Uncommon Unity: the Promise of American Civil Religion, Post-Pluralism
AbstractIn 1967, Robert Bellah formulated the concept of American Civil Religion (ACR) to help explicate what it means to be an American. Underlying ACR is the premise that a common civil religion unifies Americans. With that premise, ACR’s value – and its viability - depends on the relationship of ACR, pluralism, and national unity. Starting with an assumption that ACR’s considerable value has not yet run its course, this thesis asks, “What factors, issues, and assumptions must be addressed and perhaps modified for American Civil Religion to a remain a credible descriptor of a common American identity?” After categorizing and surveying three threads of ACR scholarship, the thesis examines the data supporting America’s increasingly religious pluralism and assesses it in the context of ACR. The thesis then analyzes the data that suggests that pluralism and ACR are negatively correlated. That is, as pluralism increases the strength of ACR decreases. Against that backdrop, the thesis returns to the three threads of ACR scholarship and discusses each scholarly trend as a response to increased pluralism. The thesis concludes by reviewing current attempts to change or replace ACR. It argues for keeping the framework that Bellah established in his original conception, while revisiting each of ACR’s attributes to account for a more pluralistic America.
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