In contrast, researcher Brian Grim notes, "Wherever religious freedom is high, there tends to be fewer incidents of armed conflict, better health outcomes, higher levels of earned income, prolonged democracy, and better educational opportunities for women."
There is a bright thread running through our history, seen by believer and non-believer alike, true or false, declaring that God has a special role for America to play in the world, Stevenson writes. This exceptional story, in all its representations, stands on its own and begs to be told through a museum in our nation's capital.
Stevenson argues that the strong hand of American religion is found throughout the history of the United States, from the early explorers and the Puritans to the 13 colonies; from the Revolution, the Founding Fathers and the writing of the Bill of Rights to Manifest Destiny, the Civil War and the freeing of the slaves; from the devastating wars, an emergent middle class and the epic social movements of the 20th century to the Cold War and our response to the terrorist attacks of 2001.
The purpose of this museum, Stevenson suggests, would be to present U.S. religious history objectively, to remain silent relative to the supremacy of one faith or denomination and to refrain from judging whether American religion has been beneficial or detrimental to the country.
Each citizen, now and in the following generations, needs to be thoroughly reminded of America's religious history, judge it for themselves and decide on a religious path of progress forward with at least some thought given to the country's long-term health, he concludes.
Nathan B. Oman, an associate professor of law at The College of William & Mary in Virginia, discusses the recent passage of an Oklahoma law prohibiting the use of sharia law in making judicial decisions.
His editorial, titled, Sharia law poses no threat to American courts, argues that current American laws have sensible rules governing cases where two parties would prefer to use religious law, such as sharia law, in tandem with US rules.
While courts may routinely apply foreign law to cases arising from events abroad, they will not apply such laws when they violate basic American values, Oman states.
In the end, Oklahoma's law needlessly attacks a key part of Islamic spirituality, Oman writes, For Muslims, sharia is both richer and less threatening than the political demagogues suggest. Oklahoma's action is unnecessary because our courts long ago found a sensible way of accommodating the laws of other nations without compromising basic American values.
Returning to the ongoing debate of Christmas and religion, J.R. Labbe discusses de-commercializing Christmas and the actions of Christians in promoting their beliefs during the holiday season.
As Christian researcher George Barna has said, we Christians too often are our own worst enemies when it comes to showing the world what real, biblically centered Christianity looks like — the one that calls for loving your neighbor as yourself, Labbe writes.
Proclaiming one's faith through an uttered "Merry Christmas" — or becoming angry at the restaurant manager who doesn't — isn't the way to display our humble faithfulness to the mission our Father gave us — to love our neighbors.
Labbe encourages the de-commercializing of Christmas through the giving of services and goods, rather than focusing on the more trivial Happy holidays vs. Merry Christmas debates.
If you want to put Christ back into Christmas, then instead of battling the mall crowd to spend outrageous amounts of money on presents that will be forgotten by Easter, use that time and money to feed the hungry, clothe the poor and visit the infirm, Labbe states. Living out that faith — putting our muscle and minds and money into tackling hunger and poverty and homelessness — is what keeps Christ in Christmas.