Is There a Civil Religion in America?

Is There a Civil Religion in America?

  • Submitted By: s0784867
  • Date Submitted: 02/14/2010 12:40 PM
  • Category: Religion
  • Words: 2260
  • Page: 10
  • Views: 783

Discuss either the American Presidential Inauguration or The British Coronation Ceremony as an example of Civil Religion.

In this essay I will argue that America’s Presidential Inaugurations provide evidence for the existence of civil religion. I will use Robert Bellah’s concept of civil religion to expound upon this claim, using other sociologists to provide further insight into his civil religion.

It is first important to define what is meant by the term ‘civil religion’. Robert Bellah was the first to coin the term although he admits that it has always existed in America and academically can be attributed back to a similar idea from the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau who believed that any healthy society depends upon three main beliefs: in God, in life after death and in the affirmation that good will be rewarded and evil punished. (Aldridge, 2000, p. 142) It was Bellah who took these ideas and transposed them into the context of American political life finding that “there actually exists alongside of and rather clearly differentiated from the churches an elaborate and well-institutionalised civil religion in America.”(Bellah, 1964, p. 168) This religion roots itself from the “words and acts of the founding fathers, especially the first few presidents” who “shaped the form and tone of the civil religion as it has been maintained ever since.”(Ibid, p.175) Civil religion depends upon the separation between church and state and this occurred in America after the First Amendment of the United States Constitution; America wanted to distance itself from anything that had previously defined it as English. Therefore, “American civil religion is a belief system that draws upon the religious ideologies and common historical experiences of the American people, unifying the diverse peoples into one people and interpreting and giving meaning to their shared existence into a common frame of reference.” (Toolin, 1983, p. 39) This “common frame of reference”...

Similar Essays