The Appeal of Strict Religions

In Slate:

Still, if strictness, judiciously enforced, provides an advantage in the spiritual marketplace, then it makes sense that America, one of the few countries with no state religion and a truly open market in religion, should be home to so many varieties of fundamentalism and orthodoxy. The explosive growth of conservative Christianity, Judaism, and Islam and the slow decline of more genteel denominations such as Episcopalianism may well represent not the triumph of reactionary forces, but the natural outcome of religious competition.

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