The Myth of America's Religious Founding

Many Americans have embraced one of two myths concerning the role of religion in the American founding. The first, widespread in nineteenth-century America and kept alive by popular Christian authors today, is that virtually all the founders were pious, orthodox believers who sought to establish a Christian nation. 

The Bard's Religion

A Will to Believe: Shakespeare and Religion  by david scott kastan oxford university press, 155 pages, $40.00If Zeno were to write Shakespeare criticism, he might sound a little like David Scott Kastan. The George M. Bodman Professor of English at Yale University’s meticulous, short book on . . . . Continue Reading »

From “Meh” to “Amen”

According to the recent study from the Pew Research Center, 22.8 percent of U.S. adults and 35 percent of millennials are religiously unaffiliated. The nones are by all indications a diverse group. Among the nones are all the familiar categories of unbelief or quasi-belief: committed atheists, agnostics, the “spiritual but not religious,” and active seekers. Continue Reading »

A New Era

God’s Planet by owen gingerich harvard, 192 pages, $19.95 According to a famous formulation of Stephen Jay Gould, science and religion constitute “non-overlapping magisteria” or “NOMA.” What he meant is that they are separate domains, deal with different questions, and can never conflict . . . . Continue Reading »

Irving Kristol's God

Having long been regarded as the godfather of neoconservatism, Irving Kristol is well known for his political writings. Less well known are his essays on religion. And yet, the more one reads of his work, the more apparent it becomes that this is in some sense the wrong way around. Though Kristol was no theologian, matters of religion, morality, and meaning underpin his entire political worldview. This, however, forces a question, and not one without some controversy: If religion was so central to the thought of Irving Kristol, then is this equally the case regarding the political persuasion with which he is so intimately associated? Does neoconservatism actually have some deeply religious roots? This is the question I found myself asking after reading Kristol’s Jewish essays, now conveniently gathered as an e-book and published by Mosaic magazine.Kristol’s first Jewish essays were penned in the late 1940s, while he was serving as managing editor at Commentary. His work from that period appears tortured by an effort to make sense of the Holocaust, ­Nazism, and anti-Semitism. The most striking result of this labor was an essay titled “The Myth of the Supra-Human Jew: The Theological Stigma.” In it we find Kristol wrestling with the contrasting currents, philo-semitic and anti-Semitic, that intermingled in Christianity and Western culture. He interprets hostility to the Jews as originally bound up with guilt about the erotic. The effort to rid the world of Jews, he concludes, was also an effort to free man from oppressive biblical prohibitions, so as “to have men’s secret lusts dance unrestrainedly under the open sky.” Continue Reading »