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The Unfinished Covenant

Rethinking Obama

ISBN: 978-0-85724-911-1, eISBN: 978-0-85724-912-8

Publication date: 30 November 2011


We should begin with making clear our limitations in responding to Gorski's article. We are not experts in the debates about American civil religion. Like most sociologists of religion we are familiar with Bellah's (1967) Daedalus article and its great influence. We have not followed closely the empirical work that sought to test whether a civil religion actually exists in America or elsewhere, and only casually followed the more theoretical debates surrounding the concept itself. We are actually better versed in Gorski's work and from that perspective we think his article on Obama and civil religion can be usefully read as a continuation of a line of reasoning he launched more than 10 years ago with his American Sociological Review article on historicizing secularization. In that article he claimed that it was probable that “Western society has become more secular without becoming less religious” and explained why (Gorski, 2000, p. 138). Barack Obama's invocation of an American civil religion and its popular reception by liberal Americans fits well with this line of reasoning. In the heady days of 2008, many liberal Americans seemed to have found (civil) religion with Obama – a surprising turn of events in need of explanation.


Young, M.P. and Pieper, C. (2011), "The Unfinished Covenant", Go, J. (Ed.) Rethinking Obama (Political Power and Social Theory, Vol. 22), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 237-244.



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