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December 31st, 2011
10:00 PM ET

Why do Iowa’s evangelicals wield so much political clout?

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

Des Moines, Iowa (CNN) – At first blush, it’s just another standard-issue political rally.

Inside Mitt Romney’s Iowa headquarters – a former Blockbuster store on a commercial strip outside downtown – Romney and his wife, Ann, are introduced by former presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty and his wife, Mary.

“It is an honor to be supporting Gov. Romney and Ann,” Mary Pawlenty tells the crowd of a couple hundred, a silver cross dangling from her neck. “They are good people, they share our values – these are people that we are delighted to call friends.”

How Mitt Romney's faith shaped him

A few moments later, Mitt Romney mentions his five sons and hands his microphone to 36-year-old Josh, who calls his dad “my hero.”

“He taught me my great love for this country,” Josh says, “and my great love for my family.”

Sounds like typical political posturing, right? Many Americans wouldn’t give such gestures a second thought.

But experts on religion and politics say the message to one particular subculture – evangelical Iowans – is clear: Mitt Romney may be Mormon, but he shares evangelical Christian values, including a rock-solid commitment to family, and counts high-profile evangelicals like the Pawlentys as friends and supporters.

“It’s less an attempt to create a trust among evangelicals and more to defuse a distrust,” says Dennis Goldford, a political science professor at Drake University in Des Moines.

Mark DeMoss, an evangelical PR specialist and Romney campaign adviser, puts a more positive spin on the strategy: “A number of evangelicals are really enthusiastic about him and have endorsed Romney, and for the same reason that I like him – he shares my values.”

Romney’s Mormonism and his past social liberalism have fed doubts about him among some evangelicals. But with the first-in-the nation Iowa caucuses just days away, the former Massachusetts governor is hardly the only candidate honing his message for evangelical Iowans.

Newt Gingrich has met with hundreds of evangelical pastors in the state, talking policy but also about past marital infidelity, which many Christians consider a sin. Rick Perry has given Sunday morning testimonials from the pulpits of Hawkeye State megachurches.

Newt Gingrich's faith narrative

And Rick Santorum, who is riding a late-breaking surge in Iowa polls, and Michele Bachmann have all but staked their candidacies on winning big among evangelical Iowans, claiming to be more conservative than the rest of the Republican field on hot-button issues like abortion and gay marriage.

How did one faith-based demographic come to wield so much power? The answer is basic math – and passion.

“Relatively few people participate in the Iowa caucuses, so it’s ideal for a group of highly committed activists to have a big influence,” says John Green, an expert on religion and politics at the University of Akron.

Unlike conventional primaries, Iowa’s caucuses, scheduled for Tuesday, require voters to attend what are essentially community get-togethers at which participants can speak publicly for candidates. It’s more cumbersome than pulling a lever in a voting both, and a relatively small minority of registered voters attend.

“Evangelical churches and interest groups have been able to generate that kind of activity,” Green says. “They’ve been active in Iowa for a long time, so a tradition has taken hold there.”

Rick Perry's long faith journey culminates in White House run

In 2008, evangelical Christians accounted for 60% of Republican caucus-goers. With just 119,000 Iowans participating in the GOP caucuses that year – high by historical standards – the bloc helped propel Mike Huckabee, a former Baptist preacher, to a first-place finish.

In previous election cycles, evangelicals accounted for a more modest share of the Iowa GOP electorate, but their ranks have nonetheless hovered around 40%.

That makes evangelical Iowans unusually influential even by the standards of the national Republican Party, in which evangelical Christians have constituted the base since Ronald Reagan was elected president.

From Carter to Bush

Despite the modern GOP-evangelical alliance, it was a Democrat who first tapped that power base in Iowa.

Jimmy Carter was the first presidential candidate in modern American politics to call himself a born-again Christian, and he spent long stretches in Iowa during his 1976 campaign. Finishing ahead of every candidate (“uncommitted” took first) there lent early momentum to a candidate who’d been virtually unknown nationally.

Before Carter, says Drake’s Dennis Goldford, “evangelicals didn’t participate in politics because it was seen as this “worldy, corrupting, evil thing, and you stayed away from it.”

Modern American evangelicalism emerged in the late 19th century, built around biblical literalism and an emphasis on human sin and redemption. The movement was largely a reaction to Darwin’s theory of evolution and questions that modern science raised about biblical authority.

