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cfb
Bipolar (III) Inmate

From: Vancouver, WA
Insane since: Nov 2003

IP logged posted posted 11-02-2006 01:05 Edit Quote

Some ideas that have been swirling around:

Many civics educators would maintain they present an objective survey of the American political system. Or German, or whichever country one lives in. However although denominational religion is oftentimes reduced to a research variable and equated to other socio-political factors such as ethnicity, economic status, or gender. However the other and more subtle religion presented is a civil religion. It pervades textbooks, political science classes, and government in general.

For example: although an educator might decry government-supported denominational religion, they oftentimes will give credit to American exceptionalism, give overly-due recognition to national holidays, use specific words (e.g. heroic, sacrifice) to refer to American wars and war heroes. or present democracy with a certain reverence that goes beyond definition and application. The totality of these concepts would comprise a civil religion defined by Robert Bellah as: "an institutionalized collection of sacred beliefs about the American nation." It's pretty obvious what these "sacred beliefs" are.

The benefits of a civil religion are obvious as well. It would theoretically foster patriotic sentiment and civic piety. Some would argue that political homogeneity (favorable views of politics in general) is contingent to a strong civil religion. Modern civil religion also espouses the ideals of civil rights and liberties.

However it is also strong connected to other ideas: free-market economics (Nash, Falwell), on two sides: the extension or retention of civil liberties to unpopular groups (dependent conservative/liberal), legitimation of political leaders (Memorial Day speeches, pomp and circumstance of inauguration day ceremonies, the American eagle, etc), and group homogeneity (American exceptionalism).

The problem is how the civil religion is so inexorably intertwined with the American political system. While not a religion per se it retains many aspects of religion - both good and bad. Therefore in performing the functions of a religion has the vast potential of religion: specifically in the legitimization of action and preserving an identity. Two countries with high civil religiosity (in my approximation) would be Iran and America. In one example we see the civil religion acting to validate totalitarian leadership, anti-Semitic rhetoric, and religious intolerance. In the other we see civil religion acting to validate a liberal democracy, American exceptionalism (the "city on a hill," a "new Jerusalem"), Enlightenment philosophies, but also very conservative ideas such as free-market economics, imperialism, primarily-Republican presidents (Reagan, Nixon - the only studies I could find found high correlations between civil religiosity and voting tendencies), and religious piety.

In my opinion, and this was what I wanted to discuss, civil religion should be abolished from American society politics; we need a "wall of separation" between the government and the people to protect against the a transcendent national religion. If groups cannot find homogeneity without national overtones, they should find none. Political leaders should be banned from invoking the symbols of American civil religion (World War II, MLK, etc) in a transcendent manner. For this reason civil religion should be recognized alongside denominational religion for the very reasons a wall of separation exists to separate politics from denominational religion.

(Edited by cfb on 11-02-2006 01:07)

JKMabry
Maniac (V) Inmate

From: raht cheah
Insane since: Aug 2000

IP logged posted posted 11-02-2006 05:52 Edit Quote
quote:
cfb said:In my opinion, and this was what I wanted to discuss, civil religion should be abolished from American society politics



I understand your jist and I believe you have the noblest intentions in your current way of thinking but if you take that sentence alone, which seems to sumarise your desire for the discussion in an absorbable chunk, and think about the means with which you would achieve such a thing...

I can't tell if you're coming from a hippy or Vulcan point of view here, or best case: both? Love or logic. Unfortunately reality, especially group dynamics, social and political structures tend to made of, and formed by, the things less lovely.

However noble your intent with that post I'm not sure it's not vain wind chasing!

docilebob
Maniac (V) Mad Scientist

From: buttcrack of the midwest
Insane since: Oct 2000

IP logged posted posted 11-02-2006 07:22 Edit Quote

And who gets to decide where the wall is between "civil religion", politics, history , and patriotism ?
That woud leave them deciding what is religion and what is not.

cfb
Bipolar (III) Inmate

From: Vancouver, WA
Insane since: Nov 2003

IP logged posted posted 11-02-2006 07:42 Edit Quote

Don't "they" already do that?

From Everson v. Board of Education:

quote:
The establishment of religion clause means at least this: Neither a state nor the federal government may set up a church. Neither can pass laws that aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion... . Neither a state or the federal government may, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect 'a wall of separation between church and state.'



Also from the amended Lemon test (Agostini v. Felton), the establishment clause is violated when:

1. The government supports "indoctrination"
2. Selecting benefit recipients on the basis of religion
3. Government entanglement with religion.

--

What I am saying is this: that the transcendent civil religion should be recognized alongside denominational religions. For example government-supported Memorial Day celebrations should not invoke God to validate American wars, references to American exceptionalism should not mention derivatives of the "city on a hill" idea. We should identify the tenants of a civil religion because these tenants have been used historically to further totalitarian regimes, genocides, isolationism, imperialism, and political-worship.

I guess this is Spock talking though a haze of pot smoke. I am not saying we should abolish civil religion from society, because it has obvious uses, but that politics should be filtered through some type of "logical" system. Probably idealistic, and I'm probably masturbating with my mouth (or hand on keyboard here!).

However if the civil religion was recognized alongside denominational religions, litigation-happy groups (ACLU, etc) could threaten lawsuits against government officials or offices who use the civil religion for personal (political) benefit. However this would clog the legal system, be horribly ineffective, and be terribly unpopular with the American public. So...

So yes to JK

(Edited by cfb on 11-02-2006 07:45)

(Edited by cfb on 11-02-2006 07:49)

cfb
Bipolar (III) Inmate

From: Vancouver, WA
Insane since: Nov 2003

IP logged posted posted 11-02-2006 07:56 Edit Quote

Also I'm not sure this would even be a good thing. It would probably have horrible consequences. I just think it's an interesting discussion and generally a controversial thesis gets things going.

