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COUNTRY

United States

POPULATION

313,847,465 (July 2012 est.)

GDP PER CAPITA

$49,000 (2011 est.)

RELIGIONS

Protestant 51.3%, Roman Catholic 23.9%, Mormon 1.7%, other Christian 1.6%, Jewish 1.7%, Buddhist 0.7%, Muslim 0.6%, other or unspecified 2.5%, unaffiliated 12.1%, none 4% (2007 est.)


United states

United States

Posts (156)

The United States is a secular democracy with a culture rooted in its majority Christian tradition. Religious dissidents from Europe, particularly Puritans from England, were among the first North American settlers in the 17th and 18th centuries. The Declaration of Independence (1776), which marked a break with the British Crown, invoked an Enlightenment Deism, while the first amendment to the Constitution of 1789 both prohibited the establishment of religion and protected religion’s free exercise. High levels of religious diversity and observance have remained distinctive features of American society; even as waves of Catholic immigration from the 19th century onward have diluted the Protestant majority, Jewish and, more recently, Muslim minorities have assumed a more visible role in American society. With the exception of John F. Kennedy, a Catholic, all U.S. presidents have been Protestants. The engagement of religious communities in politics, which has increased since the rise of Evangelical Christianity in the 1980s, often centers on values issues such as abortion and homosexuality.


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  • June 30, 2011
    The Convention on the Rights of the Child has been ratified by all world nations EXCEPT Somalia and ... the United States. The United States signed the treaty but ratification prospects are dim, in part because of the concerns of religious conservatives. These center on the possible overriding of American laws by international ones, questions about whether the Convention might challenge homeschooling and the paramount rights of parents versus their children.
  • June 10, 2011
    The Fes Festival faced pouring rain early this week but that did not dampen the spirits of the tens of thousands of people who mill around this beautiful old city in search of beauty and the inspiration that comes from a rich menu of sacred music. In a world where interfaith dialogue rarely makes headlines and provokes not a few cynical asides, it is heartening to see both large audiences and a forest of cameras and recorders at the Festival's "idea" segment, the Fes Forum. Why? The notion of...
  • June 8, 2011
    The Fes Festival of World Sacred Music is in full swing in Morocco. Launched after the first Gulf War, this renowned musical event is now in its 17th year and, despite the troubles of our times, draws a large audience from around the world.
  • May 3, 2011
    Ross Berg is a student at Georgetown University, where he studies in Arabic and Theology. He serves as an assistant producer for The God Vote.

    As details surrounding the death of Osama bin Laden continue to emerge, this week’s episode of The God Vote, hosted by Sally Quinn and Jacques Berinerblau, considers the political and religious ramifications of bin Laden’s demise.
  • April 29, 2011
    The “hunger fast” inspired by Tony Hall, David Beckman, and others, in a passionate call for a “moral budget,” came to an end on Easter Sunday, highlighting its initial tie to the spirit and tradition of self-denial of Lent. Last week a small group met at the Buxton Initiative, which promotes interfaith dialogue and understanding, to reflect on what lay behind the fast, what it had achieved, and what comes next.
  • April 8, 2011
    Grace Atchue studies at Georgetown and works on The God Vote.

    In this week’s episode of The God Vote, Sally Quinn and Jacques Berlinerblau discuss the global implications of Florida Pastor Terry Jones’ mock trial and burning of the Koran and the riots and murders throughout Afghanistan that it incited.
  • March 31, 2011
    Tony Hall is a remarkable man. He represented Ohio in the House of Representatives for 20 years, and later served as the US ambassador to the several organizations based in Rome that are dedicated to producing and distributing food (among them the United Nations’ World Food Program). Today he heads the Alliance to End Hunger. He is a wonderful role model, that brave voice of conscience that we need today more than ever to point to what is right. He speaks out constantly, with hard truths,...
  • March 9, 2011
    In November, 2009, peace-loving Switzerland shocked itself and the world when over 57 percent of its voters supported a referendum to ban construction of new minarets. The government had opposed the proposition on the grounds that it was unconstitutional, contravening Switzerland's commitment to religious freedom. In the expectation that the measure would fail and fearing that a "positive" campaign would fuel fear, the government did not actively campaign against it. In Switzerland's unique...
  • March 1, 2011
    Sam Dinger is a student in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, majoring in International Politics and Arab Studies. He serves as the Research Supervisor for The God Vote.



    WATCH: "The core principles of Sharia are analogous to the core principles of the Constitution," says the imam behind the planned Islamic center near Ground Zero. Imam Rauf also talks about his hopes for the Muslim Brotherhood, the revolts in the Middle East and what he thinks of the arguments made by...
  • February 14, 2011
    A group of American Christians, most of them evangelicals, met for four days last weekend with a distinguished group of Moroccans at Eastern Mennonite University, concluding with a public session Monday at Georgetown University's Berkley Center. To an outsider, the point of the conclave was not easy to fathom. It opened with a showing of a terrifying film about nuclear threats: Countdown to Zero, and concluded with heartfelt statements of shared interests and values. What was it all about?...
  • February 8, 2011
    The rapid-fire events in Tunisia and Egypt have caught people everywhere by surprise. That's especially true in the neighborhood (North Africa and the Middle East). As I headed for Morocco for a weekend conference, I hoped to emerge with a far clearer understanding, both of what sparked these popular upheavals now, and what might lie ahead. What I found were people torn between a euphoric hope, especially at the unleashing of freedom of speech, and uncertainty laced with fear for the future....
  • February 4, 2011
    President Obama spoke on Thursday morning at the 59th annual National Prayer Breakfast. The gathering is one of those peculiar Washington pageants that elicits diametrically opposed reactions from those who bother to take note of its existence.
  • January 24, 2011
    National pride is palpable in South Africa but so are the stunning challenges that face what is in many respects a new nation, reborn with the death knell to Apartheid in 1994. Nowhere are the roots of both more evident than on Constitution Hill in Johannesburg. There sits a unique South African institution, its Constitutional Court, with 11 judges who can (and do) instruct political leaders on constitutional principles and uphold South Africa's young constitution, that took effect in 1997.

