by William Lee Miller; Alfred A. Knopf; 373 pages; $24.95.
When the founders of our nation worked out the “ancient tangled matter of religion and state,” they secured for us a freedom unique in the world, freedom of religion in both personal and institutional terms. We are immensely proud of this, and, Miller says, we should be. In this sophisticated and delightful book, the author examines the three most important contributors to this radical idea—Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Roger Williams. The Founding Fathers debated fiercely whether public virtue could be assured without an established religion, and the resonances of these battles still sound today. Paradoxically, Miller shows that this first freedom has resulted not only in our great religious diversity today but also in an American devotion to traditional religion that is unmatched in other Western nations.