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In God We Trust: Religion and Public Life

  • Public
By Brian December 11, 2013

0/5 stars (0 votes) Jose Casanova and Mark Lilla

What is the role of religion in public life, particularly in pluralistic, democratic societies? Should religion and politics be separated? What role should government have in regulating religion? Does a cohesive society need religion?

Those who argue against any state use of religion claim that such mention of faith, for ceremonial purposes or otherwise, can have the effect of draining religion of its meaning and power. Beyond this, opponents of religion in the public sphere disparage taxpayer supported religion like faith based initiatives, church politicking, imposition of religious views of institutions like marriage and sexuality, and any breach of the separation of church and state, claiming that such violations are detrimental to both the government and organized faith.

Those who argue for religious involvement in public life range from claiming that the United States was founded as and remains a Christian nation, to advocating a substantial role of religion as an agent of progress. These supporters often state that political and social movements from abolition to women's suffrage to civil rights to today's struggles over abortion and gay marriage have drawn upon religious institutions for moral authority, inspirational leadership and organizational muscle. Furthermore, proponents of religion in the public sphere often point to faith based organizations as important and necessary charitable foundations that support society by providing aid, encouraging public discourse, and providing a shared moral core.