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(RNS) There are certain speeches, songs, books, letters, laws, and axioms that Americans appreciate enough to argue about, says religion scholar Stephen Prothero. By Daniel Burke.


  1. You can add to “The American Bible,” like an old testament, “American Scripture” and “Ratification” by Pauline Maier, grand gatherings of evidence institution that we are a secular nation, not a religious nation at all. Many of its members might be individually, privately religious, most quasi-religious, but that is private, not publi. Both sets of writings have other things in common with biblical scripture, the lay people who claim to revere them are so pathetically and dangerously apathetic and illiterate about them.

    Those are the real similarities between politics and religion in this country, between state and churches–unless you want to include the exaggerated efforts of the religious right, including people like Timothy Dolan, Catholic bishop of New York, who claim that distortions of some version of their personal moral theology is not allowed as an evasion of the law for everyone else in this country, the nation is guilty of infringing on their religious liberty.

    The most astute political comment Dolan ever made was in the discussion among U.S. Catholic bishops about whether they should hire a professional media specialist because they themselves have bungled so many recent efforts to break down the wall of separation between church and state constitutionally protected by the First Amendment. Said Dolan: “In the public square, I hate to tell you, the days of fat, balding, Irish bishops are over.” Dolan should mind his own advice and stick to his altar and preaching from his own church pulpit about issues–with respect for those of different persuasions. I wonder what aphorisms Jesus pronounced about respect for others.

  2. Someone should check and disclose the speech writer who dug up that nice metaphor, “City on a Shining Hill,” used by Reagan and worn out with overuse, to say nothing of inappropriateness, from the time his overdone funeral. And tell me, why are former presidents who never served in Congress “waked” in the rotunda of that building, like Ronald Reagan. Franklin Roosevelt was waked in the East Room of the White House, much more appropriate. In fact, that would be a very sufficient final tribute to any former president. To reassert our democratic nature, we should end all semblances to royalty we have been allowed to creep into our politics and government, especially since those entities have been exposed as so corrupt–just like the disassembled royalties of Europe and those that have been eliminated nation by nation, in the Middle East and Far East.

  3. Ayn Rand in the same category as Samuel Clemens and Martin Luther King! Come on! Next thing we see, it will be suggested that Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor, John Boehner, and Mitch McConnell also be added. Nothing “of…, by…, and for the people” about Ayn Rand, only selfish greed. But on second thought, as we consider the present U.S. landscape, maybe Rand and Ponzi and Bernie Madoff–oh yeah, and Richard Nixon–ought to be included. “I am not a crook!” “Warts and all…”