[On right-wing Americans increasingly proclaiming themselves as “Infidels”].
“Back when the world was more assured in its piety, of course, “infidel” functioned as a grievous insult. To boast of one would be almost inconceivable. The KJV of First Timothy tells us that an “infidel” is one of the worst possible things upon this earth. “To say that a man is an infidel,” thundered the Reverend Timothy Dwight, an early American hounder of the heterodox, “is to say, proverbially, that he is destitute of all moral excellence in both principle and practice.” “Infidel” is what the Federalists called Thomas Jefferson when they really wanted to hurt him. It’s the innuendo that Abraham Lincoln felt he had to deny.”
From the January 2011 issue of Harper’s.