American civil religion is not to be confused with the American Way of Life or with the Judeo-Christian tradition as the national faith.
A form of cultural and social meaning which exists alongside of but is clearly dis-tinct from conventional, organized religion.
A morally multi-vocal, dialectical conversation or overlapping consensusand often heated argumentabout the meaning of America.
Civil religion defined:
What we have, then, from the earliest years of the republic is a collection of beliefs, symbols, and rituals with respect to sacred things and institutionalized in a collectivity (175).
Cf. Durkheims definition of Religion:
a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, that is to say, things set apart and forbiddenbeliefs and practices which united into one single moral community called a Church, all those who adhere to them.
Religion as inseparable from & necessary for social life.
Durkheim: social integration, unity and moral order
cannot be achieved except by reunions, assemblies and meetings where in-dividuals, closely united to one another, reaffirm in common their common sentiments. Hence come civic ceremonies which do not differ from relig-ious ceremonies either in their object, results they produce or the processes employed to obtain their results (page ?)
Presidential inaugural addresses, national symbols, civic ceremonies & ideas as sacred legitimations & representations of the social order.
Bellah marks off civil religion in the following way: not church religion or politi-cal ideology; Declaration of Independence and Constitution as sacred texts; litur-gical calendar, high holidays.
Religious dimension of political realm.
Four General Tenets & Idea of God in Civil Religion.
1) there is a God;
2) there is a life to come:
3) virtue will be rewarded and vice punished; &,
4) exclusion of religious intolerance
The God of Civil Religion
Lincoln as civil religions greatest theologian
Bellahs civil religion thesis
civil religion at its best [and only at its best] is a genuine apprehension of universal and transcendent religious reality as seen in or, one could almost say, as revealed through the experience of the American people .