home
RSS
June 15th, 2012
10:00 PM ET

My Take: How I constructed 'The American Bible'

Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

Over the past year or so, I have been working on a book called "The American Bible." The hardest part was the table of contents.

“The American Bible” isn’t a new translation of the Christian Bible. It’s my term for the texts that function like scripture in American public life, the voices to which we are forever returning as we reflect together on what America is all about.

In some cases, we refer explicitly to these texts as “sacred” or “immortal.” At a campaign stop in Mesa, Arizona, in February, Mitt Romney implied that the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution might be “inspired by God.”

In all cases, however, we treat them like scripture, returning to their words as we ponder the meanings and ends of our country, and invoking their authority in debates over gay marriage and taxes. In other words, these are the speeches and songs, letters and novels that continue to stir commentary and controversy, the voices that bring us together into the collective conversation that I see as the rite of our republic.

But which voices to include in my book? Which texts have “we the people” embraced as scripture? And what are the key commentaries upon them? As I struggled to answer these questions, I knew I'd be criticized for the choices I made.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

When "Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know" appeared in 1987, author E.D. Hirsch was widely criticized for producing a list of “core knowledge” that was too conservative and too white. His 63-page list of people, places and events neglected knowledge that is central to the experiences of African-Americans, Latinos and women, many argued.

With Hirsch and his critics in mind, I began the quest for my canon by devising some defensible guidelines. I decided right away that the book should be descriptive rather than prescriptive. In other words, I would aim not to create a canon but to report upon one; I would include not the voices that inspire me but those that “we the people” have revered.

I then fixed on two criteria. First, I would look for texts that have generated conversation and controversy, books we value enough to fight about. Second, I would look for texts that speak to the meaning of “America” and “Americans,” telling us where our nation has been and where it should be going.

I also decided that I would include alongside my “biblical" books extensive commentary about each, tracking their "afterlives" over the course of U.S. history. In other words, my “American Bible” would look something like an “American Talmud,” with extensive commentaries tracking the conversations Americans had about the Declaration of Independence during the Civil War and about the Gettysburg Address during the civil rights movement.

Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter

When Nathaniel Philbrick referred to "Moby-Dick" as “our American Bible,” he meant that Melville’s classic is a big book that carries inside it the “genetic code” of American life. In my view, however, "Moby-Dick" has not been as influential as either Harriet Beecher Stowe’s "Uncle Tom’s Cabin" or Mark Twain’s "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," each of which has carried considerable weight in our national conversation about race. So I eliminated "Moby-Dick."

Other cuts were more difficult. I am a big fan of “Leaves of Grass,” Walt Whitman's love letter to democracy. But I thought that “Paul Revere’s Ride” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow ran even deeper into the American psyche, so "Leaves of Grass" had to go. Eventually, as the book ballooned beyond its limits, I had to let Longfellow's "Revere" gallop away, too. It just hadn’t provoked enough arguments.

Also slighted in "The American Bible" are more recent voices, since it is harder to generate a vast commentary tradition for a work from the 1990s or 2000s than for one published during the revolution or the Civil War. Still, I admit that most of the voices in this collection are those of dead white men. In fact, the only living author of an "American Bible" book is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial architect Maya Lin.

Nonetheless, women, native Americans, African-Americans and Muslims are among the authors of my “biblical” books, and voices of the commentators — from Frederick Douglass to Rosa Parks and Gloria Steinem to Alan Greenspan — are far more diverse.

"The American Bible" also ranges, in its primary and secondary texts, far and wide across the political spectrum. Radical historian Howard Zinn and consumer activist Ralph Nader are heard here. So are conservative activists and intellectuals such as William F. Buckley Jr., Robert Bork, Rush Limbaugh and Antonin Scalia.

When I finished constructing "The American Bible," I was delighted to see that there are lessons aplenty here concerning both what our forbears have said about our country and how they have said it. In a time when party passions threaten to divide the country, it is gratifying to recall the words our fellow Americans have used to try to unite it.

In his Farewell Address, Washington warns us against the "mischiefs of the spirit of party." In his First Inaugural, Jefferson says, "We are all Republicans; we are all Federalists." "We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies," says Lincoln. And closer to our own time, Kennedy reminds us that "civility is not a sign of weakness."

My table of contents appears below. How have I done? What did I miss? What should I have cut? It's your book. Let me know.