  • January 3, 2011
    David Brooks does a great service with his annual Sidney Awards: his selection of what he considers the best magazine articles from the past year. Two of his choices--Lawrence Rosen's provocative piece on corruption and Tyler Cowan's piece on inequality (both published in the American Interest)--are worthy winners. Both writers highlight how different understandings about fairness and ethics are fundamental to what may be the most crucial issues in international politics. To make progress on...
  • December 6, 2010
    Trinidad and Tobago hardly seems a likely battleground for America's culture wars. But recent months have seen a drama there involving visits by American pastors with an anti-gay agenda, a response by locally based rights groups, and engagement of international organizations, especially UNAIDS, which coordinates international responses to HIV/AIDS. At a United Nations training session in Turin, Italy, last month, the Trinidad and Tobago story was presented as a case study of challenges and...
  • November 20, 2010
    The woman from Malawi stepped gingerly towards the barrier at the top of the Empire State Building to peek at New York City spread out below. She commented that the tallest building in her community was two stories high. The worlds of skyscraper New York and rural Malawi could not be much further apart.
  • November 15, 2010
    Damon Linker - former editor of "First Things" and author of the book Theocons - has written a new book entitled The Religious Test. In the book, he argues on behalf of several "tests" whereby the belief of political leaders can be measured and assessed by the polity. He argues that religious expressions are to stand before the bar of liberalism, and where found wanting, should be rejected by the electorate and even curtailed by the liberal state.
  • November 13, 2010
    While most Catholic eyes are directed toward Rome where new cardinals will be created on November 20, an important leadership transition is taking place in the United States where a new president will be chosen for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. While people in red hats tend to get noticed, the president of the bishops' conference is the closest thing the American church has to a real national leader.
  • November 1, 2010
    Aicha Ech-Channa sat six feet away from the Moroccan Ambassador to the United States last Friday in a Georgetown University lecture room. She jabbed her verbal sword at a host of social prejudices. Hunching her shoulders, she depicted the posture of shame of an unmarried mother who loves her child but has no way to care for him. She grabbed a scarf to cover her head and face to convey the fear a young girl feels, left alone in the world and beleaguered by problems. Aicha was talking last week...
  • October 26, 2010
    There was such a flurry of activity in Rome last week that it seemed as if the Eternal City was, once again, the center of the world. Bishops from all over the Middle East met in conclave, new cardinals were proclaimed and new saints were canonized. With a candlelight march, the Community of Sant'Egidio commemorated the dark day in 1943 when Rome's Jewish community was deported to concentration camps.
  • October 23, 2010
    The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, which describes itself as "a nonpartisan 'fact tank,'" has recently garnered immense media and popular attention with its "U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey."
  • October 20, 2010
    With the appointment of 20 cardinal electors, Pope Benedict XVI continues to put his mark on the College of Cardinals, which will eventually elect his successor. Benedict has now appointed 40% of the college, with the rest chosen by his predecessor. Granted his age, these could easily be the cardinals who will choose the next pope.
  • September 24, 2010
    When British businessmen and civil servants arrived in India in the 19th Century, they were flummoxed by the extraordinary diversity of the religious landscape. It still exists today. Fakirs, swamis, mullahs, imams, monks, nuns, dadis, and brothers are everywhere. When new religious movements emerge in India, they mobilize millions, not thousands, of devoted followers. This rich mixture, one person suggested at a meeting in Delhi on religion and global civil society last weekend, is so...
  • September 24, 2010
    In the second installment of a blog post in The Public Discourse, Thomas Farr argues that we must oppose violent extremists in part by promoting freedom of religion, both at home and abroad. Part one is available here.
  • September 22, 2010
    This blog post originally appeared in The Public Discourse, an online blog arm of the Witherspoon Institute, on September 22, 2010. The second installment of this blog post is available here.
  • September 8, 2010
    Jobs and spirituality rarely occur in the same phrase, yet few states are as soul-destroying as unemployment and for many of us, our work vocation is central to life's purpose and direction. Thus the notion of "decent work," a central mantra of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), has both practical and strongly ethical dimensions. ILO's definition is, after all, an international standard that is supposed to reflect our common ideal.

  • July 28, 2010
    With all the loud clamoring about the proposed Islamic Center to be built near Ground Zero, reasonable voices are hard to discern. One thing is clear: this is not a debate about religious freedom. A mosque by peaceful Muslims of good will, unrelated to perpetrating the 9/11 attacks has every right to exist anywhere on these shores. It is the worst form of religious intolerance--and very un-American--to think that one form of religion has limits on where and when it may be practiced.
  • July 12, 2010
    Dekha Ibrahim Abdi, a courageous woman from the arid north of Kenya, devotes her life to building peace. She compares this work to an egg. "An egg is delicate and fragile. But if given the right conditions, it gives life." Likewise, the potential for peace is fragile, and it needs careful nurturing if that potential is to be fulfilled.
  • June 7, 2010
    In a previous post, I voiced the fear that the Obama administration was placing U.S. international religious freedom (IRF) policy on the back burner, subordinating it to other less compelling administration priorities, or clearing the deck for initiatives that might be complicated by a robust defense of religious liberty abroad (such as outreach to Muslim majority countries or promoting international gay rights).
  • May 20, 2010
    Some people's faith in the marketplace is almost religious. It is so absolute that even the current economic crisis has not convinced them of the importance of sensible government regulation. Such faith is certainly not part of Catholic doctrine.
  • May 10, 2010
    In airports nowadays it's quite common to see groups of people, young and old, heading overseas as part of a church group. They are part of a large, totally decentralized American engagement with other parts of the world: short mission trips to dig wells and build stoves and help orphans and engage in other good works.
  • May 6, 2010
    The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (IRF) has come down hard on the Obama administration for its failure to promote international religious liberty. "U.S. foreign policy on religious freedom," said Commission chairman Leonard Leo, "is missing the mark."
  • May 3, 2010
    A cycle of disappointment has taken hold in the Côte d'Ivoire. Month after month of behind-the-scenes discussions raise hopes; too often they are dashed even before the ink on peace agreements has time to dry. Optimism and commitment wither in the face of continual failure.
  • April 28, 2010
    The cross in the desert can stay.

    Or, more precisely, the federal government can go ahead with a land transfer with a VFW chapter to allow the cross to stay on formerly federal land in the Mojave National Preserve. In a narrow--and technical--decision, the Court decided 5-4 that the land transfer Congress mandated was permissible and the injunction that the lower court had issued was improperly decided. Does it tell us anything about the establishment clause? Not much.

  • April 27, 2010
    With 200,000 American troops committed to two wars in the greater Middle East and the U.S. president leading a major international effort to block Iran's nuclear program, resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has become a strategic imperative.
    -- Martin Indyk, New York Times, April 19, 2010.


    Martin Indyk is a long-time friend of Israel who previously served as U.S. ambassador to Tel Aviv. He also directs foreign policy programs for Brookings, an institution with close ties to the Obama...
  • April 19, 2010
    Don't blame Nigeria's violent conflicts on religion, Nigeria's acting president, Goodluck Jonathan, argued forcefully during a far-ranging discussion last Monday at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington. The brutal conflict that took place near the city of Jos last month (where as many as 500 people died) reflects tensions between longtime residents and recent settlers, plus economic misery, not a clash between Christianity and Islam.
  • April 16, 2010
    The 59th National Day of Prayer is scheduled for May 6. It is supposed to be a day of unity for citizens to come together in reflection. Instead, our deep-seated confusions about the proper boundaries between religious practice and governmental power have turned the official recognition into a huge wedge issue. Good intentions on every side have led to corrupted outcomes. And now a federal judge says it is unconstitutional.

