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The Diminishing Divide: Religion's Changing Role In American Politics
by Andrew Kohut
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This study starts with the premise that our proudly defendedprinciple separation of church and state has never dictated a strict division between religion and politics. The authors argue that faith plays a central role in the public sphere today, among conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats alike. Much of the book is devoted to quantitative analysis of what Americans think the appropriate role between the two spheres of life might be. The evidence suggests that they might be open--at least in principle--to the use of the state to advance a Christian politics. At times, the evidence as presented is subject to the usual complaints about religious polling: it is far from clear that the answers people give to a polltaker would in fact translate into support for using the state to safeguard Christian values, especially if those conflicted with the maintenance of a pluralistic society. Nonetheless, this treasure trove of information will surely come in handy for future students of the relationship between politics and faith. (Beliefnet, June 2000)
The Diminishing Divide takes on a subject that can baffle even the most seasoned political operative or scholar: religion's influence on American political attitudes and behavior. The United States, a profoundly religious nation that sought to erect an impenetrable wall between church and state, now finds religion and politics tightly interwoven. Religion has been a powerful moral and cultural force since the nation's founding, but its influence on politics was more subtle in the past, when most presidents and other political leaders considered their religious beliefs to be private. In the last two decades, however, chief executives and candidates alike have been quick to express their faith in God, and many citizens-on both the right and the left-readily acknowledge the importance of religion in guiding their political beliefs and participation. The authors argue that religion will continue to alter the political landscape in the next century, perhaps in unexpected ways.
About the Author
Andrew Kohut is director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. John C. Green is director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics and professor of political science at the University of Akron. Scott Keeter is professor and chair of public and international affairs at George Mason University. Robert C. Toth is a former national and foreign correspondent of the Los Angeles Times, and a senior associate of the Pew Research Center.
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