Ross Douthat, on the danger of conflating the experiential and ideological aspects of religion:
But the "mainspring" of religious faith for most believers – and particularly for a mystic like Mother Teresa – is the personal experience of God as a being who loves them and communicates with them, rather than the intellectual experience of Catholicism (or some other specific faith tradition) as a philosophical system that persuades them.
Mark Lilla, in his long and interesting NYT Magazine cover story, on why the Great Separation of church and state is not and will not be a given in most of the world:
As for the American experience, it is utterly exceptional: there is no other fully developed industrial society with a population so committed to its faiths (and such exotic ones), while being equally committed to the Great Separation. Our political rhetoric, which owes much to the Protestant sectarians of the 17th century, vibrates with messianic energy, and it is only thanks to a strong constitutional structure and various lucky breaks that political theology has never seriously challenged the basic legitimacy of our institutions. Americans have potentially explosive religious differences over abortion, prayer in schools, censorship, euthanasia, biological research and countless other issues, yet they generally settle them within the bounds of the Constitution. It’s a miracle.
Here’s Christopher Hitchen’s response to Lilla.