Some people want to minimize as much as possible the role of religion in America’s public life. To do this, however, they have to do violence to America’s historical identity. America’s government has no religious identity: hence the First Amendment prohibition on an “establishment of religion,” as well as the Constitution’s prohibition on religious tests for holding public office. Nevertheless, Americans traditionally viewed themselves as a nation of religious believers who thought of their country–and their loyalty to their country–as being “under God” (to use the words of the Pledge of Allegiance).
This intertwining of piety and patriotism is evident in all the most famous patriotic songs, which we often sing on Independence Day and on other patriotic holidays. Here are the leading examples:
America the Beautiful:
America! America! God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!
My Country, ‘Tis of Thee:
Our fathers’ God to Thee,
Author of Liberty,
To thee we sing,
Long may our land be bright
With Freedom’s holy light,
Protect us by thy might
Great God, our King.
God Bless America:
God bless America,
Land that I love,
Stand beside her and guide her
Thru the night with a light from above
Battle Hymn of the Republic:
In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on
The Star Spangled Banner:
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!