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Religion and Space


Two Op-Ed pairings in the last two days are of interest. Today, The Washington Post carries an Op-Ed by Robert Novak that focuses on Dean’s seemingly insincere religiosity and the discomfort of the secular liberal Democratic base with religion. As if to bear that out, The New York Times devotes a lot of space to a piece by Susan Jacoby touting America’s “secular heritage,” and attacking conservative claims that the framers took religion for granted as a foundation of much civic life. Jacoby’s piece makes some good points, but ultimately creates a distorted picture by leaving out the very real role that religion did play for the framers, and for earlier generations of Americans. Jacoby’s piece isn’t about figuring the complex role religion has always played in American public life. It’s about trying to write religion out of the picture. Yesterday, I was struck by William Safire’s paean to the inspiration of space travel and Anne Applebaum’s almost vicious attack on space exploration and its benighted acolytes. Applebaum is careful not to totally dismiss the importance of unmanned space exploration, but she seems to think the whole space project is a gigantic waste of time and money. The space debate is interesting, and we may be about to have one, if reports of the administration’s plans are correct. Space travel excites and inspires the public in general, and secular libertarians in particular. For some secularists, the conquest of space seems to take the place of religious awe. But for secularists who’s inspiration comes from the quest for “social justice,” traditional religion and the conquest of space alike are either anathema or beside the point. In any case, Applebaum’s attack on manned space exploration is worth reading. I’d like to see a serious rebuttal. In the end, though, these questions have more to do with what inspires you. That’s not a matter easily settled by argument.


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