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Why a president’s faith may not matter
We’re accustomed to presidential displays of piety but historians say a president’s faith is no sure guide to how he will govern.
June 30th, 2012
10:00 PM ET

Why a president’s faith may not matter

By John Blake, CNN

He called himself a “life-long Quaker and a church-going Christian,” and at first there was no reason to doubt him.

He played piano in the church, taught Sunday school, and praised Jesus at revivals. His mother thought he was going to be a missionary. His friends said he would be a preacher.

We now know this former Sunday school teacher as “Tricky Dick” or, more formally, President Richard Nixon. He was one of the most corrupt and paranoid men to occupy the Oval Office. Nixon gave us Watergate, but he also gave presidential historians like Darrin Grinder a question to ponder:

Does a president’s religious faith make any difference in how he governs?

“I don’t think so,” says Grinder, author of “The Presidents and Their Faith,” which examines the faith of all American presidents.

“If I asked George W. Bush what he thought about torture, I think outside the presidency he would say he hates it,” Grinder says. “But he’d do it for the country if he thinks it’s right in terms of American security.”

We elect a president every four years, but perhaps we also elect a high priest.  Ever since George Washington spontaneously added “so help me God” to his inaugural oath, Americans have expected their presidents to believe in, worship and publicly invoke God.

A presidential candidate who doesn’t meet these religious expectations won’t go far, Grinder says.

“It’s going to be a long time before anyone who openly admits that he or she is an agnostic or an atheist is elected,” Grinder says. “We tie character and religious beliefs together.”

Piety and presidential greatness don’t always mix

 History suggests, however, that piety and presidential performance don’t always match. Some of America’s most religious presidents have been its most brutal. And two of its greatest presidents wouldn’t even be considered Christians today, scholars say.

Consider Abraham Lincoln, who is widely acknowledged as one of the nation’s three greatest presidents, along with Washington and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. But Lincoln, who never joined a church, was not a Christian, says Niels C. Nielsen, author of “God in the Obama Era.”

“Lincoln believed in an active God, he believed in providence. But if you asked Lincoln if he believed in the deity of Jesus, he would have said no,” Nielsen says.

Or look at Roosevelt, who is virtually a national saint. With his perpetual grin and a cigarette holder perched jauntily in his mouth, he guided the nation through the Great Depression and World War II. His legacy is built on his New Deal, an array of programs that protected the poor and elderly from the abuses of unrestrained capitalism.

But Roosevelt was no saint in his personal life. He rarely talked publicly about his Episcopalian faith, preferred golf over church (before he was stricken by polio), and likely cheated on his wife, scholars say.

Yet few presidents embodied the biblical concept of “comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable” as much as Roosevelt, who once called the heartless business tycoons of his day “the money changers” in the temple.

Nielsen, the historian, suggests that it was Roosevelt’s suffering that drove him to look out for the most vulnerable, not his faith. According to his wife, Eleanor, polio taught her husband “infinite patience and never-ending persistence.”

“I think it made him more sensitive to the feelings of people,” Eleanor said, according to Nielsen.

Another contemporary president’s concern for others seemed to be driven more by his exposure to suffering than his faith.

Lyndon Johnson plunged America deeper into Vietnam. Yet his “Great Society” programs displayed a concern for “the least of these” in America. Under Johnson, the government launched programs to protect the civil rights of minorities, improve the educational chances of needy children and protect the environment.

Johnson saw poverty as a sin, something that should be attacked and defeated.

But Johnson never seemed to have any problem with a little personal sin. He grew up in Texas, where he affiliated with Disciples of Christ and Baptist churches. But he is widely believed to have stolen one of his earliest elections. He was a womanizer, historians say, and his speech was filled with such vulgarity that reporters had a difficult time quoting him on the record.

“He didn’t have any morality,” says Nielsen.

But he did have the experience of teaching in a poor, rural, immigrant school in Texas, Grinder says, where Johnson once said he learned “what poverty and hatred can do when you see its scars on the hopeful face of a young child.”

One of Johnson’s domestic advisers says in Grinder’s book that Johnson’s commitment to racial justice and eliminating poverty came from his teaching days in Texas.

“Equal opportunity became for him a constitutional obligation, and he pursued it with messianic conviction,” said Joseph Califano Jr.

Our first ‘infidel’ president

Some American presidents didn’t just seem indifferent to religion.  They were accused of being hostile to organized religion and dismissive of Jesus.

Washington, the nation’s first president, was not a Christian but most likely a Deist, someone who believed in a divine, beneficent being who ordered the world. Clergy would often try to goad him into publicly stating that he was a Christian, but he refused to do so, Grinder says.

Thomas Jefferson, though, aroused the hostility of more religious leaders than any other president, except perhaps for President Obama.

The nation’s third president once said that he didn’t care if his neighbor worshiped one God or 20, and argued for the separation of church and state. His opponents called him a pagan and an infidel. New England farm wives buried their family Bibles in gardens because they heard Jefferson would confiscate them, Grinder says.

