Before there was The God Delusion and Letter to a Christian Nation, there was another excellent book on atheism: Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll) by Susan Jacoby. I can’t recommend that book highly enough: it takes a purely historical perspective on American religiosity, and shows that it is a fairly recent aberration. I consider it superior to the more recent works by Dawkins and Harris; I wonder why it is so rarely acknowledged in the current interest in freethought?

Anyway, she has a recent short column well worth reading:

However, both atheism and secularism are still largely excluded from public dialogue about the proper role of religion in American politics–an omission that I consider much more important than pointless debates between believers and nonbelievers about the existence of God.

I have written NBC’s Tim Russert several times about the lack of secular representation on his many Meet the Presspanels concerning the relationship between religion and politics. Mr. Russert has never responded to my letters. This subject was discussed once again on the show on Christmas Eve and, once again, there was no secular voice to be heard.

When the influence of religion on politics is analyzed in the press, the dialogue usually ranges from religious conservatism to religious liberalism. No secularists or atheists need apply.

Much of what has gone disastrously wrong in American policy, especially foreign policy, in recent years can be attributed to a reliance on blind faith rather than evidence. When The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward asked President Bush whether he had consulted his father before going to war in Iraq, Bush famously replied that he had consulted a “Higher Father.”

Isn’t it fascinating that the voice of God always sounds suspiciously like one’s own voice? When politicians start citing God as the authority for whatever they want to do, they are usually promoting some policy that defies human reason.

Unfortunately, it’s in a section of the Washington Post called “On Faith” (I think it’s another example of Jacoby’s point that there don’t seem to be any papers that bother with a section called “On Reason”), and there are lots of comments, many from certifiable True Believers who are clearly driven even more deeply insane by the article.