This is a good editorial piece by George Will regarding the growing divide and mistrust between sectarians and secularists.
The Christian Complex
By George F. Will
Thursday, May 5, 2005; Page A25
The state of America's political discourse is such that the president has felt it necessary to declare that unbelievers can be good Americans. In last week's prime-time news conference, he said: "If you choose not to worship, you're equally as patriotic as somebody who does worship."
So Mark Twain, Oliver Wendell Holmes and a long, luminous list of other skeptics can be spared the posthumous ignominy of being stricken from the rolls of exemplary Americans. And almost 30 million living Americans welcomed that presidential benediction.
According to the American Religious Identification Survey, Americans who answer "none" when asked to identify their religion numbered 29.4 million in 2001, more than double the 14.3 million in 1990. If unbelievers had their own state -- the state of None -- its population would be more than twice that of New England's six states, and None would be the nation's second-largest state:
California, 34.5 million.
None, 29.4 million.
Texas, 21.3 million.
The president, whose political instincts, at least, are no longer so misunderestimated by his despisers, may have hoped his remarks about unbelievers would undo some of the damage done by the Terri Schiavo case. During that Florida controversy, he made a late-night flight from his Texas ranch to Washington to dramatize his signing of imprudent legislation that his party was primarily responsible for passing. He and his party seemed to have subcontracted governance to certain especially fervid religious supporters.
And last Sunday Pat Robertson, who is fervid but also shrewd, seemed to understand that religious conservatives should be a bit more meek if they want to inherit the Earth. Robertson was asked on ABC's "This Week" whether religious conservatives would be seriously disaffected if in 2008 the Republicans' presidential nominee were to be someone like Rudy Giuliani.
Although Giuliani's eight years as New York's mayor, measured by such achievements as reduction of crime and welfare rolls, constitute perhaps America's most transformative conservative governance in the past half-century, he supports abortion rights, gay rights and gun control. Still, Robertson's relaxed reply to the question was, essentially: What's a little heresy among friends? "Rudy's a very good friend of mine and he did a super job running the city of New York and I think he'd make a good president."
Some Christians should practice the magnanimity of the strong rather than cultivate the grievances of the weak. But many Christians are joining today's scramble for the status of victims. There is much lamentation about various "assaults" on "people of faith." Christians are indeed experiencing some petty insults and indignities concerning things such as restrictions on school Christmas observances. But their persecution complex is unbecoming because it is unrealistic.