Secularism in the United States finds its most heightened expression in its constitutional arrangements; in this respect Britain falls short but by its own secularist standards—as the following essays display—American politics are saturated by Christian, especially Protestant concepts and sensibilities, which shape the hopes and fears, the ideals and blind spots of American political culture. It is as if two quite different social compacts were at work: in the British case it appears that the religious majority can have state recognition at the highest level but then they must exercise self effacement in relation to the democratic process if not public culture as well. In the United States, it is as if all churches can agree to allow a certain limited area of public life as "religiously neutral" and "beyond religion," the rest of public life is an open field for religion. American secularism, then, is not the depoliticization of religion but the rejection of one political method, namely establishment. American secularism is to be religious by all means but one.


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