The real bold-faced result in the survey that spawned Newsweek's cover is the rise of what the pollsters called the "nones," up from 14 million to 34 million. In a typically ponderous essay, Newsweek editor Jon Meacham welcomed the alleged decline and fall of "the modern religious right's notion of a Christian America" because it creates a "calmer" political environment and a more "theologically serious religious life."
Translation: The "culture wars" should be declared over, and the left should be declared the winner. The Christian right should slink back to its church buildings and keep its antiquated notions of sin and salvation out of the public square. "Calmer" Christians will seek a creed that chummily goes along and gets along with the modern, secular culture. Only surrender on social issues is "theologically serious."
Newsweek watchers might find it odd that Christians should surrender, but Muslims should be granted greater respect. A month ago, Newsweek's cover announced, "Radical Islam is a fact of life. How to live with it." Fareed Zakaria argued the smart strategy was "nuanced, noncombative rhetoric" that avoids sweeping declarations like "war on terror." Zakaria's piece ended right in the secular liberal's sweet spot. He was confident radical Islamism would eventually lose adherents, because "they lack answers to the problems of the modern world. They do not have a worldview that can satisfy the aspirations of modern men and women. We do. That's the most powerful weapon of all."
Modernity will win, and archaic religion will lose. All this leads back to the sneaking suspicion that the top minds at Newsweek think they are the wisest of men, the definers of trends and the shepherds of public opinion. So why is everyone abandoning their advice? Why are the captains of a magazine that's lost half its circulation telling the rest of us where the mainstream lies?