  • April 15, 2010
    The media is being attacked by the defenders of Pope Benedict who feel that its coverage of the sex abuse crisis is unfair. Do some reporters do a sloppy job reporting? Sure. Are some commentators over the top in their rhetoric? Sure. When the argument is between The New York Times and the Catholic Church, it may simply be one infallible institution taking on another.
  • April 12, 2010
    The hot spots this week are Kyrgyzstan and Bangkok, but every day brings new reports of riots and unrest somewhere in the world. America has rarely seemed as unsettled as it is today. Angry "tea parties" inspire similarly angry "coffee parties". I was invited recently to a "green tea party" to protest inaction on climate change. Some Catholic Church leaders seem like deer caught in the headlights as they stare into the public furor inspired by their reaction to the abuse scandals. There's...
  • March 31, 2010
    Like most bishops, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI, did not understand the sexual abuse crisis when it first appeared. He underestimated its extent and scope.
  • March 29, 2010
    Stephen Heinz, President of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, is passionate about democracy. For him, it is about far more than voting and congressional battles. It is a way of life, a set of fundamental values, a will that leads to courage, reason, compassion and the common good. America has no right to impose its democracy on others but it has a responsibility to live its values and to share them. He terms his deep belief a civic faith.

  • March 22, 2010
    Two statues of women dominate the central square of Hopkins, a small town in Belize. One celebrates Martina Vicente, a true matriarch figure (a sign says 85% of the town's population claim her as their ancestress). The other is of Marcella Lewis, poet, musician, writer and patroness of the town but also of the Garifuna community, a proud and distinctive ethnic group now concentrated in Central America. "She lived to love and she loved to live," says the inscription; legend has it that her...
  • March 18, 2010
    The Catholic bishops of the United States are calling for the defeat of the Senate health care bill because they say it will provide federal funding for abortion. Sister Carol Keehan, the head of the Catholic Health Association, disagrees as does a group of sisters who head religious congregations. Are the sisters being naïve or are the bishops paranoid?

  • March 9, 2010
    President Obama has on several occasions articulated his commitment to international religious freedom. Unfortunately, his State Department appears to be on a course that will seriously downgrade the nation's international religious freedom policy.
  • March 1, 2010
    Do religious individuals and groups possess a right to share their beliefs with others in the hope that those beliefs will be embraced? For many, including most Muslims and Christians, religion represents an objective and universal Truth, one that comprehends the temporal good and the eternal destiny of all persons. For those who believe they have access to such a Truth, the desire to offer it to others is both natural and rational. After all, if the claims of Islam are true, should we not...
  • February 26, 2010
    Does the Establishment Clause prevent the President from using or aiding religion as part of foreign policy? Absolutely not, so long as it is not action upon U.S. citizens.

  • February 9, 2010
    Bahá'í lawyer and activist Sovaida Ma'ani Ewing speaks of the persecution of the Bahá'í community in Iran and the ongoing trial of 7 community members accused of spying for Israel and the United States.

  • February 8, 2010
    Last week's National Prayer Breakfast cast a spotlight on the gaps between what people of faith say (and pray) and what they actually do. President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton both discussed the puzzle of how religion can be such a uniting force, but also such a divisive one.

  • January 15, 2010
    Almost 300 years ago, the first Catholic sisters arrived in America and began a ministry that would not just shape American Catholicism but the nation itself. "Women and Spirit," an exhibit that just opened at the Smithsonian Institution, tells the story of these Spirit-filled women and how they served the people of the United States in education, health care and social justice.

  • January 13, 2010
    THE Islamic Republic of Iran is not about to implode. Nevertheless, the misguided idea that it may do so is becoming enshrined as conventional wisdom in Washington.
    -- Flynt and Hillary Leverett, New York Times, January 5, 2010.

  • January 10, 2010
    Africa, with its complex mosaic of countries and communities, is in the throes of religious revolution. Some trends are troubling--witness the Nigerian Muslim who tried to blow up a plane and the move to make homosexuality a capital offense in Uganda. Yet other trends may offer hope.

  • December 4, 2009
    THE most important moment in President Obama's Dec. 1 speech on Afghanistan came when he outlined his administration's exit strategy. "Additional American and international troops," he asserted, "will allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July 11, 20011. Just as we have done in Iraq, we will execute this transition responsibly, taking into account conditions on the ground."

  • November 25, 2009
    Thursday we commemorate the sacrifices and hardships of our forbears, and that first Thanksgiving feast that punctuated an otherwise difficult and often harrowing existence. We celebrate with tables that will (in many cases) overflow with food, and then with a weekend of shopping in anticipation of the gift-giving of Christmas. We give thanks for all that we have, in many cases, so much more than the Pilgrims whose rugged and threadbare lives we honor.

  • November 25, 2009
    Happy Thanksgiving. Simple words that conjure images of national traditions like pumpkin pie and roasted turkey, and family and friends gathered in holiday cheer. Central to that tradition is the presidential proclamation for a National Day of Thanksgiving.

  • November 22, 2009
    In this episode of Faith Complex we interview Hadar Susskind, Director of Policy and Strategy at J Street. Mr. Susskind discusses his groups position on the Gaza War, the Goldstone Report, and sanctions on Iran. We talk about J Streets apparent move to the political center and what role anti-Zionists played in their recent conference. In order to get a different view, next week we interview Michael Goldfarb, online editor of The Weekly Standard, and a perceptive critic of J Street.
  • November 16, 2009

    We're seeing many calls to conscience these days. Nibbling breakfast, I clicked on a video where Jacques Diouf, head of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, calls on people everywhere to sign an appeal to the World Food Summit that begins November 16 in Rome. He counts aloud to six, then reminds us that in that time a child has died. Karen Armstrong launched a Charter of Compassion on November 12 in Washington. Its aim is a groundswell of citizen action to live the golden...

  • November 4, 2009
    Octavio Gonzalez, a graduate of Georgetown University, would be picking corn and raising a few cattle in El Teul de Gonzalez, Mexico, if his father had not illegally trekked across the hills at the U.S.-Mexico border near San Ysidro, California, in 1969.

  • October 21, 2009
    President Hamid Karzai's last minute agreement to hold a second round of presidential elections on November 7 could be nothing more than a cynical ploy. The notion that the international community can work with domestic monitors to effectively prepare for such elections in the next 16 days, and that this run-off will produce a credible victor, is questionable.

  • October 15, 2009
    As President Obama ponders U.S. goals, strategy and tactics in Afghanistan, the U.S. Catholic bishops have offered him the perspective of Catholic teaching and experience in an October 7 letter to his national security adviser, General James L. Jones.

  • October 4, 2009

    The "God Gulf," title of a chapter in Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn's book, "Half the Sky," describes one of the more contentious issues in American foreign policy, one where religion plays a profound role. The divide is around family planning, but it relates directly to broader questions of women's roles and the power they hold to direct their own lives. As Kristof and WuDunn put it, "secular liberals and conservative Christians regularly square off. Each side has the best of...

  • October 1, 2009
    U2's 360 tour came to the DC region Tuesday--complete with a 164-foot tall spaceship stage and glitzy light show. The tunes were smooth and sexy; the stage was spectacular--even carnivalesque. But what stole the show was Bono's prophetic message about human dignity and rights.

  • September 28, 2009

    Newsweek has some edgy covers these days. How about, "The Case for Killing Granny"? Sure catches the eye. But "Is your Baby Racist?" on September 14, with an adorable little face staring innocently out, is equally disturbing.

