Gregory the Great, pope from 590-604 AD, wrote the Pastoral Rule to strengthen the office of the episcopacy following the fall of Rome. Widely read throughout Europe by bishops and laypeople, this treatise describes how bishops should lead, teach, live their lives, and govern others. The Pastoral Rule was intended to reshape and empower bishops following the spiritual, cultural, and economic deterioration of the Roman Empire.
A 2006 study in American Sociological Review shows that, while both divisions among American Christians and negative perceptions between people of different faiths are eroding, there is still one group that Americans don’t trust: those who choose to remain outside of communities of belief. Further research shows that atheists are perceived about as favorably as Muslims. Not believing in God constitutes a social mōs on par with one of the most maligned religious groups in the current American zeitgeist. (At least one op-ed has called for a political alliance between Muslims and atheists on the grounds that much of the current vitriol in American politics is aimed at these two groups.) The most fascinating question here falls outside of quantitative analysis: what does an atheist look like?
The question of American identity has historically been both complex and contested. What’s more, it often yields mythic notions rooted in exceptionalist dogmas like election, commission, moral regeneracy, sacred land, and innocent past. Embedded in religious American exceptionalism is the American Dream: if an individual works hard, perseveres, and is a good citizen, there is no limit to how far she can advance.
Analyzing the relationship between faith and the political left—its history and present condition—reveals a century filled with antagonisms. But there are also affinities and technologies for continuing rapprochement. Historically there has been an undeniable antagonism between religion and communism.
Roughly 94 percent of black voters now vote for a candidate from the Democratic Party. This high number at the national level may be due in part to President Obama’s racial identity. In 2008 Obama surpassed even the solidification of black votes for Lyndon Baines Johnson that occurred in 1964. Has the United States moved closer to a post-racial society?