Humankind - The Meaning of America

The September 11, 2001 attacks were directed by fundamentalists whose philosophy was deeply at odds with the religious tolerance espoused by America's founders and designed into the Constitution they wrote. This 59-minute Humankind special, which updates our popular documentary "The Meaning of America", explores the roots of American spiritual freedom.

But what was America's freedom of religion (or freedom to be non-religious) intended to make possible? What kind of self-reflection did the Founders hope for our citizens? Says history filmmaker Ken Burns in our documentary:

Jefferson and, I think, many of the Founding Fathers knew better than to apply the kind of fundamentalist surety that gets us into trouble today. I mean, the great enemy right now is fundamentalism. It's the great enemy that has sent planes into our buildings - (The Founders) were still yielding, all of them, to something larger, and understood in some ways that larger force had actually permitted them to co-exist at the same time and to invent this wonderful thing called the United States of America

And to what extent has today's noisy, material-driven American culture lived up to the promise envisioned by our high-minded founders?

Also heard is Jacob Needleman, best-selling author of "The American Soul" and long-time philosophy professor at San Francisco State University.

Guests: 

Ken Burns
Jacob Needleman

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