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November/December 2009

Discover more articles from this issue.

A Clash of Millennialisms on Capitol Hill

The Christian lobby came to Capitol Hill in a big way in 1888. And that meant that the nation’s lawmakers were certain to hear from the...

Gods and Generals

Old World/New World disparity can be as different as treasured paintings on a crumbling church wall in Florence, Italy, and bulldozers leveling yet another...

Decoupling for Freedom

The Bill of Rights decoupled religion from the state, in part because so many religions were steeped in an absolutist frame of mind—each convinced...

The Victims of Religious Intolerance

Nations, factions, political groups, and even families go to war with each other to satisfy things like their greed, their pride, and their jealousy. They...

What Are We Enhancing?

Thursday morning, July 30: The mainstream media and punditocracy continued to obsess over “Gatesgate” and that evening’s impending...

Cherished Rights

A speech given by Rabbi David Saperstein

Faith, Freedom, and Justice Sonia Sotomayor

On Thursday, August 6, 2009, the U.S. Senate confirmed Sonia Sotomayor to be the 111th justice of the United States Supreme Court. What does that mean for religious liberty in America?

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Published in the November/December 2009 Magazine
by Carl Sagan

The Bill of Rights decoupled religion from the state, in part because so many religions were steeped in an absolutist frame of mind—each convinced that it alone had a monopoly on the truth and therefore eager for the state to impose this truth on others. Often, the leaders and practitioners of absolutist religions were unable to perceive any middle ground or recognize that the truth might draw upon and embrace apparently contradictory doctrines.

The framers of the Bill of Rights had before them the example of England, where the ecclesiastical crime of heresy and the secular crime of treason had become nearly indistinguishable. Many of the early Colonists had come to America fleeing religious persecution, although some of them were perfectly happy to persecute other people for their beliefs. The Founders of our nation recognized that a close relation between the government and any of the quarrelsome religions would be fatal to freedom—and injurious to religion.

—Carl Sagan in The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (New York: Random House, 1995).

Author: Carl Sagan

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