Some fun writing and great insights on Newdow in this piece by The New Republic’s literary editor. First, Leon Wieseltier’s writing:
Why do the God-inebriated opponents of the separation of church and state in America, the righteous citizens who see God's hand in everything that Fox News reports, insult the Founders by revising and even rejecting their God?
This was a crisp, caustic, and clear distillation of the contradiction many saw in the argument supported by the Bush Administration and others that the “under God” was, in effect, not religious at all. How can anyone be expected to take the position of this Administration—which wants to fund “faith-based” charities and has made religiosity a centerpiece of much of its work—at face value when it says it is defending the “under God” language in the Pledge as merely “descriptive” (and not an invocation)?
Another great insight about religion and morality:
The distinction between religion and morality was championed by religious thinkers in all the monotheistic faiths, who worried that religion would be reduced to morality. Now we must worry that for many Americans morality is being reduced to religion.
Wieseltier goes on to make clear that he see Newdow—the atheist—as the most appreciative of the value and power of religion in American life. He writes about one of Newdow's most moving engagements with the Court at oral argument:
[Justice Breyer] posed an extraordinary question to Newdow: "So do you think that God is so generic in this context that it could be that inclusive, and if it is, then does your objection disappear?"
Needless to say, Newdow's objection did not disappear, because it is one of the admirable features of atheism to take God seriously. Newdow's reply was unforgettable: "I don't think that I can include 'under God' to mean 'no God,' which is exactly what I think. I deny the existence of God." The sound of those words in that room gave me what I can only call a constitutional thrill. This is freedom.
The article—with its thorough understanding of what Newdow says about American life—is one of the best things I’ve read in TNR in years.