  • September 20, 2009
    Last week I wrote in "The Green Pope" about Benedict XVI's concerns about environmental issues. His theological vision sees creation as a gift from God to all people, which can be used for the common good but not in a selfish and destructive way.
  • September 15, 2009
    Pope Benedict XVI has been called the "green pope" because of his concern for the environment. Last year, he installed solar panels to generate electricity on roofs in the Vatican, and this year he added them to his home in Germany. Recently, the Vatican installed high-tech solar collectors to help heat and cool its buildings. He has also made the Vatican the first carbon neutral state through forests offsetting the Vatican carbon footprint.
  • September 14, 2009
    Two contrasting images hovered over the September 6-8 "Prayer for Peace" in Cracow, Poland. The first was the benevolent visage of Pope John Paul II, with his Cracow roots, and the memory of the exuberant role he played in Poland's transformation and, after 1989, throughout the world. Recollections of the horrors that happened not far away, at Auschwitz and Birkenau, and during the conflagration of World War II conveyed very different images and feelings. The prayers were both for a hopeful...
  • September 10, 2009
    One of the emerging lessons of the Obama administration's foreign policy might be summed up as follows: The idea that presidential "direct diplomacy" with actors such as Chávez, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong Il or Fidel Castro is feasible or likely to produce results is, well, naive.

    --Jackson Diehl, The Washington Post

    Is the idea of "direct diplomacy" with our most troublesome rivals dead, at least for the moment? Perhaps. Is the idea of engagement still alive and kicking? I hope so.
  • September 10, 2009
    Critics of a New Jersey mosque's plans to hold a prayer event on the National Mall are wrong in their views of religious liberty.

    The Star-Ledger reported last week that a mosque in Elizabeth, New Jersey, Dar-ul-Islam, will spearhead a national prayer gathering for September 25 in Washington, D.C., "that organizers are billing as the first event of its kind--organized prayer for tens of thousands of Muslims outside the U.S. Capitol building."
  • September 8, 2009
    In the Gospels, Jesus spends much of his time trying to teach us that God loves us and that the proper response to this love is to love God and our neighbors. He did this trough his preaching but also through his miracles, the most common of which was healing the sick.
  • September 8, 2009
    In the Gospels, Jesus spends much of his time trying to teach us that God loves us and that the proper response to this love is to love God and our neighbors. He did this trough his preaching but also through his miracles, the most common of which was healing the sick.

  • September 7, 2009
    Labor Day evokes images of politics and picnics, summer's end and a fresh school year. But this celebration of work and workers has important spiritual dimensions. First celebrated in the late nineteenth century (1882), when active labor disputes were the stuff of constant tension, Labor Day gradually came to be celebrated as a national holiday in all fifty states. And by a resolution of the American Federation of Labor convention of 1909, the Sunday before Labor Day was declared Labor...
  • August 16, 2009
    Hospital waiting rooms are glum places pretty much everywhere. People, sick or injured, wait and wait and wait. Nowhere are the huge gaps between rich and poor so graphically in evidence. That's the essence of the American health reform challenge, however deeply it gets submerged in the passionate debates now raging: to bridge those gaps so that the misery of illness is not compounded by inability to pay.
  • July 20, 2009
    A story. In 1854, a baby girl was very sick with diarrhea. Her mother washed the diapers and threw the waste water into a cesspit under a house in their Soho neighborhood. Within weeks a cholera epidemic had killed some 700 people in the neighborhood. Thousands more were sick.

  • July 10, 2009
    Only U.S. Rep. Steve King of Iowa saw the problem with a plaque honoring the slaves who helped build the U.S. Capitol.

    King, a Republican, was the only House member to vote against House Resolution 135, "directing the Architect of the Capitol to place a marker in Emancipation Hall in the Capitol Visitor Center which acknowledges the role that slave labor played in the construction of the United States Capitol." He said he was standing firm on his principles to preserve the "Judeo-Christian"...
  • July 10, 2009
    President Obama and Pope Benedict had a cordial and serene meeting, according to the pope's spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, who was briefed by the pope after the meeting. The meeting went for about 40 minutes, twice as long as scheduled.

    Obama told the pope that the just-completed G-8 meeting in the Italian city of L'Aquila was "very productive" and resulted in "great progress."
  • July 6, 2009
    "Obama Fever Grips Accra" reads the banner headline of Ghana's Daily Graphic. President Obama arrives here July 10 for his first African visit as president. U.S. Air Force planes crisscross the airport and the streets are loaded with Obama memorabilia.

  • June 29, 2009
    Richard Cizik puts the protest back in Protestant. It is impossible not to watch this new video interview I conducted with him without pausing to marvel at how many mainstream Evangelical theological and political positions he challenges. That he does so with charm and wit just makes it all the more entertaining.

    Faith Complex is hosted by Jacques Berlinerblau, produced by Thomas Banchoff and sponsored by the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs and the Program for Jewish...
  • June 29, 2009
    The annual ritual of the G8 Summit is upon us. There are plenty about other Gs (groups) - the G2 (U.S. and China), the G20 and the G77. Cynics speak of a G1, suggesting that the United States rules the roost. But the G8 is still the pinnacle of the world's powerful and rich. So these meetings are a magnet for those who would like to sit at the table and shape the world's agenda.

  • June 20, 2009
    Here's a topic that deserves center stage this Father's Day: family planning. It's an improbable but vital issue for Father's Day for two reasons: It's more often linked to women than to men, and it's shrouded in tensions, many with religious overtones.

  • June 16, 2009
    Meeting in San Antonio June 17-19, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has an agenda that will keep it busy but it will not deal with the real issues facing the church: how to interact with Obama and how to respond to the exodus of one third of Catholics from the church.

    Once again the bishops will discuss and vote on new English translations of liturgical prayers. Over the last few years, the bishops have gradually adopted new translations that are worse than the ones in current use...
  • June 1, 2009
    It will not be enough for...Obama to...say... that he understands... and sympathizes with [Muslims], as they too are the victims of the terrorism of extremists...Most Muslims will listen carefully to what he will say on June 4, and they are expecting clear steps for a radical solution to the Palestinian issue, as a fundamental key to restoring trust in the United States.
    --Raghida Dergham

    Candor requires acknowledging that too many Arab states have exploited the Arab-Israeli conflict for...
  • May 18, 2009

    One of the world's longest running and nastiest wars, in Sri Lanka, may be near an end. Sri Lankan government troops have cornered remnants of a force called terrorists by some, nationalist guerrillas by others: the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam or LTTE. Over 70,000 people have died in a conflict that has raged, off and on, since 1983. Peace would indeed be a blessing.

  • May 11, 2009

    Mother's Day sees outpourings of affection, funny stories, floral tributes on the Google home page, and a blizzard of phone calls and emails. There's something wonderfully universal in the sentiments, the ritual but warm tributes and the somewhat sheepish acknowledgment of the vital role that mothers play. They keep daily life together, serving up Cheerios and bandaging skinned knees, at the same time that they convey the basic values that guide our lives. Mothers like Ann Dunham Soetoro, who...

