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The Right to Be Wrong Ending the Culture War Over Religion in America

In the running debate we call the “culture wars,” there exists a great feud over religious diversity. One side demands that only their true religion be allowed in the public square; the other insists that no religions ever belong there. The Right to Be Wrong offers a solution, drawing its lessons from a series of stories — both contemporary and historical–that illustrates the struggle to define religious freedom. The book concludes that freedom for all is guaranteed by the truth about each of us: Our common humanity entitles us to freedom — within broad limits–to follow what we believe to be true as our consciences say we must, even if our consciences are mistaken. Thus, we can respect others’ freedom when we’re sure they’re wrong. In truth, they have the right to be wrong. ~ Publisher’s Description

Table of Contents

    • Introduction vii
  • Part 1 Learning the Hard Way
    • 1 Of Pilgrims and Park Rangers The extremists among us 1
    • 2 Pluralism, Conscience and Community Reflections on the Pilgrims’ lack of progress 9
    • 3 Religion in Public Culture Reflections on Christmas in Plymouth Colony 21
    • 4 What about Proselytizing? Reflections on the Puritans’ paranoia about dissent 29
    • 5 Heavens No, We Won’t Go Reflections on how the Quakers invented conscientious objection 45
    • 6 Why Tolerance Is Intolerable Reflections on the failure of the refuge colonies 57
  • Part 2 Groping for a Right
    • 7 From Tolerance to Natural Rights Reflections on the battle for disestablishment in Virginia 71
    • 8 Inalienable Rights, Slightly Alienated Reflections on Thomas Jefferson in public and in private 83
    • 9 The Early First Amendment: A Disappointing Compromise Reflections on Madison’s greatest failure 95
    • 10 In the States, the Aftermath of Compromise Reflections on legalized persecution under the early First Amendment 105
    • Part 3 Authentic Freedom
    • 11 Where Does Religious Liberty Come From? Reflections on who we are to deserve freedom 115
    • 12 Personal, not Private Reflections on why believers do it in public 125
    • 13 The First Amendment at Midlife Reflections on the incorporation doctrine-and how two wrongs make a right of uncertain scope 131
    • 14 The Right to Be Wrong Ending the culture war 145
    • Afterword Hold on-just what sort of a right is this right to be wrong, anyway? 151
    • Notes 155
    • Index 177