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Beyond IdolsThe Shape of a Secular Society$
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Richard K. Fenn

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780195143690

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0195143698.001.0001

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Toward a Theory of a Society Without Idols

Toward a Theory of a Society Without Idols

From Civil Religion to Public Religiosity

5 Toward a Theory of a Society Without Idols
Beyond Idols

Richard K. Fenn (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

As societies secularize, civil religions lose their unique basis in the nation‐state, decompose into public religiosity, and become open to revision and negotiation. Agreement on procedures replaces commitment to national beliefs and participation in national ceremonies, and the religious self‐conceptions of the periphery compete successfully with those at the national center. In societies like the U.S., there are competing forms of the sacred, and public religiosity competes successfully with official or elitist versions of the sacred. Societies with a well‐developed and institutionalized civil religion have a high fascist potential as in France, where civil religion unites popular religiosity with a national ideology internally divided between the secular and the religious and between the Christian and the revolutionary legacies of the past. Advocates of civil religion seek to reinforce the nation's claim to transcendence over the passage of time and to avoid the threat of national decay and disintegration.

Keywords:   center, civil religion, fascist, ideology, monopoly, nation‐state, periphery, public religiosity, sacred

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