Manhattanville Reid Castle In the Spring

Manhattanville Professor Peter Gardella Makes Case for American Civil Religion in Fourth Book

Peter Gardella

Manhattanville Professor Peter Gardella believes that United States citizens practice the same faith, “American Civil Religion.” An idea he defends in his book “American Civil Religion: What Americans Hold Sacred.”

“It may be the most powerful religion in the world today,” Gardella said adding that it is supported by the 300 million people paying taxes and willing to die for it.

In the book, which was released in December, he compares the civil religion to other ideologies saying it has its own holidays, sacred hymns like “The Star-Spangled Banner,” sacred sites such as the Lincoln Memorial or Arlington National Cemetery, and the President is the Pope or chief priest. He added that God isn’t necessarily a part of the civil religion and although other religions are accepted, everyone has to practice the American Civil Religion.

The American Civil Religion also has definite values: personal freedom, political democracy, cultural tolerance and world peace, Gardella said. He added that the country has gone to war and has overthrown governments because of these ideals and not because of reasons like oil, using the War in Iraq as an example.

“That isn’t what you can use to motivate people with. A country needs something to believe in,” he said.

For his next book Gardella will be examining birds and world religions which he will be working on with Laurence Krute, a professor in Manhattanville’s School of Education. He also recently published a blog article for Oxford University Press about the American Civil Religion and two of the ads that played during this year’s Superbowl.

He is a member of the Department of World Religions and has been at Manhattanville since 1983. His other books are, “Innocent Ecstasy: How Christianity Gave America an Ethic of Sexual Pleasure,” “Domestic Religion: Work, Food, Sex, and Other Commitments,” and “American Angels: Useful Spirits in the Material World.”

 “American Civil Religion: What Americans Hold Sacred,” can be purchased on Amazon and the College’s library will be hosting a book launch for Gardella on February 12.