The opposition is not between a small and a large concept in any case, Mr. Chesterton, sir: the United States is its own guarantee of some kind of noble scale in the business. How annoying it is that a certain kind of English voice seems so determined to condescend to Americans. No, it is the simple ingenuity (if I might be allowed a paradoxical locution) of the Jefferson/Madison religious signpost, with its clearly made pointer to Danbury, Connecticut, that is so graspable by the minds of the simplest as well as the most superior persons. Given time, the symbol of a simple wall of separation has fashioned and established itself inside our own crania, so that almost every American has an approximate idea that they are entitled to a great degree of “freedom of,” as well as a marked amount of “freedom from,” with a good deal of debatable latitude in between. This is not a small or inert legacy.
I wonder if Hitchens knew that, when the Constitution was adopted, about half-a-dozen states had established churches (Congregationalism wasn't disestablished in Massachusetts until, I believe, 1834). The First Amendment was designed, among other things, to protect those established state churches, it would seem.
Anyway, I found this piece diffuse, almost out of focus. That Hitchens could write it at all, of course, given his physical condition at the time, is both amazing and immensely worthy of admiration. But anyone who wrote as much and, as often as not, as hastily as Chesterton did, is bound to make a fool of himself from time to time and Chesterton certainly did. The same is probably true of Christopher Hitchens.