The United Nations is hosting an ecumenical religious gathering "to try to use religion for the cause of peace."

Well, it's kind of ecumenical. The Dahli Lama wasn't invited because China didn't want him there.

My hackles rise when anyone says he wants to "use" religion. Mine are, after all, very old-fashioned hackles. They are also Bible Belt hackles.

For me, religion tells you, as part of its doctrine, exactly what it is to be "used" for. In the Bible Belt, the purpose is to avoid damnation and to attain salvation. I think a person has a right to believe in and preach the Gospel of salvation. I also think a person has a right NOT to believe in the Gospel of salvation.

What upsets me is people who do not believe in the purpose for which the churches were established, but want to take the money and influence generations of believers have given the church and use it for their own goals. They want to use what is God's to make their version of Caesar.

Modernist preachers who have lost all faith in Heaven and Hell try to justify themselves by keeping their church salaries and trying to "use" religion for some "sophisticated" goal -- like peace.

One of my problems is that the founder of my faith said specifically that He did NOT come to bring peace.

Those who consider themselves "sophisticated" and those who consider themselves Modern and Ecumenical do not understand what a triumph religious freedom was for Americans. To them, refusing to fight over religion is easy, since they consider it all a joke anyway.

In the real America, our ancestors took their religion very seriously indeed. Most of them believed that having the correct theology made the difference between eternal joy and eternal agony. Religious freedom was not an easy thing for them to allow, and it is a triumph, IF YOU UNDERSTAND REAL HISTORY. To make this refuge for serious beliefs, they had to give up imposing something they felt was endlessly important.

The result is that we have a country that, among other things, was the last best hope of faith against Communism. In much of Europe, religion has almost died under the burden of being state-sponsored.

For those who value faith, America's freedom of religion has more than justified itself.

But there are those who insist that religion has no value in itself. They want to "use" it for what they consider "real" goals, as the UN is doing now. They insist that what the Founding Fathers really meant by "freedom of religion" just meant not taking religion seriously.

Some years back someone at a Baptist Convention stated that, in his opinion, God did not hear the prayers of Jews. Naturally there were shrieks that he was "anaziwhowantedtokillsixmillionjews." Freedom of religion, the Modernists said, means that you can't take religious differences that seriously. Jews constitute a minority, so you have to say that their religion is as good as yours.

As usual with "modern," sophisticated" opinion, this is not merely wrong. It is the OPPOSITE of the truth. The fact is that if you cannot state publicly that you believe someone is going to Hell or that God does not hear them, neither freedom of speech nor freedom of religion means anything at all.

You might as well say that "freedom of speech" means that you can only state opinions that don't offend others.

Most of the people I worked and marched with in politics took their religion, or their nonreligion, AND THEIR RELIGIOUS DIFFERENCES, very seriously indeed. In college, the anti-liberal Young Americans for Freedom had one absolute requirement: a member had to believe in God. The other strong ally against the liberals were the Objectivists, who had one absolute requirement: you had to be an atheist.

Being Americans, we had no trouble working together against the common enemy.

In Washington, my regular allies included large numbers of serious Catholics and serious Calvinists, and the members of each group were convinced that the other was going to Hell.

To a European, the fact that these groups were firm allies against the common enemy would be terribly puzzling. But to old-fashioned Americans, it has been routine for centuries.

Our ability to work together BECAUSE we take our religion or our non-religion seriously is something unique that Americans established. That is why it is so easy for Modern people to confuse freedom of religion with freedom from religion.

These self-styled "sophisticates" are very unsophisticated people. Serious American Catholics are not shocked that Bob Jones might consider their religion absurd. They return the favor.

But what really shocks, astonishes and totally confuses liberals is that these two groups, having freely put down each others' religious doctrines, then turn around and vote together, AGAINST LIBERALS.

Liberals simply do not understand America. They talk endlessly about "sophistication" but they will never be sophisticated enough to understand us.