Grinder wrote that one pastor who campaigned against Jefferson’s election warned:

“If Jefferson is elected, the Bible will be burned, the French Marseillaise will be sung in Christian churches, and we may see our wives and daughters become the victims of legal prostitution.”

Most presidents, however, didn't speak out against organized religion like Jefferson. Some took on the high priest role of the office, and few did it as eagerly as our nation’s seventh president, Andrew Jackson.

Jackson was a devout Presbyterian who read three to five chapters of the Bible daily, built a chapel in his Tennessee home and publicly attended two Washington churches while in the White House. He is known as one of the most devout presidents.

Yet he was also known for his violent temper (he killed a man in a duel) and for being a rich slaveholder. Jackson’s claim to infamy, though, comes primarily from his treatment of Native Americans. Some historians describe it as genocidal. He slaughtered Seminole Indians and their families in Florida, and he is responsible for the deaths of thousands of Cherokees, who he forced from their homeland in Georgia.

How could Jackson reconcile his fervent religious beliefs with the mass killings of Native Americans? Grinder thinks he knows:

“He was brutal because he did not believe the persons he was being brutal to were human.”

 Obama and his faith

Anyone who doubts that a president’s faith remains important to the American people has only to look at the experiences of Obama.

Obama has declared his Christianity in his biography, and in many speeches. He evoked it recently when he came out in support of same-sex marriages. But arguably no president has had his faith so aggressively questioned. Many Americans still believe he is a Muslim.

Stephen Mansfield, author of “The Faith of Barack Obama,” is a political conservative who has written about the evangelical faith of President George W. Bush. He became curious about Obama and spent time talking to Obama’s spiritual cabinet, a collection of ministers who counsel Obama.

Mansfield says he has no doubt that Obama is a devout Christian. His belief has angered some fellow conservatives so much that he says he has had speeches canceled and received angry e-mails.

“I take him seriously as a Christian,” Mansfield says. “He’s a politically liberal Christian man who is making a deeper journey of faith all the time.”

Mansfield says Obama’s health care law is an expression of faith: his belief that Christians are obligated to look out for the most vulnerable.

“Barack Obama believes that the mechanism of the state ought to be used in service of the biblical idea of saving the needy and the poor and the oppressed,” says Mansfield.

For some, though, Obama’s faith will always be associated with the angry sermons of Jeremiah Wright, his former pastor. Yet Mansfield says Obama has embraced a more traditional form of Christianity since becoming president.

In his book, Mansfield tells a story about Obama ministering to a pastor who had experienced a death in the family. Mansfield says he was stunned that Obama could draw so easily from a deep well of scripture to minister to a minister.

“He is serious about his faith,” says Mansfield, also author of  “The Mormonizing of America.”   “He’s absolutely not a Muslim.”

Nielsen, author of “God in the Obama Era,” has a theory why some Americans believe Obama is a Muslim.

“They hate him so much,” Nielsen says. “He’s polarized the country.”

Nielsen says Obama’s unconventional religious background may arouse suspicion, but it’s an asset. Obama was raised in Hawaii and Indonesia, where he was exposed to Catholicism, Islam, Buddhism and other religions. When he lived in Chicago, his Christianity was shaped by the black church’s emphasis on social justice.

“He knows more about world religions than anybody that’s been in the White House,” Nielsen says.

The persistent scrutiny of Obama’s faith, though, has helped his presidential opponent more than the president, says Grinder, author of “The Presidents and Their Faith.”

“If [Mitt] Romney had almost any other opponent than Obama, I think we’d be hearing a lot more about Mormonism,” Grinder says. “He would be in the same place that Obama has been in the last five years.”

Once Obama leaves the Oval Office, don’t expect the religious scrutiny of presidents to fade, Grinder says. We still want our presidents to act like a politician and a priest.

“The religious rhetoric gets louder each year,” he says. “That’s not going to change anytime soon.”

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Books • Christianity • Church • Church and state • Culture wars • History • Poverty • Uncategorized

soundoff (2,727 Responses)
  1. Paulie

    Atheism is great until you or a family member are on their death bed or an operating table clinging to life. You will be surprised how fast you start asking God for favors.

    July 1, 2012 at 6:54 am |
    • Dan

      Not everyone is as weak-minded as you Paulie.

      July 1, 2012 at 7:44 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      wrong. i've been on the death bed, clinging to life - and never once did i think to beg a god that doesn't exist to save me. i relied on science and medicine. and it worked.

      religious propaganda. this is the old "no atheists in foxholes" cr@p that's been proven wrong time and time again. fail harder.

      July 1, 2012 at 7:44 am |
    • Jayleigh

      I personally understand that I am all alone and powerless to the natural world. I also understand that prayer won't help change anything. God is at best indifferent to most prayers, or the mystery is so deep that this simple monkey can't determine when prayer works and when it does not. Sad isn't it.

      July 1, 2012 at 7:51 am |
    • Matt

      Wow. We obviously know the reason why you want to believe in such nonsense...becasue your scared.

