Farewell to Christendom: The Future of Church and State in America

By Thomas J. Curry | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

More than two centuries ago, by deciding against maintaining an GM3 established church, the United States embarked on a new and radical course. It not only broke with its European roots; it departed from previous human experience. Until that time, for most of humankind—with such notable American exceptions as Rhode Island and Pennsylvania—the idea that a society could be maintained without its governing authority upholding and promoting a central belief system would have been inconceivable.

This work celebrates the historic decision embodied in the First Amendment. However, it also delineates and reflects on the continual pull of the past, the persistence of the notion that in the absence of a core religious belief system sustained by the State, freedom or even society itself is in danger of destruction.

Those who would return to state-supported religion, who seek the functionality of an established church while simultaneously attempting to avoid its inherent coercive features, are easily recognizable, most clearly to their opponents. The position that government may promote religion for the purposes of strengthening public morality has a long history, and it still attracts a good deal of support in America.

Those who perceive that the First Amendment set a different direction for America also respond to the tug of history, although in a less obvious way. Although they eschew the concept of state-supported religion, they often fail to recognize that they themselves would have

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