A hot-button issue in American culture is religion and the role of religious ritual and expression in our daily lives. Should we pray in public schools? Can we secularize Christmas? Do we have a national faith? Today, these issues are debated by everyone from politicians to parents, but the questions and controversies aren't new. As we can see in Robert N. Bellah's 1967 Daedalus article, "Civil Religion in America", we have been trying to fit religion into our culture for some time. Bellah's article has been reprinted in the current issue of Daedalus, as part of a survey of the scope of the journal as it celebrates its 50th anniversary:
While some have argued that Christianity is the national faith, and others that church and synagogue celebrate only the generalized religion of “the American Way of Life,” few have realized that there actually exists alongside of and rather clearly differentiated from the churches an elaborate and well-institutionalized civil religion in America. This article argues not only that there is such a thing, but also that this religion–or perhaps better, this religious dimension–has its own seriousness and integrity and requires the same care in understanding that any other religion does. (1) Kennedy’s inaugural address of January 20, 1961 serves as an example and a clue with which to introduce this complex subject. That address began: We observe today not a victory of party but a celebration of freedom–symbolizing an end as well as a beginning–signifying renewal as well as change. For I have sworn before you and Almighty God the same solemn oath our forebears prescribed nearly a century and three quarters ago.