America’s Civil Religion

Andrew Sullivan —  Aug 21 2011 @ 10:34am

Heather Horn interviewed Robert Bellah, author of Religion in Human Evolution. He revisited some ideas from his famous 1967 essay "Civil Religion in America":

1242771346_0b7927de37_b Civil religion in America is still alive and well. Obama not only now faithfully wears his flag pin—which I hate—he ends any serious intervention by saying "God bless you and God bless America." What is that? You never find an inaugural address without reference to God. You won't find one referring to Jesus either, because that's not part of the civil religion. But religious symbols remain in American public life come hell or high water—you just can't get rid of them, and they do provide some sense of common language. I don't think Martin Luther King would have had the impact that he did if he'd spoken only in secular terms. His great speeches are full of reference to American civil figures, but they are also deeply Biblical. So all our diversity doesn't mean that we don't understand certain things in common—even if we don't accept them in the absolute way.

(Photo by Flickr user Daquella Manera)