The author poses with a special cake created by Baltimore's own “Ace of Cakes” at the University of Baltimore School of Law on April 2, 2008.
“A very fine examination of the role that religion, and religious conflict, has played in our American story. Artfully blending history and narrative, Meyerson breathes life into an often misunderstood story, examining the beliefs of our founders, and showing how those beliefs did not always determine their policy decisions... This is a wonderful book, a needed corrective to the heat that often defines the current debate.”
Endowed by Our Creator
Endowed by Our Creator is a major re-examination of the framers’ views of the proper relationship between religion and government. Rejecting the extremes that dominate contemporary discussion — those who argue that the framers created a secular nation that prohibits governmental involvement with religion versus those who are convinced history proves that the United States is a “Christian” or “Judeo-Christian” nation — the book reveals the true American experiment.
A fundamental paradox of American history is that while the individual states began as narrowly focused, religiously homogeneous communities, the United States was born a pluralistic nation made up of multiple religious groups. The religious diversity of the country, combined with the powerful direction of the early national leaders, permitted the creation of a distinctly American concept of religious freedom.
Simply put, the framers intended for the new nation to separate Church and State, but not God and State.
The framers understood that religious oppression does not come from a simple belief in God; it arises when a sectarian view of God finds its voice in an institution that deems itself the sole interpreter of divine will. Accordingly, the framers decided that the American government should not acknowledge religion in a way that favored any particular creed or denomination. Because they feared divisiveness and sectarian violence and oppression, they opposed government penalizing minority religions or funding religious activities. But the framers also believed that religion could be a force for instilling virtue and unifying a diverse nation. They created a spiritual public vocabulary that could be appreciated by the full range individuals in a diverse population. Those from orthodox religions could hear this language, not merely as consistent with their prayers but as part of them. But the framers’ language was expansive enough to permit those outside the mainstream of religious belief, to join in the experience of a conscientious communion with the rest of their nation. The framers’ language was designed to communicate to all, including the deistic, agnostic and atheistic, that they were valued members of the political community.
The framers’ understanding of religious liberty is especially important today. Their example teaches us the importance of respecting religious differences. They showed that it is possible to protect individual freedom of conscience while permitting inclusive public religious expression. They remind us that religious acceptance is a fundamental American value. We can learn once more that it is ultimately our decision whether religion will be used to alienate and divide, or to inspire and unify our religiously diverse nation.