Thomas Jefferson, as usual, put it best. Writing about religious liberty in his Notes on the State of Virginia, Jefferson noted: “Reason and free enquiry are the only effectual agents against error.” Sound words—and sound American sentiments. Yet very little feels particularly sound about America, or at least about American politics, in this crazy autumn. From Donald Trump’s Twitter attacks on Miss Universe to questions about his federal tax-paying (or lack thereof), the current presidential campaign seems destined to exacerbate, rather than ameliorate, the gloomy lack of trust in government. According to Gallup, only 19 percent of Americans trust the federal government to do the right thing “just about always or most of the time,” down from a high of 82 percent in the wake of the attacks of September 11. Part of the issue—a large part—is an extraordinary level of partisan polarization. Americans are divided into competing camps with few Republicans willing to see virtues in Democratic arguments or candidates, and vice versa. And rather than contributing to comity, religion in 2016 unfortunately seems just another indicator of secular divisions in the nation. While explicitly religious controversies have failed to drive the conversation this year (one in which the Republican nominee quoted II Corinthians by referring to it as “Two Corinthians”), those with religious affiliations and acknowledged feelings of traditional faith have also failed to bring any kind of order to the chaos of the campaign. The Pew Forum has the most comprehensive relevant data, noting that “fully 78% of white evangelical voters say they would vote for Trump if the election were held today, including about a third who ‘strongly’ back his campaign. Meanwhile, religiously unaffiliated voters – those who describe their religion as ‘atheist,’ ‘agnostic’ or ‘nothing in particular’ – are lining up behind Hillary Clinton over Trump, much as they supported Barack Obama over [Mitt] Romney in 2012.” The survey also points out that “two-thirds of religiously unaffiliated registered voters say they would vote for Clinton if the election were held today, just as two-thirds intended to vote for Obama at a similar point in the 2012 campaign.” The findings, while not especially surprising, are still dispiriting. The figures suggest that self-identified religious believers appear to be suspending their critical faculties—in theological terms, a gift from God—in favor of reflexive partisanship. This is an abdication of one of the most fundamental of human undertakings: the use of reason. Trump’s level of interest in the cares and concerns of the religious is negligible; he sees evangelicals as a favorable demographic, not as a collection of pilgrims struggling to make their souls’ journey through time and chance. The real trouble is that the Republican campaign has done little to signal that it grasps the Jeffersonian tradition of religious liberty—a milieu in which religion, as I’ve written before, is able to shape us without strangling us. Reason is essential—and is in woefully short supply at the moment. Those who vote automatically rather than intelligently are falling short, and into error.