American Civil Religion
Interestingly the late 1940s and 50s saw an upsurge in ‘religion’. At this point over 90 percent of American citizens readily claimed affiliation with some religion or sect. But this was another sign not of God’s blessing but of his curse on our nation. To have a proliferation of churches and not a semblance of repentance or sorrow over sin is a sure sign of a deep blindness.
“Our government makes no sense unless it is founded on a deeply religious faith, “ President Eisenhower proclaimed, “—and I don’t care what it is.”
This generic religiosity and faith-talk substituted for real heart felt faith and sincere repentance and obedience. “The Howdy Doody Show” likewise encouraged its young watchers to worship “at the church or synagogue of your choice.” This civil religion really was fairly innocuous simply because they got along so well. Protestants, Catholics, and Jews (the big three in America) all had leading figures who spent most of their time condemning the Great Red Menace, Communism, when immorality and decadence of all stripes and flavors was spilling out of the American family.
And just to make sure, in 1954, Congress added the phrase “under god” to the Pledge of Allegiance because Atheism was the official religion or faith of the Communist party. Of course it is fairly ironic that the aurthor of the pledge was himself an athiestic socialist, but hey, that’s how it goes.
It should be fairly clear from what we’ve already seen that this was never meant to be an exclusive reference to the Christian Trinitarian God; no, it has always meant the generic ‘god’ that the masses of Americans believe in with no distinctive claims or demands for anyone. As others have pointed out very clearly, this is the same god that is invoked in the National Cathedral, the god of American Muslims, Jews and far too many Evangelicals.