Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

The Europeans worry

About God-besotted Americans, who are apparently about to restart the wars of religion.

Discussions - 8 Comments

I ask all conservatives, do you really want to be on the same side as Richard Cohen and secular Europe?

What a grating article. Quotes taken out of context, a complete ignorance (willful or otherwise) of the Founders' view of the vital role religion plays in self-government, and a smarmy un-argument that Europeans aren't religious because of their religious wars, and if we remain religious we'll end up fighting religious wars too.

Cohen flat-out misrepresents Romney, says that his expressed conviction that freedom requires religion, and vice-versa, (i.e., Tocqueville 101, Washington's Farewell Address 101) amounts to Romney "having no room for athiests."

Cohen can be disturbed by the Romney and Huckabee successes all he wants, it's a perfectly understandable reaction for secular-oriented folks to have. But this glib implication that Christian social conservatives will not respect the freedom of conscience of athiests is a false charge, and one that lends itself to hate, and yes, to hate crimes. Evidence, Mr. Cohen, evidence. Do give us the name, and do supply us the quote, wherein a prominent Christian or Mormon conservative leader has called for the repeal of the first amendment. Do give us the speech wherein Romney calls upon the government to suppress athiesm. Otherwise, apologize.

I ask all conservatives, do you really want to be on the same side as Richard Cohen and secular Europe?

The piece in question was written by a certain Roger Cohen. Richard Cohen is employed by the Washington Post, not the New York Times. The Times neither hires nor develops talent in the realm of topical commentary; The Post does.

IMO, Richard Cohen is an opponenet very much worthy of respect and I would wager would have composed a much more acute assessment of the subject at hand.

Art Deco, good catch. I knew this was not written by the Richard Cohen. I think I just accidentally typed a name that was familiar to me.

Mr. Scott, no conservative that I know of wants to repeal the 1st Amendment although I certainly think it should only apply to what it was originally intended to apply to, laws passed by Congress.

But neither should conservative be shy about asserting and defending the particularly Christian heritage of America in the name of some felt need to be deferential to a liberal idea of pluralism. That plays into the hands of the Roger Cohens of the world. Why not question his secularist assumptions instead of pleading purity?

Mr. Phillips, I would VOTE against any state's effort to support a particular religion, but I agree that the first amendment properly ought to only limit actions by the federal government. And I might point out that almost all Christian conservative leaders would be with seems to be calling in their state for a 21st-century version of Patrick Henry's (rather innocuous and resolutely sect-neutral) funding plan for VA teachers of Christian religion, the plan that elicited Madison's "Memorial and Remonstrance." American Christians are with Madison on this question, and thus, by definition, they are incapable of being theocratic or for the persecution of athiests. And yet many of the current tracts against Christian-inspired social conservatism or against traditional Christianity refuse to acknowledge these UTTERLY BASIC points. Our current Christian-distrusters may have certain kinds of social intolerances to fear from Christians--just talk to folks raised in the deep Bible Belt--but these are not backed by law nor is almost anyone calling for them to be so, and they are no worse than the social intolerances a conservative Christian might experience if she's living in a bohemian/liberal town.

And I can question secularist assumptions with the best of them, but my allegiance to the first amendment and to the disestablishmentarianism for which it stands, is no fearful concession to pluralist thinking, but simply part of my allegiance to the Constitution. My hope is, maybe pollyannish, but it was Madison's and Washington's hope, that I can share that allegiance with all athiests and all religious persons who also pledge it, regardless of all the other deep disagreements I have with them. That's precisely why statements like the one this Roger Cohen makes have to be immediately pounced upon.

Finally, someone could argue that you, Mr. Phillips, are in the camp of too-polite conservatives also, since you speak of our nation's "Christian heritage" instead of boldly saying, "America is a Christian nation." But perhaps like me, you see no reason to unnecessarily disturb our fellow citizens who are not Christians with language so apt to misinterpretation, particularly when voiced by politicians, and which really must be heavily qualified in any full description of our nation's life or origin.

Mr. Scott, my words were carefully chosen (although not necessarily well chosen), but not to avoid offense. To try to be precise. I am a paleoconservative who believes in American Christian particularism without embracing theologically and conservatively problematic Christian Nation exceptionalism. Neither do I embrace exceptionalism when it comes to "leader of the free world" here to "spread democracy" issues either.

The issue is not so much theocracy or the persecution of atheist. It is a refusal to acknowledge and celebrate and protect and preserve that Christian particularism. All these paeans to pluralism make that task more difficult. We have more conservatives who seem to want to celebrate the fact that we allow freedom of religion than we do conservatives who are willing to celebrate the fact that most of those people allowing that freedom were/are Christians.

Well put, Mr. Phillips. I agree w/ your analysis of the deeper issue, but I am focused here on defining and insisting upon that common Constitutional ground with liberals and secularists, since I am worried about the nastier turns that culture wars can take in the long run under the drip by drip influence of Roger Cohen and his ilk. Have you read Hugh Heclo's Christianity and American Democracy?

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