Genesis

The Exodus Story

John Winthrop, “A Model of Christian Charity” (1630)

Thomas Paine, "Common Sense" (1776)

The Declaration of Independence (1776)

Noah Webster, "The Blue-Back Speller" (1783)

Law

The Constitution (1787)

Brown v. Board of Education (1954)

Roe v. Wade (1973)

Chronicles

Harriet Beecher Stowe, "Uncle Tom’s Cabin" (1852)

Mark Twain, "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" (1884)

Ayn Rand, "Atlas Shrugged" (1957)

Psalms

Francis Scott Key, “The Star-Spangled Banner” (1814)

Irving Berlin, “God Bless America” (1938)

Woody Guthrie, “This Land Is Your Land” (1940)

Proverbs

Benjamin Franklin, “Remember that time is money” (1748)

Benjamin Franklin, “God helps those who help themselves” (1758)

Patrick Henry, “Give me liberty or give me death” (1775)

Abigail Adams, “Remember the ladies” (1776)

Sojourner Truth, “Ain’t I a woman?” (1851)

Abraham Lincoln, “With malice toward none, with charity for all” (1865)

Chief Joseph, “I will fight no more forever” (1877)

Calvin Coolidge, “The business of America is business” (1925)

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, “I pledge you, I pledge myself, to a new deal for the American people” (1932)

John F. Kennedy “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country” (1961)

Ronald Reagan, “Evil empire” (1983)

Prophets

Henry David Thoreau, “Civil Disobedience” (1849)

Dwight Eisenhower, Farewell Address (1961)

Martin Luther King Jr., “I Have a Dream” (1963)

Malcolm X, "The Autobiography of Malcolm X" (1965)

Lamentations

Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address (1863)

Maya Lin, Vietnam Veterans Memorial (1982)

Gospels

Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address (1801)

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, First Inaugural Address (1933)

Ronald Reagan, “The Speech” (1964)

Acts

The Pledge of Allegiance (1892, 1954)

Epistles

George Washington, Farewell Address (1796)

Thomas Jefferson, “Letter to the Danbury Baptists” (1802)

Martin Luther King Jr., “Letter from Birmingham Jail” (1963)

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Bible • Books • Church and state • Culture wars • History • Leaders • Opinion • Politics • United States

soundoff (741 Responses)
  1. In God We Trust

    .....................................

    Few 100% true Reasons why Atheism is TERRIBLE and unhealthy for our children and living things:

    † Atheism is a religion that makes you angry, stupid, brainwashed, ignorant & blind.
    † Atheism is a disease that needs to be treated.
    † Atheism makes you post stupid things (90% of silly comments here on CNN blogs are posted by closet Atheists)
    † Atheist are satanic and have gothic lifestyle.
    † Atheists are misguided and causes problem in our religious & public society.
    † Atheists are mentally ill, that's why they have no faith.
    † Atheism won't take you to kingdom of heaven and paradise.
    † Atheism making you agree with Stalin, Hitler (Denied his faith later), Mao, Pol Pot & other terrible mass murder leaders.
    † No traditional family lifestyle, no holidays, no culture, boring and feeling 'outsider'
    † Atheists are angry, drug additcted and committ the most crime.
    † Atheist try to convert people over internet because they feel "safer" behind closet.
    † Atheists do not really exist, they just pretend that they don't believe in God and argue with religious people.
    † Atheists have had terrible life experience, bad childhood and not being loved.
    † Most Atheists are uneducated... No Atheists could run for presidency.
    † Atheism brought upon the French Revolution, one of the most evil events of all of history.
    † Atheism cannot explain the origins of the universe, therefore God exists.
    † All atheists believe in evolution, which means they don't believe in morality and think we should all act like animals.
    † The Bible says atheism is wrong, and the Bible is always right (see: Genesis 1:1, Psalms 14:1, Psalms 19:1, Romans 1:19-20)
    † Countries where Atheism is prevalent has the highest Suicide rate & Communist countries = Atheism!
    **Only 2-3% of the U.S. are Atheists/Agnostics VS. over 90% who believe in God (80% Christians) in the U.S.**

    † † Our Prayers goes to Atheists to be mentally healthy and seek their creator † †

    PS! the USA is a † nation and will always be. You know it's true and stop being ignorant and arrogant!
    (Take a look at our federal/state holidays, 99% of our presidents, blue laws in parts of the nation, the majority of people, some laws, calendar, culture, etc.)
    http://rightremedy.org/tracts/7

    ...............................................

