'This Week' Transcript: God and Government


AMANPOUR: You know, it seems that at the beginning of the last century, so many of the great thinkers were saying religion is dying, it's dead. And yet here we are so many years later and it's not just enduring, one might say it's even thriving. It's undergoing a renaissance.

How do you account for that?

KELLER: Many of the people who believed that thought that religion was really for immature people who didn't understand nature. And it's pretty clear that the reasons for religion are deeper than that, because as we've gotten more technologically advanced, that hasn't gotten rid of religion.

AMANPOUR: And how, also, do you account for the fact that there is so much more secularism and yet there is also so much more religion in our lives, in our politics?

KELLER: What's happening is secularism and devout religion is growing together. And what's going away is the kind of mushy middle, where people are just part of the -- the synagogue, the mosque or the church because it's expected. So what's actually happening is polarization.

AMANPOUR:You've talked about an enormously sick pressure to do well and to make money. What toll does that take on -- on people and on this country?

KELLER: It takes a huge toll. I -- I think most people agree that the -- the economic downturn and recession we just had came, to some degree, because of greed. I don't know of anybody in or outside the financial world that doesn't admit to that. And that -- and that's taken an enormous toll.

AMANPOUR: you also say that things like hard work or too much hard work is an idol that has to be shattered. Why is that?

KELLER: Well, because the -- the essence of sin, according to, I think, the Christian view, is, it's not just doing bad things, it's also turning good things into ultimate things. And, therefore -- for example, if you love your children, that's one thing. But if you -- if you make your children's happiness the very meaning of your life, you'll put too much pressure on them. You might drive them into the ground. You might abuse them if they disobey you.

So even good things that have become kind of God substitutes turn into bad things.

AMANPOUR: Like hard work, like success, money...

KELLER: Workaholism.

AMANPOUR: -- workaholism.

KELLER: Absolutely. There's nothing wrong with wanting to make money, but when it becomes an end all and be all, then you start to trample on people and it eats you up and you're not -- it can't fulfill your soul.

AMANPOUR: America is based on this idea of workaholism and the desire for success. And yet you're sort of questioning it.

KELLER: Yes. Well, the gospel, Christianity is going to question every culture at its root. Eastern, non-Western cultures put this huge emphasis not on the individual, but on the family. What matters is not your own individual success, it's the -- the family.

And we would say that's good, but it can turn the family into a kind of dictatorship, whereas in the West, it's all about the individual. And we would say that's good, except -- individual freedom is great, we're all for it, but it does mean it's dog eat dog. People are consumed by their need for beauty.

AMANPOUR: So the dog eat dog idolatry that you obviously are -- are preaching against, is that something that you saw a lot of in this sort of era of financial crisis that we live in, in these very difficult economic times that we live in?

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PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin works out at Bocharov Ruchei residence in Sochi, Russia, Aug. 30, 2015.
Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images