Archive for July 1, 2012
Two weeks ago, I wrote an article on evidence for humanity’s oldest forms of religion. In my view, many aspects of issues we face today can be illuminated by thinking about their history, and much of that history is religious in nature. That article didn’t generate many comments, but those it did convinced me this is a topic many of our readers would like to think more about. This, then, is the second in what might become a continuing series on Old Time Religion.
The separation of Church and State is one of America’s most cherished freedoms. The right to worship as we choose — or to not worship at all — without the imposition of an official national religion is the very first right listed in the Bill of Rights: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…”
Yet, in an apparent contradiction, religion has never been absent from our politics or our public discourse, and attempts to banish it completely have always failed. We want to worship as we choose; we do not want religion to be imposed; yet we want our elected officials to be religious, and many of our most important historical controversies (abolition, prohibition, civil rights, support of or opposition to various wars, and so on) have often been couched in religious terms.
The relationship between faith and society is complex, particularly in western culture. The reasons for this complexity lie rooted in European history over the last two millennia. Examining a part of that history can help us understand why it is so hard to banish religious ideas and religious motivations from our politics and our government. It may indeed be impossible to do so. We may not want to do it even if we could. (more…)