Essay About Religion In America

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He also notes that Rousseau was a contemporary of such American thinkers as Benjamin Franklin, and that there are some shared ideas between these parties.

Bellah does not, however, argue that American thinkers were themselves influenced directly by Rousseau.

Discussed by Robert Bellah in his 1967 article 'Civil Religion in America', he noted that it has a lot in common with the mythologies of Christian and Hebraic (or Jewish/proto-Jewish) religions.

Bellah also noted that they both share certain biblical archetypes, such as Exodus (the Jews' escape from Egypt followed by their long pilgrimage following Moses), the idea of a chosen people, death and rebirth as sacrifice, and the concept of a promised land.

One could even say that America is now the home of a special people who understand certain ideas about human freedom and democracy.

But the fourth tenet of 18th century Genevan philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau's ideas is also really important in understanding civil religion: religious tolerance, coming from the American separation of church and state.

The four tenets of Rousseau's civil religion are: Particularly in the case of the first three, the influence of Christian and Hebraic traditions practiced by the majority of American citizens should be pretty obvious to us. You can probably see some parallels between the final tenet and the separation of church and state clause in the First Amendment in the American Bill of Rights.

As mentioned earlier, Bellah illustrates the presence of theological underpinnings of American civil religion through a number of speeches and writings from important thinkers and leaders from Benjamin Franklin, to Abraham Lincoln, all the way forward to John F. There are many differences and similarities between private religion, and the public manifestation of civil religion.

These thinkers were particularly interested in the ways in which American political figures were not privately religious.

One of these theorists was American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, who argued that Lincoln exemplified civil religion through his moral character, but was not a big churchgoer, even though he talked about 'God's will' extensively in the Gettysburg Address during the Civil War.


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