      Which is understandable....doesn't make your statement and "faith" in god any more justifiable or true unfortunatley....

      Hosptials – There has never been a place where more sincere prayers have ever been heard...but we all know at the end of the day, it is science and skill of doctors and nurses that will help a person recover...

      July 1, 2012 at 8:50 am |
    • e

      Why would we ask for help for something that isn't there? I have watched the two people I love most die, neither asked for help from God, nor did I, Some people might, because in true pain there is no logic, that doesn't mean a person believes, it means they will try anything to stop the pain even prayers that they know will not accomplish anything.

      July 1, 2012 at 9:08 am |
    • oxy243

      wait until you have a ghost experience; seriously, changed me, and I was 100% atheist. Now I don't know what the f%$# is out there.

      July 1, 2012 at 10:22 am |
    • Travis Bickle

      Paulie, you seem to be unaware of the fact that many agnostics and atheists became that way precisely because in years past, before they were atheists and agnostics, they DID experience the loss of a loved one or some similar tragedy or life-and-death situation, and they prayed, and your imaginary friend in the sky did absolutely nothing for them. Grow up, please. Broaden your horizons. Get out and meet and talk to some people outside of your church. It will do wonders for your intelligence.

      July 1, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Paulie, you are full of crap. Lots of people have died on operating tables while they and their loved ones prayed for recovery. Many have died in pain and fear while clinging to the hope that a god would help them.

      July 1, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • flo'mop

      If it makes you feel better to think so. I've lost family members, friends and lovers, and I've faced death in the jungles of Central America and I never asked Jesus Christ or Little Bo'Peep for any help whatsoever. And here in these United States, I am free from being forced to. Although I am aware there are many who would like to see that freedom taken away.

      July 1, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • Donna

      Do you think atheists have never experienced the death of a loved one? That's a part of life that we all share.

      My heart's been stopped and as I was tunneling down (the sensation that you feel when the blood stops pumping to your brain), I didn't think about "god" at all. I thought about my family and trying to hang onto the sounds I could hear around me. Why would I waste those precious moments thinking about a fairytale?

      July 1, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • Josh

      Dont worry Paulie. You are right and forget what others have written. AM a physician and know certainly that God is there. Science is so limited in knowledge with immensity of God. Now I had an opportunity of seeing ( actual seeing) of a supernatural being . This viison followed a heavenly visit in what appeared like a dream. But the vision was real.
      God reveals Him self in ways He chooses to those that seek Him honestly. We have many people who are alive today who have visited heaven and come back . The common thing that happens to unbeleivers is to trash their stories and consider them as seeking self righteousness.
      Those continueing with un believing will discover that God is really there when its too late.

      July 1, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
    • Bob

      Isn't your comment a tacit admission that "belief" in God is really a desperate last ditch hope rather than a genuine belief? Clearly, people who only "believe" in God when in crisis don't have the same type of belief as, say, my belief that if I kick a rock really hard it will hurt my toe.

      July 1, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
    • Jason

      ACTUALLY I WOULD ASK THE DOCTORS..

      July 7, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
  2. Everett Wallace

    there it is you got a preacher blessing a muslim. preachers worship satan and muslims worship the devil a match made. checkmate that.

    July 1, 2012 at 6:51 am |
    • MollyBee

      There YOU have it....another hater rears its head on a blog. Good thing you have this outlet or you might explode.

      July 1, 2012 at 6:56 am |
    • e

      Was that a complete sentence? Looked like crazy rambling nonsense to me.

      July 1, 2012 at 9:08 am |
    • Floretta

      "shoe box moon pie Bandaid" back at ya!

      July 1, 2012 at 9:16 am |
    • sqeptiq

      Do you claim to be a christian?

      July 1, 2012 at 10:55 am |
  3. W.G.

    Atheists and non Christians equate the shortcommings of Christians as proof thatn there is no GOD !
    Christians are not perfect but we believe we are saved . "Well these presidents have sinned or are
    not perfect so how can there be a GOD " ? Seems to be the Atheists National Anthem . But if they
    do not believe in GOD then it should be of no concern that there are people that do . As I like to eat meat
    it doesn´t bother me that there are people who do not eat meat . Atheism is a form of rebellion the atheist
    wants to justify his beliefs and perversaties by saying that " Ican do this or that with no consequences " .

    July 1, 2012 at 6:50 am |
    • vulpecula

      For the most part, Atheists don't believe in a god because there is no verifiable evidence of the supernatural. It's not just a disbelief in your god, but in any gods or spirits or ghosts. By your definition, a person would have to believe in a god in order to turn away from it. thats just not how it is.

      July 1, 2012 at 7:00 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      you're logic is childlike.

      July 1, 2012 at 7:45 am |
    • e

      I would not care at all what Christians believe if they would keep their sky ghost and Bible OUT OF MY LAWS.

      July 1, 2012 at 9:10 am |
    • Travis Bickle

      Hello W.G., I am living proof that your assertion is baseless. I am an atheist and my lack of a belief in any gods has nothing whatsoever to do with the behavior of those gods' followers. As a former Bible-believing Christian I know better than anyone that the Bible teaches that only Christ was perfect, and that human beings are fallible and sinful and all that. My current lack of belief in any gods is based upon many things, primarily the total and utter lack of evidence that they exist, and in the case of Christianity, upon the fact that the God depicted in the Bible is an immoral, cruel and bloodthirsty dictator and that his son depicted in the bible is a petulant, moody loudmouth who gives terrible advice and unoriginal advice, disrespects women, and is confused about the nature of his mission on earth.

      July 1, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • Bob

      I'm pretty sure that 99.99999999999999999% of atheists did not arrive at their position based on the imperfection of the President or other world leaders.

      July 1, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
    • Thinker

      W.G., how would you feel if those vegitarians became the majority and imposed legislation to convince others that meat is bad? Or worse they just outlaw meat entirely? I would wager that much of the atheist vitriol comes not from the fact that there are believers, but from the fear and in many places fact of their forcing their beliefs on others. There are of course those who just like feeling superior than 'other people', but the exist in all groups. Personally I have no problem with religious people and many religious people have no problem with me.

      July 3, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
    • A Frayed Knot

      W.G.
      "Atheists and non Christians equate the shortcommings of Christians as proof thatn there is no GOD"

      The shortcomings of Christians had no bearing on my dropping a belief in "God". I developed a "personal relationship" with realism. There is not a shred of verified evidence for supernatural beings.

      July 3, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • E

      It is not required to prove that something does not exist. The burden of proof is on the believers.

      July 3, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
    • E

      Do vegetarians try to change your laws to prevent meat from being available to you?

      July 3, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
  4. Mike

    A belief in god should be neither required nor desired! What if George Washington had said "so help me Allah" or "so help me Vishnu"? This country is full of religious nutbags who cannot see the truth if it slapped them in the face! There is no god! Belief in one is not required to have a moral sense!!!

    July 1, 2012 at 6:49 am |
  5. jerry148

    Who bloody cares? I believe in God, but I really don't care if you do or don't. Belief in God is such a trivial matter in the politisphere, because all it does is get the close-minded atheists riled up against the whacky Fundies. The only way that religion positively impacts politics is that most religious people are against abortion. Go ahead, attack me for pointing out an obvious moral evil. I'm just saying it, and you know it's true.

    July 1, 2012 at 6:48 am |
    • Donna

      How can it be trivial when it influences their decisions? Do you remember when Bush said that god told him to invade Iraq? Is that a trivial consequence of his belief?

      July 1, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • E

      Yes, it is the atheists that are closed minded.

      July 3, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
  6. clarke

    Interesting twist on Presidents and faith. We all have a different belief system, which I sure don't have a problem with. I have a problem with people telling me that what I believe in, is wrong and they are right. I don't impose my beliefs on anyone, so I would like the same in return. I don't feel one needs to wear their religion on their sleeve to be what they believe in.

    July 1, 2012 at 6:46 am |
    • riamb60

      Freedom to believe in whatever you want to believe in.
      Believe in yourself is a start, from there on you can extent your believes , it is endless...

      July 1, 2012 at 7:43 am |
    • Donna

      But when the president makes decisions based on his religious beliefs, he IS imposing his beliefs on others.

      July 1, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
  7. Jt_flyer

    Belief in "the imaginary friend" is purely optional.

    July 1, 2012 at 6:37 am |
  8. CaptAmerica50

    For critical thinkers:

    born: Barry Soetoro

    later changed to: Barrack Hussein Obama

    Barrack claims to be a Christian, then at the year of his conversion or shortly there after why didn't he resume his birth name?

    July 1, 2012 at 6:36 am |
    • vernon

      How in the h-e double hockey sticks could Barack Obama have the name of his mother's SECOND husband as his birth name? People like you amaze me with their capacity for willful ignorance.

      July 1, 2012 at 6:49 am |
    • Randy Johnson

      With a handle like CaptainAmerica – how could w- e ever take you seriously – regardelss your comment sounds like you live in Mayberry or Hooterville Tennessee (sorry I don't even want to bother spell checking tennessee or whatever) – you Gomer Pyles obviously got thangs rat in yer own mands.

      July 1, 2012 at 6:49 am |
    • BD70

      Is this a trick question?

      July 1, 2012 at 6:52 am |
    • e

      HA HA HA, conspiracy theories are HILARIOUS!

      July 1, 2012 at 9:12 am |
    • lsgyrl

      Born Barrack Hussein Obama after his father. Try again without the tinfoil hat.

      July 1, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
    • Jason

      ANOTHER TEATARD FOOLED BY THE SOETORO HOAX

      July 7, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
  9. whitmanguy

    Presidents who make a great show of their "piety" are the ones I fear and despise the most. GW Bush and his hotline to a heaven that resembled right wing crazyland more than anything Jesus told us about got us into two abominable wars, as well as doing his best to turn America into a feudal kingdom ruled by corporate overlords. No atheist, no pagan, no muslim, could have been worse or less Christian.

