For a History of the Use of ReligionrousAt Spinning Clio, Marc, writing about Michael Novak, distinguishes between the religiosity and spirituality of the sogennant Founding Fathers:
I do think things have a gone a bit too far in proclaiming that the Founders weren't really, you know, that religious and, by extension, they'd be somehow against referring to God in public. Historians have learned to contemporize their subjects in so many other areas of historical research. Yet, it seems to me that there is a deficit of contemporization with regards to how important religion was in both the daily life and the philosophy of the Founders.Now, I'm not going to discuss the merits of Novak's arguments about their attachment to Judaism as portrayed in the Old Testament (I don't believe there is much Judeo- in the Judeo-Christian Tradition). Nonetheless, Marc points out a problem about the way religion is presented in historical discourse that is not limited to the founding of the United States. Inordinate attention is paid to the doctrines and orthodoxies of faith without examining the importance of faith and its use in daily life. This is especially true in the teaching of religion in the past, and I am afraid that students believe that almost all past societies are dominated by fervent spirituality. Moreover, they become convinced that the political application of religion leads necessarily to intolerance (something I complained about last month).
Yet the application of religion is of utmost importance. Even in the Nineteenth Century, when religion supposably declined in the midst of faith in progress, religion grew in astounding ways. As Owen Chadwick pointed out (The Secularization of the European Mind in the Nineteenth Century), religion persisted despite the effectiveness of anticlerical rhetoric on faith. Surely faith lost its intimacy, but religion practice remained (perhaps even strengthened) as it became seen for its potential for moral education.
Indeed, for an age known for rationality, there were many mystics and pilgrims. This was especially true for Catholicism, which experienced a revival even though its position vis-a-vis the state progressively weakened. Suddenly it was free to concentrate on the faithful, and in some ways, to be led by them, as in the popular sentiment that grew around Bernadette
But if there is one trend that shows the change in the use of faith, it would be how religion was transformed into identity. Perhaps the best work of history I read this year, is Michael Gross' The War against Catholicism: Liberalism and Anti-Catholic Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Germany. He writes evocatively about the Catholic revival missions and the propaganda used to raise the alarm about the Jesuit presence in Germany. Protestantism, interestingly, became a foil for Liberals' campaign against Catholicism, casting the visibility of Catholics as a threat to the nation and its dominant religion.
Can religion influence the public mind in the absence of spirituality? I think it can, and does.