Today in class we debated whether or not there is a civil religion in America. Again, we used Durkheim’s definition of a religion: a unifying set of practices. We discussed the rituals we participate in (like voting or saying the pledge of allegiance) that reinforce American’s shared value system rooted in democracy. We talked about the importance of effervescence and the power of a shared emotional experience. People are often moved by patriotic events, not because of personal history, but because of the strong social force that comes from communal identity.
I don’t consider myself to be incredibly patriotic, but my roommates and I spent our afternoon crying while watching videos of soldiers’ homecomings. All of us are anti-war, and have no real connection to the military, yet we were overcome with emotion with every clip. Of course part of the emotion we felt was psychological, but much of it was socially constructed. America makes soldiers out to be heroes. As American’s, my roommates and I glorify the soldiers despite being pacifists. The influence of national values permeates our own value systems. This is a testament to the civil religion we have in the United States. We participate in communal practices that emphasize national values and the importance of our country. It influences our thoughts and dictates our emotions, whether or not we are aware of it.