The Heritage Foundation is issuing a fascinating report that finds that religious practice will improve your health, give you fresher breath and whiter teeth, remove your wrinkles and boost your sex life. Really, boost your sex life. And that may all be true (in the spirit of the season I won't contest the claims, after all, some of my best friends are religious believers).
But my snarky side couldn't help but wonder about the assertion: "Religious practice promotes the well-being of individuals, families, and the community." Hmmm. Community? Well maybe people behave better toward one another in their own religious communities, but history and contemporary events suggest that from time to time there might be a little bit of friction between practitioners of different faiths. Say the Thirty Years War ? Or how them Israelis and Palestinians? Or those Shi'as and Sunnis? And let's not forget the Buddhists and the Hindus in Sri Lanka. I'm not picking sides right now in any of those conflicts, I'm just saying….
In any case, the Heritage report does make some policy recommendations. Most significantly:
At the federal, state, and local levels, policymakers should work to encourage an environment in which religious institutions and organizations can thrive and citizens can actively practice their faith—both privately and publicly. In doing so, government entities can remain neutral with regard to particular faiths while still respecting the rights of citizens who are not affiliated with any religion or faith.
"…can remain neutral"? I would think that the Constitutional requirement that the Feds must remain neutral has been the key to both the relative religious peace enjoyed by Americans and relatively high number of believers among Americans. With regard to the latter claim, the idea is that if you can't use the state to clobber unbelievers, you have to get good at persuading others that you may have a direct hotline to some deity or other.
Anyway, have a Merry Winter Solstice holiday of whatever sort you prefer to celebrate!