American Civil Religion and Politics Essay

This essay has a total of 660 words and 4 pages.


American Civil Religion and Politics




American Civil Religion and Politics
My major area of study is Political Science, and even if you haven’t majored in political
studies you know that there are few things left untouched by politics. Religion, of
course, is no exception. Issues concerning religion are some of the most hotly contested
topics in politics today. Consider as an example, the seemingly never-ending conflict in
the Middle East over rights to Israel. It can be argued that this conflict has as much to
do with politics as it does with religious beliefs. However, I think the way in which
politics most closely relates to the study of world religions is in its creation of so-
called “civil religion.”

American civil religion is a religion borne entirely from politics. It got its start at a
point in American history when phenomena called the Great Awakening swept across the
nation. The Great Awakening began as a spiritual revival in the American colonies. As a
result of the Great Awakening individual churches were divided among revivalists and
skeptics. This caused the idea of civil religion to come into existence. Americans who
used to be unified by churches were now looking to government and politics for
unification.

An actual definition for civil religion is the worship of a form of government and the
political principles associated with it. Civil religion has much in common with the
traditional world religions such as a set of highly held beliefs and ideals. In the United
States this includes the worship of democracy and republican government rooted in
principles such as liberty, equality, equal rights, union, limited government, and due
process of law. The latest stream of faith includes multicultural diversity and
communitarianism (the “It takes a village to raise a child” mentality).

American civil religion has a set of sacred texts all it’s own as well. These would
include: the Declaration of Independence, the constitution, The Federalist Papers, the
Bill of Rights, Washington’s Farewell address, Jefferson’s first inaugural speech, the
Gettysburg address, FDR’s first inaugural speech, the pledge of allegiance, JFK’s
inaugural speech, and Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech.

The demigods of American civil religion are the founding fathers. Men such as George
Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin would all fit into this
category.

American civil religion also comes with it’s own set of “high priests”, if you will. These
originally tended to be the Presidents- with some even becoming “saints” with days of
national veneration. This group would include men like George Washington, Thomas
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