Bleached Faith: The Tragic Cost When Religion Is Forced into the Public Square

Bleached Faith: The Tragic Cost When Religion Is Forced into the Public Square

Bleached Faith: The Tragic Cost When Religion Is Forced into the Public Square

Bleached Faith: The Tragic Cost When Religion Is Forced into the Public Square

Synopsis

Public recognition of religion has been a part of American political life from the beginning of our country, and that is not going to change. But in recent years, the effort by some to challenge the long held separation of church and state by imposing religion in the public sphere has caused more harm than good.

Along the lines of other incredulous "neo-Enlightenment" books, Bleached Faith makes a forceful case that the gravest threat to real faith comes from those who would water down religion in order to win the dubious honor of forcing it into public buildings and classrooms.

The freedom of religion we enjoy in the United States, both as a matter of law and practice, is extraordinary by any measure. However, when American courts allow the government to insert religious symbolism in public spaces, real religion is the loser. Goldberg argues that people on both sides of this debate should resist this corruption of religion. The book provides a survey of the legal and political environment in which battles over the public display of the Ten Commandments, the teaching of intelligent design in our schools, and the celebration of religious holidays take place.

Goldberg firmly maintains that, "if American religion becomes a watered-down broth that is indistinguishable from consumerism and science, we will have no one to blame but ourselves. My opposition to pushing religion into the courthouse and the biology classroom does not stem from hostility to religion. I am opposed to bleached faith- the empty symbolism that diminishes the power of real belief."

Excerpt

In the Summer of 2000, the government of McCreary County, Kentucky, posted the following language in the county courthouse:

I the LORD thy God am a Jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers
upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.

This is a surprising sentiment for an overwhelmingly Christian government that had earlier described Jesus as the “Prince of Ethics.” But the government was not really endorsing this biblical passage. They were posting it because it is part of the Ten Commandments.

The Ten Commandments contain important teachings and a good deal of wisdom. But those who would post the commandments in courthouses and public buildings around the country are not really interested in studying the passages in Exodus and Deuteronomy where the commandments appear. They are posting a symbol.

The Ten commandments have become the Nike Swoosh of religion. They are a casualty of the war to push religion into the public square. This is a war where the victories are more dangerous than the defeats. When religion wins, the vague and confusing symbols that enter public view do not stir anyone's soul.

It is a sign of weakness—an admission that religion needs artificial life support—to push religious symbols into the smothering embrace of government. If the push succeeds, religion is weakened further when it is distorted to ft governmental desires. Public recognition of God has been a part of American political life from the beginning of our country, and that is not going to change. But in recent years, an effort to present religion as a set of clumsy symbols has caused more harm than good. In American culture today, religion is inevitably watered down . . .

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