Holy Joe

By Gary Kamiya

By Salon Staff
Published August 30, 2000 7:29PM (EDT)

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Good job! I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one cringing as candidates pander to the religious right about their "faith." I am old enough to remember when discussion of religion was considered inappropriate. Except for the presence of Richard Nixon, those days make me nostalgic.

The only way a pluralistic society can function is to keep religion out of the public realm so as not to promote one over others, or, worse, impose one over others. One need not look very far to see the violence done in the name of faith: Northern Ireland, the Middle East, Afghanistan and Iran, which lately prosecuted a dozen or so Jews. The example of allowing religion to have a strong presence in civic life has nothing to recommend it.

-- Beverly Arcaro

Thanks to Gary Kamiya for his critique of Sen. Lieberman's recent God talk. I wholeheartedly agree with his assessment that politicians blathering on about "restoring faith to the public sphere" are simply uttering so many empty pieties.

I am not a "secular humanist." In fact, I support Kamiya's assessment precisely because I am a "born-again" Christian. I am (gasp!) a Southern Baptist who disagrees with the course his denomination has taken recently, mainly because it has gone a long way toward obliterating the core Baptist principle of absolute religious freedom and its essential corollary, the separation of church and state.

As for Sen. Lieberman's call to "find a constitutional place for faith in our society," I have some news: We already have one! It reads thusly: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." That sounds like a pretty good provision to me. Guess that's why Jefferson and Madison made sure it got in there.

-- Rob Marus

As an American Jew living in Israel, I felt compelled to respond. Sen. Joe Lieberman is suffering from a syndrome many American Jews have succumbed to: the need to be approved and accepted by their fellow Americans, and to be seen as "just like everyone else." Lieberman wants to show that he, too, can Bible-thump and preach just like his non-Jewish counterparts, and his nomination as Gore's running mate has given him the perfect pulpit. What better place to prove that the average-looking guy next door who doesn't drive on Saturdays and wears a beanie is a lot like you -- a God fearing, tax-paying, proud of the good ol' U.S. of A. bumpkin. The problem is that Judaism has always prided itself on its humility and obvious differentness, and both Jew and non-Jew alike will begin to resent this holier-than-thou attitude the campaign is adapting.

-- C.H. Knoepler

Surely Gary Kamiya misspoke when he said, "Americans are the most religious people in the world." More religious than Iranians, Saudis, Tibetans, etc.?

The usual comparison when declaring America's religious propensity is with other Western nations. When making this comparison himself, Kamiya asks, "Are we really more moral than the Dutch?" In the sense that we do more good in the world than the Dutch or any other country -- airlifting food to a million Rwandan refugees, stopping the Kosovo slaughter, etc. -- we certainly are.

Do we attempt "good" things because we are more religious than other countries? I think so.

-- Steven Schlein

Salon Staff

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