    July 1, 2012 at 6:32 am |
    • jerry148

      That's why Kennedy is one of my favorite presidents. The man was a Catholic, but despite this, he assured the American people "I am not the Catholic candidate for President. I am the Democratic Party candidate for President who also happens to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my Church on public matters – and the Church does not speak for me."

      Honest injun. Even though the man's personal life was helter skelter, and he definitely wasn't a "good" Catholic, he didn't parade his faith around.

      July 1, 2012 at 6:54 am |
    • justanotherguy60

      Nothing like living in your own little world by judging others. Be careful when throwing stones either at or through your glass house, you could get hurt. Of course you never thought that Pres Bush had to deal with an enemy from within our own borders while being funded by those in other countries. They hated this country and what it stood for. Pres Bush relied on God and prayer to get him through such dire times. I bet you never thought about those that question the current pres as if he is a Christian or a Muslim, and how his faith is or is not in his life, huh?

      July 1, 2012 at 10:30 am |
  10. booboot0805

    The only time many of us, and the rest of the world, will believe that religion has been taken out of US politics –like it has many years ago in Europe, is when we elect a president who is a declared atheist.

    July 1, 2012 at 6:26 am |
  11. Themesong

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xwtdhWltSIg&w=640&h=390]

    July 1, 2012 at 4:48 am |
    • Nope

      Fail.Lol so much for being "smart".The song has nothing to do with religion.

      Fail.

      July 1, 2012 at 8:44 am |
    • Deivid

      Saw the show in Georgia last night. Bright, glaring lihtgs low at back of stage blasting the audience in the eyes made watching the actual performers completely impossible. Where did these people get their ideas about lighting? Absolutely ridiculous, but something that can be easily corrected. Until they fix this problem, I would not encourage anyone going to the show. What I could see of the dancers (often only on the projection screens) showed how absolutely fantastic they are. Too bad the production company is in a totally different class. Also, the bass was WAY too loud. Focus should be on the dancers, not the disabling lihtgs and over the top sound volume.

      August 1, 2012 at 12:18 am |
  12. Bootyfunk

    "How could Jackson reconcile his fervent religious beliefs with the mass killings of Native Americans? Grinder thinks he knows: He was brutal because he did not believe the persons he was being brutal to were human.”"

    typical christian 'compassion'. sure we murdered the indians, but they were godless heathens, so who cares? disgusting.

    July 1, 2012 at 4:46 am |
    • The Bird Is The Word

      Disgusting but typical of Christainity as well as most religions. Sick.

      July 1, 2012 at 6:53 am |
    • e

      Religious people always find convenient ways to justify doing whatever they want...

      July 1, 2012 at 9:15 am |
    • Thinker

      To be fair, so do athiests. In Stalin's mind everyone he killed was a traitor to the people of the Soviet Union and their deaths would help bring peace stability and happieness to said people. He was also fairly convinced that if he thought something it was right and that the ends justify the means. Also he was rather paranoid and had an anger problem...

      It is less that religious people come up with convienient moral loopholes and more that people convinced of their own rightness or the rightness of their cause to the degree that anything goes to further it will rationalize anything to maintain that belief.

      July 3, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
  13. charlottefmoore

    Coincidentally, John, I was just talking about this very subject today with a friend. My opinion? Religious affiliations should be totally irrelevant to the presidency. Where presidents are concerned, so much is put on Christianity in this country. There are HOARDS of other beliefs here. And yet, we all appear, generally, to do the same thing. Go to work, pay the bills, take care of our loved ones. I personally don't care WHO our president finds his spiritual solace with, so long as he does with conviction what he feels is best for the country. Christianity is only one belief. One in a beautiful array of beliefs. When will we, as a country, truly become enlightened?

    July 1, 2012 at 3:30 am |
    • The Bird Is The Word

      I know that a person's beliefs shoudn't matter, but the sad truth is a non-Christian has no chance running for President. Many of us (atheists) can't even let our atheism be known without losing, or at least risking, our jobs. I live in the "Bible Belt". I work with and know people who are fine, upstanding, and kind people...UNTIL the learn one is atheist. Then the atheist is finished. BTW, I'm not implying you're atheist. I'm just writing from my point of view. In any event, I doubt we'll see any kind of reasonable mix of politics and religion for a few more generations.

