Divided by God America's Church-State Problem--and What We Should Do About It

Noah Feldman

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



Trade Paperback

320 Pages



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A Washington Post Best Book of the Year Even before George W. Bush gained re-election through a frank appeal to religiously devout "values voters," it was clear that church-state matters in the United States had reached a crisis—one that threatens to split the country in two. With Divided by God, Noah Feldman shows that the crisis is as old as America—and looks to our nation's past to show how it might be resolved.

Today more than ever, ours is a religiously diverse society: Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist as well as Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish. And yet at the same time, committed Christians are making their influence felt in politics and culture with unprecedented vigor.

What are the implications of this seemingly contradictory state of affairs? To answer the question, Feldman tells the story of the relations between religion and American government, making clear that again and again in our history, diversity has forced us to redraw the lines in the church-state divide. In vivid, dramatic chapters, he describes how we as a people have settled controversies over the Bible, the Pledge of Allegiance, and the teaching of evolution through appeals to shared values of liberty, equality, and freedom of conscience. And he proposes a brilliant solution to our current crisis—an approach that would honor our religious diversity while respecting the long-held conviction that religion and state should not mix.

Divided by God speaks to the headlines, even as it tells the story of a long-running conflict that has shaped the American people—indeed, made us who we are.


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Excerpted from Divided By God by Noah Feldman. Copyright © 2005 by Noah Feldman. Published July 2005 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved.

For ten days in August 2003, with an insurgency brewing and soldiers dying in newly conquered Iraq, the nation’s attention suddenly became riveted on sleepy Montgomery, Alabama. Late one night the previous winter, Judge Roy Moore, the elected chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, had arranged for a two-and-a-half-ton block of granite to be erected in the rotunda of his courthouse. The enormous rock, which took a team
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  • Noah Feldman

  • Noah Feldman, who teaches law at New York University, has emerged as the leading expert on the relations between religion and government worldwide. He is the author of two previous books: After Jihad, which put him "into the center of an unruly brawl now raging in policy circles over what to do with the Arab world" (The New York Times Book Review); and What We Owe Iraq, which Richard Clarke called "insightful, accessible, and highly recommended." A former U.S. Supreme Court clerk, and presently a fellow at the New America Foundation, he lives in New York City.