Civil Religion Aspects of Neo-Paganism
Issue: Vol 6 No. 2 (2004)
Subject Areas: Religious Studies
Robert Bellah’s concept of civil religion is largely an analytical concept that, like the notion of secularization, is more tautological than empirical—defying in general what evidence could be legitimately used to confirm or disconfirm it. As a sociological construct, however, “civil religion” is nevertheless deemed a useful heuristic device. The following analysis builds on the data of Wimberley and Swatos concerning who is likely to support American civil religion and who is not, but this is not an empirical study in and of itself. Instead, what I have sought to tease out are, first, the common denominator language of “civil religion” itself and its current renewal, secondly, where Pagans fit with the Wimberley–Swatos findings concerning the construct, and, thirdly, some of the nuances and difficulties regarding Pagan civil religion involvement—especially in the post-9/11 increase in patriotic fervor and the countervailing trend expressed through the separation of church–state juridical decisions involving the “under God” clause in the Pledge of Allegiance. The article concludes with a brief look at how nature religion/Goddess spirituality might constitute a Pagan form of civil religion in contrast to Pagan sectarian expression. Though not exclusively, this article draws from conversation on the Nature Religions List, which, if not fully representative of all facets of contemporary Paganism, represents some of the best of current intellectual Pagan thought and, at the same time, a diversified range between conservative right and liberal left orientations.
Author: Michael York