This introductory chapter provides an overview of the book's main themes. This book is an anthology of significant writings on religion and politics from the colonial period to recent times. Rather than offering a comprehensive prescription for our public life, it presents an extended conversation. Although this volume covers a wide range of subjects, it returns throughout to three interrelated themes, common problems that persist across historical eras. The first theme deals with the scope of religious freedom and religious toleration, values inextricably linked to the First Amendment's religion clauses. The second addresses religion's role as an ethical compass for public life. The third major center of gravity, which intermingles with the first two, is about the character of the American nation.
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