Civil religion is a concept to which dates its origin from the French political

Civil religion is a concept to which dates its origin from the French political


Students Name

Institution of Affiliation

Course Title


Civil religion is a concept to which dates its origin from the French political thoughts and eventually becoming a major topic for the American sociologists. The idea was first used by Robert Bellah in the 1960s. Civil religion means the inherent religious values of a nation as they are expressed via the public rituals and symbols such as the national flag and the ceremonies on the sacred days as well as at sacred places that include the battlefield, monuments and national cemeteries. Churches are excluded from the civil religion though at sometimes they are incorporated to be part of the civil religion in America. In the sociology of religion, the civil religion is regarded as the folk of the nation and as well as the political culture of the nation.

Sociologist Robert Bellah in his seminal 1967 essay, he argued that the United States had an elaborate and well and a well-instituted civil religion that existed alongside and was rather clearly differentiated from the religion conducted in the churches (Bellah & Tipton, 2006). Civil religion is also referred to as religious nationalism, public piety, shared faith and public religion, and that it provides a religious sanction for the political order as well as the divine justification for and the support for the civil society and the practices of the nations. Also, civil religion may be used to imply the state’s use of the consensus religious concepts, sentiments as well as symbols for its purposes. As a system for the established rituals, norms, values, allegiance and symbols, the civil religion is deemed to function as the social glue that binds the people of a nation together giving them an overarching sense of spiritual unity. Civil religion involves beliefs, events that reveal the purposes of God such as the American Revolution and the civil war, sacred places such as shrines to Washington, prophets such as Jefferson and Lincoln, sacred texts such as the constitution. Also, the civil religion further includes the ceremonies such as the Independence Day, hymns such as God bless America and my country as well as rituals that include the prayers at the public events such as the national day of prayers.

The Constitution in the American civil religion

Max Lerner in his classic article, the constitution and court as symbols, he pointed out to the role of the United States Constitution to what later the analysts termed as the American civil religion (Levinson, 1979). Lerner said that every tribe cling to something to which they believe to possess supernatural powers as an instrument for controlling the unknown forces in the hostile universe. The American tribe is no different from the others, and, the same and very habits of the mind derived from the authoritarian bible, as well as the religion of submission to a higher power, have also been carried over to the American authoritarian constitution. Also, philosophy to the submission to a higher law and a country like America in which its early traditions had prohibited a state church, ends by attaining a state church after all, although in a secular state. The United States Supreme Court plays a significant role in seeing to it that the constitution is followed to the letter and that the violators of the constitution do not go unpunished. The constitution being the supreme authority in the region helps to keep all the aspects in check including regulating the powers of the president and making sure that everyone is fairly treated even if not fully.

The hymn ‘God Bless America’ as a civil religion in America

The hymn God bless America is a popular song to which majority of the American population are conversant with and can be able to sing at any time if necessary. The song is taught in the American schools, and it is regularly performed at the sporting events. The hymn ‘God bless America’ sheds light on the cultural tensions that are within the US that are both past and present offering a historical chronicle that is full of surprises, and that will both edify and delight readers from all walks of life (Kaskowitz, 2013). The performance of the song at major sporting events qualifies the song to be incorporated into the components of the American civil religion as it binds all the people at the event making them be one. Furthermore, the song is taught in all schools, an indication that it is an important factor in the American population and that each person needs to know about it as well as the generations to come. The song has been passed to generations for quite a long period for now and has continued to be passed to the later generations to signify a common culture and embrace the symbolism of unity derived from the song. After the attacks of September 11th, the song God bless America was sung on the steps of the capital, at spontaneous memorial sites as well as during the seventh inning stretch at basketball games. The performance of the song at the majority of the events have made Americans become even more deeply embedded in the Americans collective consciousness. Civil religion has existed since the birth of the American republic and has continued to be present in all of the forms of the civil life, emerging with unusual strength in the times of a national crisis as evident from the hymn God Bless America. The hymn has some significant efforts to connect America with both divine blessings and guidance.

The president of America as a prophet and leader of the civil religion.

The president is a national figure and a symbol of unity, and that’s the main reason behind being led by a single president. Throughout the American history, the president has provided the leadership in the public faith. At sometimes, the president has primarily functioned as a political prophet just as the likes of Abraham Lincoln, at some occasions acting as the nation’s pastor like Dwight Eisenhower while at some times perform basically as the high priest of the civil religion like Ronald Reagan (Grinder & Shaw, 2016). In the prophetic civil religion, the president examines the nation’s actions about the transcendent values, calling upon the citizens to make sacrifices in times of crisis and also to repent of their corporate sins at the times when their behaviors fall short of the national ideals. As the national pastor, the president provides for spiritual inspirations to the people by affirming the American core values and urging them to appropriate those values and through the comfort of their afflictions. By assuming the role of the priest, the president makes America itself the ultimate reference point, leading the citizens in affirming and celebrating the nation and reminding the citizens of the country’s mission while at the same time praise and glorify his political people.

The American civil religion has been in existence since the nation became a republic. The founding fathers of the nation were responsible for the initiation of the civil religion, especially the post of the president, the constitution, national flag as well as the national currency. The components of the American civil religion are the symbols that are used to show unity among the American citizens in the manner of conducting their daily activities. The constitution acts as a check of balance and a supreme authority ensuring that justice is enforced through the courts. The hymns such as God Bless America are passed from one generation to the other as part of the American culture.


Bellah, R. N., & Tipton, S. M. (Eds.). (2006). The Robert Bellah Reader. Duke University Press.

Grinder, D., & Shaw, S. (2016). The Presidents & Their Faith: From George Washington to Barack Obama. Elevate Publishing.

Kaskowitz, S. (2013). God Bless America: The Surprising History of an Iconic Song. Oxford University Press.

Levinson, S. (1979). ” The Constitution” in American Civil Religion. The Supreme Court Review, 1979, 123-151.