Religion in the United States The United States does not have a state religion, as provided for in the First Amendment of the Constitution. Individual religious denominations compete for dominance and recognition in the public sphere. For this reason, public discourse only allows political leaders to display religious piety in ways that embrace common beliefs and practices across various religious traditions. Unlike countries with particular theological tenets, such as England, Italy, or United Arabs Emirate, American civil society has established mechanisms that enable individuals to express their religious values but eschews the particular dogmatic terms. In his book, “Civil
Religion in America,” Robert Bellah calls these shared beliefs and practices “civil religion.” He asserts that the United States exercise certain fundamental values, founded on parallel, but independent theisms. The concept of civil religion emanated because the founding population constituted of numerous Puritan and Pilgrim groups fleeing religious persecution. Their unique experiences prompted them to develop a system that prohibited the domination of any religious domination. Bellah (1967) describes civil religion as a “collection of beliefs, symbols, and rituals”
that is neither sectarian nor ecumenical. It exists in the premises, but independent of the church. Gorski (2010) argues that this religion constitutes two competing principles: liberal secularism and religious nationalism. Using Max Weber’s theory of “value-spheres,” it is possible to define
the traditions upon which the American religion is founded. Liberal secularism intends to keep religion and state as separate entities. Religious nationalists seek to maintain the connection between the state and religion. Civil religionists idealize the two principles as separate but interconnected (Gorski 2010). In other words, civil religion is a product of the overlapping ideas of secularism and nationalism. It positions itself between the libertarian and Kantian ethical views. For this reason, Americans reject the perception that politicians can somehow remain neutral to religious commitments. Religious expressions are allowed as far as they do not result in favoritism or oppression of some people. The decision to establish a civil religion in the United States was informed by several strategic events and ideas during the founding of the nation. One of them was the Declaration of Independence in 1776, in which thirteen colonies announced breaking their tie with Britain (Bellah 1967). In the document, the Founding Fathers, including Thomas Jefferson, demanded the abolishment of political, social, and economic anarchy. They argued that human rights are God’s given, and the role of the government is to protect them per the will of the governed.
Although they used a codified legal language, the letter theorized about the intersection of the church and the state. This view acknowledges the role of God as the creator and the supreme source of inalienable freedom (Gorski 2010). However, it negates the traditional British perception of the government representation of God’s authority over the people. It recognizes popular sovereignty, famously described by Abraham Lincolns quote “government of the people,
by the people, and for the people.” Americans consider the Declaration of Independence as the document that instituted the concept of civil liberty. Ratification of the Bill of Rights empowered the ideals of freedom in the contexts of religion, speech, crime, and due process. Part of the first
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amendment states that, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof” (Zimmermann
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