An Overview of American Culture

American society has an external culture that is heavily influenced by secular ideas from the European Enlightenment. These values are enshrined in the first 10 amendments to the US Constitution, commonly known as the Bill of Rights:

* Freedom of speech
* Freedom of the press
* Freedom of religion
* Freedom of assembly
* Freedom to petition the government

This system guarantees certain freedoms for its citizens, but it also defines responsibilities towards other citizens. These
responsibilities can be guaranteed directly by the government, in the form of national defense and social welfare programs. These responsibilities can also be fulfilled through the action of private citizens, such as charitable giving and serving on a jury.

Underlying this external culture is an internal culture that is heavily influenced by the Judeo-Christian belief system:

* Natural law– the universe consists of inanimate objects that interact with each other according to a set of well-defined laws. Science as we know it is a subset of these laws as applied to the natural world, and human laws are basically a subset of these laws as applied to human interactions.
* Monotheism– the universe does not contain any supernatural entities, with the exception of an omnipotent creator God. All objects in the universe are either living or inanimate entities that obey the laws put in place by the Creator.
* Anthropocentrism– human beings occupy a special place in the universe, and all human activities should be directed towards the goal of human well-being. Social welfare programs can contribute somewhat towards this goal, but the best way to achieve it is by following natural laws, both in the form of scientific principles promote (eat a healthy diet and do regular exercise) and in the form of social principles (do not commit crimes against other human beings). * Equality– all human beings have equal rights, regardless of their race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status. However, gender differences are acceptable, since they follow directly from natural law.

The primary benefits of Judeo-Christian values were realized during the past few centuries, when American society went through the Industrial Revolution.

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2 thoughts on “An Overview of American Culture

  1. A closer examination of the external and deep cultures will reveal that they are actually more closely related than common misconception causes many to believe. Both cultures are derived from different sections of the Bible, the primary scripture of the Judaeo-Christian tradition. The deep culture is derived from the Old Testament, which promoted a strict monotheism as a means for the ancient Israelites to deal with the pagan tribes of the ancient Near East. The external culture is derived from the New Testament, which began as a reform movement within Judaism as a means for mitigating the impact of ancient practices of ritual purity.

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    • It may seem counterintuitive to associate the New Testament with the Bill of Rights, especially in light of the right to bear arms outlined in the 2nd Amendment. However, even the New Testament contains verses suggestive of violence, such as Matthew 10:34.

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