American Civil Religion
Darrel Ray, in his book “The God Virus: How Religion Infects Our Lives and Culture”, presents what he calls American Civil Religion. Although everyone is familiar with the American Civil Religion, this is the first time I have heard it given a name.
In early societies religion and culture were inseparable. In societies like the aboriginals of Australia, or the Amazonian tribesmen, or the North American natives, the religions were culture-specific. In modern societies religion and culture are separate.
He, Darrel Ray, explains that when a virus (religion) invades a society a kind of coupling occurs. This coupling is possible because previously the religion was able to undergo an uncoupling from the society where it originated. “Once religion was uncoupled from a given culture, it could spread to any culture.” he states.
Numerous religious political groups in the United States see America and Christianity as inseparable. They see everything from the perspective of that belief. Disasters, attacks, failures, are all proclaimed the result of not adhering to what they believe is the will of God. There are individuals, like Mike Huckabee, who steadfastly assert that the Constitution of the United States should be amended to conform to God’s law, or suffer the consequences. Mike Huckabee’s goal has been the goal of Christianity ever since the founding fathers refused to mention any god in the U.S. Constitution.
“The Government of the United States is in no sense founded on the Christian religion.” – John Adams, 2nd U.S. President.
“Give the church a place in the Constitution, let her touch once more the sword of power, and the priceless fruit of all ages will turn to ashes on the lips of men.” – Robert Ingersoll
The American Civil religion was present at the beginning of our republic. It was described by Robert Bellah in his work “Civil Religion in America”. The civil religion is loosely based on the Judeo-Christian tradition, claiming that God blessed this nation and is it’s guiding force. The civil religion gives certain amounts of religious power to the president and expects certain religious acts in return. (prayer breakfasts, regular references to god, and church attendance) This gives the president the appearance of being the high priest of the civil religion.
The civil religion is a kind of agreement between Judeo-Christian religions to act as one force. Other belief systems are not invited. Should any be invited they are protested.
Next: The New Civil Religion.