A manifesto seeking to exhort both believers and atheists to behave better in the public sphere.The Constitution states that “no religious test” may keep a candidate from aspiring to political office. Yet, since John F. Kennedy used the phrase to deflect concerns about his Catholicism, the public has largely avoided probing candidates’ religious beliefs. Is it true, however, that a candidate’s religious convictions should be off-limits to public scrutiny?
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Damon Linker is a contributing editor for the New Republic and is a Senior Writing Fellow in the Center for Critical Writing at the University of Pennsylvania. He lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two children.From Booklist:
Linker is concerned our liberal democracy—defined as one that emphasizes individual freedom, limits the power of the state, and the like—is threatened by traditionalist believers and radical atheists. They are unfit for public life or office because of the illiberal demands their ideologies place upon them. Saints, for example, cannot be statesmen, as their first loyalty is to their god, not the Constitution or the liberal institutions that serve democracy. Believing there is a right way to behave in the political arena, Linker articulates six political commandments, including placing no authority above the Constitution. Yet political views informed by religious beliefs or atheistic sensibilities were not something the framers of the Constitution saw fit to enjoin. By excluding those with whom he disagrees from political life in order to safeguard liberal democracy, Linker’s six-point test ironically becomes not only unconstitutional but also as illiberal as the ideologies he decries. Nevertheless, this is a thought-provoking book about the tension between politics and religion in the public square. --Christopher McConnell
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