Is the belief in
Government a religion? Religion is one of the most important determining
factors when deciding how to lives one’s life. Peoples religious beliefs shape
the way they view and perceive the world around them. This is why, for so many
years’ people have been working to understand religion and its complexities.
This overwhelming amount of interest has led to many different interpretations
of both culture and religion in America. For the purpose of this paper, I will
be examining a widespread American cultural phenomenon: The United States Government.
I will be using the theoretical frameworks of both Clifford Geertz and David
Chidester to prove that the Government is, in fact, a contemporary form of
religion. In what follows, I will summarize Geertz’s definition of religion, explain
Chidester’s account of religion and American popular culture, and then analyze the
United States Government using these two theoretical models.

Clifford Geertz,
an American anthropologist and religious thinker, believed the existing
anthropological way of studying religion had hit a roadblock and he therefore
wanted to develop a new approach. Geertz argues that we should study how
religious symbols enter people’s minds; which in turn influences how people act
in the world and envision the world around them. This compelled Geertz to
develop a systematic definition of religion where he argues, religion is solely
a culturally-produced system of symbols. In Geertz’s chapter, Religion as a Cultural System, he begins
to develop this new approach and defines religion as, “A system of symbols
which acts to establish powerful, pervasive and long lasting moods and
motivations in men by formulating conceptions of a general order of existence
and clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that the moods and
motivations seem uniquely realistic” (90). Geertz’s approach to religion is
still relevant today largely because of its broad and indistinct
characteristics of what religion is supposed to be. If we are to adopt this five-point
definition of religion, we are left with a complex “system of symbols” to explain
our religious experiences. Do we, as Americans, have a sort of un-wavering
belief in the government and is it not unlike that of a religious belief
system? 

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