tv After Words CSPAN December 30, 2013 12:00am-12:56am EST
and his latest book american heretics' catholics, jews, muslims and the history of intolerance. the professor argues that while the freedom of religion as a constitutionally protected right, many religious groups have been persecuted throughout history sometimes by the very government that is supposed to protect them. this program is about an hour. >> host: hello, peter. how are you whacks this is a good time to have this conversation because thanksgiving is approaching and it's a time to celebrate our founding fathers and mothers search for religious tolerance. but your book is part of the promise and the way that you introduce it is you are interested in challenging this idea that america is a place of tolerance and that intolerance
is a very american thing. so tell me is the narrative wrong in your point of view? the targets in the groups found refuge here at times because the persecution and other places so that is a part that has to be embraced. but it's also the important to realize the way that it's been crafted as a kind of a master narrative in which the religious toleration is forefront to the degree that has an unfortunate part. in example is a lot of americans think that it was founded in the european settlement by the puritans, but actually they were europeans came here much earlier such as the spanish and also the english and jamestown, but that may flower narrative about the freedom from prosecution the speech was so prominent because
the nation's like to celebrate themselves and downplay things and americans have embraced this idea that it should be a place of freedom. >> tell me a little bit about how you came to write the book. some of my research after 9/11 was focused on islamophobia because after 9/11 as the nation was dealing with a crippling crime that has been afflicted there was likely to be a backlash in what i know about american history and so a colleague of i rico wrote a book called making muslims the enemy and it addresses the need that venetian had to deal with this issue of islamophobia and it turned out we didn't exist in 2007 when we published that book but others were coming out
bringing out this issue in 2007. so, there is evidence in the paper or any news media that the sentiment in america damage the lives of them on the muslims and on the annual basis what can we do to contribute to the conversation to help americans understand this better. so we drew on the public's in various places and the questions people have they just don't understand what the fuss was about. and so i felt that perhaps writing a book that would include the history of the persecution of other religious groups would help them on muslim americans in the thighs with what muslims are going through bye realizing parts of their own half the man not be familiar and groups the associate with.
>> host: you wrote not a lot, but was that something and also was that some kind of a realization for you? was there any kind of personal pain of meditation or journey for you to say this is something that's important or? >> guest: absolutely. i'm from a catholic family and although i didn't experience any persecution as a catholic history indicated how there's been antagonism towards catholics in various ways and there's also a jewish part of my family as well sensitive to those issues as well. but more particularly personally was the realization that life was carrying around some of the islamophobia and muslim ideas myself and it really came home to me as i really than the book i was having a conversation with my friend, steve, who was
studying the middle eastern studies and had family link in the middle east themselves. i made a comment. i can't remember what the comment was, but he said it did you hear yourself, the comment that you need is a stereotype about muslims. and he was right. but i needed him to kind of call me out on that in order for me to see it to kind of pull it off and put it in front of me so i could get past that. so i'm interested in the ways people carry their prejudice because i don't think a lot of people think the racism, sexism and the anti-semitism people carry is only used as incubated with the deliberate focus on hatred that people decide i want to hate somebody so i'm going to choose this group and think these things. unfortunately we absorb these in the broad society and they've become a common sense and we don't reflect on them because they are a part of our background information about the
world. so it's not only the intolerance people suffered but a little bit of the ways in which this made sense to people at the time without saying that was okay or saying that it was justified. >> host: what about the title of the book as "american heretics" it feels old fashioned and also loaded the oldest. so why did you take that word? >> guest: part of the book is talking about nationalism. nationalism is the american religion and in some ways the fidelity that americans demonstrate towards their flag and various institutions almost raises the whole people who die for their country is fascinating given that people who are willing to die for their
religion tend to be looked at in that popular american media. i began to realize the seen running through the chapters i was riding that there are certain american norms that are not just social norms like normal people do this and believe that, but also that to be part of a nation, it requires in the mind of many americans that here are the certain types of beliefs and practices and if you are up against those then you tend to be seen as anti-american, which is a serious claim when one thinks about it in a very pluralistic environment. what does it take to be against that and so the notion in some ways works in that way with a little bit of a religion inflection. >> host: let's go back to the book organized around the
