Civil Religion Theory Analysis

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Perhaps one of the strengths of the theory civil religion lives in its lack of a unified definition. This gives room for this theory to develop or change to adapt to the complexity of politics in America, as our readings are all focused in America politics. The term civil religion first coined by Jean-Jacques Rousseau but it was Robert Bellah who imported this term to America and later popularized this concept. Bellah (1967), with a neo-Durkheimian perspective, argued that American civil religion is a “public religious dimension (that) is expressed in a set of beliefs, symbols, and rituals.” (Bellah 42) Civil religion is not any specific religion per se, rather, the connection of the worldly society to a higher transcendent sovereignty.…show more content…
Both articles formulated that civil religion is a “source of social and cultural coherence and even unity,” (Williams 2013; 240) with that it provides a set of beliefs, rituals, and the means to formulate a sense transcendent. Williams (2013) mainly focus on civil religion’s ability to critique society, as suggested by Bellah and Gorski. Civil religion provides a moral standard of what America should be, it “heighten boundaries and convinces people that those boundaries are natural and even sacred.” (254) (the term boundaries here I believe is both physical and metaphysical, not simply national territory, but the boundary for identity) It connects the nation to the transcendent. Williams and Fuist (2014) were more interested in the effect of the weakening nation-state. As nation-state being threatened by the neoliberal globalization and ethno-religious national sentiments, it seems diversity and tension within America are strengthened, with the fear of immigrants being very obvious. Symbolic differentiation among Americans became salient as the tension between and separation among Americans became more common. Yet this is not enough to dismiss civil religion, however, civil religion was heavily contested, losing the legitimacy and a charismatic nation-state. Although we still see the aspect of unity within the expression of civil religion, what is being stressed here is the tribalistic civil religion, the identity that “often valorize some elements of the nation-state while challenging others.” (934) The notion of nation is transcendent is still visible, holding officials accountable to act in ways that best align with the transcendent is still a common practice of citizenship. We might have different standards and conceptualization of the civil theology, the core
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