    June 16, 2012 at 10:02 am |
    • Danny

      Okay, I am a Christian (fundy btw- *le gasp*) and although I obviously don't agree with Atheists, I believe you make a few (a lot) of false assumptions here. This just reminds me of the many mindless lists posted by Atheists about Christianity... One more bonus thing: I can understand why there are so many Atheism and useless Christians- (and this might surprise you) It's our faults! If we acted how Christians were supposed to act, there would have been a lot less dissension and compromise to things like evolution and immoral, worldly lifestyles. Oh, I could go on and on...

      June 16, 2012 at 10:28 am |
    • Danny

      Oops, structural grammatical error. Excuse me. ;p

      June 16, 2012 at 10:29 am |
    • Rationalintn

      Wow, who sounds angry????

      And, you're the epitome of the "love thy neighbor as thy self" philosophy, that guy Jesus preached about???????

      I thought being a Christian meant BEHAVING like Christ did, but it apparently just means SAYING you believe. Actual effort is not a requirement.

      If your beliefs are the commandments you live by, count me out.

      June 16, 2012 at 10:38 am |
    • jom

      Atheists to not have horrible things to say about Christians, only supposed
      People of Faith do the above!

      June 16, 2012 at 10:43 am |
    • john the guy not the baptist

      I am kind of amused by the religious fanatics that come up with this type of list. They seem to be only capable of reading the fire and brimstone parts of their 'GOOD' book and ignore the other bits, for example. The Golden Rule appears quite frequently, Mat 7:12, Mat 19:19, Mat 22:39, Luke 6:31, and even Leviticus 19:18, the theme being love thy neighbour and do onto others; by the way it doesn't say just fellow believers. So if you are unwilling to forgive me my trespasses are you not being disobidiant to your Lord and Saviour, you bad christian you. I would see you in hell but only those believe in it get an eternity of suffering, enjoy.

      June 16, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • Danny

      I beg to differ, jom. You don't have to look far on CNN to see it, but it is true Christians most likely started it. I'm not condoning either side's hatred.

      June 16, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • yang

      Danny, I don't hate christians, I just don't want them to dictate how I live my life. I support freedom of and from religion. You practice and believe and live as you wish, as long as you do not infringe upon the rights of others to do the same.

      June 16, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • Danny

      I wish everyone understood it like you do. Its a choice to follow Jesus. Us Christians can ask and pray for you all, but no one can force another. To attempt to do so would be a sin on our part.

      June 17, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • T-Max73

      I'm not so much an atheist as a am a non-supernaturalist. I tend to require evidence before I form a belief or idea. I have a tendency to disregard things that have no proof, evidence.

      June 28, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
  2. trey

    On 9/11, two forces of imagination collided: on the one hand, destructive imaginators who imagined over and over their destruction, and on the other hand men and women who imagined and trained themselves to risk their lives, to climb up the falling towers. The rescue workers' art was in their supreme, heroic sacrifice. 9/11 made it abundantly clear to me that both are works of imagination. We swim in the ecosystem of imagined actions. Our imagination forces us every moment to choose Life or Death. Makoto Fujimara

    June 16, 2012 at 9:59 am |
  3. david

    I think the "law" chapter would have benefitted from the inclusion of Loving vs Virginia, its ramifications on racism, gay marriage, and even Biblical definitions of "traditional" marriage are far reaching....

    June 16, 2012 at 9:56 am |
  4. trey

    Imagine sitting in that art room, full of art materials mixed with the smell of coffee and freshly baked cookies, like colorful paint, large glue jars and scissors neatly lined up and ready to go; you are surrounded by materials and technology design to help your creative thinking.

    You are 13, wondering to yourself "who am I? And what am I to do with myself?" In a confused daze of our chaotic lives, when have you had someone ask you "What do you want to make today?" It's disarming. Many of these children sitting in the room, including my daughter, survived 9/11, and were "Ground Zero" residents. If you have been traumatized, or simply caught in the degenerative spiral of negativity that pervades our culture, what kind of hope does that question provide?

    On the morning of 9/11, the terrorists answered the question "What do you want to make today?" with evil vengeance; the world they desired was a world full of Ground Zeros, and they exercised their imagination to bring down all hope and aspirations of thousands of people with destructive acts of terrorism. They were using their imaginations.

    Ironically, the shock of that morning surpassed all of the Shock Art created by contemporary artists of the 90's. The artists found that the reality was far more cruel, far more bleak and far more destructive than any single artist could ever depict.