different groups and you start with the puritans and quakers so let's talk briefly about the roots of the concept of the religious freedom or pluralism. what did the founders mean by this? >> guest: we think about the constitutional founders and the european settlers like the puritans and the english settlers and for many of the latter they come to the colonies in order to establish religious freedom for everyone and places of religious freedom for them and they were willing to tolerate a certain difference for the society of friends and members and the quakers had settlements in massachusetts where they were allowed to be
one, but if any of them began to publicly proclaim their religion at various times that brought them in with some serious punishment including that. so, those founders that we think of as founding the european part of the settlement of america were not terribly tolerant in some places. in other places, for instance and some of the southern colonies where more tolerance living from colony to colony, the constitutional writers determine that there is no way that they are going to create a unified nation that was going to just decide on one religion as the state religion the way the church of england was and is the church of england. so, they put a sense of pluralism into the protected pluralism into the constitution and jefferson himself as an important part of the kind of formation of these ideas during
the revolution and afterwards he was primarily interested in and pluralism because he believed that citizens in order for them to vote for a space government needed to vote through their conscience and religion was the key way to develop a conscience canada so for him freedom of religion was freedom of conscience to believe we wanted to believe. wasn't necessarily the freedom to do whatever you want to do. so the notion of the freedom of religion in the united states is more nuanced than we often get in some of the public discourse of the battle. >> host: the chapters are organized by different -- looking at the different experience and tolerance of different groups and they are organized by quakers and irish catholics, americans, jews and muslims. tell me why did you pick those groups and were there any that you considered and how to organize those? >> guest: this is not a complete history of the religious intolerance in
america. each one of those factors primarily looks at one moment of the intolerance towards that group by the majority. so each one of those chapters could be developed much more and the other groups that i don't deal with at all because again, not meant to be comprehensive so for instance african-american, just dealing with the realities of the slavery trade just to start with is an overwhelming topic given that the indigenous traditions of the enslaved africans came across the atlantic with were usually stripped from them there were conditions of slavery that didn't allow them to pursue their indigenous religious life including islam of probably about one-fifth of all of the enslaved africans are muslim. and there's not much evidence of that. there are scholars to work very hard to try to find evidence of that continuing beyond that first generation, but most of
that is just lost. so that has left the biggest group i didn't deal with, but i wanted to deal with primary sources and they're just were not very many primary sources and that period so i had to leave that history out as well as the others. >> host: let's go through each of the chapters and discuss the good characters and action, let me be go through a couple of them. so the first one about the quakers. one of the things interesting is you were trying to kind of look at -- and we can talk about the generalities' here, but what it was that prompted the intolerance towards them, what were the factors that prompted the intolerance and the different groups and the cases of the quakers that you're talking about the emphasis on conformity. can you talk a little bit about why were they seem and why was that the important issue and through the tractors without
giving in to each of them in detail. but there is a reason for religious intolerance very wisely or is it something you can sum up as the change or something like that? >> guest: i done think there is one way that it's worked in all these cases across american history. however there is a common theme. and one of those things is the request for maintaining a certain type of order because all societies rely on some sort of order in order to hold back the chaos. so for instance in the united states we drive on the right hand side of the road, and that is not in order people can decide to drive wherever they want there are not enough to drive them from stopping anywhere they want. so we rely on people to have that order that is ingrained in them in order to do what, to preserve safety and property, the variety of reasons we have?
the puritans thought that the conformity to a certain type of religious norm and ethical norm was going to create an morrill order that was going to protect the community because they had a very strong sense that if they didn't do that as the corporate body that they would come in for the divine disapproval. it was the logical. >> host: it wasn't necessarily an economic issue. >> guest: it was economic in the sense that they didn't necessarily distinguish between the politics. they understood that they were living by god's grace and that they could either gain more or lose more of god's grace. so they needed to work to create a moral society as possible. and so allowing for the various communities to exist was fine with in that order. but if somebody from the
community was going to start preaching and moving people who were part of the puritan community away from that, that was just unacceptable to allow. and so again, over time there were different ways in which the puritan governors and politicians responded to that but at times there was actually capital punishment. >> host: but in your book you are talking about it was in the nature of the prayer the way in which they kind of waited for a spirit to move them as opposed to being led by someone that men and women both spoke in the services. there was something about maintaining literacy of people that could be seen as so threatening.
