Heretic Nation: At Last Our Candidates Fit
Ross Douthat: But is religious diversity a good thing?
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 8, 2012 2:01 PM CDT
Barack Obama, then Democratic senatorial candidate, prays during a services at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago in this Oct. 31, 2004 file photo.   (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

(Newser) – In the 20th century, most US presidents and presidential candidates were Baptists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians—in other words, Protestants. But in the 2012 presidential race? With a Mormon, a traditionalist Catholic, and a nondenominational Christian with ties to liberation theology, "we finally have a presidential field whose diversity mirrors the diversity of American Christianity as a whole," writes Ross Douthat in the New York Times. "These divergences reflect America as it actually is: We’re neither traditionally Christian nor straightforwardly secular."

On the other hand, Douthat misses the unifying force religion once held. In the old days, church leaders could embrace diverse interests when politicians cowered—during the civil rights movement, for example. But today, religious diversity is contributing to America's political polarization and partisanship. "In this atmosphere, religious differences are more likely to inspire baroque conspiracy theories," he writes, "whether it’s the far-right panic over an Islamified United States or the left-wing paranoia about a looming evangelical-led theocracy."