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Religion and Democracy

Further ruminations, for those not already fed up, understandably, with the debate. It’s too long for here, but it’s posted in full at my home place, where I don’t feel like I’m hogging space and burying other people under turgid prose.

Here’s a tease:

My country is torturing itself with a feud over religion. I feel sorrow for my Christian friends who again must suffer the spectacle of their Christian god being evicted from the government institutions of the United States. This time, again, the battle is over the Pledge of Allegiance as recited in the public schools.

Though not a Christian in any sense, I neither mock the faith nor regard it as irrelevant in the modern age. Rather, I appreciate its central and necessary function in American democracy.

And stop and think, fellow free-thinkers and pagans and non-Christians: Would you replace the mosaic of American Christianity with another faith? Which one? Where would you find one more inclined to steer its adherents toward public virtue, love of humankind, humility, tolerance, optimism, and non-violence?

Like the liberal Founders, who did not practice the Christian faith or believe in its theology, I would do nothing to discourage the American people from their Christianity. Even Jefferson, the deist/Unitarian who so riled the pious Christians of his day, understood this. One Sunday morning, as president, he was walking to church service, prayer book in hand, when a friend accosted him and said, “You going to church Mr. J. You do not believe a word in it.” [Americans were more familiar with their presidents then].

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  • JonBuck

    Very well put. Chuch-State entanglements only result in the corruption of both.

  • Joshua

    By now, most people familiar with the case know the “under God” was inserted into the pledge a half century after it was written. The error is not in removing it; the error was made in 1954. We are correcting it now.

    IIRC the insertion of “under God” came about after someone complained that the wording of the original Pledge smacked of Communism (recall that words like “liberty” and “justice” were staples of Soviet Communist propaganda). Rather than rewrite the Pledge from scratch, Congress evidently saw fit to simply add two words that would clearly distinguish it from a Soviet-style invocation. For this reason I wouldn’t characterize the addition as an error, but rather as a once-good idea that has outlived its usefulness (by about 16 years and counting).