>> guest: that goes back to maintain the order and then people there were getting these messages and speaking out from them that can undermine the authority and then when they have as equal a place that is the theme we find as well they play an important role in that people in the majority people had about the way in which the minority might challenge the order. >> host: i was great to raise this at the end but since we were talking about the idea of god speaking, and revelation, we are still basically having the same discussion. is the word of god god has already spoken or can continue to speak in times with other people? so why don't know if we are any different today in terms of our willingness to hear people who claim to the profits or hear from god in different ways.
>> guest: they govern deaccessioned and the impact that has. so you have david saying that he has a special insight into the bible and the fees' help other members of the community understand the bible particularly the book of revelations better and allow them to understand that they are living in the end times. that by itself doesn't seem to be a problem but when it leads to other elements, then that trigger of law enforcement concern as well as the popular press is concerned, then suddenly this idea of somebody
listening in having his followers do things in the national norms, that is dangerous and that means to be policed and controlled. and then the sense of fear that amplifies was so in that way that is a secular expectation that okay people have their religions and what they do in their own mosques is fine but that should not interfere in public life or should not threaten public life. again that concerns the order. >> host: we will stick to the chapter in which you explore the idea of what makes the call to and obviously in their case and as you noted in the book they turned out to have sort of antisocial behaviors and gunrunning and stuff like that but i felt like in that chapter you were really directly sort of
saying, questioning the characterization of what makes a cult or ambivalent about it. you said the label says more about those that apply it then goes that it describes. maybe we can talk about this more in what you found and what i read i don't know if ambivalence is the right word or complex about it and then even has a religion reporter i write about contemporary stuff. again this is a very alive conversation and when you talk about secular i was thinking about the way them on religious people talk about hearing goblet it is through meditation we still have a new language basically about that so i wanted to see if you could think about all the way this relates to today. >> host: i think that it demonstrates an enduring americans sphere of americans
playing too much a part of somebody's life so the allegation that was made about them is that they had been brainwashed and why two people think this even though the american psychological association and other groups said there is no such thing, that doesn't actually occur. but so however people think that is what is going on because these people are believing things and doing things and withdrawing from the mainstream american society in ways that it doesn't make sense and seems to be irrational and so the only way people what to do that is if they were under the control of somebody that wants a certain type of power. so i think that demonstrates a particular fear that americans have that the loss of individual body among other things, the loss of individuality and that's why today we don't tend to use the word called because as you said is has more about the
people and what they expect with proper religion to be and prefer to talk about the new religious movements which tend to have these characteristics that they tend to be tight knit and they often have a charismatic leader and often lead people to reject former parts of their lives to not be antisocial but remove themselves from the mainstream of society. sockeye as i said one of the key parts of that is individualism and bringing this into today as you were asking, the key part of american society is this vulgarization of the individual in the sense that all of our rights ultimately come down to the individual and that we should be as free as possible. so there are those who are non-secular who believe that their religious freedoms are being trumbull upon if there is any kind of restriction on them at all as though we have the
right to do anything individually we want which obviously we don't. we live in a society and various rights to the leveraged against others. so i don't have the right to yell fire in a crowded theater. i don't have that right. i have the right to a certain freedom of expression of but there are limits to those rights. and there are others who would say that if my sense of moral order is being restricted from being brought into the larger society let's say that i'm against abortion, and i am not allowed to have a society in which it is forbidden, then my group is being oppressed. that is in a different order than what my tractors are trying to demonstrate where a group as a class as an identified group is being persecuted for presumed practices and beliefs as opposed to the the date in the public's
sphere about what type of moral order to we want and what are the limits of that. >> host: it's pretty easy to untangle the way you leave it out. [laughter] let's just go through some of the chapters because that's where the action in the book is. one of the chapters is about the mormon community. and you talked about how a lot of americans at the time, not all americans but a lot of americans were comfortable criticizing mormonism. and i think you said not so much catholics and jews as protestants. whitey think mormonism was seen as so dangerous? what is it about marriage or property or why was it so alarming to people? >> guest: that's the fascinating history because some of the other groups about to my talking this is not an immigrant group. so these are not the issues.
