UNSECULAR AMERICA by Richard John--Ed. Neuhaus


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The Rockford Institute Center on Religion and Society, a New York-based organization, has recently conducted a series of conferences on diverse religious issues in relationship to public policy. This volume, assembled from a conference held in January, 1985, on the general role of religion in America, draws together four papers running the gamut from pomposity to genuine insight, along with a blow-by-blow summary of the proceedings and a fascinating appendix supplying the results of various opinion polls on the religious beliefs of Americans. The essays proceed from a common premise, borne out by the pollsters: the United States is as religious as ever, and perhaps more so than ever before. British historian Paul Johnson surveys the history of faith in the New World, pointing out that ""the American Revolution was in essence the political and military expression of a religious movement."" Everett Ladd of the Roper Center analyzes the results of various opinion polls on religion; they reveal, among other things, that 54% of Americans pray daily, and 70% won't vote for a presidential candidate who doesn't believe in God. George M. Marsden of Calvin College ponders why America is run by nontheistic secularists. Editor Neuhaus, in a thoughtful essay marred by clunky language (""But it is precisely respect for facticity that engages us in the definitional enterprise. . .""), asks what America's purpose is if we no longer believe in its mission to bring moral light to a savage wilderness. The very detailed summary of the conference pro. ceedings recounts an outstanding, sometimes heated conversation between 27 scholars and writers (only two or three of them women), including Michael Novak and Peter Berger, a discussion that affirms the overall impression that religion is on the upsurge in America. A lively collection of writings on a topic of increasing interest to clergy, sociologists, and, of course, politicians.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1986
Publisher: Eerdman