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RELS 307 Civil Religion: Theory, Practice, Analysis

Discussions of 'religion and politics' or 'the separation of church and state' often fail to recognize the religious aspects of civic life itself that involve or suggest a sacred aspect of the state. This course explores the theory of 'civil religion' as an expression of the contemporary academic understanding of religion, involving symbol, myth, ritual, and sacred space and time; examines historical examples of civic religion (for example, in the early Roman Empire) and the history of civil religion in the United States; and inquires about evolving aspects of civil religion today as these relate, for example, to immigration and/or Muslims in America.
4 Undergraduate credits

Effective August 25, 2012 to present

Meets graduation requirements for

Learning outcomes


  • Demonstrate their understanding of the theory of civil religion as a form of religious experience and practice;
  • Demonstrate a basic understanding of the different roles religion has played in public life in different periods of U.S. history, from the Colonial period to the present;
  • Critically analyze and evaluate aspects of civil religion in contemporary U.S. society and take measures of the participation of religious communities in the civil religion;
  • Apply their understanding of civil religion to specific contemporary issues regarding populations historically excluded from the civil religion.

Minnesota Transfer Curriculum

Goal 5: History and the Social and Behavioral Sciences

  • Employ the methods and data that historians and social and behavioral scientists use to investigate the human condition.
  • Examine social institutions and processes across a range of historical periods and cultures.
  • Use and critique alternative explanatory systems or theories.
  • Develop and communicate alternative explanations or solutions for contemporary social issues.

Goal 9: Ethical and Civic Responsibility

  • Examine, articulate, and apply their own ethical views.
  • Understand and apply core concepts (e.g. politics, rights and obligations, justice, liberty) to specific issues.
  • Analyze and reflect on the ethical dimensions of legal, social, and scientific issues.
  • Recognize the diversity of political motivations and interests of others.
  • Identify ways to exercise the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.