of the outside threat coming in in the way that you have like irish catholics. so they were entirely homegrown and fees for periods that were just a couple centuries we find that the antagonisms were by different ideas. so one of the ideas of the time in the beginning of mormonism was a very strong sense of republicanism that is used in the united states. and so you have now a religious group that talks about establishing the sign-on and seems to be moving in the separatist direction and so that leads to the various concerns about the national order. and then in the turn of the century when the first mormon senator was elected and wasn't allowed to take the seat for three years because the senate was investigating whether it was acceptable for him to have the seat in congress, it was a
different kind of concern and americans were dealing with a veteran of monopoly and the power of corporations. so the mormon church in some ways seem to be a monopoly that was to be under the control of the small cohort of people who could tell everybody in their organization what to do and how to vote and the like. then if we think about mitt romney's campaign we have a different kind of concern that comes up particularly among the conservative christians and with this is really christianity and in fact some christians use the word calls in order to define the mormons. so, there are some common themes and there is a common suspicion but at the same time they're brutes differ because historically the different elements feed into these suspicions. but for a while, the mormons like muslims continue to be people of the suspect, people who are suspicious because we
know that they have been under suspicion before so their must be something to that. that is a part of what help them maintain the prejudice. >> host: what did you think about how it was seen in the last five years in the campaigns and other things in the twilight series and things. >> guest: it's fascinating because at two levels there is little level in which it's very prominent. so when romney has the two presidential bids, clearly the mormonism is coming out and americans are figuring out what does this mean and what is this religion? should i be concerned? the conservative voters are thinking do we want him as a candidate cracks his mormon after all and when he becomes the best contender to go against candidate barack obama in the most recent, then the concern is well better than obama so we
will embrace him even though. this of these ideas shift. then there's the other level like the twilight series and the original battle starts galactic, in which we have the mormons increasingly influencing the public popular culture in ways that sometimes americans are aware of and sometimes they are not. >> host: what comes to mind? >> guest: batt all-star galactic have for instance the original battle start of what comes written by a mormon and he included various elements of mormon theology in the show but in ways that most americans wouldn't be taking up on. >> host: i myself am not a battle stark electric fan. anything in particular? >> guest: one of the planets they go to is named after a place that features into mormon theology and the whole idea of the tribes and a variety of those kind of elements figure in.
>> host: i think it would become so much more much politically correct but as a reporter covering the election i tried to write about the components of that and it's hard to discern how people are motivated by how they see somebody's religion because they are simultaneously. it was complicated. what about in the irish catholic chapter i thought it was interesting that you focus on irish catholic in particular. you talked about -- i didn't know if there was the reason you tried to keep it specific to the irish catholics and didn't talk so much about contemporary catholics. i think you ended the chapter saying the image is a ritualistic and superstitious
and stubborn to change. did you pick that for a reason and do you think they still experience any kind of skepticism today? >> guest: part of the plan was to map out the intolerance of the particular religious group that to take certain moments that we can look at them in detail and understand some of the dynamics before going on. some come for me looking at the discrimination before the great introduction into the catholics because of the famine in ireland, it was a particularly helpful time because ultimately in 1834 you have the coal burned to the ground outside of boston because of that year about what the irish catholics are bringing in the future of the hierarchy. and then years later he backed we have the parts in philadelphia burned with riots between the native fish stand irish catholics. since you have these to moments of great violence that i think
dari tell tale of a deeper issue. and the irish catholics who in many ways face azar due to a sidebar of the german catholics and other catholics did not face at least at that time. so, or even later. so for instance, in the term of about the middle of the 19th century, with increasing notions of racism that coming to the head in the united states and being quite acceptable in many ways, irish catholics were portrayed as a different rate and so, that isn't something that german catholics struggle within my knowledge and i do think this is an important part in the book that the religious intolerance are not just about religion. if religion is ever just about religion. it is also ethnicity and race and gender and class.