    To ask "what do you want to make today?" is not an idealist's escape from reality. To ask "what do you want to make today?" is a quiet resistance against the destructive fears dominating our world; refusing to submit to the inevitability of corruption in our ideologies.
    Makoto Fujimara

    June 16, 2012 at 9:54 am |
  5. agathokles

    No compilation of "The American Bible" would be complete without the inclusion of "The National Enquirer," which has shaped the beliefs of countless Americans. :)

    June 16, 2012 at 9:46 am |
    • dave z

      Agree 100%. This article ranks in the same camp as the National Enquirer mentality.

      June 16, 2012 at 9:50 am |
    • john the guy not the baptist

      Under Epistles he, Prothero, missed

      Bobby Henderson, The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, 2006

      An oversight, or a deliberate slight, pray tell?

      June 16, 2012 at 10:37 am |
  6. John

    Well, well, well! Once again we transition from from a discussion of ideas to an argument about beliefs (again mostly religious). Unfortunately, what has been proved by the discussion is not what ideas are important, but what minutia we can agrue about with extreme conviction but little reason. If god can bless America, he might concider blessing it with a little ability to reason as the first thing on his list.

    June 16, 2012 at 9:31 am |
    • Danny

      THANK you... Can't there be normal discussions on CNN? Oh wait, this is the norm... :-/

      June 16, 2012 at 10:33 am |
  7. Charles

    The author did a superb job except the mentioning of some of the most venerated philosophical material and thoughts available to the founders of the time, namely;
    1. Natural Law Philosophy – Thomas Aquinas (direct relationship to Deity mentioned in the Declaration of Independence)
    2. commentaries on the Laws of England – Sir William Blackstone
    3. Federalist and Anti Federalist papers

    June 16, 2012 at 9:30 am |
    • Stephen Prothero

      The Federalist Papers are in there, though as commentaries on the Constitution. Anti-Federalist Papers appear too, again as commentaries in the midst of the constitutional controversy of the late 1700s.

      June 16, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
  8. If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

    He'll follow this up with .. the construction of every bible based on local folklore & current societal memes.

    June 16, 2012 at 9:22 am |
  9. Allah

    how asinine

    June 16, 2012 at 9:12 am |
    • dave z

      I must agree with you on this one Allah, this is one of the most asinine articles I have ever read. I assume CNN has an audience for this type of material, or they would not continue to put it out there. These views are simply to entertain those who reject CHRIST as LORD and the BIBLE as GOD inspired, inerrant, authority of GOD ALMIGHTY. The BIBLE is correct when it says of this type of rebellious talk, "Ro 1:18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness,
      Ro 1:19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.
      Ro 1:20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
      Ro 1:21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.
      Ro 1:22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools

      June 16, 2012 at 9:37 am |
    • Rationalintn

      Dear Dave- the bible has errors. Genesis, for example, has plenty of errors. The author of Genesis states that God created the 2 lights in the sky, one for day and one for night. Since God is all knowing, and created everything; wouldn't God know that the moon is NOT a light in the sky? God would have known that the moon reflects light, it doesn't create it. However, the simply ignorant folks who passed the Genesis story down, didn't know the moon merely reflects light. That fact alone is enough to cover the ears when someone states that the bible is inerrant. No matter how much you WISH that it was error free, that's just not the case. Therefore, when you use scripture to justify your 2000 year old way of thinking, it just doesn't work.

      June 16, 2012 at 10:02 am |
  10. ChazH

    "So are conservative activists and intellectuals such as William F. Buckley Jr., Robert Bork, Rush Limbaugh and Antonin Scalia."

    That statement, putting Rush Limbaugh into an elite group as if he's a peer of theirs is reason enough for me not to waste a penny on this book.

    June 16, 2012 at 9:08 am |
  11. Rick

    Has anyone here seen the Dead Sea Scrolls? Don't you think that everything written in them is some sort of proof that the Bible really is what it is? Has anyone here seen George Washington or Abraham Lincoln? How do you know they were real? Didn't you read about them in a book? So why is it so difficult to believe Jesus Christ existed? Oh, I know, It's because of what he said, not because he was there. The Romans and the Jews certainly believed him. That's why they killed him. If nothing else, read the Bible as a history book from cover to cover and see how much you can learn about the history of the Middle East. When you get to Revelation, you will see just how true the Bible is. The Prophets were right.

    June 16, 2012 at 9:08 am |
    • nottolate

      "So why is it so difficult to believe Jesus Christ existed? Oh, I know, It's because of what he said, not because he was there. The Romans and the Jews certainly believed him."

      The answer to your question is in the bible. For it is written,

      18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people who suppress the truth by their unrighteousness,19 because what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.

