Breaking disciplinary walls in the examination of Anzac as religion

Bianca Slocombe, Michael Kilmister

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Anzac was first proposed as Australia’s civil religion in the 1960s. Since then, comparisons with conventional religion—the presence of ritual, music, and movement; the deification of symbolic figures; and the centrality of sacrifice—have continued to be observed within the humanities; these have relied primarily on observable parallels with Christian tradition. Though historians and social sciences scholars have drawn a comprehensive picture of the “who,” “what,” and “when,” traditional disciplinary silos must be overcome to compellingly address the “how” and “why.” Theoretical and empirical contributions from the scientific study of sacred values and religiosity, spanning fields of cognitive science, cultural and cognitive anthropology, and psychology, among others, can explain the pervasive cultural influence and endurance of the Anzac tradition. This paper provides an integrative analysis of the parallels between Anzac and religion. It draws on the key cognitive, environmental, and social mechanisms from the frontier of religiosity and sacred value research—minimally counterintuitive narrative structure, credibility enhancing displays (CREDs), priming, rituals and group cohesion, and the backfire effect—to provide a science-based foundation for arguments for Anzac’s religiosity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239-256
Number of pages18
JournalHuman Arenas
Issue number2
Early online date29 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Anzac
  • Australia
  • Civil religion
  • Secular belief
  • Study of religiosity
  • Supernatural belief

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)


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