      July 1, 2012 at 6:58 am |
  14. hippypoet

    very interesting question...Why a president’s faith may not matter???? can anyone tell me why it should first before i even consider why it shouldn't?

    why does any belief based on nothing matter?
    should those beliefs based on nothing be allowed to govern all?
    why should anyone who believes in anything based on nothing be allowed to have any say at all?
    who gets to say who gets a say?

    here is a simple answer for you all....if the belief can't be verified as anywhere near fact then the belief is merely a belief....no merit should be given to anyone who shares in any belief without proof of its reality and therefore no weight should be given to the one who holds said belief....not to mention that beliefs are as whims that move us to act and one should never be given any power due to a whim as whims are known to change at a WHIMS notice!

    oh yeah, and since this dude would be in charge of the country that holds claim to being the melting pot of the world (culture and religion) no belief that the ONE man has should be viewed as any more or less special then any other nor should it be given a grand position for it! that is something idiots do!

    i am ok with the idea of a nation being full and governed by idiots i just want those morons to stand up for themselves as idiots and say "yes, that was me".....

    too much to ask?

    July 1, 2012 at 12:48 am |
  15. Reality

    STOP AND READ CAREFULLY !!!

    Romney believes that the horn-blowing angel Moroni appeared to the con artist Joe Smith. Not good for someone who wants to be president of any group !!!

    Obama "mouths" that he is Christian i.e. believes in gay Gabriel and war-mongering Michael the Archangel and Satan. BO's support of abortion/choice however vitiates has Christianity as he is the leader of the Immoral Majority who are now the largest voting bloc in the country. Immoral Majority you ask??

    The 78 million voting "mothers and fathers" of aborted womb babies !!! (2012 -1973 Rowe vs. Wade = 39.)

    39 x 2 million = 78 million. Abortion rate in the USA as per the CDC is one million/yr.

    And the presidential popular vote in 2008? 69,456,897 for pro-abortion/choice BO, 59,934,814 for "pro-life" JM. The population of the Immoral Majority in 2008? ~ 70 million !!!!!!

    July 1, 2012 at 12:19 am |
    • mickey1313

      Pro choice is not anti life. A fetus is not alive it is a clump of cells in the womb, no different then a tumor.

      July 1, 2012 at 3:37 am |
    • Gaunt

      Out of curiosity, could you please point me to the passage in the Bible (OT or NT) which specifically prohibits or speaks against abortion?

      Oh right, there is none.

      July 1, 2012 at 6:33 am |
    • Reality

      Thou shalt not kill. Exodus 20:1-17, Deuteronomy 10:4, Matthew 19:16-19, Matthew 5:21, Romans 13:9:

      And it is very disturbing that we give legal protection to the fer-tilized eggs and the developing young of protected animal and ins-ect spe-cies but give no legal protection to our own growing young ones.

      July 1, 2012 at 7:42 am |
    • Reality

      The reality of se-x, contraception and STD control: – from a guy who enjoys intelligent se-x-
      Note: Some words hyphenated to defeat an obvious word filter. ...

      The Brutal Effects of Stupidity:

      : The failures of the widely used birth "control" methods i.e. the Pill (8.7% actual failure rate) and male con-dom (17.4% actual failure rate) have led to the large rate of abortions and S-TDs in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the Pill or co-ndoms properly and/or use safer methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.- Failure rate statistics provided by the Gut-tmacher Inst-itute. Unfortunately they do not give the statistics for doubling up i.e. using a combination of the Pill and a condom.

      Added information before making your next move:

      from the CDC-2006

      "Se-xually transmitted diseases (STDs) remain a major public health challenge in the United States. While substantial progress has been made in preventing, diagnosing, and treating certain S-TDs in recent years, CDC estimates that approximately 19 million new infections occur each year, almost half of them among young people ages 15 to 24.1 In addition to the physical and psy-ch-ological consequences of S-TDs, these diseases also exact a tremendous economic toll. Direct medical costs as-sociated with STDs in the United States are estimated at up to $14.7 billion annually in 2006 dollars."

      And from:

      Consumer Reports, January, 2012

      "Yes, or-al se-x is se-x, and it can boost cancer risk-

      Here's a crucial message for teens (and all se-xually active "post-teeners": Or-al se-x carries many of the same risks as va-ginal se-x, including human papilloma virus, or HPV. And HPV may now be overtaking tobacco as the leading cause of or-al cancers in America in people under age 50.

      "Adolescents don’t think or-al se-x is something to worry about," said Bonnie Halpern-Felsher professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco. "They view it as a way to have intimacy without having 's-ex.'" (It should be called the Bill Clinton Syndrome !!)

      Obviously, political leaders in both parties, Planned Parenthood, parents, the "stupid part of the USA" and the educational system have failed miserably on many fronts.

      The most effective forms of contraception, ranked by "Perfect use":

      - (Abstinence, 0% failure rate)
      - (Masturbation, mono or mutual, 0% failure rate)

      Followed by:

      One-month injectable and Implant (both at 0.05 percent)
      Vasectomy and IUD (Mirena) (both at 0.1 percent)
      The Pill, Three-month injectable, and the Patch (all at 0.3 percent)
      Tubal sterilization (at 0.5 percent)
      IUD (Copper-T) (0.6 percent)
      Periodic abstinence (Post-ovulation) (1.0 percent)
      Periodic abstinence (Symptothermal) and Male condom (both at 2.0 percent)
      Periodic abstinence (Ovulation method) (3.0 percent)

      Every other method ranks below these, including Withdrawal (4.0), Female condom (5.0), Diaphragm (6.0), Periodic abstinence (calendar) (9.0), the Sponge (9.0-20.0, depending on whether the woman using it has had a child in the past), Cervical cap (9.0-26.0, with the same caveat as the Sponge), and Spermicides (18.0).

