Taylor writes that we live in a "new age of religious searching." This does not necessarily take on the coloring of the orthodox, but it's impossible not to see something going on when churches sprout in shopping malls where the people are, whether sinner or merely shopper. The Wall Street Journal reports that "Confession Makes a Comeback," with the rite expanding from Catholic to Protestant and Evangelical, an attempt to bring moral awareness and repentance back into everyday life. This can be faith reduced to Cliffs Notes, but it nevertheless speaks of a yearning for something beyond the materialism of the modern world. "Certainly the confessional is a lot healthier than Jerry Springer," says Orlando, Fla., Bishop Thomas Wenski.
America is the most religious society in the West, but faith flourishes in its pluralities and keeps us tolerant of those who believe something different. The robustness of faith gives strength to democracy. Americans were not susceptible to the messianic ideologies of communism and fascism because we enable faith to be the handmaiden of government, serving government and the common good through individuals who live their beliefs in different ways, enabling the still small voice of conscience to guide.
The left mocks President Bush for wearing his evangelical faith on his sleeve, but skeptics of religious faith might as well get used to it. Hillary Clinton cites her Methodist upbringing as informing her social gospel of good works. Barack Obama talks proudly of his faith's origins in the United Church of Christ. John McCain claims both Episcopal and Baptist connections. Mike Huckabee is an ordained Southern Baptist minister. Mitt Romney is a devout Mormon whose church once permitted polygamy, but his wife points out that he's the only major Republican candidate who's had only one wife.
The strength of democracy rests not only on tolerance for many beliefs but a tolerance for no belief. It's precisely this tolerance that radical Islam detests. For radical Muslims there is no separation of religion from anything else. They use intolerance to dominate and destroy everything that deviates from oppressive religious law. For their part, atheists would do better to dissect the Islamist rationale than to pick on the religious folk whose faith guarantees not only freedom of religion, but the freedom from religion enjoyed by atheists, skeptics and other nonbelievers. This is the freedom the Founding Fathers regarded as a gift of God.