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Unpublished Paper
Uncivil Religion: Judeo Christianity and the Ten Commandments
ExpressO (2007)
  • Frederick Mark Gedicks
I. INTRODUCTION: THE PERMISSIBLE ESTABLISHMENT? II. VARIETIES OF AMERICAN CIVIL RELIGION A. The Established Church B. “Nonsectarian” Protestantism C. Judeo-Christianity III. BEYOND JUDEO-CHRISTIANITY A. Unbelief and Eastern Religion B. Postmodern Spirituality C. Barely Believing IV. THE SECTARIANIZATION OF JUDEO-CHRISTIANITY A. The Decalogue Cases B. The Fiction of “Mere Acknowledgment” C. Sectarianization and the Return of Classic Tolerance V. CONCLUSION: THE PAST THAT IS NOT PRESENT The recent Decalogue Cases are the latest attempt to insulate American civil religion from Establishment Clause attack. A civil religion is a set of purportedly nondenominational symbols, rituals, and assumptions designed to create reverence of national history and formation of a communal national bond. The most recent incarnation of American civil religion is the Judeo-Christian tradition, which emerged in the 1950s as a set of spiritual values that was thought to be held by virtually all Americans. However, Judeo-Christianity no longer reflects the religious beliefs of all or nearly all Americans, if it ever did. Increases in unbelievers, Muslims, practitioners of Eastern religions, adherents to postmodern spirituality, and others outside the orthodox denominational mainstream have placed large numbers of Americans outside the boundaries of Judeo-Christianity. At the same time, political forces are contracting these same boundaries. In recent decades, conservative Christians have projected thick, sectarian meaning onto the purportedly inclusive symbols and observances of Judeo-Christianity, even as they continue to rely on the thin religiosity of civil religion to circumvent Establishment Clause limitations on government use of those symbols and observances. As a result, the religious equality that now informs Establishment Clause jurisprudence threatens to degenerate into classic tolerance, under which the government would be constitutionally free expressly to endorse Judeo-Christian civil religion. The separation of government from thick conceptions of the good permits liberal democracy to function despite radically different religious beliefs that may exist among citizens. Insistence on an American democracy informed by Judeo-Christianity is precisely the wrong solution to the problem of religious difference in the United States.
  • church and state,
  • civil religion,
  • establishment clause,
  • judeo-christian,
  • religion clauses,
  • ten commandments
Publication Date
March, 2007
Citation Information
Frederick Mark Gedicks. "Uncivil Religion: Judeo Christianity and the Ten Commandments" ExpressO (2007)
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