The 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial, which struck down the teaching of evolution in Tennessee schools, turned the evangelical movement into a national laughingstock and provoked an evangelical retreat from politics.

Carter, a Baptist Sunday School teacher, brought them back together.

But many evangelicals wound up feeling betrayed by Carter’s liberalism, and Reagan’s courtship of first-generation Christian right leaders, as well as his conservative rhetoric on issues like abortion, sent hordes of evangelicals to the GOP.

In 1988, televangelist Pat Robertson finished second in the Iowa caucuses, ahead of then-Vice President George H.W. Bush, putting Iowa evangelical power on the national map. Says Goldford: “They came out of nowhere.”

In the 1990s, with the rise of Robertson’s Christian Coalition, many evangelicals landed positions of power within the Iowa Republican Party. Catholics and other religious believers also became more active in the state GOP, raising the profile of issues like abortion and marriage, but they could not compete in number with the evangelicals.

Since then, Republican presidential hopefuls have tailored their messages to evangelical Iowans. When George W. Bush was asked which political philosopher had most influenced him in a debate before the 2000 Iowa caucus, he responded “Jesus.”

A diluted role?

In this election cycle, all the Republican presidential candidates have spoken deeply about their personal Christian faith while in Iowa, except for Romney and Jon Huntsman, both Mormons.

After spending considerable time in Iowa in 2008, much of it courting evangelicals, Romney placed second, far behind Huckabee. This time around, Romney has spent much less time here, skipping some major evangelical cattle calls and unleashing the ire of some powerful Christian activists.

Huntsman, for his part, has ignored Iowa to focus his efforts on New Hampshire, which votes a week after Iowa.

A CNN/TIME/ORC poll last week found that Romney had the support of 16% of likely evangelical caucus-goers in Iowa, compared to 22% for Santorum, 18% for Ron Paul and 14% for Gingrich, who had much higher evangelical support in earlier Iowa polls.

“Romney’s campaign has a very deliberate plan to snub social conservatives,” says Steve Scheffler, president of the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition, a key conservative group in the state.

“If Romney becomes the nominee,” Scheffler says, “95% of his volunteers will need to come from the conservative base. If he’s dissed them through the caucus process, it’s going to be challenging for him to get these people to campaign for him to become president.”

Scheffler is a testament to evangelical influence in the caucuses; his group has hosted caucus trainings in churches across the state in the run-up to January 3.

Most evangelical leaders insist their skepticism of Romney is born of his past social liberalism. But some in-the-pews evangelicals, interviewed at a pair of Iowa evangelical churches on a recent Sunday, admitted to an anti-Mormon bias.

Many believe that Mormons – who, unlike traditional Christians, believe in holy books beyond the Bible and practice customs like posthumous proxy baptism – belong to a cult.

“A growing number of people are afraid to vote for him because they are not sure how his Mormonism will affect his presidency,” says Jonathan Meyer, a pastor at Grace Church in Des Moines. “And because he doesn’t talk about that.”

Other Iowan evangelicals say Romney’s Mormonism isn’t a deal-breaker. “We talked about it in my Bible study,” says Patrick Finnegan, 27, who attended a recent Romney rally wearing a blue “Romney supporter” T-Shirt. “And we said as long as he believes in Jesus Christ, and as long as he’s not an atheist, we support him. I just want someone who shares my belief in a higher power.”

Other Iowa evangelicals echoed that view, calling Romney a Christian.

One complicating factor in the evangelical equation is that the main alternative to Romney as a viable national candidate appears to be Gingrich. The former House speaker has strenuously courted evangelical leaders and aided last year’s successful campaign to unseat three pro-gay marriage Iowa judges but has admitted to personal moral failings, including an affair with his current wife while married to his second wife.

Many Iowa evangelicals say Gingrich has redeemed himself. “I appreciate Newt acknowledging that he needs forgiveness,” says Meyer, who speaks with a Bible tucked under his arm in the Christmas-tree bedecked lobby of Grace Church. “He didn’t have to address that.”

Others are less enthusiastic.

“There’s not enough attention being paid to Newt’s fall from grace,” says Beverly McLinden, 55, an Iowa evangelical who works in association management and attended the Des Moines Romney rally. “Romney’s family exemplifies family values, and you can’t discount that just because he’s a Mormon.”

