Religion, in One Way or Another, Is Part of America’s Social Contract

Sept. 23 2019

Surveying the deep divisions and intense passions that have seized American public discourse since 2016, and some of the attacks on traditional politics from both right and left, Suzanne Garment sees a threat to the country’s underlying social contract, which she terms the “American deal.” Garment defines this deal “as a set of political ideas that have persisted in this country over the past couple of centuries and, most of the time, have kept our political arrangements from falling apart.” Of the twelve rules she enumerates as constituting this deal, the fourth is that “most Americans are religious, more or less.”

Today, lots of people are more inclined to call it “spiritual”; certainly large numbers of citizens have drifted away from organized religious denominations. As a result, we’re surprised when we get seemingly anomalous news, like the story of female religious orders that are growing once more because millennials are interested in becoming nuns.

Moreover, numbers aren’t the sole measure of the influence; there’s nothing like religion to remind us of the salience of intensity. Sometimes the story is that religious influence has prompted a state legislature to ban abortion after a term of eight weeks; sometimes the news is about Muslim, Jewish, and Christian clergy joining together to guard a sanctuary after a hate crime.

Almost nothing is embedded more deeply than religion in the American fabric. Other elements of the Bill of Rights may have equal respect, and at least one item—the Second Amendment—periodically explodes in importance, as it’s exploding now. But none of them matches religion, unruly and unpredictable, as an ineradicable part of the deal.

Read more at American Interest

More about: Donald Trump, Religion and politics, U.S. Politics


When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount