http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2008/06/debating_the_divine.html The iconic public square where Americans of the past used to gather to debate the politics of the day is long gone from most cities and towns, but the spirited conversations that once defi ned these places—both in myth and fact—are alive and well today. The topics of our current political and cultural conversations range from the mundane to the profound, but a recurring theme has to do with religion and politics—in particular, whether religion should be a force shaping our public policies and our common civic life. Of course, this is not a new conversation. Contrasting views about the role of religion in public life predate our nation's birth—from the Massachusett s Bay Colony, where officials collected taxes to support the Puritan church and compelled att endance at its services, to the Founders who disestablished religion from the state and drafted the Constitution without mention of God. In recent years, these conversations have been heating up. Invectives fly back and forth as opponents stake out mutually exclusive claims on behalf of truth, fairness, and the American way. Listening to each side, one is hard-pressed to tell whether we are a God-saturated, intolerant, antiintellectual theocracy—or a severely secular nation that punishes the practice of religion and banishes God altogether from our laws, policies, and public life. Debating the Divine: Religion in 21st Century American Democracy aims to turn down the heat and turn up the light. Because the issue of religion in public life is complex, encompassing theory, history, and practice, we purposely did not set up a narrowly-focused debate in which each side shot at the other, and the side with the fiercest arguments and most adherents won. Instead, we have chosen to examine the many facets of the issue in a thoughtful way, in hopes of finding new insights and, perhaps, common ground.
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