those issues commonly figuring to these episodes. >> host: to take that a little bit into today, we have a group of americans i think you could see fairly large lead religious conservative catholics and not just catholics who feel that their place is being in the society some people would be familiar with of the term calling the war on religion and that there is a sort of challenge to the religion's place in the more diverse and secular society. what do you think about that sentiment on gay marriage or health care reform mandates coverage of things people find religiously that they feel opposed to what do you think about that sentiment? >> guest: it informs the society and those that do not
recognize the norms. i don't think about that and i'm not going to think about my position as being what would go into it and where does it come from times normal. so, we are for every longtime christianity kind of mainstream until you have a catholic president or just a candidate, catholic candidate so what john f. kennedy had to face and what he needed to publicly state that his insurance wasn't going to interfere with his role as an elected official with something that mainstream protestants did not have to do. so i think today what we are facing is that christian norm is increasingly being challenged by the fact that more expressions are coming and more people are aware of the ways in which movie
on questioned christian nor an inherently makes an unwelcome them on christians. so a lot of them feel that the crisis is being -- christ is being taken out of christmas for instance some stores saying happy holidays instead of merry christmas. well, with those individuals that see happy holidays instead of merry christmas are trying to do is the more welcoming than saying to jews and muslims and hindus and devious you are welcome here now, too. that is a setting for many christians and i know many christians who are upset by that because they feel as though it is predicated on christianity and the belief that america is profoundly and essentially a christian nation is being challenged and so what does that say about the whole social underpinning of the nation?
so i think that we are going through a period of adjustment where they take the norm for granted to be welcoming we needed to whom dial down some of that language without at all. >> host: i know that your area isn't in the law but i want to know if obviously you are framing it in this way and there are specific practices that are being curtailed and changed beyond just merry christmas if that has to do with what you are required to cover under health care plans and whenever a number of businesses don't wish to engage in same-sex weddings there are specific things beyond saying merry christmas that is a
reality is the dominant culture is losing something in the period of losing some stature and possibly some rights. so i wanted to see if -- i know you are not a legal scholar so i wondered if you have any thoughts about how that is going to go forward. we do only to a certain degree. the system that you are mapping out is an important shift to take notice of and it is one in which the society is trying to deal with the notion of pluralism and recognize the role
that will allow all has to play in protecting other people's religious practices and beliefs and norms as opposed to those that might represent the majority. >> host: when you look at the numbers of it, you know, that majority of people in the country believe in god in some way and yet we have these conversations about should you have to talk about god when you are sworn in court to answer you can see the desire to be accommodating to everybody and say is the majority losing a piece of its culture even if you talk about religion in a general way. and so, part of it is when you talk about nationalism i have had people kind of describe that
we are going towards a civil religion where we have had some kind of a general religious culture and the religions are all similar but they are distinct, so it's like how do you -- and they make us genuinely different. or do we move to making all religions a sound like they are losing the same thing when they are so different? >> guest: that is a struggle for maintaining the notion of the national exceptional the some with america being a place of religious freedom and protestant christian. there is a need to reconcile all of that and there are ways that
they are not unique as the might imagine that there are other nations that increase pluralism and that perhaps they've done more to protect their religious minorities as the united states has, but that is not a comfortable truth for many americans. >> host: one of your areas of expertise is islam and one of the chapters was about american muslims. can you tell us a little bit about whether there is something unique about -- obviously there was nine nell irvin which was a unique incident in history. was their something particular about the discomfort with islam and is it different for americans who are uncomfortable with it? >> guest: i think that islam is important for the moment in this discussion because the fact that it's not because of my knowledge and that we have the islamophobia.
it extends right back before the actual establishment of the united states because the european settlers who came here came here with the memories of the centuries of antagonism and mediterranean reform. and they brought those antimuslims and that's in part as a way to also distinguish between christianity and islam and they also brought anti-jewish sentiment as well and so that is the reason that we have had so many centuries in this country. but that history has been embraced much better. the scholars have paid much more attention to that history and the ways in which that becomes anti-semitism. but we do not have as much of fame understanding of the history of islamophobia and the sentiment so we constantly think about it as a new thing.