      The unbelievers know the truth but actively suppress it being unrighteous. Its who they are. Know what you are really dealing with.

      June 16, 2012 at 9:19 am |
    • scoobypoo

      Ask a young child how they know Santa Claus is "real".
      Their belief is just as valid (or, invalid) as yours.

      June 16, 2012 at 9:20 am |
    • dave z

      Rick, the answer is very simple but yet very complex... this is what the Bible says, "Jn 3:17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
      Jn 3:18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
      Jn 3:19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.
      Jn 3:20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.
      Jn 3:21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”

      June 16, 2012 at 9:23 am |
    • Keith

      “John of Patmos” wrote “Revelations”, he was not a Christian and he hated Christianity.

      Your Bible was written over a period of 300 years and the Catholic Church decided what was going to be in it along with the Roman Government at the time.

      You should learn a little history instead of listening the cult leaders trying to sell you heaven, and threaten you with He ll

      June 16, 2012 at 9:29 am |
    • sam stone

      nottolate: what makes you think that the morality applicable to iron age middle eastern agrarian man is at all valid here and now in the 21st century?

      June 16, 2012 at 9:33 am |
    • Jon

      From a historians point of view. It is easy to know that all of these individuals existed. Besides the works they wrote, there is a variety of physical evidence, i.e. burial sites, and other first hand accounts of their existence from other authors validating their existence. The problem with the existence of Jesus of Nazareth is that, he did not write anything. Followers of his more than 100 years after his death wrote of him. Second, there are no physical remains for evidentiary proof, and third, no other sources wrote about him except for in the bible. Your proof is that her was killed by the romans, but there is no record of this. The romans and jews kept extensive records at that time and there was no mention of anyone crucified for claiming to be the son of god, or a false profit during that timeframe. Additionally the jews were rabid historians during the roman occupation. None of these historians mention Jesus. John the Baptist on the other hand, is mentioned often. This is why no one disagrees with his existence. This is not to say that Jesus did not exist. Records are shoddy at best from this timeframe, but the historical record, scientific proof if you will, points more to his non-existence than to his existence in the exact way that the historical record point to the existence of all of the individuals inMr. Prothero's American Bible.

      June 16, 2012 at 9:47 am |
  12. TG

    Mr Stephen Prothero brought to the table things that have caused arguments and division within America. This was prophetically stated by our Creator, Jehovah God, over 2,500 years ago through Daniel. In explaining the meaning of the "immense image" that Nebuchadnezzar saw in a dream (Dan 2:1), Daniel gave features and events concerning 5 world powers starting with ancient Babylon. (Dan 2:31-33)

    Daniel said of the 5th world power (7th one at Revelation 17:10 that began with ancient Egypt), "And whereas you beheld the feet and the toes to be partly of molded clay of a potter and partly of iron, the kingdom itself will prove to be divided, but somewhat of the hardness of iron will prove to be in it, forasmuch as you beheld the iron mixed with moist clay. And as for the toes of the feet being partly of iron and partly of molded clay, the kingdom will partly prove to be strong and will partly prove to be fragile. Whereas you beheld iron mixed with moist clay, they will come to be mixed with the offspring of mankind; but they will not prove to be sticking together, this one to that one, just as iron is not mixing with molded clay."(Dan 2:41-43)

    This last human world power to exist, consisting of America and Britain, would "prove to be divided", having "somewhat of the hardness of iron will prove to be in it, forasmuch as you beheld the iron mixed with moist clay." It will "partly prove to be strong and will partly prove to be fragile", because "iron mixed with moist clay" is not strong. As a result of being "mixed with the offspring of mankind", this last world power of human history, Britain/America that came into existence in 1917, "will not prove to be sticking together", with fractures and cracks throughout it.

    June 16, 2012 at 9:04 am |
    • thewiz_71

      Oh Lord. Please – in every age in history since the rise of Christianity there have been people who have thought that Biblical prophecy about has been about them. Guess what – it's not. So, stop[ giving the rest of us thinking Christians a bad name.

      June 16, 2012 at 9:11 am |
  13. Michael

    And all these feared God. Who did all these men look up to. what gave rhem the words and who gave them the breath.

    June 16, 2012 at 9:02 am |
    • alphabatt1

      All these men feared a theocracy.
      "Lighthouses are more useful than Churches." Ben Franklin
      "Religions are all the same, myth and fable." Thomas Jefferson
      "Let us prevent the blood from the religious inquisitions of Europe from reaching our shores." Thomas Jefferson

      June 16, 2012 at 9:23 am |
    • scoobypoo

      And what of all the people that lived and died B.C.?
      Who gave them words and breath? How did they function prior to the bible stories (written, all by men, decades and centuries after the alleged events)?
      The majority of the world believes differently than you, and yet you are so arrogant as to think they are all condemned to some hell because they think differently.

