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Saturday, April 21, 2012

The American Religion 2012

Now that I have worked out my theory of justice or ethical model in dialogue with many neuroscientists, evolutionary psychologists, and ethicists, I want to test it.  Again, ethics for me is critical inquiry into prevailing morality in order to guide personal behavior and public policy.  I have many role models for this enterprise.

I propose to examine the American religion which is related to, but not the same as religion in America.  I do this as a way into the American morality.  In this effort I follow in the footsteps of great sociologists of civil religion.  (Also because of the politics of culturalism, new religions, and extreme partisanship, have we fragmented into more than one civil religion?)

A religion has a creation myth, supernatural entities, symbols, rituals, holy texts, and sacred space and time.  It sanctifies certain behaviors that strengthen the social fabric of a culture and prohibits those that might undermine that fabric.

I propose to use the current presidential campaign as my source: analyses of campaign speeches and webpages, party platforms, and political commentary, even comedians.  I want to identify the key themes and ascertain the often unexpressed religious symbols, principles, and values behind proposals, the private and public behaviors they encourage, and critique them in the light of a standard of justice which will also be under review.  If resources permit, I would like to check and refine our findings through interviews and against complementary studies.

I realize that I cannot do this alone so I am looking for fellow travelers.

I am not sure what form this study will take--book, series of papers, presentation.  I do know that I would like it to be accessible and feed back into the American ethical and political process so that citizens will be more thoughtful about their choices that will affect the future of our descendants.

(PS click on links in text above for more explanation.)


Anonymous said...

Rollie, this is a great topic...I look forward to watching your project develop and exchanging thoughts. My first thought I will share with you is that one of the major breakdowns in the idea of a prevailing morality, or the American Religion was created by the politics of culture, where cultures and ethnicity's were cut out of the mainstream to create political power.

This was nothing new, every culture/ethnicity that came to America had a time where they were isolated and they formed their own structure, but it was always with an eye to folding in to the main culture of America. Fopr the last 30 years this has not been the case, more and more rhetoric has been used to convince groups that they are victims and they need a champion to represent and speak for them; while to some extent I believe it was true, unfortunately most that stepped up to the plate to take that role did so for their own gain, and in ways to maintain the groups isolation to maintain their own base of power.

The concept that culture is static worng; yet we in America feel we need to embrace a culture as if the snap shot in time that we perceive as that culture will represent that culture for all time. Timeless parts of all cultures will be absorbed into other cultures as the morph and pick up bits and pieces of the others.

In embracing multi-culturalism in the way that we have we have neglected the need to cultivate a common culture; a common set of community values, morals and ethics. Culture is not static and needs to adapt, some will wane and even twilight...that should be OK. Culture is meant to serve us, not us it.

Anonymous said...

sorry for not editing, I was short on now i waste more time than it would have taken to reread and edit to type an apology...slow is smooth; smooth is fast.

Rollie in Takoma said...

Please don't worry about edits and please sign up as follower.

Your comment is a good one. Maybe in the 30+ years since Bellah and Herberg, our civil religion has fragmented. Maybe we now have more than one religion due to multiple factors--including as you suggest the politics of culturalism. That too should be part of our inquiry and I will revise the proposal to show that.