Religion and Democracy in the United States: Danger or Opportunity?

By Alan Wolfe; Ira Katznelson | Go to book overview
Save to active project

Chapter 4
THE CONSTITUTIONS OF RELIGIOUS
PLURALISM IN THE UNITED STATES

BETTE NOVIT EVANS


INTRODUCTION

By all measures the United States is among the most religiously intense and diverse nations in the world. Our daily newspapers regularly chronicle the disastrous consequences of religious intensity and diversity across the globe. Although the United States has not been free from religious bigotry, hatred, and even violence, overall it has an enviable record for both religious freedom and peace. Mark Lilla, in a New York Times Magazine article, describes the American success as “a miracle”:

As for the American experience, it is utterly exceptional: there is no
other fully developed industrial society with a population so com-
mitted to its faiths (and such exotic ones), while being equally com-
mitted to the Great Separation. Our political rhetoric, which owes
much to the Protestant sectarians of the 17th century, vibrates with
messianic energy, and it is only thanks to a strong constitutional
structure and various lucky breaks that political theology has never
seriously challenged the basic legitimacy of our institutions. Ameri-
cans have potentially explosive religious differences over abortion,
prayer in schools, censorship, euthanasia, biological research and
countless other issues, yet they generally settle them within the
bounds of the Constitution. It’s a miracle.1

The American experience is indeed exceptional, but it is not miraculous. The United States is blessed with both a religious and a governmental pluralism that have established the conditions for our relative success in a world tormented by religious conflict. Journalist Thomas Friedman recently expressed the situation with characteristic sharpness:

The world is drifting dangerously toward a widespread religious and
sectarian cleavage—the likes of which we have not seen for a long,
long time. The only country with the power to stem this toxic trend
is America. People across the world shall look to our example of
pluralism, which is like no other.2

-114-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Religion and Democracy in the United States: Danger or Opportunity?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 444

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?