civil religion

(redirected from Civic religion)

civil religion

a set of beliefs, rites and symbols which indicate and celebrate the citizen's relation to CIVIL SOCIETY, NATION and STATE and their historical provenance and destiny. The term originated with Rousseaus distinction between the ‘religion of man’, which is a private matter between the individual and God, and the ‘religion of the citizen’, which is a public matter of the individual's relation to society and government. Civil religions seek to bind all members to society, tell them their duties, even move them to fight and die for their country ifnecessary Rousseaus formulations influenced DURKHEIM, but the term only obtained its contemporary currency with Robert Bellahs (1967) work on the United States. Bellah describes America's self-understanding of a covenant with God which obliges her to carry out God's will on earth. He refers to statements from the founding fathers, the Declaration of Independence, presidential inaugural addresses from Washingtons to Kennedy's, the Gettysburg Address and other pronouncements; symbols and monuments (i.e. sacred places) such as the motto of the US (‘In God we trust’), the Lincoln Memorial and the Arlington National Cemetery; and celebrations and rituals such as Thanksgiving Day, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, saluting the flag and ceremonies in schools. Bellah acknowledges that American civil religion can degenerate into national self-idolatry and has subsequently written about the American broken covenant.

The myths, stories, images, icons, sites, figures, celebrations and rites of civil religions are religious in the Durkheimian sense; they are set apart from the mundanities of everyday life and are the object of awe, reverence or special respect. The collective representations in a civil religion are also genuinely civil, i.e. representative of society, rooted in ‘we the people’; politicians who control the apparatus of the state may exploit them, but they also ignore them at their peril. By contrast, the collective representations of a ‘political religion’ are superimposed on society by those who control the state with a view to putting the political order beyond question. The best known example is that of the Soviet Union. Christel Lane (1981) examines the sacralization of the October Revolution, the Great Patriotic War and the heroic achievement of labour; the accompanying symbols and rites, such as October parades, visits to the Lenin Mausoleum, and the placing of photographs of Lenin in every public office; and the numerous calendric rites and rites of passage. Anyone doubting that this was a political, and not a civil, religion has only to note how little of it survives in Russia today An explicitly functionalist account of ‘civil religion’ in the UK was provided by Young and Shils (1953) at the time of the coronation and a famous English cricket victory.

References in periodicals archive ?
If the US can be said to have a civic religion, the Constitution is its holy writ.
They discuss governmental, judicial, religious, and familial sources; the estini; urban planning and physical structures; public health; the regulation of food and sumptuary laws; economy and demography; bankers, financial institutions, and politics; civic institutions; conflicts; government; the ruling classes; the church, civic religion, and civic identity; confraternities and civil society; mendicant orders and the repression of heresy; the university; vernacular language and literature; literary culture; miniaturists, painters, and goldsmiths; and art and patronage.
I agree that "America's civic religion always will remain separate from the myriad of contending sects.
The Roman Church, too weak to impose unification on Italy but strong enough, with the help of invited "barbarians" to deny its achievement by others, also offends by encouraging humility, a vice which can infect the potentially great and pervert them--though civic religion, again as in ancient Rome, is useful for maintaining social and military discipline.
Zola explores several ways in which Jews engaged with the image and idea of Lincoln, at times Judaizing him and adopting him as a patriarch in a developing Jewish civic religion, at others holding him up as "the paradigmatic exemplar of America's hope for a better world" (394).
Let us mention Jean-Jacques Rousseau's project of a civic religion, one of the main dogmas of which would be the sanctity of the social contract.
Meanwhile, television and the advertising industry, along with the expansion of credit, were creating a consumerist utopia that became a civic religion.
Nussbaum is careful to state her distance from the extremist views of Comte and his attempt to replace traditional religion with civic religion (Nussbaum states that the religion of humanity should constitute "a public supplement to [existing religion]" (74), but there is a reason she begins her work with Comte and praises him for "his many valuable ideas" (69): namely, she too is seeking in this work to establish a purely civic religion, just one that is more politically correct (by referring to existing religions) and 'edgy' (promoting dissent and dialogue).
He added, ''Government may not mandate a civic religion that stifles any but the most generic reference to the sacred any more than it may prescribe a religious orthodoxy.
Instead, he stresses processes of entanglement, appropriation, and inhabitation that he sees linking Muslims not only with each other in America but with American citizenship and civic religion.
Despite its seemingly subversive message, it supports America's civic religion and promotes the idea of voting for "the lesser of two evils.
For Thanksgiving: "However, even as the American civic religion shows its cracks and more preachers rightly seek to avoid platitudes that give simple lip service to the state, there remains reason to give thanks.