The leading thinkers of the British and American Enlightenments hoped that life in a modern democratic order would shift the focus of Christianity from a faith-based reality to a reality-based faith.
American religion is moving in the opposite direction today, back toward the ecstatic, literalist and credulous spirit of the Great Awakenings.
Its most disturbing manifestations are not political, at least not yet. They are cultural.
The fascination with the ''end times,'' the belief in personal (and self-serving) miracles, the ignorance of basic science and history, the demonization of popular culture, the censoring of textbooks, the separatist instincts of the home-schooling movement -- all these developments are far more worrying in the long term than the loss of a few Congressional seats.
No one can know how long this dumbing-down of American religion will persist. But so long as it does, citizens should probably be more vigilant about policing the public square, not less so.
If there is anything David Hume and John Adams understood, it is that you cannot sustain liberal democracy without cultivating liberal habits of mind among religious believers. That remains true today, both in Baghdad and in Baton Rouge.
(Emphasis and extra paragraphing added.)
To be sure, a reality-based faith is unquestionably the preferred option. But some of the things Professor Lilla bemoans can be seen as understandable reactions to the dismissal — indeed, the demonization — of faith in anything other than secular humanism.