Monday, April 21, 2014

Civil Religion: One for All, All for One

In recollection of Prof. Robert Bellah, 1927-2013.

Civil Religion in America argues Robert Bellah in his book of the same title, is the faith of the land, not Christianity as some will argue. The civil religion he says exists both independently and along side the other religious organization in America, such as temples, churches and mosques.

Taking up this as his topic, Bellah says that while the founding fathers may have advocated for religion, they in their enlightened minds, argued for no religion in particular; up sprung what today we call the civil religion. Over time the amalgamated beliefs of many faith communities have coalesced into this one great mass that here in America, the religion of our intrinsically religious society is not any particular religion at all, but the civil religion that suits so many.
In defining civil religion, Bellah describes a situation that goes beyond folk ways but does not extend itself to established or 'mainline' faith groups. Often the leaders of civil religion inhabit political spheres and engage religion to advance message. These messages may or may not be in keeping with the founding ideals of the American nation; when they are not, often there tends to be political in-fighting, bickering among civic groups or political entities for a "share in the marketplace" of ideas, a phrase that Frenchman De Tocqueville who was an early advocate for enlightened, American ideals, surely would have detested.

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