for students or young adults. This type of religious diversity is also common in metropolitan areas and some regions, such as the Northeast or West Coast. This will surely be reflected in the opportunities available around your university and student attitudes toward religion or spiritual beliefs (or lack thereof).

Clubs and other student organisations also provide a chance for you to express your religious beliefs or meet other students who share your beliefs. Many university campuses have multiple religious centres for students to congregate and may provide opportunities, apart from worship, for students to engage in religious traditions or celebrate particular holidays. Some schools, depending on the curriculum, may even offer classes or full majors on the traditions, history and beliefs of specific religions or on religion in general. These classes often can be found in departments for religious studies, history, political science or cultural studies, depending on the aim of the class.

That being said, it is important to note that certain parts of the US, especially the South and rural areas in general, tend to be less religiously diverse. Protestantism is predominant, and religion may be an essential part of the lifestyle. These areas are usually more conservative, both politically and socially. Don't be surprised to find that students in these areas may talk (very) openly about their beliefs and may be surprised if you do not share their beliefs. Church and prayer groups may be a regular part of your classmate's weekly schedules as well.

Politics

One of the great things about living in a different country is the opportunity to discuss social differences. Don’t be afraid to talk politics (many people are eager to learn about Britain’s parliamentary system), but remember to always be polite. Americans can be self-critical but will take offence if they think you are "bashing America."

You will notice that Americans become particularly political-minded and patriotic during a presidential election. If you happen to be in America during an election year, be sure to ask your American friends to explain the two-party system. Although you can’t vote, it will be fun to follow the campaigns and hear the various viewpoints!