Departmental Papers (ASC)

Document Type

Book Chapter

Date of this Version

January 2005


New Dispensation for Civil Religion, by Dr. Carolyn Marvin from The Political Pulpit Revisited, by Roderick P. Hart and John L. Pauley II, © Purdue University Press. Unauthorized duplication not permitted.


Ever since Robert Bellah introduced the term "civil religion" in the late 1960s to describe the transcendent communal impulses of patriotic rituals and speeches, American scholars have debated its existence and place in our national life. Despite the pointed suggestion of the label most scholars who use the term "civil religion" have backed away, often emphatically, from calling it a "true" religion. This includes Rod Hart, who portrays civil religion as explicitly rhetorical in his 1977 book The Political Pulpit. In one of the periodic reconsiderations that Bellah's notion has occasioned, Hart joins in viewing civil religion as the poor and ineffectual pretender to religion it has been seen as by most of its commentators.



Date Posted: 07 October 2008