September 22, 2004

Young: When will secularism be allowed in the public square?

Cathy Young writes in Reason Online about how difficult it is for American politicians to play the religion card:
Given the liberal intelligentsia’s high tolerance for the use of traditional religion in progressive causes, it’s not surprising that hardly anyone questions the political influence of Earth-worshipping environmentalism, which novelist Michael Crichton has called "the religion of choice for urban atheists." This environmentalist "spirituality" pervades Gore’s 1992 book Earth in the Balance...

...Yet the faith-based presidency is genuinely troubling. This is not only because of the public policies justified by invoking God’s name. No less important is the symbolic message that one must be religious in order to be a part of the body politic -- in order, perhaps, to be a "real" American. It’s a message that goes hand in hand with a good deal of secularist bashing and particularly atheist bashing: In some of the Republican attacks on Democratic financier George Soros, atheist was used as a term of opprobrium.

The public’s views on this subject are more complex than the champions of religion in the public square often make them out to be. For instance, a recent Time poll found likely voters evenly divided on the question of whether the president should allow his personal faith to be his guide in making political decisions. The vast majority of Americans consider themselves religious, but about a third do not consider religion very important in their lives and attend religious services once a month or less. That’s a pretty large segment of the population to reduce to the status of political pariahs.

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