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date: 23 October 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Traditional scholarship generally approaches religious change from the “demand side,” associating religious developments to the shifting desires, perceptions, and circumstances of the population. American religious historians depict increases in revivalism as “Great Awakenings” in which Americans seek for new world views that are consistent with the existing political and economic developments. These changes in American religion are attributed to the birth of “new religious consciousness” and the rise of “independent” and “emergent” churches as postmodernity preferences for less religious authority. This attention to the shifting demands has cloaked the powerful influence of supply-side changes. This article hence discusses and provides examples of how and why these changes take place and the implications they hold for religion in the United States and beyond. The first sample discussed shows that early-American religion prospered in response to religious deregulation. It is argued that the so-called Great Awakenings are nothing more than successful marketing campaigns for new religious suppliers, which often arise when there are restrictions on new sects and itinerant preaching is diminished. The second sample discusses the recent events in American history, and reviews court decisions and legislative actions in the 1990s to show how minor changes to religious freedom can have powerful repercussions. The last sample moves beyond the United States to illustrate that the results of restrictions on religious freedoms have repercussions in America and beyond.

Keywords: religious change, demand side, revivalism, Great Awakenings, changes, shifting demands, supply-side changes, religious deregulation, religious freedom

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