Growing Religious Diversity in South Carolina: Implications for the Palmetto State (2003)


This paper documents the growth of religious diversity in South Carolina, drawing on interviews with members from the traditions represented, previous scholarly research on religion in South Carolina, newspaper articles, census data and interviews with religion reporters and educators across the state. After presenting basic outlines and historical sketchs of each faith in South Carolina, the paper goes on to explore the implications of this growing diversity for a Southern “BibleThe Greek term biblia means the “books.” Bible is used in both the Jewish and Christian traditions to refer to the book which gathers together their sacred writings. The Hebrew Bible includes the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings—a collection re... Belt” state like South Carolina, highlighting controversies over prayerPrayer is the vocal or silent address to the Divine. It may consist of fixed words, spontaneous words, or rest in silence with no words at all. Some forms of prayer are accompanied with specific postures or gestures, while others are not. in public schools and at government council meetings and examining discrimination and hate crimes. It also gives attention to the two predominant reactions to religious diversity in South Carolina–the emerging interfaith movement and the attempts to convert members of other religious traditions, suggesting that dialogue needs to take place along this boundary as well as between faiths.

Paper Outline

I. Introduction
II. Deep Roots

  • Native AmericansEach of the many Native American nations has its own distinctive life-ways, although there are some widely-shared characteristics. most Native life-ways are primarily transmitted through oral traditions; they are oriented toward living in relation to a sp...
  • African-Americans—ChristianityChristianity is the religious tradition of Christians: those who confesses faith in Jesus Christ, follow the path Christ taught, and gather together in the community of the church., IslamIslam in Arabic literally means “submitting” or “submission.” One who submits or surrenders his or her will to God is called a Muslim. While the whole of God’s creation is described as being inherently Muslim, human beings must choose whether to... and Traditional African Religion
  • JudaismJudaism is the worldview, the way of life, and the religious practice of the Jewish people, living in covenant with God and in response to Torah, the laws and ethics which guide the pattern of Jewish life. Jews today interpret their three thousand year ol...
  • The Bahá’í Faith
  • PaganThe term “pagan” (from the Latin paganus) originally meant “peasant” or “country dweller.” For many Pagans, the term suggests a life lived close to the land. Today, nature spirituality is an important thread in contemporary Paganism. Some Paga... or Neo-Pagan Traditions

III. New Arrivals

  • Hinduism“Hindu” was originally a word given by the Greeks, then the Persians, to the land and peoples beyond the Indus or “Sindhu” River. The term “Hinduism” came into common use only in the 19th century to describe a complex and dynamic pattern of li...
  • SikhismSikhs call their tradition the “Sikh Panth,” meaning the “community (panth) of the disciples of the Guru.” The tradition reveres a lineage of ten Gurus, beginning with Guru Nanak in the 16th century and coming to a clos. with the death of Guru Gob...
  • JainismThe term Jain or Jaina refers to the tradition of the Jinas, the “victorious ones” who have won spiritual liberation, and to those who follow it. The Jain tradition as we know it dates back some 2500 years to the life of the teacher Mahavira, said to ...
  • Islam
  • BuddhismBuddhism is a multi-hued tradition of life, thought, and practice that has developed from the teaching and practice of Siddhartha Gautama (6th century BCE) who came to be called the Buddha, the awakened one. The three major streams of the tradition—Ther...

IV. Implications for a Pluralistic South Carolin

  • “Which South Carolina?”
  • The (Christian?) Public Square
  • Religious Discrimination or Hate Crimes
  • Of Religious Tolerance, Intolerance, and Exclusivist Theology
  • Beyond Tolerance?
  • The Future of Faith in South Carolina

Click here to download the full report [.pdf].

—Tracy J. Wells, Pluralism Project Student Affiliate