Members Login
    Remember Me  

Topic: The Concept of Civil Religion

Post Info
Status: Offline
Posts: 3
The Concept of Civil Religion

The Concept of Civil Religion

The concept of civil religion in the United States reflected the new realities of faith in America, in particular its greater demand to justify the changes in domestic and foreign policy of the country. The need for this overdue for several reasons: the involvement of the US in the number of military conflict in Vietnam, the importance of the issue of strengthening the position in the world, the urgency of solving racial problems, as well as deepening social conflicts. This paper reveals the concept of civil religion, and describes its presence and development in the United States, the advantages and problems of the US civil religion.

The concept of civil religion (it is also called social and political) suggests the mass adoption of complex religion and political attitudes and perceptions related to the history of the nation and its destiny. Civil religion communicates society with the scope of absolute sense, promotes its self-interpretation and functions as a symbolic structure that integrates a given community. It is operational religion of society and the system of rituals, symbols, values, norms and forms of loyalty (Couto & Weber 57). It functions in society and ensure its overwhelming sense of unity that goes beyond all internal conflicts and differences.

The distinguishing feature of civil religion is that it involves certain relations with the government, but it is beyond the scope of this power, focusing on absolute terms. Theoretically, it justifies the power, and at the same time provides a basis for criticism of those who possess it. Civil faith must be independent of the Church in some sense; otherwise it will only be coming from the church hierarchy by legitimization of the state (Cristi 6). At the same time, the civil religion should be true one; otherwise it will degenerate into a secular nationalism. Civil religion involves civil theology because it provides society with meaning and purpose, interprets its historical experience and gives it a dynamic sense, uniqueness and identity. If people reduce the content side of civil religion and present it in the form of elementary components, it is possible to say that its importance is manifested in the fact that the state uses the consensus of religious feelings, concepts and symbols directly or indirectly, consciously or unconsciously, to their political goals. Some commentators regard this as a “general” religious faith that is appropriate to “private” faith sectarian or denominational and denominational groups. It can count on the loyalty and support of only a small part of the country’s population. Although outwardly life of the state in which there is a developed civil religion seems downright permeated with religious symbols (for example, people take an oath on a Bible, it is written on the money “In God We Trust”), in practice civil religion results in diminishing the overall level of religiosity in the society. This is due to the need to respect its principles, which is mandatory for members of all religious faiths.

A typical example of civil religion is considered a Japanese Shinto (Reader 7). The latter was deliberately created to give spiritual basis to Japanese political institutions, in the pre-reform Japan there was no pure Japanese religion. The creators of the new religion worshiped of local deities erected to the rank of a new national cult called Shinto, and then they moved on to the creation of a national system of clergy to perform the rituals as well as to promote a doctrine, which was able to introduce Japanese people to love Japan and the Japanese Emperor.

Civil religion is viewed in the US society at all stages of its development as a unique, not torn apart by social contradictions “one and indivisible nation under God” whose citizens are united at least in their worship tutelary country higher power (Williams 240). This multi-layered and contradictory ideological education, including the intertwining of religion and politics is a means of encouraging the conservative revolution has not stopped at the beginning of the new century.

The political culture of the United States is highly characterized by sacralization of political symbols. It is possible to find a figure of national saints – the “founding fathers” and some other presidents (Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt), in which there is often a full-fledged cult. Even unique temples, such as Washington Monument, were built by the type of pagan temples with the obligatory statue of “deity” in the center of its area. American civil religion is inherent in the cult of some sacred objects, such as the US Constitution. One of the parts of civil religion is the American messianism. At first glance, the US civil religion may seem Christianity, as it implies, for example, an oath on the Bible. However, Robert Bell noted that although the US civil religion includes many purely Christian symbols, it is not a “Christian” in a particular sense.

But the most important adding to Christianity in the USA was the implementation of freedom and democracy. Symbolically sounds poetic inscription on the Statue of Liberty in New York: “Give me all tired, all the poor, yearning to breathe the air of freedom.” It is reminiscent of the words of Christ: “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Thus, the savior is not God, but the American goddess Liberty.

No less interesting are the US national holidays from this point of view. Perhaps the most solemnly celebrated holiday in America is Christmas. It is celebrated all over the place and very wide, but over time it lose its own religious Christian content more and more. Today, throughout the United States Christmas (which is celebrated with even greater solemnity than the Easter) is more holiday gifts, when people can eat, go to the guests, etc. Christmas has become a festival of the consumer of American society, which is often associated with Santa Claus and Christmas discount (Christmas falling commodity prices) than to come into the world, Jesus Christ. Consumer society is a powerful source of strength. It owns minds it affects the religious consciousness, but it is formed.

