Thank you for responding...I have been having a similar conversation in another AN forum under 'Theism, Deism, and All things Religious' titled: 'Is religion dying, really?.
I am under the impression that religion in the U.S. is such a strong cultural force that it cannot be considered 'in decline'. But, like you mentioned above, we can only hope more people see the irrational and unreasonable sides of religion in the public square. What people believe in their private lives is a protected right under our Constitution...what people DO and SAY in the public square should never be off limits to criticism and debate.
I will stand by my conviction that our government, for example, is a secular system and should not bring up god or religion except in the most watered down of fashions... words like 'interfaith dialogue' come to mind or 'faith-based initiative' and they send little warning alarms off for me.
The emotional appeal of religion cannot be dismissed or minimalized....especially in the fundamentalist and charismatic sects...where it takes precedence over religious scholarship and theology. Those are the groups where a believer tries to reach a personal relationship with jesus/god rather than depending on rationalism or the human reasoning process.