A sound and spirited defense of the wall of separation between church and state. Cornell professors Kramnick (Government; The Rage of Edmund Burke, 1977, etc.) and Moore (History) offer both a history of American religious controversy and a polemic against those who contend that the Founding Fathers created a ``Christian nation'' that secular forces have recently corrupted. The thesis is that the Constitution's framers saw religion as a bulwark against immorality but believed that government had no business endorsing sectarian views; they did not want a godless America but did insist on a godless Constitution, which included a proscription of religious tests for public office, the First Amendment prohibition of established religion, and the protection of individual religious practice. The influences discussed include Roger Williams's fear that politicians acting in the name of religious values would appropriate religion to their own ``profane interests''; Locke's philosophy that government had no right to disturb private behavior that did not harm others; and the Virginia Statute drafted by Jefferson and Madison, which was a model for the Constitution's treatment of religion. The book follows the unending conflict between the founders' vision and those of their churchly critics, who opposed ratification precisely because the Constitution was godless, attempted unsuccessfully to ban Sunday mail delivery before the Civil War, and for decades tried to amend God into the Constitution. The last chapter firmly but courteously rebukes such contemporary figures as Pat Robertson and Pat Buchanan and respectfully disagrees with more complex thinkers such as Robert Bellah and Stephen L. Carter. A timely reminder, as we enter a year of electoral politicking, that even the touchiest issues can be treated with intellectual honesty and a decent appreciation for opposing views.
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