An unexamined faith is not worth having, for fundamentalism and uncritical certitude entail the rejection of one of the great human gifts: that of free will, of the liberty to make up our own minds based on evidence and tradition and reason.
A lot of people, including business leaders, think the future belongs to China. Globalization is not a zero-sum game, but we need to hone our skills to stay in play.
If a person is homosexual by nature - that is, if one's sexuality is as intrinsic a part of one's identity as gender or skin color - then society can no more deny a gay person access to the secular rights and religious sacraments because of his homosexuality than it can reinstate Jim Crow.
Without education, we are weaker economically. Without economic power, we are weaker in terms of national security. No great military power has ever remained so without great economic power.
The perennial conviction that those who work hard and play by the rules will be rewarded with a more comfortable present and a stronger future for their children faces assault from just about every direction. That great enemy of democratic capitalism, economic inequality, is real and growing.
It is true that traditional Christianity is losing some of its appeal among Americans, but that is a religious, not political, matter. It is worth remembering that the Jeffersonian 'wall of separation' between church and state has always been intended to protect the church from the state as much as the state from the church.
Among the many problems with taking the Bible literally is it reduces the most mysterious and complex of realities to simple - even simplistic - terms. Yes, scripture speaks of fire and damnation and eternal bliss, but the Bible is the product of human hands and hearts, and much of the imagery is allegorical, not meteorological.
The central tenet of Christianity as it has come down to us is that we are to reach out when our instinct is to pull inward; to give when we want to take; to love when we are inclined to hate; to include when are tempted to exclude.
Cynically but accurately put, Americans oppose public intervention or regulation if it helps others, but favor it if it helps them - take social security, disaster relief, public works projects, for example.
The problem for those who assert biblical authority in support of traditional definitions of marriage is that one could, with equal validity, assert that the lending of money or certain kinds of haircuts are forbidden by God, or that slavery and the subjugation of women are authorized by the Lord.
I am a southerner who grew up with and around guns. I own some still. My father gave me a .22 rifle when I was 9 and a single barrel .410 shotgun when I was 10.
A wise nation should cultivate a political spirit that allows opponents to cooperate without fearing an automatic execution from their core supporters. Who knew that the real rogues in American politics would be the ones who dare to get along?
Religious belief, like history itself, is a story that is always unfolding, always subject to inquiry and ripe for questioning. For without doubt there is no faith.
As a southerner born after the epic events of the civil rights movement, I've always wondered how on earth people of good will could have conceivably lived with Jim Crow - with the daily degradations, the lynchings in plain sight, and, as the movement gathered force, with the fire hoses and the police dogs and the billy clubs.
Extremists often derive their inspiration from literal interpretations of texts that should rightly be read not as Associated Press reports from the ancient world, but as theological and literary enterprises requiring independent intellectual assessment.
The fact is that America has been at her most prosperous when government and the private sector have been not at war, but in a wary, if often underplayed, alliance. History is unmistakable on this point.
I am a huge admirer of Franklin Roosevelt's, and I believe social security has done untold good in alleviating the once-widespread issue of poverty among the elderly. FDR believed in the greatness and generosity of Americans - but he was also a cold-blooded politician.
One of the earliest resurrection scenes in the Bible is that of Thomas demanding evidence - he wanted to see, to touch, to prove. Those who question and probe and debate are heirs of the apostles just as much as the most fervent of believers.
A globalized world is by now a familiar fact of life. Building walls or moats may sound appealing, but the future belongs to those who tend to their people and then boldly engage the rest of the world, near and far.
The power of the American system of republicanism lies in its capacity to allow religious belief to be a competing, not a controlling, factor in American life.