Alan Dershowitz’s slender polemic focuses on the religious beliefs of the Founding Founders — and of Thomas Jefferson in particular — in order to rebut the Christian Right’s contention that the Declaration of Independence proves that America was conceived as a Christian nation.
While Dershowitz’s argument is convincing, it is not especially original. Others have plowed much the same ground with more fruitful results. That Jefferson’s deism led him to reject the miraculous aspects of the Bible, and much of Christianity’s dogma in general, will come as news to few who have even glanced at the subject before.
Because he falls into a trap common to many writers, including Chris Hedges and Sam Harris, who use historical or logical arguments to counter the appeals of the Christian Right, Dershowitz is unlikely to win many converts. Those who are not already favorably disposed to the Christian Right’s views will nod sympathetically, while those who are will, if they read the book at all, find it easy to dismiss. How to bridge the divide between those who put their faith in faith and those who put their faith in reason may well be the thorniest political and cultural problem in America (and the world) today, but books like Blasphemy don’t bring us any closer to a solution.