Evangelical angst over Gingrich and Romney has helped fuel Santorum’s surge, with the former Pennsylvania senator receiving 16% support in the most recent CNN poll, putting him in third place, behind Romney and Paul.

No candidate had even 25% of evangelical support in the most recent poll, raising the possibility that Iowa’s evangelical vote will be pretty diluted this week.

“This vote is terribly critical,” says Ralph Reed, who leads the national Faith and Freedom Coalition. “But the irony is that with this many candidates all appealing to this constituency at the same time, the vote is likely to get spread out.”

‘Democrats are trying to strip God out’

If Iowa’s evangelicals disagree on whom to support, interviews with dozens of them reveal a striking consistency in the role their faith plays in shaping that decision.

Even as the economy and jobs consistently rank as top issues in the presidential race, many evangelical Iowans say they’re weighing the personal faith of the candidates and that they still care about social issues and honoring the country’s Judeo-Christian heritage.

“Most of the folks I’ve dealt with in the evangelical community always care about the economy and spending and taxes,” says Santorum, who has spent most of his time as a presidential candidate campaigning in Iowa. “But the priority issues that have always been up front are the moral, cultural issues.”

“They want to make sure that it’s someone who is comfortable in their skin to fight those battles,” says Santorum, a devout Catholic who has nonetheless landed on TIME’s list of America’s 25 most influential evangelicals.

Gail Johnson, a dentist’s assistant who was heading into Grace Church – a megachurch whose sanctuary is hung with giant Christmas wreaths and a back-lit cross – agrees.

“I have no clue who I’m voting for, other than that it will be a Republican,” she says. “Smaller government and no abortion are the two big issues for me.”

Grace Church is the kind of congregation where worshippers take notes during the sermon, which on this Sunday focused on the importance of believing in Jesus’ virgin birth.

Sue Cornelius-Leibrand, an accountant who also attends Grace, says she would prefer “a president who believes in the same things that I do.”
“I know they won’t agree with everything,” says Cornelius-Leibrand, who wears diamond earrings and carries a stylish black bag and a leather-bound bible with a pink strap. “But the main things, like life beginning at conception and marriage between a man and a wife.”

Many evangelicals cite what they see as religion’s shrinking role in the public square as another concern. “This nation was founded on Christian ethics and that’s what made the country great,” says Sue Raibikis, a pharmaceutical sales rep and an evangelical Christian who attended the Romney rally. “Democrats are trying to strip God out of the country.”

Republican candidates are addressing those concerns in different ways. Gingrich talks about stopping a secular war on religion. Perry gives Christian testimony, telling worshippers at Des Moines’ Point of Grace Church on a recent Sunday: “There’s a hole in one’s heart that can only be filled by one thing.”

Santorum and Bachmann are emphasizing their voting records on hot buttons like abortion, saying other candidates just talk about these issues.

The jockeying introduced a major shot of religion to the presidential race from the very start, a contribution that some political experts argue threatens to curtail Iowa’s influence in the nominating process.

“The strength of evangelicals in the Iowa Republican Party could turn into a weakness if they are seen as so strong that Republicans around the nation begin to discount the results of the caucuses,” says Drake University’s Goldford.

“You’re beginning to see some of that – McCain chose not to campaign here last time,” he says. “And Romney hasn’t been here much this time.”

The state’s track record for picking Republican winners is mixed. Huckabee, for instance, won big in Iowa but lost his party’s nomination. But George W. Bush and Bob Dole won Iowa and went on to the GOP nomination.

The Republican primary calendar, if nothing else, will strengthen the influence of Iowa and its evangelicals, argues Green, of the University of Akron.

New Hampshire, with fewer evangelicals, follows Iowa in primary voting. But the next in line is South Carolina, where 60% of voters in the last Republican presidential primary identified as evangelicals.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Christianity • Iowa • Michele Bachmann • Mike Huckabee • Mitt Romney • Newt Gingrich • Politics • Rick Santorum

soundoff (837 Responses)
  1. A. Wolf

    Jesus, protect me from your followers.

    January 1, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
  2. cgs

    Hey evangelicals, how is it going keeping the Sabbath Day holy today? And how did all the drunken fornicating go last night? This is the "everyone's a sinner so lets not try to resist temptation" crowd. They are so principled that they would never even consider voting for a clean living Mormon.