DL-44
Lunatic (VI) Inmate

From: under the bed
Insane since: Feb 2000

IP logged posted posted 11-02-2006 17:26 Edit Quote

I can't help but think as I read your post, cfb, that that vast majority of what you typed was takedn directly from a book, article, or website that you just read.
If 'm way off the mark with that, by all means let me know - but that's how it reads.

That said, I have a difficult time in agreeing with much of what you posted, and an even more difficult time in determining what it is you actually mean through the akward language. The wording seems aimed at making an impression in a highschool english classs as oppsoed to making an actual discussible point.

I would enjoy sharing my thoughts on the issues you bring up, but I would be much better able to do that if you could clarify your actual points.

FWIW...

cfb
Bipolar (III) Inmate

From: Vancouver, WA
Insane since: Nov 2003

IP logged posted posted 11-02-2006 19:07 Edit Quote

Not really. I'm doing a paper on civil religion and education, so yes, a few books and articles. However, it's not typed directly from any one (or many) sources. I got some ideas from:

American Civil Religion: An Assessment - Gehrig
a. general definition of transcendent-civil religion
b. role in American education
c. and nationalism
Civil Religion and the Choice for President: Nixon in '72 - Wimberley
a. and education, nationalism
b. distinction from denominational religion
Globalization and the Religious Nationalism: Self, Identity, and the Search for Ontological Security (Kinnvall)
a. group homogeneity and heterogeneity and the effects of nationalism on the former
Citizenship and Civic Engagement (Theiss-Morse and Hibbing)
a. effects of group homogeneity on civic engagement
b. tendency of persons to choose one group over the other in relationship to religious, nationalistic, preference
...Spatial Variation in Tolerance: The Effects of Education and Religion (Moore and Ovadia)
a. Connecting education, nationalism, denomination to tolerance level

Most of this was just conclusions taken from the articles (except "Globalization") and I don't think my civics textbook even mentions civil religion. It's just a subject that interests me. Many people really have no idea what a civil religion is, so I thought I'd type a very brief introduction.

--

I don't really think it was too hard to understand my point. Then again, sometimes you sound like Richard Dawkin's parrot (kidding)

quote:
What I am saying is this: that the transcendent civil religion should be recognized alongside denominational religions...



and as such, should be treated accordingly.

It's typed plain as day.

(Edited by cfb on 11-02-2006 19:09)

(Edited by cfb on 11-02-2006 19:11)

DL-44
Lunatic (VI) Inmate

From: under the bed
Insane since: Feb 2000

IP logged posted posted 11-02-2006 20:52 Edit Quote
quote:

cfb said:

I don't really think it was too hard to understand my point.


Well, in that you'd be wrong


quote:

cfb said:

It's typed plain as day.


Yes, there are the words.
Along with a whole lot of other jumbled words without much in the way of direct meaning

Dawkins' huh?
I guess worse things could be said. Haven't read or heard much from the guy however - can't plead guilty to that charge.

Anyway, if that is the extent of your point, I'll be back when when I'm not at work and have time to dig in.

docilebob
Maniac (V) Mad Scientist

From: buttcrack of the midwest
Insane since: Oct 2000

IP logged posted posted 11-02-2006 22:49 Edit Quote

If it is recognised as a religion, does everyone spouting patriotic themes, or justifying history get tax exempt status ?
I think you`re just stirring up a can of radioactive worms here.

cfb
Bipolar (III) Inmate

From: Vancouver, WA
Insane since: Nov 2003

IP logged posted posted 11-03-2006 02:33 Edit Quote

Well, for example. I get tired of having to filter through the pomp of politics to find core issues. When my voters pamphlet makes the claim: "I-933 would limit big government" and makes the further claim that "big government" would infringe upon "American rights" in the pro-con section following the fiscal impact statements (I think the pamphlets have a pretty standard format, but if not, you get the point), it's frustrating to see a more objective matter (giving landowners the right to sue for government-initiated losses to potential real estate value) argued in the context of an "American way."

In President Bush's inaugural address: ([urlhttp://www.whitehouse.gov/news/inaugural-address.htmlp/url])

quote:
We have a place, all of us, in a long story--a story we continue, but whose end we will not see. It is the story of a new world that became a friend and liberator of the old ... It is the American story--a story of flawed and fallible people, united across the generations by grand and enduring ideals.



You can see a reference to transcendent civil religion here ("grand and enduring ideals") without any specific mention of these ideals. I think it's clear that these "ideals" are reminiscent of the nature-God which Enlightenment philosophers used to validate natural rights.

--

So would be better off if some type of regulation existed to temper this idea? Or would it in fact dissolve the glue of American society? Many nations with strong government-civilian relationships have a civil religion without religious overtones. This would be another variant of this idea but wouldn't be classified as a "civil religion."

I think its potential for abuse it what makes some type of regulation necessary. Because there is not specific boundary and we are not taught to recognize the concept in society and politics the persuasive power of civil religion is enormous. The argument President Bush made is well-crafted but is it true? He goes on to connect the "ideals" to philosophical traditions (natural rights, freedom, democracy) using the word "faith" (as in "a faith in 'x'"). These ideas aren't' necessarily American however.

So maybe another question is this. Is the benefit of a civil religion that it holds society together?

For example the idea of natural rights was derived from spiritual means. There is little basis for the idea that humans are equal without resorting to a higher power. It doesn't matter if we are "endowed" or "commanded" to respect this because it goes against everything nature should have "endowed" in us.

I