Posted 297 days ago
Hamid's concern is an important one: why does there seem to be an ideological divide between religion and secularism even as religion seems to be declining in the country? The most interesting, and contraversial point that he makes, is that religion has become replace by a sort of "civic religion." He says:
The American civic religion has its own founding myth, its prophets and processions, as well as its scripture - the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and The Federalist Papers.
My problem with this anlogy, as a non-religious person, is that it implies religion is somehow a foundational law of society, as if it needs to be replaced by something. Hamid seems to fall into this trap. He cites Sumuel Goldman's "law of the conservation of religion," which essentially says that all societies have some form of religion. I think this is a silly assumption, and should not be referred to as a law at all.
Instead, I believe that religion has a strong hold on society, as it was essentially our political system before modern democracies were effective enough to take power. Democracies then, and the politicians that operate within them, have to appeal to a large religious minority. That dialetic, and the way to persuade the population, is often in methods typically used by religion. The fact that we refer to the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution as if they were religious texts is not due to a fundamental aspect of human nature, but a pragmatic response to how people can be pursuaded and appealed to.
I think this is a very good article and Hamid is spot on with his question, but I think his answer makes too many assumptions. Religion is not some fundamental law of human nature, but it persists because change is slow and politics is pragmatic.