    January 1, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
  3. bobcat2u

    The only reason they weild so much clout, is because they are the majority. They stick together in their brother hood / sisterhood. If you are not one of them, you are ostracized.

    January 1, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
  4. James Ruston

    I am sure other people wonder why these Christian evangelicals support the Republican Party when that party is clearly the most materialistic of the two. Profits first, people second is their mantra. What happened to the eye of the needle adage and Christ throwing the money lenders out of the temple? Not to mention the intolerance shown to groups of people they don't happen to like, clearly in conflict with Christ's acceptance of the outcasts of society.

    January 1, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
    • HenryB

      yup, agree.

      January 1, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
    • Independent Mind

      I think it is because the Republican Party panders to the religious right. I would venture to say most Republicans are disingenuous in the way they portray themselves as upstanding God-fearing citizens.

      January 1, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
  5. Texas Tumbleweed

    It is crazy to let a small number of religious nuts from a small rural state have this much say in an election.

    January 1, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      And they seem to have an affinity for religious whack jobs from Texas.

      January 1, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
  6. Reggie from LA

    Good thing I'm not running for office. I'd probably not get all them votes because I might say something stupid like "You don't own me. Get bent, Amen!" It reminds me of the Middle Ages when the church bishops had such powerful authority. Many of them are trying this now for relevance. YOU ARE TOO DAM..T!! These are no more than power plays. They shun the poor and call the poor lazy. OMG, they "share his values". Oh–Mitt. Thought they meant Jesus. May God have mercy (non- believers please humor me) if our country's direction is dictated by these ungodly perpetrators of Dominionism.

    January 1, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
  7. Jacob

    I prayed today. Before I had barely started, Jesus interrupted and asked me, "What the hell have you American evangelicals done to my Way? Shame, shame, shame on you!" Before I could answer he signed off.

    January 1, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
  8. Jilli

    Evangelicals could cast their votes for a candidate like Romney that deliberately and blatantly lies – or a candidate like Gingrich, a cheat and a liar. I guess I shouldn't be surprized, they typically vote republican because they claim their concerned about the debt and deficit and are fiscally conservative – when the total opposite is the truth. Republicans historically have been fiscally reckless and only become conservative when a democrat is in the white house. You'd think after GW Bush used the evangelicals for their vote then tossed them like a dirty hankie, you'd think they'd learn. How do they reconcile their choices and their leanings toward republicns – it seems to go against a large portion of what they claim to stand for.

    January 1, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
  9. Govind

    Why do Iowa’s evangelicals wield so much political clout? 1. They don't. Independents determine the outcomes of most American elections since the US is basically evenly split between Rep and Dem. 2. Christians in the US make me sooooo glad I'm Buddhist.

    January 1, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
  10. Sue

    Why care? These are the same people that overwhelmingly voted in Bush and his neo-cons. Also voted in the renegade congress that is implementing laws against voters, minorities, women, working-class & poor. They're gullible and will believe in anything but the truth. The corporate hounds & wall street goons goes after these gullible sheep. Easy to brainwash. They put out religious candidates, hijacks those candidates and we end up with our government being controlled by religious fascists and corporations. Don't treat them lightly. The Evangelical vote is we're in the economical mess we're in

    January 1, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • Larry L

      I so wish everybody could understand what you've said. You are spot-on target.

      January 1, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • Jilli

      Well done Sue. Does religion make people gullible, or are the religious gullible by nature?

      January 1, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
    • tb63

      Agreed. They don't even realize they're voting against their own best interests.

      January 1, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
  11. KC Yankee

    @ Felix theNavidad

    And that will be the undoing of this republic; the ignorant and self-righteous now represent a preponderance of the voting population. This disastrous trait made itself felt most recently with the election of George W. Bush who used that ignorance and gullibility to convince fools that thinking was wasn't necessary, indeed, it was an impediment to good governance. He claimed to ask god what to do, when in fact what that meant was he went on his gut instincts without thinking. The far right wing of the Republican party continues to use the stupidity of its base to turn the government over to corporations and robber-barons for their own personal enrichment.

    January 1, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
    • Felix theNavidad

      Why would you assume that a Christian would only vote for George W. Bush?