      June 16, 2012 at 9:25 am |
    • dave z

      I must agree with you on this one Allah, this is one of the most asinine articles I have ever read. I assume CNN has an audience for this type of material, or they would not continue to put it out there. These views are simply to entertain those who reject CHRIST as LORD and the BIBLE as GOD inspired, inerrant, authority of GOD ALMIGHTY. The BIBLE is correct when it says of this type of rebellious talk, "Ro 1:18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness,
      Ro 1:19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.
      Ro 1:20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
      Ro 1:21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.
      Ro 1:22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools
      THE BIBLE

      June 16, 2012 at 9:40 am |
  14. Scott

    Paul Kennedy: Revelations.

    Also, there is a strong slant towards racial issues, but nothing about the economic disputes that have driven expansion in U.S. territory or law. At a minimum, I would add snippets of Knight, Kerzner, Schumpeter, and Galbraith. Probably also need to add Kennan's work on foreign policy and Bush 41's speech as well.

    June 16, 2012 at 9:00 am |
    • Kathmandu91

      "Revelation" –not "Revelations."

      June 16, 2012 at 9:31 am |
  15. jojo dahgfazboy

    I wish he hadn't quoted that absurd Romney quote as though it was legitimate. Mormons are scary. Even scarier than most other religions. The thought of the Mormon religion being thought of as a positive in this country gives me the heebie jeebies. I don't need any more white-shirts knocking at my door.

    June 16, 2012 at 8:48 am |
    • alphabatt1

      Yeah, They will try to sell you a piece of the planet Kolob with a view.

      June 16, 2012 at 9:27 am |
  16. Ronald

    Just another attempt to put religion and government/politics together. Separation of Church and State, a very important principle which absolutely needs to be observed. Some on the right are trying to use religion as a wedge between political factions and history shows us clearly that religion needs to be kept out of government/politics. Political ideology is a corruption of religious thought and ideas and was never meant to be combined. We live in a country, at least for now, that allows everyone to practice whatever religion they choose and belong to whatever political faction they wish to belong to. Using religion for political gain or for political sway is one of the lowest things I can think of and those who say it belongs there are hypocrites,

    June 16, 2012 at 8:34 am |
    • Cheese is the answer

      where does that seperation idea come from anyway?

      June 16, 2012 at 8:52 am |
    • Stephen Prothero

      Hey Ronald, I think you are missing the point. The book is NOT arguing for church/state union. In fact, one of its Epistles is Jefferson's Letter to the Danbury Baptists where he argues for a WALL separating the two. So you will find LOTS of support for your views IN this book. It's a record of our disagreements, not an argument for any particular view.

      June 16, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
  17. Jack

    Good morning everyone, you are welcome to visit ... thestarofkaduri.com

    June 16, 2012 at 8:30 am |
  18. Faith

    I think it's unfortunate that he felt the need to use real biblical terms for his chapters. I like the idea of a book on American culture and what shaped our nation to be what it is today. But, the bible and its books are God's and it is holy. "The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our Lord stands forever." Isaiah 40:8. I don't know if you can say the same for our country. I certainly hope so. But, if Kindergarten teachers continue to ban songs like "God Bless the USA," things don't look too hopeful for the future.

    June 16, 2012 at 8:24 am |
    • sybaris

      blah, blah, blah, blah toddlers can't sing god bless america, the sky is falling.

      Get a grip. It's time people stopped brainwashing children and started them off with reason rather than fairy tales.

      God Bless America is consummate nationalism wrapped in religious fascism.

      June 16, 2012 at 8:37 am |
    • Faith

      What a fabulous teacher you would be sybaris, just so inspiring, I'm sure. You would replace God Bless America with John Lennon's "Imagine." So uplifting! Just swells the hearts! You and your communist buddies could beam with pride!

      June 16, 2012 at 8:51 am |
    • Astronidas

      I know, God Bless America goes out the window, In God we Trust goes out. Or when George Washington said it is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and the Bible.

      June 16, 2012 at 8:56 am |
    • Jen

      Yeah Imagine is a horrible song, we might as well play Tupac since they are the same thing. Oh wait.....

