UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Piety and fraternalism : a study of the relationship between secret fraternal societies and the American civil religion Loughrey, Elizabeth Jean


Robert Bellah has suggested that there "exists alongside of and rather clearly differentiated from the churches and elaborate and well institutionalized civil religion in America". This religion expresses certain common elements of religious orientation shared by most Americans. It gives, says Bellah, a "religious dimension to all aspects of life including the political sphere". Accepting Bellah's argument, this thesis analyses working mens' secret fraternal societies as one aspect of the institutionalization of the American Civil Religion. It examines how fraternal organizations have fostered public religion as a vital force within American culture. More specifically, it examines the following interrelated questions. What is the nature of American Civil Religion? How is a particular understanding of this religion reflected in the fraternal emphasis of American lodges? Why has its collective expression required the maintenance of a cloak of secrecy? How do the rituals of secret fraternal societies mediate and confirm for their members the ideals of the public religion? Historically, what segment of the population has been most attracted to this interpretation of American Civil Religion? What is the nature of the dynamic relationship between American society, its civil religion and organized secret fraternalism?

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