Chapter

The Religious Situation in the United States 175 Years After Tocqueville

José Casanova

in Crediting God

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print January 2011 | ISBN: 9780823233199
Published online March 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823233212 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5422/fso/9780823233199.003.0014
The Religious Situation in               the United States 175 Years After Tocqueville

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This chapter gives a reading of Tocqueville as the first critic of secularization theory. By this interpretation, the deistic civil religion of the United States leads to the transformation of religions into free, equal, and competing theistic “denominations.” But theism is in no way kept in a private sphere, for Tocqueville shows how the religious identity, or denomination, is precisely the vehicle for attaining and exercising republican citizenship. In fact, theism casts its shadow on deism precisely because democratic politics depends in great measure on what goes on inside the churches: not only because they instill the principles of “self-interest properly understood” but also because the congregation continues to foster the idea of self-government. But the chapter also problematizes the other side of denominationalism, namely, the way in which religious identity remains insufficient to deal with the exclusion that comes about through the other vehicle of acquiring an identity in American exceptionalism, namely, through the construction of racial identities. Finally, the question of whether the theistic reading of U.S. civil religion leads to fundamentalism is discussed.

Keywords: Tocqueville; secularization theory; civil religion; theism; denominationalism

Chapter.  8095 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion

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