      January 1, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
    • Independent Mind

      Felix, I'm not sure there was assertion that only Christians voted for GW Bush, rather merely that the Christians who did vote for GW Bush tend to wear their religion on the sleaves and push their agenda more so than others.

      January 1, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
  12. Reality

    Only for those "blind" Iowans:

    “John Hick, a noted British philosopher of religion, estimates that 95 percent of the people of the world owe their religious affiliation to an accident (the randomness) of birth. The faith of the vast majority of believers depends upon where they were born and when. Those born in Saudi Arabia will almost certainly be Moslems, and those born and raised in India will for the most part be Hindus. Nevertheless, the religion of millions of people can sometimes change abruptly in the face of major political and social upheavals. In the middle of the sixth century ce, virtually all the people of the Near East and Northern Africa, including Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Egypt were Christian. By the end of the following century, the people in these lands were largely Moslem, as a result of the militant spread of Islam.

    The Situation Today
    Barring military conquest, conversion to a faith other than that of one’s birth is rare. Some Jews, Moslems, and Hindus do convert to Christianity, but not often. Similarly, it is not common for Christians to become Moslems or Jews. Most people are satisfied that their own faith is the true one or at least good enough to satisfy their religious and emotional needs. Had St. Augustine or St. Thomas Aquinas been born in Mecca at the start of the present century, the chances are that they would not have been Christians but loyal followers of the prophet Mohammed. “ J. Somerville

    It is very disturbing that religious narrow- mindedness, intolerance, violence and hatred continues unabated due to randomness of birth. Maybe, just maybe if this fact would be published on the first page of every newspaper every day, that we would finally realize the significant stupidity of all religions.
    =============================================================================================

    January 1, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
    • .........

      hit report abuse on all reality repeat garbage

      January 1, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
    • Earnhardt

      People need to find out what the LDS church believes and what it stands for. Someone needs to ask Romney what he believes about the after life for him and his wife/wives that he will have on his earth-like planet. I think that people need to know what the church teaches about Jesus and Lucifer. They need to ask if they believe that Jesus is the Son of God or one of many gods that are over many planets that are controlled by another more powerful God. People need to ask the questions......

      January 1, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
  13. AvdBerg

    Dan Gilgoff wrote:

    “But experts on religion and politics say the message to one particular subculture – evangelical Iowans – is clear: Mitt Romney may be Mormon, but he shares evangelical Christian values.”

    Furthermore he wrote:

    “Many evangelicals cite what they see as religion’s shrinking role in the public square as another concern. “This nation was founded on Christian ethics and that’s what made the country great,”

    The article by Dan Gilgoff was all falsehood.

    The definition of a ‘Christian’ is to be a follower of Christ. Evangelicals do not follow after Jesus Christ but rather an image of a false god and a false Christ (Matthew 24:24).

    The United States was not founded on Christian ethics and Christ’s teachings and as a result the foundations of the country are not only being shaken but are being shattered as the people prefer darkness over light (John 3:19).

    We invite you to read Chapter 23 of the Book of Jeremiah and read about God’s judgment and justice in the earth.
    Revelation 12:9. … which deceiveth the whole world.

    John 12:25. He that loveth his life, shall lose it (Luke 9:24; 17:33).

    2 Timothy 2:4. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life (that includes politics).

    John 17:16. They (the believers) are not of the world.

    1 John 5:4. For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world.

    Yes, Mitt Romney is a Mormon but he does not share the teachings of Christ. In fact he cannot understand them as they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:14). For a better understanding of the history of the Mormon Church and its secret agenda, we invite you to read the article Mormon Church ~ Cult and Spiritual Harlot, listed on our website http://www.aworlddeceived.ca

    For a better understanding of the above and what it means to be a Christian, we invite you to read the article ‘Can Christianity or Any Other Religion Save You?’ listed on our website.

    Also, to give people a better understanding of the principalities and destructive forces (Eph. 6:12) behind the Media, US Politics and the issues that divide this world, we invite you to read the article ‘CNN Belief Blog ~ Sign of the Times’.

    All of the other pages and articles will explain how and by whom this world has been deceived as confirmed by the Word of God in Revelation 12:9 and they will also explain what mankind must do to be reunited with God and to be able to understand the Bible.

