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Abstract
The dialectical coherence of civil religion in the moral argument of American public life runs through the development of its formulation by Robert N. Bellah over the course of his work, beginning with the heretofore unpublished draft of "Heritage and Choice in American Religion" in 1965. Seen as a cultural dimension of depth, civil religion frames modes of moral discourse and imagination to enable coherent cultural conflict in successive times of trial, which give rise to contrasting public theologies that contest the meaning of civil religion and reshape it in turn. This dialectical logic extends to the model of cultural conversation and argument across multiple moral traditions seen as continuities of conflict in Habits of the Heart and Bellah’s later work, by contrast to construing civil religion as a unitary moral foundation once fundamentally fixed and then fragmented by culture wars.
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