Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher eloquently summates the foundation of America; "Europe was created by history. America was created by philosophy". Indeed, America was created on a variety of philosophies adopted from various European scholars such as the separation of powers (Montesquieu), a social contract (Rousseau) and natural rights (John Locke). One of the key philosophical notions behind the formation of America was the separation of church and state.
"The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe with blood for centuries."
James Madison, Founding Father, 4th US President
America, having recently celebrated it's 237th year of independence, is under immense threat from growing tides of political thought that there should be an increased role of religion within the state. It is supposedly the beacon of liberal democracy to the world, yet it is a place where this growing tide of religion in politics is impinging upon individual's rights.
The current norms and discourse in US politics is simple. If you don't pander the religious, you're simply unelectable. This has been a key feature in GOP primaries, but is creeping into Democrat primaries. The mass hypocrisy is extraordinary- the religious right often fervently campaign for less gun controls because of their fundamental constitutional right to "keep and bear arms". Because the founding fathers would have "wanted" this. Yet when there is a resurgence in the debate on prayer in school, the religious right are vehemently for it because it is supposedly encapsulated within the enshrined moral values of America. Furthermore, the ever controversial debate on the practice of teaching evolution in school is derided and it is this growing religious tide in America that will hinder the development of itself as a country and its future generations.
It is such a shame that conveniently the religious right feel they can ignore parts of the ideals of the Founding Fathers. What I find more of a shame is that the Republican Party is slowly becoming synonymous with religion and religious values. There are only a handful of moderate Republicans anymore, and if GOP candidates mutter the phrases "pro-choice, gay rights or pro-stem cell research" they are demonized and slandered by pathetic panderers by the likes of the ever intellectual Sarah Palin or conservative commentators like Glen Beck, who would probably try and exorcise them live on Fox.
For a country that reveres the Founding Fathers and portrays them as demi-gods; men such as Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and George Washington to name but a few, it is imperative they familiarise themselves with work of these enlightened men. Until then, it seems as though the American political system will continue to be firmly influenced by these religious "values".
Max Sobell blogs at www.nupolitique.com