School Prayer Continues to Raise Controversy

As the new school year begins, the New American reports that some public schools are facing demands to remove prayer from school-sponsored events. Though after the Supreme Court’s ruling in Santa Fe School District v. Doe prayer at school-sponsored events is sometimes unconstitutional as a violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause (see 530 U.S. 290 (2000)) some districts continue to incorporate prayer into events like the first day of school, football games, and graduations.   Most recently, on August 18 the superintendent of the DeSoto County, Mississippi, school district received a letter requesting that district schools remove prayers from school-sponsored events. By August 23 the district complied and announced via a press release that the school board voted to ban prayers at future sporting games. Read more

Egginton’s “In Defense of Religious Moderation”

In light of recent discussions around the web about religion and American politics — ones which are likely to become more heated in the coming months — I thought to note this interesting looking and brief book, In Defense of Religious Moderation (Columbia UP), by William Egginton (Johns Hopkins).  The publisher’s description follows.  — MOD

In his latest book, William Egginton laments the current debate over religion in America, in which religious fundamentalists have set the tone of political discourse—no one can get elected without advertising a personal relation to God, for example—and prominent atheists treat religious belief as the root of all evil. Neither of these positions, Egginton argues, adequately represents the attitudes of a majority of Americans who, while identifying as Christians, Jews, and Muslims, do not find fault with those who support different faiths and philosophies.

In fact, Egginton goes so far as to question whether fundamentalists and atheists truly oppose each other, united as they are in their commitment to a “code of codes.” In his view, being a religious fundamentalist does not require adhering to a particular religious creed. Fundamentalists—and stringent atheists—unconsciously believe that the methods we use to understand the world are all versions of an underlying master code. This code of codes represents an ultimate truth, explaining everything. Surprisingly, perhaps the most effective weapon against such thinking is religious moderation, a way of believing that questions the very possibility of a code of codes as the source of all human knowledge. The moderately religious, with their inherent skepticism toward a master code, are best suited to protect science, politics, and other diverse strains of knowledge from fundamentalist attack, and to promote a worldview based on the compatibility between religious faith and scientific method.