Thanksgiving & Civil Religion

Thanksgiving is not a religious holiday, not exactly. It does seem to rest somewhere between Independence Day and Good Friday, though. I assume school children still learn about Pilgrims coming to the America to find religious freedom. Thankfulness is featured prominently in our religions.

Over at God’s Politics you can read about some discomfort those folks have with the holiday as a result this uncomfortable relationship. Just the other day, I was at a deposition and sort of winced when the reporter asked the man being deposed if he swore to tell the truth “so help [him] God.” My dad reports similar peculiarity when he finishes twenty to thirty minutes of talking about man not putting asunder what has been joined by God, only to conclude with “by the power vested in me by the state of Indiana.”

Consider the following evidence of discomfort with the state religion: the First Amendment; Jesus outsmarts the Pharisees by noting that what is Caesar’s and what is God’s are different; Jesus declares his kingdom to be different from Rome’s; and even the first Kingdom authorized by God only received his approval begrudgingly.

Are the words “In God We Trust” on our money, swearing under penalty of God’s wrath harmless, and sealing our sacred unions with imprimatur of the state harmless? Who should be more bothered by these meaningless religious references, atheists or devotees?

2 thoughts on “Thanksgiving & Civil Religion”

  1. Who should be more bothered by these meaningless religious references, atheists or devotees?

    Both. To alter an aphorism: a government that is willing to grant you your god is going to be willing to revoke it as well.

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