The Effects of the Religious Right on Politics and on Religion

Damon Linker in TNR:

Who would now deny that the political ascendancy of the religious right has been bad for the United States? Its destructive consequences are plain for all to see. It has polarized the nation. It has injected theological certainties into public life. It has led political leaders to invest their aims and their deeds with metaphysical significance. It has made America a laughingstock in the eyes of the educated of the world. And it has encouraged devout believers to think of themselves as agents of the divine, and their political opponents as enemies of God.

So much for the political damage. What about the consequences for religion itself? The strongest arguments for separating church and state–including the classic ones advanced in the writings of John Locke, accepted by America’s constitutional framers, and codified in the First Amendment–have always emphasized that separation benefits religion as well as politics. The secular political order of the United States not only helps to ensure the perseverance of limited government; it also permits religion to thrive, uncorrupted by political ambition and petty partisanship.