      July 1, 2012 at 7:44 am |
    • E

      Obama approving of Roe v Wade has nothing to do with faith. I have no problem with a "President of Faith" as long as they keep their faith out of the office. A "Christian" President would have to be mindful of the fact the the majority of Americans are in favor of abortion and the majority of Americans are in favor of the death penalty and his job is to do what the country wants, not what his faith tells him.

      July 3, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
  16. Nope

    if an atheist got into office what would stop them from limiting one's freedom of religion? What would stop them from burning churches or literally forcing one to pray only at home?

    No wonder no atheist can..it would be to dangerous for any non-atheist.It could also lead to violence and blood shed all for what some selfish controlling atheist wanted.For religion to be gone.

    Atheist also like any human can abuse power and go drunk with it.I wouldn't elect any atheist poster here.Their words are a disease full of nothing but hatred.

    June 30, 2012 at 11:18 pm |
    • looks like

      when atheists rule millions are murdered.

      June 30, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
    • Reality

      The Twenty (or so) Worst Things People Have Done to Each Other:
      M. White, http://necrometrics.com/warstatz.htm#u (required reading)

      The Muslim Conquest of India

      "The likely death toll is somewhere between 2 million and 80 million. The geometric mean of those two limits is 12.7 million. "

      Rank …..Death Toll ..Cause …..Centuries……..(Religions/Groups involved)*

      1. 63 million Second World War 20C (Christians et al and Communists/atheists vs. Christians et al, Nazi-Pagan and "Shintoists")

      2. 40 million Mao Zedong (mostly famine) 20C (Communism)

      3. 40 million Genghis Khan 13C (Shamanism or Tengriism)

      4. 27 million British India (mostly famine) 19C (Anglican)

      5. 25 million Fall of the Ming Dynasty 17C (Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Chinese folk religion)

      6. 20 million Taiping Rebellion 19C ( Confucianism, Buddhism and Chinese folk religion vs. a form of Christianity)

      7. 20 million Joseph Stalin 20C (Communism)

      8. 19 million Mideast Slave Trade 7C-19C (Islam)

      9. 17 million Timur Lenk 14C-15C

      10. 16 million Atlantic Slave Trade 15C-19C (Christianity)

      11. 15 million First World War 20C (Christians vs. Christians)

      12. 15 million Conquest of the Americas 15C-19C (Christians vs. Pagans)

      13. 13 million Muslim Conquest of India 11C-18C

      14. 10 million An Lushan Revolt 8C

      15. 10 million Xin Dynasty 1C

      16. 9 million Russian Civil War 20C (Christians vs Communists)

      17. 8 million Fall of Rome 5C (Pagans vs. Pagans)

      18. 8 million Congo Free State 19C-20C (Christians)

      19. 7½ million Thirty Years War 17C (Christians vs Christians)

      20. 7½ million Fall of the Yuan Dynasty 14C

      *:" Is religion responsible for more violent deaths than any other cause?

      A: No, of course not – unless you define religion so broadly as to be meaningless. Just take the four deadliest events of the 20th Century – Two World Wars, Red China and the Soviet Union – no religious motivation there, unless you consider every belief system to be a religion."

      Q: So, what you're saying is that religion has never killed anyone.

      A: Arrgh... You all-or-nothing people drive me crazy. There are many doc-umented examples where members of one religion try to exterminate the members of another religion. Causation is always complex, but if the only difference between two warring groups is religion, then that certainly sounds like a religious conflict to me. Is it the number one cause of mass homicide in human history? No. Of the 22 worst episodes of mass killing, maybe four were primarily religious. Is that a lot? Well, it's more than the number of wars fought over soccer, or s-ex (The Trojan and Sabine Wars don't even make the list.), but less than the number fought over land, money, glory or prestige.

      In my Index, I list 41 religious conflicts compared with 27 oppressions under "Communism", 24 under Colonialism, 2 under "Railroads" and 2 under "Scapegoats". Make of that what you will."

      July 1, 2012 at 12:26 am |
    • Reality

      Warren Buffett, THE AGNOSTIC/ATHEIST, for President !!!!
      Bill Gates, THE AGNOSTIC/ATHEIST for VP !!!!

      (Depends on which biography you read with respect to the beliefs of these two business leaders)

      July 1, 2012 at 12:29 am |
    • Cq

      looks like
      No. It's when dictators are in office that the mass killings begin, and you can add plenty that were in close partnership with the dominant religion of the area as well. There is no reason to suspect that a democratically elected atheist would want to eliminate religious freedom any more than a conservative Christian would.

