civil religion


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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 ?
Montgomery, Ph.D., will build on research in America's "civil religion" to ask what is and what should be the relationship between the church and government.
In this insightful new volume, a group of scholars deeply influenced by or the former students of distinguished Kansas State University historian Robert Linder explore a wide variety of topics related to civil religion and American Christianity.
Among specific topics are change and continuity: eucharistic confraternities in Ticino and Switzerland before and after Trent, guides for a good life: the sermons of Albertano da Brescia and other instructions for citizens and believers in Italian medieval confraternities, cities of God or structures of superstition: medieval confraternities and charitable hospitals in the early modern world, the generative space of Jewish confraternities in medieval and early modern Europe, and faith on stage: the chambers of rhetoric and civil religion in the Low Countries 1400-1700.
There is a certain incongruity in the reality that in place of an established national church the United States has long operated with a what has been termed "civil religion" a concept credited to the French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau (Haberski 2018).
This conceit, which has amounted to American Civil Religion (ACR), gradually untethered American policy from the best interests of the American people--hence the betrayal in the subtitle--while also largely making hash of the world.
Instead of dealing with them head-on, the federal courts have tended to rely on a cop-out, asserting that these things are merely artifacts of something called "civil religion." That is, the idea that generic and incidental references to a deity for largely ceremonial purposes don't rise to the level of a church-state violation.
American civil religion is the moral backbone of our body politic.
Foreign Policy traces the relationship between American statecraft and the nation's "civil religion," the invisible creed to which Americans subscribe and that in their eyes defines their collective destiny.
fertility is at an all-time low, its culture corrupt and decadent, its government $20 trillion in debt, and its military victimized by imperial overstretch--all (I argue) in the name of what has become a heresy of the original civil religion.
It is a hybrid, theologically secular "Civil Religion"--and it is the mightiest, most evangelical, conquering creed of all times.
It's a civil religion, and the deity's role is to bestow blessings on the state.
If FitzGerald tells us the comprehensive and often lurid tale of how white evangelicals shaped our politics, Yale sociologist Philip Gorski's American Covenant: A History of Civil Religion from the Puritans to the Present offers an antidote of sorts.