Spirit of an American Cult: American Civil Religion and the Stories and Imagery Used to Shape American Identity

Colin Law’s thesis examines how Americans have transformed certain historical figures into symbols of American identity through the use of stories and media. As their status grew, the way that these historical figures were memorialized became much more elaborate. In the 19th and early 20th centuries civic monuments and memorials were erected on the National Mall and in the Capitol Building which glorified and depicted presidents in a godlike way, transforming traditionally civic space into religious space through the use of religious imagery and symbolism. Drawing on ancient Greco-Roman architecture and religion, buildings such as the Capitol Building and the Lincoln Memorial were designed to emulate religious space. Monuments and memorials of various leaders expressed and appealed to aspects of American ideals and these monuments and memorials take on a venerated status, becoming physical manifestations of American civil religion.


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