      July 1, 2012 at 1:01 am |
    • tallulah13

      I'm not sure if you are aware of this, "Nope", but a President is not a king (though Bush Jr really did try his best). The Consti.tution is in place to protect all of us, believers and non-believers alike.

      However, it's very christian of you to try to create hatred against people who don't share your beliefs. Sort of a pattern with you believers, isn't it. Make a baseless accusation, and Wham! Harmless old ladies are murdered for being "witches". Lie about adherents of other religions and Pow! Millions of Jews are tortured or slaughtered. Claim that the indigenous dwellers of the land you wish to occupy aren't human and Boom! Entire nations are being wiped out without an ounce of remorse.

      It's hysterical that you should fear atheists, when history shows that christians are very scary people, indeed.

      July 1, 2012 at 3:10 am |
    • Patriarchae

      Your logic is awful and can be applied to anyone of any faith. What if a fundamentalist Christian wants to ban Islam and arrest atheists? What if a Muslim wants to do the same to Christians and atheists?

      The fact is that it doesn't matter because the president will never have the power to consider such things. Your attempt at a strawman argument is pretty pathetic. Maybe you should put down your Bible and pick up a textbook on logic sometime.

      July 1, 2012 at 6:35 am |
    • looks like

      the numbers offered by the idiot reality are more than the entire populations of those regions

      July 1, 2012 at 6:41 am |
    • Sigh

      Hitler was a "Christian."

      In a speech delivered April 12, 1922, published in "My New Order," and quoted in Freethought Today (April 1990), Hitler said:

      My feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded only by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God's truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter.

      In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was his fight against the Jewish poison.

      Today, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed his blood upon the Cross.

      As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice . . .

      And if there is anything which could demonstrate that we are acting rightly, it is the distress that daily grows. For as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people. And when I look on my people I see them work and work and toil and labor, and at the end of the week they have only for their wages wretchedness and misery.

      July 1, 2012 at 6:43 am |
  17. dug853

    II'll be satisfied when Presidential Candidates are judged by a "Reality/Reason Quotient" rather than by a "Believe whatever they're TOLD to think Quotient".

    June 30, 2012 at 11:01 pm |
    • looks like

      It takes a real man to have a belief in God.

      June 30, 2012 at 11:08 pm |
    • Nope

      Most of labels are false only to make whatever religion is popular..and most atheists fall for the scam as well..

      July 1, 2012 at 12:10 am |
    • Reality

      “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/or 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.

      July 1, 2012 at 12:31 am |
    • Susan

      looks like
      Real men take full responsibility for themselves. They don't go on acting like a child of their "Father." Grow up already!

      July 1, 2012 at 1:03 am |
    • looks like

      real men grow up to be the men God intended them to be

      July 1, 2012 at 6:42 am |
    • vulpecula

      @looks like
      It takes a real man to wake up every morning and face the world knowing there is no imaginary friend protecting him. Imaginary friends are the things of children.

      July 1, 2012 at 6:48 am |
  18. just sayin

    President George H W Bush has said an atheist is not a patriot and should not be considered a citizen of America, we are one nation under God. God bless

    June 30, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
    • im typing on the internet!

      look at me!

      June 30, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
    • looks like

      an accurate historic statement to me.

      June 30, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
    • Susan

      Who seriously cares what any Bush thinks?

      July 1, 2012 at 1:05 am |
    • tallulah13

      I guess that shows that the senior Bush fostered very un-American sentiments. Not terribly surprising, as the Bush family has been owned by the Saudi royal family for a very long time. The whole Bush family seems to be unhealthy for Americans.

      July 1, 2012 at 2:48 am |
    • vulpecula

      Atheist veteran here. There are atheists that have died for this country. Bush is full of it.

      July 1, 2012 at 8:36 am |
  19. hahaha

    Haha they're bowing their heads and talking to a made-up character hahahaha

    June 30, 2012 at 10:55 pm |
    • nope

      they are not talking to you.

      June 30, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
    • im typing on the internet!

      people type back!
      i'm herbie and i have friends on the internet!

      June 30, 2012 at 11:01 pm |
    • herbie

      there is no herbie

      June 30, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
    • looks like

      there's a little fella that's typing on the internet ... ain't it something

      June 30, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
  20. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    June 30, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
    • IslandAtheist

      If there is a god, I bet he gets a laugh out of that prayer nonsense.

      July 1, 2012 at 1:06 am |
    • looks like

      God has said if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray... does not sound anything like what Island Atheist has said. No wonder atheism is useless

      July 1, 2012 at 6:26 am |
    • Timothy Biddiscombe

      Prayers can change things, yes... negatively, through inaction... instead of actually doing something concrete, wasting time appealing to a God for something YOU want. But it may be something someone else may NOT want, someone who believes in the same god that you do. For instance... I laugh when I see Tim Tebow thanking God for allowing him to complete that great pass, while the defender is left to question his own faith when his own prayer to God to stop the pass went totally ignored.

      July 1, 2012 at 8:54 am |
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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.