As a national holiday are celebrated birthdays of Presidents Washington and Lincoln are celebrated (originally they celebrated separately, today they are united in a common “President’s Day”), and this is also an attribute of civil religion, as they are “saints” of civil society, and not the Church. It is interesting to note that the Orthodox Church celebrates the memory of the saints usually in the day of their death and only Christ’s Birthday in the tradition of civil religion is celebrated in the day when he was born. Socio-political dimension of civil religion allows people to actively use religious language in political programs and social activities (Gorski 6), but civil religion democratically limits the level of expression of religiosity as possible. One can talk about God, but it is better not to specify Him (Jesus Christ, for example). It was done by all the American presidents, by mention Him in their inaugural speech of God, but, although they were all Christians and they did not call him Jesus Christ. Inauguration of president, by the way, is also an important ritual of civil religion.

The special place occupied by the president, being not only a political leader, but also a kind of priest of the state cult , as well as the prophet of his people, belongs to the head of state from the beginning of American history. In view of the importance attached to the figure of the High Priest of the American president, it was a pragmatist of presidency in conjunction with the practice of presidency that reflects the dynamics of civil religion and shows all changes and conflicts in the development of the American state symbols and rituals.

With regard to the personal dimension of civil religion, its specificity is even clearer. Civil religion is not a substitute for religion in most cases; people can be a Baptist, Catholic, Buddhist, but they can be within the scope of civil religion and obey its laws at the same time (Davis 8). The main impact that civil religion has had on other faiths, is to downgrade these faiths to their private affairs, to the level of a hobby. Naturally, the political structure of a Free State requires that the question of faith was a matter of conscience of the individual. Nobody will disputes with this. But the level of religion and hobbies involves an internal split between personal and public “I”. It is not necessary to try to obey religious laws and to practice the principles of faith in the life (and not only in its religious part), as well as to talk about religious beliefs, and even more it is not necessary to use them as an argument to the dispute or dialogue. It is the general trend in the world today.

In view of the real need for common symbols of national aspirations that none of the existing churches could provide Americans with, as well as due to the fact that people, regardless of their belonging to a particular church, accessed freely with religious symbols, secular institutions and their staff began to play the predominant role of civil religion. Ideology that underlay in an alliance between politics and religion could be presented in the following idea; there is a God and his will can be found through democratic procedures, but America is an important mediator of God in history, so the nation is main source of identity for Americans. USA people saw themselves as God’s chosen people; God brought them into the ocean lying land of promise, and staying in the house on the hill, they have a light unto the nations, spreading the message of democracy as a salutary doctrine that will lead humanity to freedom, prosperity and happiness. Signs of Civil faith include biblical images, appeal to the almighty God and trust in His business (these elements are well represented in speeches and written documents of American community leaders), the demonstration of the national flag during a solemn burial rites, the inclusion of the words “under God” in the text of the oath of allegiance, and above all the national motto “In God we trust.”

Proponents of civil religion argue that the idea of ??transcendence and the covenant instill a sense of responsibility, provide a monolithic society, which will remain heterogeneous without a civil religion, encourage countries to implement their most exalted ideals, but in the hands of wise political leaders (such as Lincoln and Martin Luther King) serve as a tool to inspire people to ever higher achievements. Critics accuse it of civil religion in that it makes an idol from the nation; operates patriotic feelings in order distortions and even falsification of the national history to fit the prejudices of civil religion; degrading God, relegating Him to the level of tribal god; provides a means of political leaders that allows them to receive support for questionable political actions; does not respect the needs and aspirations of the oppressed minorities that are part of society. Many believe the biblical faith of evangelical Christians is incompatible with civil religion, but there is no consensus in a conservative direction of Protestantism in this respect (Moots 81).

At the beginning of the new century, the United States emerged as the leading country in the implementation of the processes of globalization to its advantage. Ideological cover of this course is a twist in the framework of faith in States that coupled with the fact that its values ??are presented as non-alternative to all mankind. It gives rise to fundamentally new conflicts, which aims to analyze by the social philosophy.

Leaders of the US do everything possible to implement these claims in the consciousness of the masses of Americans, because of special, allegedly rights that are supported by patron god of USA and privileges to control the processes of globalization and they succeed. These claims largely affect the internal and foreign policy of the United States, neglecting the interests of the rest of the world.

Nevertheless, people should not forget about those aspirations within it, which indicate the democratic spirit of the American people, their intolerance of oppression, as they appeared in the struggle for the independence of the United States and against slavery, as they appear today in opposition to the policy of hegemonism. Religious motivation encourages the true patriots of their country to protest against the arms race, for social justice, for the rights of the oppressed, justifying their actions by faith in a better, democratic America.

Summing up, it should be said that national pride associated with beliefs in its chosen people, should become the property of the advanced and democratic forces in the USA, people who unselfishly love their country, even if this feeling is painted in religious tone. They do not want to see America as the world’s policeman, as called preachers of hegemonic belief in the USA. For them, the most valuable thing in American history is a democratic conquest of the people, but not hegemony and chauvinism. This is even more obliged to carry out socio-philosophical analysis of the religious-political phenomenon.

The article was conducted by a proffessional writer from - Milly Jones.


I work as a writer at

Page 1 of 1  sorted by
Quick Reply

Please log in to post quick replies.

Create your own FREE Forum
Report Abuse
Powered by ActiveBoard