Monday, October 07, 2002

Glenn Reynolds asks, "Is the U.S. a Christian Nation?"

In what sense?

Most Americans are descended from Christians. The largest religions in the nation are Christian. I think that was what Mark Shields meant.

Pat Robertson would say that the U.S. is somehow obligated to follow his interpretations of biblical doctrine, but then, he's a weasel and the truth isn't in him.

What I find fascinating is how much of the rhetoric and moral assumption in this country is based on Christian doctrine, such as turning the other cheek, going the extra mile, forgiveness, etc. Certainly these are not unique to Christianity but their ubiquity here stems from our Christian heritage.

If you interpret "Christian nation" as meaning that Christians are entitled to greater influence or deferential treatment, I agree that the U.S. is not Christian, but secular, allowing religion to be practiced within limits, but not allowing it to overreach. However, I think that the current antipathy toward churches and religion has placed the courts on the side of intolerance of religions. By outlawing all prayers and expressions of faith, they have given athiests and bigots the power to silence everyone else. I don't think that approach advances tolerance and understanding and that it goes against the principles of the freedom clauses. The whole aim is to promote freedom, mutual respect and tolerance. Those aren't served by blanket rules against specific forms of expression.

I don't have a problem with school kids learning about what the various religions believe or how they worship.