American Civil Religion

Sina Soleimany RS300 Living Myth Essay Topic #1 10 December 2010 There has been much discussion on topics in context to various religions around the world. But one religion that sticks out like a sore thumb is American civil religion.

Civil religion gave Americans a creed, code and a cultus but was a religion not based solely on myths but politics and history. It was a way to bring everyone together as one in a nation that needed guidance. Civil religion wasn’t a religion that entailed everyone follow the same rules.In fact it was the opposite, a believer in the civil religion might also be a Baptist Catholic, or a Mormon. (Albanese 307-308) Civil religion in a sense was the answer to bringing many people from different religions and backgrounds into one group or community. As for the relationship of violence and civil religion there seems to be a correlation with the two. Much like certain religions like Christianity or Islam the people confide in their religion during times of crisis or war. Civil religion has been shown to also become more evident in times of crisis.

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It is during violent times that people find the need to become one. That is exactly the concept of civil religion to forge the many into one. (Alabanese 308) English puritan nationals were the main reason why the revolution had started. The decision to go to war alone was a sign that Americans create their own path and destiny. Puritans before the revolution had the notion that they were the chosen people but also a suffering people much like the Jews.

They went through suffering like their ancestors during the reign of Blood Mary by being persecuted by the Church of England. Albanese 287) They were then forced to travel to the west and live in the New World’s harsh environment. They were also suffering by being told that they were sinners and punished through disease, harsh weather, and Indian wars. They truly believed they were similar to the Jews so much so that even Ronald Reagan in his farewell address speech refers to America as a “shining city upon a hill”. [1] This concept of America being the new Israel is all mainly due to the trials the puritans all went through. In essence Europe is our Egypt and America is the promised land.

Civil religion got its start from this new social order of unity among nations. Now they were unified by religion but also by government and politics. With this new civil religion and not to mention the adoption of the constitution puritans started spreading revivals throughout colonies of America.

This in turn gave the country a sense of community that became essential for the American Revolution. Americans before had always had a sense of gratitude towards English soldiers and pride towards being part of such a vast empire.After the constitution though they saw the British forces as “Satan’s” troops. (Albanese 289) This relates to how the puritans thought of themselves as a suffering people and like the Jews were being oppressed and persecuted by their mother country. This in turn caused Americans to want to fight in order to gain their freedoms. Just like “holy wars” where there is such a pride for religion puritans in a sense were embarking on their own “holy war” against the English by not letting guilt get to them and creating a war that was justified and righteous.They were fighting for their freedom, something that defined them for who they are and their Civil religion.

Samuel Oliner put it best in his PowerPoint presentation “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”. [2] The puritans had something to fight for and I believe that in turn justified their reasoning to go to war and rebel against the British Empire. It is because of civil religion that brought together the American colonies in order to vanquish a common enemy.Taking a different side to it all though it also may seem that the puritan’s notion of America being the new Israel was used straight from the get-go. America in a sense with civil religion and manifest destiny could become just like the British Empire. In this case though they are not imperialist but they represent “the free world”. They take a nation where the people are fighting back their government and defend them because it is nations like these that are the seeds to a new beginning a new Jerusalem.Today America has a big task on its hands and being the most influential country on earth give it the status of big brother sort of.

Just like a big brother we have to be a good model and aid where help is needed. Samuel Oliner read us a quote by Edmund Burke “all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”[2] and America’s role would be the good man. We are the most technologically, militarily and economically advanced and with that comes the responsibility of aiding our fellow nations that require our aid.In a sense it is as if the American civil religion is being expanded throughout the world. At the moment with the war on terrorism and having bases deployed all throughout the middle east it would not be a surprise that American civil religion is being passed along not to mention again the concept of manifest destiny coming to play. Instead of North America though it is aimed towards the middle east.

At least that is for the moment in time. Civil religion though has clearly shown to be a huge part of American history. It has brought a nation closer and created a form of unity and freedom for puritans.

Of course sometimes in order to achieve that freedom a battle must be waged and violence is a factor of civil religion especially when you unite colonies of people who all have the same goal and a future of freedom to look forward to. In present day it seems too that violence is still a part of civil religion as now we’ve become the ones who need to protect other nations and unite them together. Either they will join our ranks of civil religion or possible create their own. Word Count: 1,043 Work Cited Samuel, P. Oliner. “Nature of Evil and Goodness” PowerPoint Presentation. Humboldt State University, CA.

7 Oct 2010.Albanese, Catherine L. America, Religions and Religion. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Pub. , 1981.

Print. N/A. “Manifest Destiny.

” Humboldt. edu/religio. 11 Aug. 2010.

Web. . Oliner, Samuel. “Chapter 2 How Could They Do That? : Understanding the Many Faces of Evil.

” The Nature of Good and Evil. 25-70. Humboldt. edu/religio. Web. 12 Nov. 2010. .

Reagan, Ronald. “Farewell Address to the Nation. ” Address. Farewell Address to the Nation. Oval Office, Washington DC. 11 Jan.

1989. Ronaldreagan. com. Web.

11 Nov. 2010. . [1] Reagan, Farewell Address to the Nation (1989) [2] Oliner, Nature of Evil and Goodness (2010)



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