The Public Interest

Disestablished religion in America

Jeremy Rabkin

Winter 1987

THE UNITED STATES continues to operate under the oldest written constitution still in force in the world today—as we are likely to be reminded all too often in this season of the Constitution’s bicentennial. At the same time, the United States remains the most religious country in the Western world—to judge, at least, by what people tell pollsters about their religious beliefs and practices. According to Gallup surveys, 95 percent of the American people profess belief in God, some 70 percent claim that they pray, and an equal proportion claim affiliation with a particular church or synagogue.1 Since the early nineteenth century, foreign visitors have been equally struck by America’s unusual stability and its unusually pervasive public piety. The connection between them inevitably prompts reflection.

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