The U.S. is in many ways the most pious and morally obsessed of nations outside the Islamic world. Recent polls suggest that 96% of Americans believe in a personal God and that 78% of them think their consciousness will survive death and go, after judgment, to heaven or hell. Its earliest colonists in the Northeast--Pilgrims, Puritans, Quakers, "Pennsylvania Dutch"--were all seeking to flee European persecution and corruption (as they saw it) and trying to set up various kinds of religious Utopias. The main tool of Catholic Spain's colonization in the Southwest was the Franciscan mission. And yet the paradoxical fact is...

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