Values and assumptions of English speaking countries
Societies change over time while their reputations lag behind. A vivid example adhering to the belief that Great Britain is a land of tradition. The claim is based on what can be seen in public life and on centuries of political continuity. However in their private everyday life the British as individuals are less inclined to follow traditions than are the people of other countries.
The image of the GB as a nation of tea-drinkers is a stereotype which is somewhat out of date as well as the tradition of the afternoon tea is largely confined to retired people and to the upper class. Even when a British habit conforms to the stereotype, the wrong conclusions can be sometimes drawn from it.
In general the British value continuity over modernity. They have a general sentimental attachment to older, supposedly safer, times. They can be particularly and stubbornly conservative about anything perceived as a token of British-ness. Developments at the European level which might cause a change in some everyday aspect of the British life are usually greeted with hostility and suspicion.
Another aspect of the British conservatism is an idealist vision of the countryside, which represents stability (perhaps overall concern for animals is a part of the British love of nature).
The British are deemed by other nations to be perfectly polite and proper famous for their reserve and “stiff upper lip” which makes them seem very formal and distant. There is an easy account for it.
Being friendly in Britain often involves showing that you are not bothering with the formalities, moreover they find it comparatively difficult to indicate friendship by open displays of affection.
Respect for privacy underlies many aspects of British life. The habit of keeping things private is deeply ingrained. Revelations about extra marital affairs as breach of privacy.
The idea of British-ness overlaps with that of insularity. Moulded by traditions they are firmly anchored to their native isle and wary of entering the age of modernity as soon as it’s a question of being linked to Europe.
Though today there’s a clear tendency of England’s reconsidering and redefining its image of the land of contrast and ingrained traditions.
25. The Religious Scene in the USA: the Protestant Heritage
America is a highly religious country, and has been since its earliest days. Nearly every religion in the world has adherents or organized institutions in America.
Religion in the United States today is built primarily on the structure of Protestantism, Catholicism, and Judaism. Within each of these groups there is great diversity. Among Protestants alone, there are 186 different organizations. In 1990 Protestants of all denominations numbered 140 million; Catholics, 62 million; and Lews, 5 million. The Islamic faith also has 5 million U.S. adherents, many of whom are African-American converts. Buddhism and Hinduism are growing with the arrival of immigrants from countries where these are the major religions .
America has also been a fertile ground for new religions. The Mormon and Christian Science Churches are perhaps the best-known of the faiths that have sprung up on American soil. Because of its tradition of non-interference of State in religious matters, the United States has also provided a comfortable home for many small sects from overseas. The Amish, for example, descendants of German immigrants who reside mostly in Pennsylvania and neighboring states, have lived simple lives, wearing plain clothes and shunning modern technology, for generations. Some small groups are considered to be religious cults because they profess extremist beliefs and tend to glorify a founding figure.
Such religious diversity in the USA can be accounted for in the following way. The immigrants who first came to America from countries all over the world brought a variety of religions. Many came with the express purpose of establishing communities where they could practice their own form of worship without interference or fear of persecution. Although the official separation of Church and State provided a climate for these diverse religious practices to flourish, Protestantism, because of numbers and influence, has until recent decades occupied a dominant position in American society.
Protestantism originated in Reformation, the religious revolution that took place in the Western church in the 16th century .
Initially, the term “protestant” meant “to be a witness” rather than, “to be against” as the current popular interpretation of the word seems to imply. In the broader sense of the word, Protestant came to be used as the collective name for those individuals and churches who advocated a formal separation from the Roman Catholic Church .
The first settlers of Massachusetts were members of a radical Protestant group called Puritans. It is the Pilgrims and Puritans of England who were the most influential in shaping American history. Contrary to popular belief, the Puritans were not ascetics. They liked good food, good drink, and homely comforts. They believed that God made some men subordinate to others. Subordination was the very soul of order because all persons in authority, whether in family, church, or state, represented Christ himself. The Puritans thought of themselves as God’s chosen people. They believed that God had elected, or “predestined”, only certain people to be saved. Devoting themselves to work as a way of pleasing God, they viewed their prosperity as an outward sign that God counted them among the saved. A lot of people trace the American drive for success through hard work to this Puritan, or Protestant, work ethic .
From Puritanism the new American nation took many of its basic values: materialism with little asceticism (mollified by a stress on the importance of religion), moral fervor, and a high regard for law and social order. The more objectionable features of Puritanism, such as certain antidemocratic tendencies, were partly purged over time, particularly during the Great Awakening.
In conclusion I would like to say, that America is one of the most diverse religious societies in the world. But since the 1960s, the US religious landscape has undergone major transformations, the most significant being the declining influence of the mainline Protestant churches. They have suffered sizable membership losses, such that the Protestant majority in America decreased from 67% of the population to 52% in 2002, and by the end of 2006 it may no longer be the nation’s dominant religious group.