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Bleached Faith: The Tragic Cost When Religion Is Forced Into the Public Square

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Public recognition of religion has been a part of American political life from the beginning of our country, and that is not going to change. But in recent years, the effort by some to challenge the long held separation of church and state by imposing religion in the public sphere has caused more harm than good.

Along the lines of other incredulous "neo-Enlightenment" books, Bleached Faith makes a forceful case that the gravest threat to real faith comes from those who would water down religion in order to win the dubious honor of forcing it into public buildings and classrooms.

The freedom of religion we enjoy in the United States, both as a matter of law and practice, is extraordinary by any measure. However, when American courts allow the government to insert religious symbolism in public spaces, real religion is the loser. Goldberg argues that people on both sides of this debate should resist this corruption of religion. The book provides a survey of the legal and political environment in which battles over the public display of the Ten Commandments, the teaching of intelligent design in our schools, and the celebration of religious holidays take place.

Goldberg firmly maintains that, "if American religion becomes a watered-down broth that is indistinguishable from consumerism and science, we will have no one to blame but ourselves. My opposition to pushing religion into the courthouse and the biology classroom does not stem from hostility to religion. I am opposed to bleached faith—the empty symbolism that diminishes the power of real belief."

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Bleached Faith is a useful primer to some of the recent church/state debates."—Jerome E. Copulsky, Politics and Religion

"Brilliantly written, passionately argued, and sincerely unbiased, the book is a clarion call to restrain the billboarding of religion."—Library Journal

"With a journalist's clarity and a lawyer's precision, Steven Goldberg shows what we've lost in the legal battles over religion's place in the public sphere—a serious commitment to what makes religion important."—Mark Tushnet, Harvard Law School, author of A Court Divided: The Rehnquist Court and the Future of Constitutional Law

"Accessible to any reader, but with insights for experts as well, Bleached Faith is a richly informed and frankly personal meditation about the importance of spiritual conviction in society. Steven Goldberg—long an important voice in questions of the relationships among religion, science, and the law—carefully surveys how courts have tried to mediate conflicts between the Constitution and those who want more religion in the public square. Anyone who wants to understand the fault line between church and state will be enriched by this book."—Dennis J. Hutchinson, University of Chicago Law School, author of The Man Who Once Was Whizzer White

"Steven Goldberg has written a book for anyone concerned about American religion and its ill-conceived push into the public square. Bleached Faith is a powerful, cautionary tale." —Kevin P. Quinn, S.J., Executive Director, Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education, and Professor of Law, Santa Clara University

Library Journal

Goldberg (law, Georgetown Univ.) aims to urge readers to reexamine the fundamental principles separating church and state, science and religion. Much has been written about the placement of the Ten Commandments in federal court buildings and the teaching of creationism or intelligent design in junior-high biology classrooms. The frequently controversial resolutions seem like substantial victories for religion and its advocates, but Goldberg disagrees. He sees these isolated "victories" as diminishing both religion's power and the transformative nature of spiritual symbols. Religion, he feels, is selling itself short and condescending to the views and values of worldly secularism. Goldberg's thesis is easily accessible to any reader interested in the secular vs. sacred debate yet also challenging to practitioners of religion, law, and government. Brilliantly written, passionately argued, and sincerely unbiased, the book is a clarion call to restrain the billboarding of religion. For all libraries.
—John-Leonard Berg

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780804758611
  • Publisher: Stanford University Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 161
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Steven Goldberg, author of Seduced By Science: How American Religion Has Lost Its Way (2000), is Professor of Law at Georgetown University.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments     ix
Introduction     1
Erasing the Ten Commandments     7
How Intelligent Design Demeans Religion     39
The Ultimate Demise of Christmas and Chanukah     66
Neither France nor Iran: Religious Freedom in America     94
Conclusion     129
Notes     131
Bibliographic Note     153
Index     155
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