While some have argued that Christianity is the national faith, and others that church and synagogue celebrate only the generalized religion of “the American Way of Life,” few have realized that there actually exists alongside of and rather clearly differentiated from the churches an elaborate and well-institutionalized civil religion in America. This article argues not only that there is such a thing, but also that this religion-or perhaps better, this religious dimension-has its own seriousness and integrity and requires the same care in understanding that any other religion does.
“Without Gods, no oaths may stand,” is the substance one of Aristophenes’ arguments — a false one perhaps — against Socrates, immortalized in his satirical play “The Clouds.” The Masons, though perhaps not believing Aristophenes’ accusation itself did understand his point. The point being, that when men with no interest in helping you agree to help you, if you expect them to keep their promise, there must be something that binds them to it. The Romans and Greeks very explicitly believed in the social technology of religion — even if they held in contempt various aspects of it.
Atheists do spend some time in apology against this point, since it would seem to them perhaps to be a ‘cheap argument’ like Pascal’s Wager is considered to be. The gist is that we religious folks are shoehorning religious superstition in on the technicality that without it, contracts that cannot be backed up with force become impossible. The arguments against this are numerous; personal anecdotes, kinds of agreements between kin, etc. However even Atheists would acknowledge that the principle of outside force — a third party of some sort — is necessary to ensure vows are fulfilled. Arguing one’s own personal nobility or praxis of kingroups is not a solution to the problem of a polyglot nation needing to ensure plundering is not routine.