July 30, 2008


Monument celebrating freedom of worship, courtesy of wikipedia.

The theme at Goat Rope this week is American religious literacy or the lack thereof (accent on the latter). You'll also find links and comments about current events. If this is your first visit, please click on earlier posts.

As mentioned in earlier posts, America is one of the most religious--and religiously diverse--countries in the world, but it's people know surprisingly little about what they profess to believe or what others believe.

It didn't used to be that way. Say what you want about the early colonists, they knew what they believed--even if they were kind of ate up with it, as we say in El Cabrero's beloved state of West Virginia.

Puritan clergy in New England were highly educated, steeped in Calvinist theology and were often fluent in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. Anglicans, later to become Episcopalians, drilled their young in the catechism and the intricacies of the 39 articles and stressed a tradition that relied on scripture, tradition and reason. Other religious groups worked it in their own fashion.

The idea that religion was all heart and not a whole lot of head took some time to arrive here. Boston University professor Stephen Prothero, author of Religious Literacy, identifies at least two factors that contributed to the current state of affairs. One was the Second Great Awakening, a religious revival that occurred in the first half of the 1800s, about which more tomorrow.

The other was the American tendency suppress religious differences when confronted with some kind of "alien challenge." For example, from the 1800s, many American Protestants emphasized their commonality in the wake of a growing Catholic population. During the Cold War, the term "Judeo-Christian civilization" became common and expressed a degree of unity against the challenges of Soviet communism.

Over time, a kind of generic religiosity became common, as expressed in a quote attributed to President Eisenhower: "Our government makes no sense unless it is founded in a deeply felt religious faith-and I don't care what it is."

HOUSING. After all the bailouts, maybe it's time to do something about foreclosures.

THERE'S GOLD IN THEM THERE DUMPS. Garbage could be big business.

MINE SAFETY. This one is a couple of days old (due to a road trip), but it's a good one on MSHA in the waning days of the Bush administration.

STRAP ON THE OLD JETPACK. Somebody actually made one.


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