6 Catholics + 3 Jews = 9 Protestants 4

Stephen Prothero, writes on CNN that the religious diversity of the current court may not be as diverse as it appears and may actually just be the same old protestant court that we have all grown to love.wpid-americanjesus.jpg

Prothero has written some interesting pieces. Religious Literacy is perhaps his best known work, but probably his best was American Jesus: How the Son of God became a National Icon. Here is a quote:

Historians like to believe that their work is exempt from the rough and tumble of contemporary concerns. But objectivity is a concern on both sides of the Christian America debate. Participants often oscillate between the descriptive and the normative, confusing what is (or was) with what ought to be. They also routinely conflate demographic, legal, and cultural questions forgetting that a country may be Christian in one respect and secular in another. Typically those that understand the United States as a multi religious country focus on the law and cheer on religious “outsiders,” while those who emphasize its Christian character focus on demography and cast their lot with the “insiders.” While for one group Christian dominance (either real or perceived) is the problem, for the other it is the solution.

What is interesting about Prothero’s observations in the CNN column is the conflation that has occurred across religious boundaries. We seem fairly comfortable that religion has become a historical fact more than a persuasion of interests. Of course we talk about Catholic opposition to Abortion every few years, but in large measure the religious preference of a judge maintains little value EXCEPT when the other pieces of the judges activities suggest that his religion is not the sort that we want serving on the court. The mixing and blurring of religious ideology has, in short created a pluralized democracy of religiosity in which to participate one must at least have a religion to be taken seriously, but then mitigate his religion into the beliefs of the whole.

Is this a good thing? Part of me says yes (I suppose the part that defers to the law and cheers on the outsiders) and part of me says no. Like Prothero I wonder, where are the Muslim judges? Where are Buddhist, Agnostic and Evangelicals.


  1. Thanks for the shout out, Warren, and for the observations. This is an odd country, no? Be religious, but not too much so. The ghosts of Eisenhower and his generic “faith in faith” live on.
    Steve Prothero

  2. I admit to being surprised at there not being more agnostics or even atheists on the Court, which I think would be a good thing (despite my attraction to religious worldviews of a certain sort). On the other hand, I doubt we’ll see, say, a Muslim or Buddhist judge until Muslims and Buddhists are greater in numbers in this society (which is occurring at a faster rate for the former than the latter). Lots of food for thought at the Table in any case.

  3. Pingback: Losing their Religion, or The Ironic Reader of Judicial Religious Temperment « The Literary Table

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