The Problem of Religion and Democracy

The American solution to the problem of religious conflict in politics—the First Amendment and the “religious test” clause of Article VI of the Constitution—is not well understood today. Much of the time, in fact, liberals deliberately distort the meaning of these clauses to imply a hostility toward religion. Recovering the rightful understanding can begin with a close look at Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Statute of Religious Liberty.

But readers really interested in a deeper dive into this whole subject should take in Giorgi Areshidze’s new book, Democratic Religion from Locke to Obama: Faith and the Civic Life of Democracy. It’s out recently from University Press of Kansas, which is unusual among academic publishers for producing books that are actually readable and interesting, even to—perhaps especially to—the non-specialist. Don’t be scared by the title here. Much of the book discusses the religious aspects of familiar figures such as Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr., along with some analysis of the problematic approach to religion by the grand vizier of modern liberalism, John Rawls. Areshidze is appropriately skeptical of the coherence of Barack Obama’s religious profile, as he explains in this short conversation we had a few weeks back (2:42 long):