      June 16, 2012 at 8:58 am |
    • sybaris

      You people are so gullible. By your logic any country that doesn't subscribe to your religion should be in chaos and that is simply not the case nor was George Washington right. There are many. many examples that prove him wrong.

      Anymore ad hom' remarks?

      June 16, 2012 at 9:06 am |
    • alphabatt1

      Clearly the age of reason has passed you by.

      June 16, 2012 at 9:29 am |
    • sam stone

      Which of the bibles qualifies as god OFFICIAL word, Faith?

      June 16, 2012 at 9:39 am |
    • sam stone

      faith: what did sybaris say that makes you conclude that he is a "commie"? Or, is it just something that you apply to anything that disagrees with YOUR view? You likely throw the "lib" term out a lot, too?

      June 16, 2012 at 9:42 am |
    • Jen

      It's funny Sam because my daughter just had her preschool graduation and they sang 'this land is my land'. I was thinking Faith would only allow her child to sing this song if they changed the lyrics to, 'this land is my land, this land is your land, unless you don't think exactly like I do, and in that case get the f-ck out'.

      June 16, 2012 at 9:48 am |
    • Faith

      The Holy Bible is the official word of God. And I don't have a problem with "This Land is Your Land." I have a problem with the left trying to keep songs like "God Bless America" "The Battle Hymn of the Republic – my eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord," "America the Beautiful – God shed his grace on thee" out of schools and the culture. THEY have been here first. YOU on the left are the ones who are trying to make everyone fit YOUR idea of how this country should be: godless.

      June 16, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • Jen

      Faith, why can't you teach your kids those songs at home? I remember being young and having to read the bible and say the lords prayer in class. There were always a Jehovah's witness in the class and they had to leave the class during this time. The result? That kid was considered different and had no friends. Kids will use ANY excuse to ostracize another child.

      I'm agnostic and would prefer my kids not sing those songs. I'm not militant about it, but I would prefer they didn't because I want to teach my child personally about religion. You are more than welcome to teach your kids those songs, provide them religious instruction personally, bring them to church, and even send them to Christian school if you want them to receive religious instruction in the classroom. That is your right.

      My daughter's favorite song right now is 'call me maybe', by Carly Rae Jepson. Do you think it is my right as a parent to demand it be taught in the classroom?

      June 16, 2012 at 10:12 am |
    • Faith

      "Call Me Maybe" is about a crush. So, let's see: no to "Battle Hymn of the Republic" no to : "God Bless America" no to: "America the Beautiful" – but let's sing a song about being attracted to someone.
      Lord help us if this is what our future looks like.

      June 16, 2012 at 10:29 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Faith, you're an imbecile is you think Kindergarten teachers have any authority to "ban" anything. Teachers don't get to choose; they're required to do as their administrators tell them. Furthermore, I object to the sweeping generalizations you make about music: there are many large school systems in which teachers are expected to present a broad variety of music including patriotic, sacred, and secular songs. The mention of "God" in a song is not "proselytizing". One cannot teach music or art and exclude sacred music and art; to do so is to ignore a huge body of work and a significant part of history. Teaching sacred music and art as PART of a balanced curriculum that includes a variety of music and art of many eras and cultures is valid. Attempting to "use" sacred music and art to promote a religious belief is not.

      June 16, 2012 at 10:34 am |
    • Jen

      I love how you ignore the rest of my post because you have no way to dispute it.

      The kids also sang 'take me out to the ballgame'. I'm sure you believe that because they sang about something so trivial as baseball they are all going straight to h-ll.

      As the mother of two beautiful, intelligent, tolerant and kind girls (and pregnant with my third), I strongly urge you not to have kids. You definitely would not make a good parent.

      June 16, 2012 at 10:38 am |
    • Faith

      Sorry Tom... did you miss the story of the teaching banning "God Bless the USA" from her Kindergarten class graduation? THAT is what I was referring to. Maybe get out once and a while. It might help.

      June 16, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      You are mistaking teaching ABOUT religion with teaching BELIEF in a specific religion. They are not the same thing. It is perfectly valid to teach about religious beliefs so that students understand what others may believe; it is not valid to tell them that one particular belief is more important than others or that they should believe in this god and not that one.

      June 16, 2012 at 10:42 am |
    • trey

      On the morning of 9/11, the terrorists answered the question "What do you want to make today?" with evil vengeance; the world they desired was a world full of Ground Zeros, and they exercised their imagination to bring down all hope and aspirations of thousands of people with destructive acts of terrorism. They were using their imaginations.

