Fourth Great Awakening
The Fourth Great Awakening was a religious awakening that some scholars, notably economic historian Robert Fogel, discern in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s. The terminology is controversial—many historians believe that the religious changes that took place during these years in the U.S. were not part of an "awakening," to be understood like the first three Great Awakenings. Thus, the idea of a Fourth Great Awakening itself has not been generally accepted. This article covers recent American religious history.
Religion has shown great resilience in the face of secularizing pressures. Notable examples include the proliferation of mega-churches, the insurgence of populist denominations such as the Assemblies of God, the Latter-day Saints, and the Southern Baptists, and the post-World War II influence of three world-historical religious leaders: Martin Luther King Jr., Billy Graham, and Pope John Paul II. Mega-churches won attention for the simple reason that 10 churches with 2,000 members were more visible than 100 churches with 200 members. The populist denominations’ growth coincided with the simultaneous decline of the mainline bodies. While the former trend did not come at the expense of the latter (it represented different fertility and retention rates, not switching), to the media and many ordinary observers those developments signaled the aggressive swelling of religious strength. Finally, it would be hard to find any other period of U.S. history that witnessed three leaders who captured the hearts and minds of millions of Americans as King, Graham, and John Paul did.
The "mainstream" Protestant churches contracted sharply in terms of membership and influence.
The most anti-modern religious denominations (such as the Southern Baptists and Missouri Synod Lutherans) grew rapidly in numbers, spread nationwide, became politically powerful as part of the "religious right", and experienced grave internal theological battles and schisms. Other evangelical and fundamentalist denominations also expanded rapidly, such as the Church of God, Pentecostals, holiness groups and Nazarenes. At the same time, secularism (people with no religious affiliation) grew dramatically, and the more conservative churches saw themselves battling secularism in terms of issues such as gay rights, abortion, and creationism.
Religion has been playing a much more active role in the nation’s public life. Though religion always had served as a powerful force in the nation’s affairs, in the past fifty years—from the charged 1960 election forward—religious people started to vote in such predictable ways that the mainstream media began to pay them serious attention. In addition, to many thoughtful—and some not so thoughtful—observers, the emergence of the Christian Right in the 1970s and the religious forces behind 9/11 seemed especially conspicuous and alarming.
Some religious groups which grew or were created during this period were Christian, though quite different from other Christian denominations. Christianity saw a great deal of change during this period, particularly new forms of Evangelical Christianity which emphasized a "Personal Relationship with Jesus" and formed into a number of newly styled "non-denominational" churches and "community faith centers."
The Fourth Great Awakening also saw the rise of nontraditional churches with conservative theology such as megachurches and a growth of parachurch organizations while mainline Protestantism lost many members.
Some believe that a ‘Charismatic’ Awakening occurred between 1961 and 1982. This “Charismatic” Awakening stemmed from a Pentecostal movement that placed emphasis on the experience of the Gifts of the Spirit, including speaking in tongues, healing, prophecy and other aspects. It also focused on strengthening spiritual convictions through these gifts and through signs from God and the Holy Spirit. This Protestant movement spread across the “line” to the Roman Catholic faithful at a time when Catholic leaders were opening up the Church to more ecumenical beliefs, to a reduced emphasis on institutional structure, and an increased emphasis on lay spirituality.
As of 2008, 15% of Americans say they have "no religion"—that is, no church affiliation. Most of them believe in God; 45% "strongly agree" that God exists and another 22% "somewhat agree." 22% of men between ages 18 and 29 report having "no religion." There is a small educational difference, with the college educated slightly more often reporting "no religion."
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- First Great Awakening
- Second Great Awakening
- Third Great Awakening
- Jesus Movement
- Atheism vs. Christian revival and Christian apologetics
- The Coming Fifth Great Awakening in America
- Fogel 2000
- McLoughlin 1978, Balmer 2001
- Blumhofer and Balmer, 1993
- Christopher McKnight Nichols, "Reconsidering the rise of 'No Religionists' in America," The Immanent Frame Dec. 2009