  • May 9, 2009
    First Prize for Best Concluding Lines in a Middle East Policy Article goes to Fouad Ajami. In a clever observation about Syria's current leader, he writes:

    "Assad has not been brilliant in the way he has handled the inheritance his father bequeathed to him, but the Assad dynasty and the intelligence barons and the brigade commanders who sustain the regime can be relied on to fight for what they usurped. After all, they stole it fair and square."

  • April 24, 2009

    The video shows the brutal beating of a young girl, well covered in her burka and red trousers, screaming and struggling as she is held down by a man and a woman. The scene symbolizes the tensions tearing Pakistan apart and it raises a host of questions. Is this what Sharia law is about? What does this primitive justice by bearded Taliban leaders portend for Pakistan? For south Asia? What's caused the Swat Valley, a region celebrated for peace, civility, and beauty, to change so rapidly? And...

  • April 20, 2009
    "Vatican Unhappy with Obama Ambassador Picks," scream the headlines. The only problem is that the stories are totally false.

    First the stories were about Douglas Kmiec, a law professor at Pepperdine University, who supported Obama for president even though Kmiec is pro-life. Then the stories moved on to Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of President Kennedy, who was said to be rejected because she is pro-choice. Why both a pro-life and a pro-choice candidate would be rejected was never...
  • April 16, 2009
    President Obama heralded an encouraging new tone when he told Turkey's Parliament on Monday that the United States "is not and will never be at war with Islam...America's relationship with the Muslim community, the Muslim world, cannot and will not just be based upon opposition to terrorism...We seek broader engagement based upon mutual interest and mutual respect."

  • April 15, 2009

    How can the United States harness the extraordinary organizational capacity of global religions and turn them into a force for peace and welfare? That's a question the Obama administration should confront early on. The faith factor can and should be a critical part of America's public diplomacy--and not a piece apart but integrally linked to the core question of how the "smart" new diplomacy needs to unfold.

  • March 27, 2009
    Iraqi officials...are courteously telling...visiting Arab officials...that Iraq has "special relations with Iran," but that these ties should not compromise Iraq's commitment to being a crucial Arab player...For purposes of confrontation and for those of dialogue, Iraq will remain the key scene of Arab --and possibly America --encounters with Iran.
    --Dina Ezzat, "Standing by Iraq." Al-Ahram Weekly.


    One of the Obama administration's manifold Middle East challenges is how Iraq will reintegrate...
  • March 24, 2009
    Controversy over commencement speakers at Catholic universities pops up every spring along with the tulips. This year the controversy is over President Obama speaking at Notre Dame University May 17. Some have objected that this is a violation of the bishops' statement Catholics in Political Life. This is absurd.

    According to Catholics in Political Life, "The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They...
  • December 19, 2008
    A {New York} transit rider...was dragged out of a public meeting by police who feared he was about to imitate the Iraqi journalist who hurled his shoes at President Bush..."This shoe's for you," he shouted as he was hustled out. New York Times, December 18, 2008.

  • December 12, 2008
    My Hanukkah Memo to President Elect Barack Obama:

    Dear President-elect Obama,

    Every Washington think-tank has its foreign policy wish list. We'll do our part at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) on January 8, when we hold our "Passing the Baton" event. Still, I want to say something directly to you, something that is both a bit personal and wonkish.

  • November 19, 2008

    After the euphoria that greeted America's presidential election, I was a bit taken aback to discern a tremor of concern rippling through a group of religious leaders from every corner of the world gathered in Cyprus this week. Their worry: expectations are so high that Barack Obama simply cannot meet them. As I pushed back against that assumption, I could see that our historic election has raised not just expectations for what the United States will do, but what people hope and expect from...

  • November 14, 2008

    Diana Eck, Harvard scholar, has documented the stunning religious change that America is experiencing. I glimpsed a piece of it last Saturday night.

  • November 11, 2008

    Picking up where we left off yesterday, here are the most important Faith and Values stories of 2008:

    5. The rise of Progressive Evangelicals in triumph and glory?: All year long observers of American religion (myself included) have been predicting that 2008 would be the coming-out party for centrist and progressive Evangelicals. Unlike their conservative co-religionists, these new kids on the block would focus on issues other than abortion and gays. And by all accounts they were kids; it...

  • November 10, 2008

    As promised, here are some of the most important Faith and Values stories of the 2008 election (compare them, if you wish, to those of 2007). My rankings in reverse order:

    10: The Rise of the Faith-Based Operative: Last week, while giving a lecture at the American Academy of Religion and noticing scores of unshaven, scraggly, hung-over and rather forlorn-looking male and female graduate students strewn about the audience, I had an inspiration: "There will be more jobs in politics for those...

  • November 4, 2008

    Now that Barack Obama is president-elect we have to figure out how issues pertaining to religion contributed to his victory. I will get to the exit-poll data tomorrow, but tonight I want to float the following theory: On the Faith and Values front Obama won this election, in part, because he avoided all the errors made by the Kerry campaign in 2004.

  • November 4, 2008

    The long road to the U.S. presidential election has gripped people all over the world. Millions have followed the horse race minute by minute, puzzled over the gaffes and slogans, and figuratively scratched their heads. This campaign has challenged the deeply held image of a racist America.

  • October 30, 2008

    Georgetown University had the pleasure yesterday of hosting a variety of scholars, analysts, and activists at a conference devoted to the Jewish vote and the 2008 election. Many of our guests addressed issues that I have been writing about in this column and I'll discuss some of their views below. But remember that I am refracting their opinions through my own lens (and my lens is darkening at this late hour). So the opinions I attribute to them are, if you will, solely my own:

  • October 29, 2008

    Yesterday, I made a variety of predictions about the way Evangelicals might vote next week. Today, I turn to Jews. But since tomorrow I am going to have a lot of experts, advocates and Beltway Insider Types lecturing about this subject at Georgetown University, I want to see what they have to say before going out on a limb. I will report back to you about the conference on Friday. For now, a few predictions and a few observations:

  • October 17, 2008

    Jesuit schools around the world have educated an amazing array of world leaders and citizens and are renowned for their excellence and discipline. That is true of places like Georgetown University--but also, around the world, in very poor communities "where the asphalt ends."

  • October 16, 2008

    If you knew absolutely nothing about the United States (but wanted to know) and predicated your quest for knowledge solely on the three 2008 presidential debates between John McCain and Barack Obama you might come to the conclusion that American politicians have no desire to infuse their politics with religion. Events like last night's encounter at Hofstra University were so bereft of reference to faith-based issues, you might conclude that the United States was France!

    What does it all...

  • October 15, 2008

    It's not that I assume that Barack Obama is going to be the next president of the United States (in fact, I anticipate a furious charge from a devil-may-care John McCain in the next 21 days).

    But when conservative columnist William Kristol is urging the Republican presidential nominee to divest himself of an operationally incompetent and strategically incoherent campaign apparatus, then perhaps we can at least take a peek, a look-see, at a future in which a Democrat runs the country. Which...