    He that is spiritual judgeth (discerneth) all things, yet he himself is judged of no man (1 Cor. 2:15; 14:37; Proverbs 28:5; Gal. 6:1; Col. 1:9; John 3:8; 5:30; 8:15; 16:8-11).

    Seek, and ye will find (Matthew 7:7).

    January 1, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
    • AvdBerg

      CJ

      Mitt Romney is spiritually blind and does not know what spirit he is of (Luke 9:55). Human nature and friendship with the world is enmity with God (Romans 8:7; James 4:4).

      January 1, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
  14. CJ

    "but he shares evangelical Christian values, including a rock-solid commitment to family.."

    These are not christian values!!! They are human values. Christians exhibit them quite rarely in fact!

    January 1, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • AvdBerg

      CJ

      Mitt romney is spiritually blind and does not know what spirit he is of (Luke 9;55). Human nature and friendship with the world is enmity with God (Romans 8:7; James 4:4).

      http://WWW.AWORLDDECEIVED.CA

      January 1, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
    • Earnhardt

      CJ this is a very true statement and is a shame.... The church should be an example of Christ... Loving without condition.

      January 1, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
    • Reasongal.

      Human values, yes, but "as long as he's not an atheist..." = while human values are our highest priorities. Intelligence, critical thinking....an evangelical high on the piety scale trumps an atheist with human values. Ridiculous.

      January 1, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
  15. Loathstheright

    People who believe in a non-existing invisible magical faerie in the sky and not people you want voting, they are delusional.

    January 1, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • Felix theNavidad

      Not only do we vote but we are in the overwhelming majority.

      January 1, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • don in albuquerque

      Read in stats ltely on how fast your "marority" is slipping?

      January 1, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
  16. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer is the political language
    In the Kingdom of God
    Join the conversation
    With God in 2012

    January 1, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • Loathstheright

      Atheism is for intelligent people who can reason their way out of a paper bag, obviously you can't.

      January 1, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • Felix theNavidad

      Jesus is the reason and that reason will defeat any other reason.

      January 1, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • Reality

      JC's family and friends had it right 2000 years ago ( Mark 3: 21 "And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself."

      Said passage is one of the few judged to be authentic by most contemporary NT scholars. e.g. See Professor Ludemann's conclusion in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 24 and p. 694

      Actually, Jesus was a bit "touched". After all he thought he spoke to Satan, thought he changed water into wine, thought he raised Lazarus from the dead etc. In today's world, said Jesus would be declared legally insane.

      Or did P, M, M, L and J simply make him into a first century magic-man via their epistles and gospels of semi-fiction? Most contemporary NT experts after thorough analyses of all the scriptures go with the latter magic-man conclusion with J's gospel being mostly fiction.

      Obviously, today's followers of Paul et al's "magic-man" are also a bit on the odd side believing in all the Christian mumbo jumbo about bodies resurrecting, and exorcisms, and miracles, and "magic-man atonement, and infallible, old, European/Utah white men, and 24/7 body/blood sacrifices followed by consumption of said sacrifices. Yummy!!!!

      So why do we really care what a first century CE, illiterate, long-dead, preacher man would do or say?

      January 1, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
    • .........

      hit report abuse on all reality garbage

      January 1, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
  17. Andrew

    Mixing religion and government creates something unholy that is worse than either.

    January 1, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  18. Kathleen

    Are we really surprised to find out that the most ignorant and gullible people in the country ...are also the most religious and most Republican. It all goes hand in hand.

    January 1, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
  19. Answer

    ==Flipping through the comments on the picture scroll, you'll come to this remarkable idiotic opinion.

    Josh Foreman, 35

    "I want my leader to represent the same values I have. We shouldn't have separation of church and state. We shouldn't have freedom from religion, like a lot of people think, but freedom of religion."

    ===unquote

    This is the problem with the US. Freedom of religion means that everyone has to subscribe whether you like it or not. No separation of church and state – another laughable statement! If the changes were implemented a majority can easily sweep in with another religion and supplant the old. I love to see the chaos and wars that will erupt when the US is taken over by another religion so you 'Americans' will realize what you will lose in the future, but you'll be dragging Canada along that road. Until such time – we'll hold steady on invading you buffoons.

    January 1, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
  20. jt_flyer

    "History I believe furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance, of which their political as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purpose. " — Thomas Jefferson, 1813

    January 1, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.