      Ironically, the shock of that morning surpassed all of the Shock Art created by contemporary artists of the 90's. The artists found that the reality was far more cruel, far more bleak and far more destructive than any single artist could ever depict.

      To ask "what do you want to make today?" is not an idealist's escape from reality. To ask "what do you want to make today?" is a quiet resistance against the destructive fears dominating our world; refusing to submit to the inevitability of corruption in our ideologies.

      On 9/11, two forces of imagination collided: on the one hand, destructive imaginators who imagined over and over their destruction, and on the other hand men and women who imagined and trained themselves to risk their lives, to climb up the falling towers. The rescue workers' art was in their supreme, heroic sacrifice. 9/11 made it abundantly clear to me that both are works of imagination. We swim in the ecosystem of imagined actions. Our imagination forces us every moment to choose Life or Death.
      Makoto Fujimara

      June 16, 2012 at 10:45 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Faith, you need to improve your listening skills. Go back and watch the video again: the PRINCIPAL banned the song, not the teacher. Furthermore, the principal's reason for doing so, that the lyrics are too "grown up" is valid–and not only that, the song is not appropriate for Kindergarten because it's not musically appropriate for that age level.

      June 16, 2012 at 10:47 am |
    • Jen

      Tom Tom, I'm not sure if it is the same incident we are talking about, but they were talking about the song being banned for a kindergarten graduation on the radio. Interestingly enough, they thought that the song was banned because it mentioned America, not God. The principal also banned the song 'baby' by Justin Bieber because it was too mature.

      June 16, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Watch the video on CNN; I don't know if it's the same incident or not, but it appears to be. And I agree with the decision on both songs, not because the Lee Greenwood song mentions "God" or "America", but because the lyrics are not age appropriate, nor is the musical content.

      June 16, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • Jen

      Yes I agree it is too mature Tom Tom. If they selected that song for my daughter's preschool I would have let her sing it (I wouldn't be thrilled but i wouldn't have cared that much), but I'm sure there is someone that wouldn't have allowed their child to participate. Why isolate that child/children, when there are lots of other great songs?

      It's funny because she loves 'this land is my land'. I was just thinking as the kids were singing that song how nice it would be if everyone actually believed that. But we are far away from that unfortunately....

      June 16, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      There are lots of great songs. "God Bless the USA" doesn't really seem to me to be one of them. "This Land is Your Land" would be part of the American musical lexicon, and has historical significance, although not so much for Kindergartners. But avoiding teaching a song that has "God" in it because it isn't "inclusive" isn't a good reason to exclude it. That cheats all the other kids out of learning an educationally appropriate piece of music. The key word is 'balance'. Kids should be learning all kinds of music for the purpose of learning music, not for the purpose of instilling patriotism or belief.

      June 16, 2012 at 11:24 am |
  19. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things.

    June 16, 2012 at 8:23 am |
    • jim

      This is CRAP!

      June 16, 2012 at 8:45 am |
    • UncleM

      Religioius delusion is not healthy for children and other living things.

      June 16, 2012 at 8:51 am |
    • truth given

      filth replies

      June 16, 2012 at 8:53 am |
    • ddrew78

      You know, that's the only line I've ever seen you post. And it doesn't make any sense under this article.

      June 16, 2012 at 8:56 am |
    • john the guy not the baptist

      Hey A

      Insanity is not healthy for children and other living things.
      Medication changes things.

      I don't think you are even trying. If the first medication doesn't work, don't just quit try another, there are plenty out there in the real world. When the voices in your head compel you to post the same drivel again, try a little jolt of electricity. Peace and love to you and yours, stay away from sharp objects.

      June 16, 2012 at 9:04 am |
    • alphabatt1

      Test your faith; drive with your eyes closed.

      June 16, 2012 at 9:32 am |
    • Keith

      Prayer does not work, you are still here

      June 16, 2012 at 9:32 am |
    • prayer is

      relevant to all things

      June 16, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer changes things
      Proven

      June 16, 2012 at 10:45 am |
    • stever51@verizon.net

      No, it doesn't.

      June 16, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
  20. Kim from Pittsburgh

    You should include a chapter highlighting the two Creationist stories in Genesis, Darwin's theory of natural selection, and something written about evolution.

    June 16, 2012 at 8:22 am |
    • Darwin laid an egg

      And he wasn't an American

      June 16, 2012 at 8:28 am |
    • jim

      "the two Creationist stories"? This isn't supposed to be a comic book!

      June 16, 2012 at 8:41 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

Post a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Advertisement
About this blog

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.