In Believers, Thinkers and Founders: How We Came to be One Nation Under God, Kevin Seamus Hassonfounder and president emeritus of the Becket Fund for Religious libertyoffers a refreshing resolution to the age-old dispute surrounding the relationship of religion and state: a return to first principles.
"The traditional position," writes Hasson, "is that our fundamental human rightsincluding those secured by the First Amendmentare endowed to us by the Creator and that it would be perilous to permit the government ever to repudiate that point." America has steadfastly taken the position that there is a Supreme Being who is the source of our rights and the author of our equality. It has repeated that point for well over two hundred years throughout all branches and levels of government.
Never mind, says the secularist challenge. God is, to put it mildly, religious. Religion has no place in Government. So God has no place in Government. Its just that simple.
But for the government to say there is no creator who endows us with rights, Hasson argues, "is to do more than simply tinker with one of the most famous one-liners in history; it is to change the starting point of our whole explanation of who we are as Americans."
He proposes a solution straight from the founding: the government acknowledges the existence of God who is the source of our rights philosophically but not religiously. This idea of the "Philosophers God" is a conception of God based not on faith but on reason. Hasson suggests that by recognizing the distinction between the creator of the Declaration of Independence and the God of our faith traditions, we may be able to move past the culture wars over religion that have plagued the country.
In Believers, Thinkers, and Founders, Hasson examines the idea of the "Philosophers God" while looking at a host of issuesincluding the Pledge of Allegiance, prayer at public events, and prayer in public schoolsas he demonstrates how we can still be one nation under God.
KEVIN SEAMUS HASSON is the founder and president emeritus of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a nonpartisan, interfaith, public-interest law firm that protects the free expression of all religious traditions. Hasson is the author of The Right to be Wrong: Ending the Culture War over Religion in America. He holds a law degree and a master's in theology from the University of Notre Dame, and lives with his wife, Mary, and their children in Fairfax County, Virginia.
"This book should make one proud of Americas historic achievement in creating a society where different faiths not only co-exist, but flourish, in relative harmony. Seamus Hasson traces the historical, philosophical and political evolution of that hard-won achievement with lively examples, and with all the brilliance that has made him a peerless defender of religious freedom. With freedom of religion currently under assault at home and abroad, his book should awaken persons of all faiths and no faith to the need for renewed vigor in the protection of this fundamental human right." --Mary Ann Glendon, Learned Hand Professor of Law, Harvard University
"President Washington said it; President Lincoln reinforced it: Governments have a duty to affirm the existence of God. Why? Seamus Hasson in his new book gives the best reason I have ever encountered: Because in so doing governments limit their own power, and put themselves under undeceivable judgment." --Michael Novak, author of Writing from Left to Right
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