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Divided by God: America's Church-State Problem--and What We Should Do About It


Publisher:Farrar, Straus and Giroux



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About the book:

In Divided By God, Noah Feldman examines the unique, fascinating balance the United States has pursued for well over 200 years now -- the attempt at democratic government by the people in a country made up of many religions, and many highly religious people. The novel principle enshrined to help make this a success was strong separation of church from state. The strain on the system has never been greater as polarization grows over the many hot-button topics of our day. Feldman also observes how the stakes have been raised in the last 50 years as the forces of secularism have fought a largely successful battle to remove religious symbolism from the public sphere, while at the same time the growing tide of religious conservatism has managed to forge a surprisingly close church-state relationship through government funding of religious priorities (faith-based initiatives and school vouchers, for example.)

Feldman, a law professor at New York University, delivers a timely book that attempts to move the discussion past rhetoric, by a careful examination of the history of church-state separation. The book's lively, conversational writing makes for a fascinating journey, starting with a precise analysis of exactly why our founding fathers debated and finally agreed to formally separate church and state, and then tracking the tests and challenges that separation has stood over the last two centuries. Perhaps the most refreshing current throughout is Feldman's lack of partisan bias, and his respect and understanding of the values, fears and goals that successive generations have brought to all sides of this never-ending debate.

It is that lack of partisanship that makes his conclusion all the more powerful -- a call to move beyond a battlefield where the secular and religious forces aggressively pursue their own mutually exclusive goals, and instead to seek a deeper understanding of what values we all hold in common, and to recognize the importance of engaging in constructive debate in order to find and define that commonality together. --Ed Dobeas

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