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Whether or not Mitt Romney makes it to the White House, his candidacy signals that Mormons have arrived in American political life. Just as President Obama’s nomination and election marked a sea change in the country’s tortured racial history, so Romney’s nomination has changed religious boundaries that have persisted for more than 160 years. No religious group has been more persecuted by the U.S. government, or more derided by other faiths present in the country, than the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (or the LDS Church, as many Mormons refer to it).
In this season when most Americans are more concerned than usual with spiritual matters, it may be time to ask whether religion still matters. Certainly religiosity’s worst side has been amply on display in recent years, from the fanaticism of Islamic terrorists to the annoying sanctimoniousness of Rick Santorum.
Only Tribes held together by a group feeling can survive in a desert.
--Ibn Khaldun, 14th century Arab historian
Time to chuck into the dustbin the cosmopolitan notions so celebrated at global conferences: a world run by wise men of the United Nations, science-driven socialists or their ostensibly more pragmatic twins, global free marketers. We are leaving the age of abstractions and entering one dominated by deep-seated ethnic, religious and cultural loyalties, some with roots from centuries and millennia ago.
The culture war over religion and values that dominated much of the last quarter of the 20th century has ended, mostly in a rout of the right-wing zealots who waged it.
Yet even as this old conflict has receded , a new culture war may be beginning. This one is being launched largely by the religious right's long-time secularist enemies who are now enjoying unprecedented influence over our national politics.