Despite occasional reports to the contrary, the US is still one of the world's most religious countries. But the practice of American religion is changing. Does it mostly unify or mostly divide? Will the atheists of the future be more accepted or more ostracized? Also, Stanford Law School introduces religious liberty clinic, and the return of the chestnut tree.
FROM THIS EPISODE
Christmas is widely celebrated in the United States — to say the least, but the culture is developing into one of the most diverse in the world. That means new diversity in religion, which is the focus of a new project at the Stanford University Law School. It's called the Religious Liberty Clinic and the director is James Sonne.
James Sonne, Stanford Law School
The Gallup Poll says more than 90 percent of Americans believe in some kind of God, but more and more don't identify with any particular denomination. Maybe that's why there's increasing tolerance of one group for another. Religion can be a unifying force in America. It can also be divisive, and the more isolated one religion becomes the less acceptable it is to the others. How do "outsider" or "fringe" groups affect other religions? And how does religion relate to politics, gender, race and even geography?
Chestnut trees used to be called "the Redwoods of the East," and they made up 35 percent of northeastern American forests. But in 1904, a fungus began to appear, and what's called "chestnut blight" killed some 3.5 billion trees by 1940. The ones we get now are imported. But there could be good news for Christmas fireplaces in the near future. There is an American Chestnut Foundation, and it doesn't exist to mourn the dead. It's planning a restoration. Its president is Bryan Burhans.
Bryan Burhans, American Chestnut Foundation