  • October 9, 2008

    This past Sunday Governor Sarah Palin expressed surprise as to why her campaign has said so little about the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. She told New York Times Op-Ed columnist William Kristol that she didn't understand "why that association isn't discussed more, because those were appalling things that that pastor had said about our great country, and to have sat in the pews for 20 years and listened to that -- with, I don't know, a sense of condoning it, I guess, because he [Obama] didn't get...

  • September 29, 2008

    Yesterday, the Alliance Defense Fund staged its highly anticipated and controversial "Pulpit Freedom Sunday." Last night, I spoke by phone with three figures who have actively challenged or questioned the ADF's initiative. All agreed the stunt was a massive violation of federal tax law that should result in IRS sanctions.

    According to the ADF's site, 33 pastors in 22 states were expected to preach "about the moral qualifications of candidates seeking political office. The pastors will...

  • September 21, 2008

    On September 28th the socially conservative Alliance Defense Fund is going to goad, stoke and provoke a federal agency that most Americans hope will never, ever take notice of them. That agency would be the Internal Revenue Service and let me add that you must really be devoted to an issue, or certain of victory, or a masochist it you want to publicly draw a line in the sand with this office of government.

  • September 15, 2008

    This past Friday marked the first time since John McCain's selection of a vice-presidential running mate that the Democrats actually "won" a daily news cycle.

    Your weekend was eventful, so to refresh your memory: Sarah Palin did not exactly kill in her interview with Charles Gibson. Alaska lawmakers voted not to delay further inquiries into Troopergate until after the election. And most importantly, John McCain was taken to task on The View for recent attack ads on Barack Obama.

    ...

  • August 26, 2008

    Hillary Clinton delivered a resplendent, American Odyssey of a speech last night. In so doing, she may have finally reanimated the increasingly lifeless campaign of her one-time rival, Barack Obama. Too, her address made nary a mention of religion and faith.

    Michelle Obama also laid off the God Talk in her remarks on Monday. That's two nights in a row! Two nights in a row of what Republicans would have once dubbed as "godlessness" emanating from the featured speakers at the...

  • August 17, 2008

    The hands-down winner of Saturday evening's Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency was John McCain. The loser was American secularism. As for Barack Obama, well, let's just say it was his most Dukakis-y performance yet.

    .

  • July 9, 2008

    Barack Obama, that spry Prometheus of the Religious Politicking Heavens, graciously offers observers of Faith and Values outreach something to write (and even think) about nearly every day.

    He commandeers pulpits and makes inspiring speeches. He schmoozes with fence- straddling Evangelical and Catholic clergy. Without any prompting, he offers to play out George W. Bush’s third term by expanding his program of faith-based initiatives.

    But what about John McCain? When it comes to politics...

  • July 2, 2008

    Yesterday Senator Obama delivered a bold address in which he spoke of establishing a “Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.” This endeavor, he emphasized, “will be a critical part of my administration.”

    I am not a legal scholar, but a mere biblical exegete. This disqualifies me from commenting authoritatively or even insightfully on the legality of this proposal--a proposal made by a politician who, incidentally, knows his constitutional law.

    Still,...

  • June 23, 2008

    Mississippi native Burns Strider was, until just a few weeks ago, Senior Adviser and Director of Faith Based Outreach for Senator Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign. As readers of The God Vote might recall, I thought the team he led performed quite skillfully.

    Having completed his duties for the Clinton campaign, Mr. Strider has recently announced the formation of The Eleison Group (of which he is a Founding Partner). He describes it as “a full service firm focusing on...

  • May 29, 2008

    By the time you finish watching this YouTube video(which had about 95,000 showings as of this morning) it will be well on its way to reaching: 1) its one millionth viewing, and, 2) its one billionth close reading by Clinton and McCain staffers.

    The action took place last Sunday at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. Yes. That Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago! This time, however, the valedictory is made not by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, but by a white Chicago Catholic priest...

  • May 27, 2008

    The disconnects among different worlds come through powerfully at World Economic Forum (WEF) meetings. Bringing everyone together under one tent is a feat all by itself, but once they get there they can talk quite different languages.

  • May 20, 2008

    The World Economic Forum (WEF) holds its principal, and best known, meeting at Davos each January but regional meetings in different parts of the world are taking on increasing importance. The annual Middle East meeting, which has for the past few years alternated between the Dead Sea complex in Jordan and Sharm El Sheikh, in Egypt, took place this year at Sharm El Sheikh, from May 18-20. As part of this large gathering (some 1300 participants plus staff), a series of private meetings about...

  • May 20, 2008

    Much has been said over the past few weeks about the fatal, tactical missteps made by Hillary Clintonâs campaign. These include a troubling lack of caucus know-how, an overabundance of underestimating the competition, and shortsightedness in long-term planning for the primary season.

    After tonight's Oregon primary, it seems likely that more autopsic observations such as these are in store for tomorrow. But if there is one component of Clinton's operation that does not deserve the label...

  • May 16, 2008

    Seamus Finn OMI is a priest with the Catholic religious order, Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. He spends a good amount of his time on investment issues. He is a âœsocially responsible investingâ (SRI) consultant and a leader in a new international effort to bring different religious traditions together in using their financial muscle for worthy causes. I asked him what is most on his mind these days: Wheat subsidies? Mining ventures? Gas prices? No, he said, outrage in his voice, it's...

  • May 8, 2008

    The global food crisis came like a tsunami, with amazing speed and stealth. Development institutions everywhere are scrambling to face the urgent problems and questions that come in its wake.

    There's the immediate problem: How to find funds to buy enough food to meet steep increases in demand to feed hungry people here and now.

  • May 8, 2008
    "What do the American people think of Ayatollah Khomeini?â an Iranian TV reporter asked me on my first visit to Tehran in 1999. For a moment I was stumped. If I answered truthfully, I would have to say that the vast majority of Americans had never heard of Khomeini. But Iranian hardliners might easily exploit this observation. And so I simply suggested that most Americans didnât follow international politicsâ”this was the task of a foreign policy elite whose opinions on Iran were as...
  • Varities of anti-religious imagination
    April 30, 2008

    Ates Altinordu writes on the Immanent Frame: The publication of Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age has fostered an exceptionally vibrant intellectual debate on secularism and on the conditions of belief under modernity, as the readers of this blog very well know. For the social sciences at least, this fundamental rethinking on secularism inspired by Taylor’s work could not be any timelier: the stand-off between classical secularization theorists and the proponents of the religious...

  • April 14, 2008

    There were many winners at Sunday night’s Compassion Forum at Messiah College and no discernible losers as far as I could tell.

    For starters, the sponsoring and organizing group, Faith in Public Life, handled logistics superbly. FPL is setting an agenda and it is doing so with a “Big Tent” philosophy of letting different religious Americans bring their concerns to the fore. Last night a theologically diverse group of pre-selected clergy asked questions about euthanasia,...

  • April 4, 2008

    Avoid religion and politics at the dinner table -- so goes the conventional wisdom. Tempers will flare and appetites curdle with the passions that both topics so often arouse. But in reality we need to get the kind of dinner-table discussions going that can help overcome some deep and poorly understood prejudices about religion in American life.