>> host: do you see it as primarily theological? when you are talking about christians understanding of the few about anti-semitism and you could say i'm not an expert on this but just to the degree that christianity was building on or rejecting islam and makes a similar claim and mormonism makes a similar claim when you say that it's really not about the politics is it theological; is that what you're saying? >> guest: they were primarily theological for the same reasons that on tape that muhammad ali and the second to last circle of hell was the theological kind of idea. but again with all of these prejudice is, they take different forms in different periods of time. so they are like an underground stream that erupt at times with the conditions of the particular
historical. and so, clearly today part of it might be theological but part of it is also the fact that what is carried over is the statistic that muslim men are bad and angry and violent and muslim women are repressed by their husbands. of those things have really carried on for quite awhile in the united states and they may have originated in the purely theological context but the increasingly change. so when the women's rights movement occurs we can see the difference between the ways in which muslim women had previously been an object of fascination by many american audiences like i dream of jeannie moos kind of the tail end of that where you have the clad woman at the behest of her
master. but i dream of jeannie really kind of end when the women's rights movement in the united states begins and we don't find quite the same sort of objectification of arab and muslim women. they get conflated when actually most muslims are not arab to the and so suddenly, the muslim women are seen to be the object of oppression by the male patriarchy just at the time when a lot of women are realizing that they are hitting the glass ceiling because the patriarchy. so these change over time. >> host: and that was your final chapter of the safe groups and a goes out into the present day. so who are they today? you obviously feel that way about the muslim community. i don't know if you feel that we about atheists or in the future
it is kind of a time where you have all of these new religious movements coming up and maybe there is more of an idea in some different way what do you think the future heretics are? >> guest: the have been seen as this for a long time and while americans have a certain amount towards catholics and jews and even more so towards muslims, that the atheists used to be really unacceptable in terms of national office over the series of years that show around 2,000 or so very few americans could imagine the atheist for president. >> host: i think that number is declining. >> guest: that is the most recent iteration of the poll. they've really shot up in the numbers and so there's a much greater -- >> host: du meen in comfort -- >> guest: i am not sure if they are willing but far more
than had existed just in the decade before. so their role i think is beginning to weigh and in some ways. >> host: i don't know how much you have gone into this but the idea of persecution in their religious narrative of i don't know most major religions and as a part of the story of a lot of religion is that something -- i don't know, i've always been interested in why in the religious groups why they want to adopt more the feeling of like a defector in terms of historical times but it seems like we are really in a moment where every fifth group is defined by its experience in persecution. is that just part of the religion?
you know more about this than i do. >> guest: that's a good question. i certainly don't have an overall view of the history so i won't be a lot to answer that. but in terms of today, you can easily imagine the ways in which the notion of maintaining that history of the persecution can be helpful in part because so many different religious communities are living in the cultures that had to do with pluralism and they are living with the nation states that need to secure the fidelity and the faithfulness of their citizens to the government first and foremost. that is the key element of the nationalism is that the nation comes first. so we have that in this country where if there is a war, somebody can't just say i don't want to go because it's against my religious beliefs. you have to demonstrate through a quite utile process that you are part of a religious
tradition that has issued all violence no matter what because the nation has to assure that has citizens that will ultimately support it, and so i think that might be one reason for this kind of emphasis on persecution. also there is nothing that helps to define the insiders rather than outsiders and so just as the united states has its own history which the forefront on the particular episodes like the revolution in which there's a rejection of the british even as there is an acceptance that much of the federal culture came from britain, so many religious communities undoubtedly have an kutz emphasized the persecution in order to help to demonstrate through its members what is to be part of this religion, what defines them as different from others and it demonstrates the kind of the exemplar model of
those that resisted the persecution. >> host: i think you said in the beginning in the opening comments that if you compare the united states with many places in the world, it's actually a place where people come still for religious freedom. you mentioned there's other places in the world as well but i just know in the book you want to make the case that people need to be aware of this. but on the other hand this is what we are talking about on religious persecution fails in comparison with people being held right now. so in a sense you could say in the emphasizing if you fink that we are going down like a bad road or something, if this could get -- look what we've done in the past basically it says we are not about killing because
