Michael Barone, one of the best informed people on the planet, has a fascinating column on the ascendancy of religion in modern American life. "If you read the headlines," Barone writes, "you run the risk of thinking we are headed toward a theocracy." But such fears, he says, are no more than hysterical doomsaying.
No religion is going to impose laws on an unwilling Congress or the people of this country. And we have long lived comfortably with a few trappings of religion in the public space, such as "In God We Trust" or "God save this honorable court."
The real question is whether strong religious belief is on the rise in America and the world. Fifty years ago, secular liberals were confident that education, urbanization and science would lead people to renounce religion. That seems to have happened, if you confine your gaze to Europe, Canada and American university faculty clubs.
But this movement has not been as benign as expected: The secular faiths of fascism and communism destroyed millions of lives before they were extinguished.
America has not moved in the expected direction. In fact, just the opposite. Economist Robert Fogel's "The Fourth Great Awakening" argues that we've been in the midst of a religious revival since the 1950s, in which, as in previous revivals, "the evangelical churches represented the leading edge of an ideological and political response to accumulated technological and social changes that undermined the received culture."
I hadn't heard of Fogels' book before. Sounds like interesting reading.