This picture is a souvenir of the years I was part of the Nigerian community in Belgium.
"Barack Obama on Religion and Politics"
“Many of the leading lights of the Revolution, most notably Franklin and Jefferson, were deists (that is they believe in an un-personal God) who – while believing in an Almighty God – questioned not only the dogmas of the Christian church but the central tenets of Christianity itself (including Christ’s divinity). Jefferson and Madison in particular argued for what Jefferson called a “wall of separation” between church and state, as a means of protecting individual liberty in religious belief and practice, guarding the state against sectarian strife, and defending organized religion against the state’s encroachment or undue influence.” (p. 217, oc).
“Jefferson and Leland’s formula for religious freedom worked. Not only
has America avoided the sorts of religious strife that continue to
plague the globe, but religious institutions have continued to thrive
(…). Moreover, given the increasing diversity of America’s population,
the dangers of sectarianism have never been greater.
Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.” (oc, p. 218).
“But let’s even assume that we only had Christians within our borders. Whose Christianity would we teach in the schools? James Dobson’s or Al Sharpton’s? Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests that slavery is all right and eating shellfish is an abomination? How about Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount – a passage so radical that it’s doubtful that our Defense Department would survive its application?
This brings us to a different point – the manner in which religious views should inform public debate and guide elected officials. Surely, secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering the public square; Abraham Lincoln, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, Jr. – indeed the majority of great reformers in American history – not only were motivated by faith but repeatedly used religious language to argue their causes. (…) Our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition.
What our deliberative, pluralistic democracy does demand is that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals must be subject to argument and amenable to reason. (…)
For those who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible (that it is always right, S. C. ) as many evangelicals do, such rules of engagement may seem just one more example of the tyranny of the secular and material worlds over the sacred and the eternal. But in a pluralistic democracy, we have no choice. Almost by definition, faith and reason operate in different domains and involve different paths to discerning truth. Reason – and science – involves the accumulation of knowledge based on realities that we can all apprehend. Religion, by contrast, is based on truths that are not provable through ordinary human understanding – the “belief in things not seen”. When science teachers insist on keeping creationism or intelligent design out of their classrooms, they are not asserting that scientific knowledge is superior to religious insight. They are simply insisting that each path to knowledge involves different rules and that those rules are not interchangeable.
(…) Politics, like science, depends on our ability to persuade each other of common aims based on a common reality. Moreover, politics (unlike science) involves compromise, the art of the possible. At some fundamental level, religion does not allow for compromise. It insists on the impossible. If God has spoken, then followers are expected to live up to God’s edicts, regardless of the consequences. To base one’s life on such uncompromising commitments may be sublime; to base our policy making on such commitments would be a dangerous thing.” (oc, p. 219-20).
All quotes from “The Audacity of Hope. Thoughts on reclaiming the American Dream” by Barack Obama, Crown Publishers, New York, 2006.