you could say you are giving the united states av rall deal. this is basically what you would consider nothing compared to what people experience elsewhere. i don't know. maybe you are trying to warn us or something. >> guest: that response is not uncommon, and over all things have been so good and other nations are so bad. i think that is beside the point. if there is an injustice then we should deal with that in justice. should it be the primary way that we decide what is happening here? the americans if we had been successful in terms of the religious and coloration that is because we have established a certain are and we tried to at least meet that are and what the book is it something to do is demonstrate the way that there are these great values, but there are also these norms that
have led people to be intolerant either implicitly or directly through certain religious groups at certain times and we need to embrace that not only because the persecutions are having it today that because many of the muslim americans and also because of the possible persecution in the future. >> host: and there is a section in the book that is a sort of analysis of the psychology of intolerance. so tell me about what research you had to do. you looked like you were trying to describe, almost make it like it was a psychological condition to be intolerant and have anxiety about other communities. >> guest: i am drawing from the material that i was looking at in the examples in other countries and drawing on some of the responses i've had from my previous works and audience members when i presented on this material publicly. and as i said often you get
these people who simply don't understand how this could be considered to be intolerant, and i think that behind them is a certain set of assumptions that don't get questioned in part because if we are constantly at this point of total religious freedom, then we are not going to focus on these moments of intolerance and persecution. so how weak would we ever get to these things. >> host: and people don't understand why they would be described as intolerant. but when you broke it down you could describe little about what are the components of the intolerance that you wrote about in the book? >> guest: one of them again is the notion of the norm that those folks are not normal and what does it mean to be normal? that is something that we often don't question. and how do those actually protect the majority from recognizing that they are not
living up to the values they themselves had. so that is not an unusual thing in the united states. most societies deal with this and that is just a healthy thing to question what makes up the norm and how do they paper over the adjustment. >> host: is that -- do you think that we -- to the degree that we can return to this order and start at keeping to the nationalism and having a national identity in the sense if i'm reading this right, you are sort of saying that we have been asked to perpetrate the orthodoxy or some kind of liked homogeny eddy or something like that. so, just i mentioned this a little bit before, but in a country that is becoming more pluralistic you can't find ten christians who would agree among the christians has. so is there an honest risk?
i don't know if there's been a society that is as religiously diverse as we are now. maybe that is true in india and brazil but i don't know about how the practice is. do you think we are attempting something that is not common? >> guest: >> host: do you have to have an orthodoxy cracks are you essentially saying but what we are talking about leads into the kind of challenging the idea of the nation state like can you have the state without the religious values or description for that kind of thing? >> guest: the challenge is to have the nation in which allows for the citizens to have certain freedoms but at the same time not rub against one another in ways that are going to cause conflict. so, if the definition of what i should be able to do religiously involves something that is going to inflame my neighbor, then where do my rights begin -- let's say i have a prayer space
that is very noisy at certain times of the week are my neighbors allowed to stop me from being lazy in that space? there is no right or wrong answer. there has to be a deliberation on how to make that work and one of the ways we have made this very pluralistic society work ideally is to have a form of secular as some that i described as cultural secularism in many parts of the country in which folks try not to so deliberately promoted their religious identity in public. they might have a bumper sticker on their car orie cross or sign hanging around their neck, but they kind of play it down so that nobody is in each other's face as some people would describe it. but what happens when you have religious groups whose mandate is that followers should be going door to door introducing
their religion to people, well some people find that to be offensive. they don't want people coming to their door talking about religion. how do you deal with not? what kind of social norms you put in place to allow people the ability to express religious identity and other people the right to feel like they don't have somebody questioning their religion cracks it is a complicated mix. >> host: you must get a lot of the dissenters at the thanksgiving table. [laughter] anyway, thank you very much for talking with me today. >> guest: thank you. >> at plus "after words" comer signature program in which authors of the latest books are interviewed by journalists, public policy rs