  • March 31, 2008
    Last week, Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki issued a 72-hour ultimatum to Shi'ite militants in the port city of Basra to surrender their weapons. When they called his bluff, he extended the offer by a full week, underscoring the great risk that Maliki had undertaken in pursuing a military solution to the conflict with the fiery cleric Muqtada Sadr and his 'Mahdi Army'. In today's Iraq, political clout ultimately flows from the barrel of many guns. Thus Sadr's thousands of loyal followers...
  • March 27, 2008
    Although I had initially conjured up the idea only to reject it as undemocratic, perhaps it is high time that we as a nation, believers and nonbelievers alike, consider the establishment of the 28th Amendment. Its majestic words would read as follows:

    Section 1. The right of presidential aspirants to discuss religion, invoke sacred texts, or mention God on the campaign trail is hereby repealed

    Section 2. Whenever a religious figure endorses any candidate for the presidency that candidate must...

  • March 20, 2008
    I want to preface these rather critical observations about Barack Obamaâs âœA More Perfect Unionâ address with non-faint praise. As far as I am concerned the good Senator is unequivocally the most intelligent and intellectually sophisticated politician in America today.

    Why am I, as with many other members of the professorate, so enthralled by him? Well, for one he doesnât merely wish to solicit our votes, he wants to edify us as well. Yet in many ways this relentless quest to enlighten the...

  • March 18, 2008
    Tonight we are debating the proposition that âœreligion should have no place in politics and government.â Let me state from the outset that I--a garden-variety Jewish atheistâ”wholly concur.

    It has come to my attention, however, that many of my compatriots do not. Reverend Barry Lynnâs organization recently reported that 65 % of Americans believed that "the Founders intended the United States to be a Christian nation.â A 2006 study by the Pew Forum noted that nearly 7 out of 10 citizens say...

  • March 18, 2008
    Some years back my wife and I befriended three Moroccan brothers who had been summarily locked up for 10 years by the late king of Morocco. Tossed into a cell with little light and a ceiling so low that one of the brothers developed a hunched back, they were only released after a human rights campaign in France secured their freedom. One brother finally came to America, where he settled down in a small town in Texas. There he wrote his memoirs and discovered a kind of happiness, surrounded by...
  • March 12, 2008
    "Come with an example of a situation where you were judged by a stereotype. Tell about how it affected you and what you tried to do to address it." A group of strangers tackled that tantalizing assignment one evening last month. We were invited to a lovely dinner at a private Washington home for an introduction to the "Public Conversations Project".
  • March 2, 2008

    Where are the passionate moderates in Islam, Madeleine Albright wanted to know. Why does all the passion seem to come from extremists? The former secretary of State was speaking at the recent U.S.-Islamic World Forum in Doha, sponsored by the Brookings Institution. To the Islamic world, her message was that what we need now is “moderates on the march, moderates with swagger.”

  • February 20, 2008
    From videos left behind by suicide bombers to movies like Syriana, Americans have become quite familiar with radicalized Muslim youth. But last week, a remarkable Egyptian evangelist, whose influence reaches across much of the Muslim world, offered a different vision: young Muslims driven by both hope and faith. At the U.S.-Islamic World Forum that just wrapped up in Doha, Amr Khaled was everywhere with his message that faith is a powerful force and motivator for young people in the Middle...
  • February 11, 2008

    Over the past three years I have been making a variety of arguments about American secularism, nearly all of which were greeted with either apathy or derision. These arguments were made in scholarly articles and on this blog, but mostly in two books, Thumpin’ It: The Use and Abuse of the Bible in Today’s Presidential Politics and The Secular Bible: Why Nonbelievers Must Take Religion Seriously. The “On Faith” editors have asked their distinguished panelists to consider...

  • Constitutional patriotism
    January 12, 2008

    Charles  Taylor writes on the Immanent Frame: Robert Bellah’s latest post poses clearly the issues that we’ve been agonizing over in Canada, and in a different way now in Quebec. Lots of people want to shy away from a political identity which is primarily defined in ethnic terms. On the contrary when asked what are the crucial uniting ideas of our society, they come up with some variant of universal “values,” defined in terms of modern charters of rights (all...

  • January 11, 2008
    As I ventured into the hotel lobby in Jeddah earlier this week, I was not thinking about the role of women in Islam, but the issue came abruptly into the picture. In my terms I felt pretty well covered in a mid-calf dark red suit with long sleeves, but I was quickly conscious of disapproving stares from two hotel porters. One asked me what I was looking for in a way that made it clear I did not belong there. I knew that women in Saudi Arabia are required to wear the long black robes known as...
  • Sex and the subject of religion
    January 10, 2008

    Tracy Fessenden writes on the Immanent Frame: The current campaign within the Archdiocese of New York to canonize the radical activist Dorothy Day (1897-1980) offers a good example of what Elizabeth Povinelli in her December 13 post (“Can Sex be a Minor Form of Spitting?”) calls the “mutual conditions and secret agreements” that tie the sexual revolution and Catholic teaching together behind the scenes. It isn’t simply that the candor with which Cardinal...

  • Practicing sex, practicing democracy
    January 9, 2008

    Janet Jakobsen and Ann Pellegrini write on the Immanent Frame: Why is it that sex is such a central part of American political life anyway? Why, when The New York Times reported on the influence of “values” voters on the 2004 Presidential election, did the Times name only two “values,” both of them reflecting a conservative sexual ethic: opposition to abortion and opposition to “recognition of lesbian and gay couples”?

  • Marriage plots
    January 8, 2008

    Janet Jakobsen and Ann Pellegrini write on the Immanent Frame: In his Commonweal essay, “Sex & Christianity: How has the Moral Landscape Changed?” Charles Taylor works to create a space for a Catholic sexual ethic that does not make “a certain kind of purity a necessary condition for relating to God through the sacraments.” For Taylor, the “moralistic code” dedicated to sexual purity fails doubly: it “erects a barrier between the church and...

  • December 21, 2007

    Three Catholic bishops from three West African countries (Mali, Senegal, and Burkina Faso) crisscrossed Washington last month. Their purpose was to put a human face on Congressional deliberations about the farm bill. They trekked from office to office, all over Washington, to make the point that a very American piece of legislation, that Congress has wrangled over for months (and which is now in Conference), has profound effects that go far beyond American farmers and other Americans who are...

  • Varieties of religion today
    December 20, 2007

    Hans Joas writes on the Immanent Frame: In my first post, I discussed Charles Taylor’s book, A Catholic Modernity. I would now like to discuss a second book, which consists of lectures Taylor gave at the Vienna Institute for Human Sciences (Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen) in 2000; these grew out of his Gifford Lectures in Edinburgh in 1999. Surely the most renowned lecture series on the topic of religion, for more than one hundred years, leading thinkers have used...

