Faith, Reason, and the Death of Democracy in America

It is difficult to understand the rise of religious fundamentalism in the US. Many of the world's most highly respected learning and research institutions are located within the US. In its inception, the leaders of the US received their power from the people, not by Divine Right, not by peerage. God does not appear in the Constitution, though the free practice of any religion is protected by it just as explicitly as the freedoms of speech, of the press, and of assembly. The US is the great refuge of the oppressed of the world, where principles of self-reliance and self-determination are prized, and where a diversity of thought and a clash of ideas is seen as a healthy—as an essential—aspect of their democracy.

For nearly a decade, the White House has enabled the ideological fringes of the country, rewarding faith with spending and the spotlight, with an undeserved legitimacy in education, in the military, and in the political arena. It has smothered dissent by accusing dissenters of possessing, at best, a lack of patriotism.

Al Gore enunciated the pitfall of relying on faith over reason in an interview with NPR (podcast May 27/07): "Whether it's New Orleans, or Iraq, or the climate crisis, when evidence that any reasonable person can understand is completely ignored in favor of ideology and power politics, then our country suffers." In a nation with some of the world's greatest scientists, it is tragic that empiricism is condemned as blasphemy, and that evidence is obfuscated rather than interpreted by the Executive.