Pub. date: 2008 | Online Pub. Date: May 28, 2008 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412963930 | Print ISBN: 9781412941655 | Online ISBN: 9781412963930| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Emily H. Mahon
Civil religion in the United States is a concept most closely associated with Robert N. Bellah, whose 1967 seminal work argued that a “religion”—separate and distinct from church or synagogue—provides the unifying civil underpinning that bonds and guides U.S. society. According to this argument, a “biblical republicanism” was expressed from the outset in the conviction that the Creator gave inalienable rights to be realized and protected by these United States and a higher, sacred force continues to permeate, evoked by the words and rituals that celebrate and reaffirm the nation. The founders, the protectors, the martyrs—Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr.—inhabit the pantheon, with the defining events memorialized and re-created in communities throughout the country, thereby institutionalizing the history and values that serve to form the cultural union. As with so many foundational concepts in the United States, civil religion has its philosophical ...