  • December 18, 2007
    I know many registered Democrats who are exemplary, civic-minded Americans. They do not view national elections as mere contests, games in which their “team” must emerge victorious at any cost. No! For them, the electoral process is about gaining acquaintance with the two most qualified candidates for the presidency. Their sincerest hope is that the GOP selects the best person for the job. This assures that the issues which most concern our citizens will receive their most serious...
  • That weird strange thing
    November 29, 2007

    Leigh Eric Schmidt writes on the Immanent Frame: That Charles Taylor’s massive book on the malaises and predicaments of secularity could be taken by so many distinguished intellectuals as a defining tome for our age comes as a surprise. At the very moment when it would have appeared that theories of secularization and disenchantment had finally exhausted their own mythological power to frame modernity, Taylor devotes his immense philosophical gifts to delineating and diagnosing the...

  • After Durkheim
    November 23, 2007

    Robert Bellah writes on the Immanent Frame: I continue, as I reread it, to have the highest opinion of A Secular Age and to believe that it is among the handful of the most important books I have ever read, to the point where The Chronicle of Higher Education speaks of my “effusive” praise. So it was with some surprise that I found there was a point where, if I didn’t entirely differ from Taylor, I had at least some serious questions to raise.

  • The scope and uses of secularity
    November 19, 2007

    John Bowen writes on the Immanent Frame: Charles Taylor’s remarkable account of developments within Latin Christendom situates contemporary religious or non-religious commitments within what he calls the “immanent frame,” the key to which is the secular condition (his third meaning of secularity), in which belief is an option, and religion a distinct domain. Early in his study, he remarks that such is not the case everywhere: in Muslim societies generally, and for people in...

  • Secularism, hegemony, and fullness
    November 17, 2007

    Talal Asad writes on the Immanent Frame: Let me begin with Saba Mahmood’s paper, which I think is important, and talk about the idea of the “normative impetus internal to secularism,” as she puts it. Instead of seeing secularism as the solution to entrenched religious conflicts, instead of focusing on the notion of religious neutrality, say, she wants, in this paper and elsewhere in her work, to look at the way in which secularism informs foreign policy.

  • October 9, 2007
    Am I the only person in the United States who believes that a dialog between nonbelievers and evangelical Christians might help both sides identify some mutual concerns and even the occasional area of agreement? In order for such a meeting to take place participants would have to submit to a few ground rules. The atheists, agnostics and anti-theists must promise to refrain from excessive smirking, snarky asides about an “imaginary friend,” and the use of profanities (whether...
  • October 4, 2007
    Arizona Senator John McCain is signaling--with the jerkiest semaphore strokes imaginable--that he wants to own the Conservative Christian wing of the Republican Party come primary time. In the past few weeks he has proclaimed himself a Baptist, declared that “the constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation,” and equivocated as to whether he thought a Muslim would make a good president. The senator has made his move. These remarks have created the...
  • October 2, 2007
    In 2004, George W. Bush won the presidency by assembling a coalition of White Evangelicals (78% of whom cast their vote for him), non-Latino Catholics and Mormons, among others. These so-called “values voters” were the “It” constituency of 2004. The punditry fawned over them. Their views became something of a congressional fashion. They were spotted at hipster bars in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, and so on. But the idea that the road to the White House must go...
  • September 23, 2007

    There are some 60 people that the Parliament of Religions has invited to be part of the Interreligious Encounter (40+ plus speakers plus people accompanying them). This is a truly "global" group, coming from all over the world, and from an extraordinary span of religious traditions. It includes Christian leaders, a woman who works with Muslim Sufi networks, several Jain representatives, Sikhs, from the UK and California, filmmakers, Baha'is, and a few who resist simple categories (myself...

  • September 20, 2007

    That's the theme phrase for the Monterrey International Interreligious Encounter that had its formal opening last night. The event took place in Monterrey's cavernous arena, where concerts and sports events are often held; there was an eerie smell of popcorn in the air.

  • September 20, 2007
    As a means of improving the political fortunes of American Nonbelief , permit me to make a helpful suggestion: I propose that the godless of our great nation nominate their own candidate for a 2008 presidential run. Will the candidate who represents the Party of Nonbelief win? Of course not. In all likelihood, he or she probably won’t even make the ballot in most places (Democrats--who would rather be Tasered than Nadered in a battleground state--will wage war to keep an atheist...
  • September 6, 2007
    There is a memorable scene in the short story “Bloodshed” by the spectacular Jewish-American novelist Cynthia Ozick. A Hasidic Rebbe endowed with the ability to read other people’s minds confronts a visiting nonbeliever seated in his synagogue. After having somehow articulated the innermost thoughts of this troubled voyeur, the Rebbe exclaims: “Despair must be earned.” The following dialogue ensues: “I’m not in despair” Bleilip objected.
    ...
  • September 4, 2007
    To the best of my knowledge not one of my former students has ever run for president of the United States. But if, during the course of routine office hours, an undergraduate were to express a desire to do so, I would offer the following (unsolicited) advice: get yourself a good spiritual mentor. Spiritual mentors (to be distinguished from mere “spiritual advisers,” about whom more anon) provide politicians with the same basic package of services they offer all congregants (e.g.,...
  • August 30, 2007
    In 2004, 78% percent of White Evangelicals voted for George W. Bush. The GOP, I surmise, would like to achieve similar numbers in 2008. The danger presented by Barack Obama is not so much that he will completely reverse this result. Neither he, nor any other Democrat will be able to do that. It will be decades, if not longer, before Evangelicals return to the Party they once so faithfully supported. Rather, what Obama may be able to do is siphon off scads of “Swing Evangelicals”...
  • August 23, 2007
    In an interview to be aired next week on HDTV Michael Bloomberg has told Dan Rather that “nobody’s going to elect me president of the United States.” Only partial transcripts of the conversation are available, and it is hard to tell why the Mayor of New York came to this conclusion. It is also hard to tell whether the mayor actually believed this conclusion. But as far as conclusions taken out of context and made by PR-savvy politicians go, it strikes me as the right one.
  • July 20, 2007
    To the best of my knowledge none of the leading presidential candidates is an opera buff, save Rudy Giuliani. This raises the related point that none of our aspirants for High Office is anywhere near as operatic as the former Mayor of New York. Say what you will about him, but Giuliani is never boring.
  • October 1, 2006
    I was in New York September 19-21 for various missions, primarily to serve as moderator for a day-long launch meeting for a High Level interfaith Forum within the United Nations system. This note reports briefly on that meeting and its conclusions, with some background as the effort may not be widely known to you and other Bank colleagues. I will report separately, to those most directly concerned, on other New York meetings, which included inter alia a presentation for the UN Ethics Office...
  • September 21, 2006

    Today marked the formal launch of the Tripartite Interfaith Forum, and involved inspirational speeches and wise comments from global and UN leaders and the wide range of participants, from member states, from United Nations agencies, and from many Religious bodies and NGOs. My colleagues as moderators, Sister Joan Kirby and Stein Villumstad, have highlighted some key points. My summary briefly reviews what we have achieved, in the form of a stock-taking, starting from a set of fundamental...

  • Last week I traveled far off the beaten track in western Guatemala. The only news of the world that registered there was the path of hurricanes heading in our direction (the area is still recovering from Hurricane Stan two years ago) and the Peruvian earthquake (the areaâs history is full of earthquakes and volcano eruptions) . But the central question on my mind was a global issue: what can religious communities do about the stark poverty that is so obvious there?