The Culture of Disbelief: How American Law and Politics Trivialize Religious Devotion

Stephen L. Carter, Author
Stephen L. Carter, Author Basic Books $25 (328p) ISBN 978-0-465-02647-0
Paperback - 328 pages - 978-0-385-47498-6
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As in his previous book on race ( Reflections of an Affirmative Action Baby ), Yale law professor Carter offers a thoughful, cogent and ideologically subtle analysis of a divisive American issue. A deep believer ``in the importance of both religious tradition and liberal dialogue,'' Carter here suggests ways to maintain both. Our culture, he stresses, pressures people to ``treat religion as a hobby'' while the use of religion for political ends has further debased it. Criticizing Supreme Court decisions concerning the separation of church and state as enforcing ``public secularism,'' he argues for granting religious groups more latitude to participate in the welfare state, allowing proven church drug rehabilitation programs, for example, to compete for public funding. Carter does, however, reject organized prayer in public schools for fear of advancing ``the interests of one religious tradition over another.'' He suggests religious dialogue should be part of the debate over euthanasia and abortion and that pro-choicers would do better to argue positive constitutional rights rather than demeaning their opponents as ``zealots.'' In a postscript written after the events at Waco, Tex., Carter cautions that ``we must not make the mistake of confusing the Branch Davidians' sinfulness with their religiosity . . . Otherwise, the putative `fanaticism' of the Davidians becomes virtually indistinguishable from the `fanaticism' of Martin Luther King Jr.'' (Sept.)
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