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In Search of Our Better Angels: A Story of America’s Civil Religion

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West Hall 135

1000 S. Cady Mall

Tempe, AZ 85281

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Why is our country so polarized? Some say it is the result of a long-running battle between those who believe that the United States was founded as a secular democracy and those who believe it was established as a Christian nation. In his talk, Gorski will take up this question, arguing that our founding tradition was a synthesis of both sacred and secular sources. By reflecting on the history of this civil religious tradition from Puritan times through to the present day, he proposes an approach that he thinks might help heal our political divisions.

Join us for the 2017 Maxine and Jonathan Marshall Speaker on Religion and Conflict.




Philip S. Gorski (PhD, University of California, Berkeley) is a comparative-historical sociologist at Yale University whose work focuses on topics such as nationalism, revolution, state-formation, and economic development, with particular attention to the interaction of religion, politics, and the forces of secularization

Gorski’s work, which includes six books and numerous articles, has been reviewed in The American Conservative, The Atlantic, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. His writings, such as “Religion, Nationalism and Violence” and “Barack Obama and American Exceptionalisms,” have appeared in leading academic journals and edited volumes, and he recently appeared on the Charlie Rose Show to discuss his 2017 book, American Covenant: A History of Civil Religion from the Puritans to the Present.

"American Covenant: A History of Civil Religion from the Puritans to the Present," makes the case that the United States was founded on the vision of a "prophetic republic" that integrated both the ethical vision of the Hebrew prophets and the Western political heritage of civic republicanism. Gorski goes on to show how the founders’ original vision for America is threatened by an internecine struggle between two rival traditions: religious nationalism and radical secularism. Gorski's book, noted to be "essential reading for this moment" by the New York Times, offers an unsparing critique of both traditions, demonstrating how half a century of culture war has drowned out the quieter voices of the vital center.

Philip Gorski is Co-Director (with Julia Adams) of Yale’s Center for Comparative Research (CCR), and co-runs the Religion and Politics Colloquium at the Yale MacMillan Center


This lecture and free and open to the public, but RSVPs are recommended.

For classes or other large groups, please contact CSRC directly at csrc@asu.edu

This event will be live streamed at https://asunow.asu.edu/asulive

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West Hall 135

1000 S. Cady Mall

Tempe, AZ 85281

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