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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 • Evangelical • History • Poverty • Uncategorized

soundoff (2,727 Responses)
  1. Why the blog reverts to insults

    There are a group of christian bloggers/trolls that repeat ad nauseum their refrain that atheism is a danger to society and a number of agnostic/atheists that choose to rebut that premise, given the evils that religions have perpetrated on societies worldwide. Hitchen's God is not Great is a good read on the subject. Although atheist crticism is of ALL religions and ALL gods, the christian bloggers, supposidly the turn the other cheek and forgive crowd,, then proceed to tell us we will be punished by spending eternity in agony in their fairytale hell; hard to accept without a sarcastic reply. So it goes on the christian bloggers have no trouble condemning other religions and non believers but woe betide anyone who dares criticise or ridicule them.
    If you can't take it, don't dish it out, HYPOCRATES.

    July 2, 2012 at 10:57 am |
    • Voice of Reason

      hypocrites

      July 2, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • Making up lies to "prove" you are right is not logical

      All? that's a lie.

      They willingly go after one..and we all know which one.

      July 2, 2012 at 11:24 am |
    • catholic engineer

      This religious person acknowledges that violence is often done in the name of the Prince of Peace. But the atheist fails to ask two small questions to get to the bottom of things. First question: ask "when religion is gone, will we be better off". The atheists seem to think "yes". Second question. " If so, then can't we can get rid of civil law also?" The atheists says "no". " Failing to ask the second question, the atheists never discovers the basic question: " what is wrong with man that he needs law at all?" Religion answers that man is fundamentally broken.

      July 2, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • Johnny Blammo

      "when religion is gone, will we be better off" – Definitely. Religion is a major source of division and bigotry. Religion does not improve peoples behavior at all, as studies and history clearly show. Religion inhibits social equality, justice, education, and scientific progress. Religion is a negative.

      "If so, then can't we can get rid of civil law also?" Massive non sequitur, CE! This is totally unrelated to religion. Religion is not the source of civil law, nor the ongoing support of it. When religion was involved in law, laws and punishments were ugly and brutal.

      "The atheists says (sic) "no"." Straw man – the response depends on whether the atheist is an anarchist or not, which has nothing to do with religion either. Atheists are all over the political and social spectrum. We are hardly a unified whole.

      "Failing to ask the second question" – you are continuing your strange straw man to it's illogical extreme – "the atheists never discovers the basic question: " what is wrong with man that he needs law at all?" Actually, if you view man as an animal in process of evolving but not that far from wilder roots, it makes perfect sense as to why some behave as they do.

      But if you view humans as the product of a perfect infallible God who is making them in his own image, then such behavior makes absolutely no sense at all. "Religion answers that man is fundamentally broken." Why would perfect infallible God, who made them in his own image, make them that way? That is ugly and ridiculous and weird, the product of believing in a delusion.

      July 2, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • why the blog reverts to insults

      @ catholic engineer
      It is hard not to see that man is fundamentally broken anywhere in the world of any and all religions; just look at the history of your own church. What is wrong with man that he needs law at all? Isn't that the way god wanted things to work? According to your own creation myth, everything was just going great in Eden untill god decides to make a law that no one can eat the forbidden fruit, right? So right from the get go, your god, creates a law, original sin and punishment, so god made man 'fundamentily broken', religion created the scenario, of course it answers the question but to what point?

      July 2, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
    • Why the blog reverts to insults

      @ Making up
      If you took the time to get informed read...
      The God Delusioon-Dawkins
      Death of God-Vahanian
      Impossibility of God-Martin&Monnier
      God is not Great-Hitchens
      etc.
      or watch
      Munk Debate: Resolved, is Religion a force for good in the world?...Hitchens vs. Blair
      the information will show you that one religion is not singled out at ALL.
      It is passing strange that atheists know so much more about religions than the religious know about atheism. Try and get beyond the dogma and educate yourself, your opinions would then have some validity.

      July 2, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
  2. BetterOutWest

    Good Article

    July 2, 2012 at 10:50 am |
  3. G.I. JOE IS NOT IMPRESSED!

    G.I. JOE WILL BLOW AWAY ALL THIS MESS!

    July 2, 2012 at 10:45 am |
    • G.I. JANE IS NOT IMPRESSED EITHER!

      G.I. JANE WILL BLOW AWAY THIS MESS TOO!

      July 2, 2012 at 10:47 am |
    • G.I. GAY IS VERY IMPRESSED!!!

      G.I. GAY WILL DO THE (BLOW) JOB TO YOU, JOE!!!

      July 2, 2012 at 11:45 am |
  4. shep

    Mormons believe that when they die, they will go to the planet Kolob. Can't find planet Kolob in your Bible?. That's because Mormons aren't Christians.

    July 2, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • BetterOutWest

      How about you go read some actual truths about the religion instead of garbage that haters post. Diaper wearing? Would you say that to the face of someone who is a member of the religion?

      July 2, 2012 at 10:51 am |
    • Voice of Reason

      @BetterOutWest

      Do you know anything about the Mormon religion? I would not hesitate one second to say anything to the face of anyone believing in the supernatural. All religions are just a bunch of speculation on something that cannot be proven. You're all a bunch of weirdos!

      July 2, 2012 at 10:57 am |
    • LinSea

      That is a lie, Shep.

      July 3, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
  5. Jack

    Hello. Everyone is cordially invited to visit – thestarofkaduri.com

    July 2, 2012 at 10:38 am |
  6. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    But Satanism is! I love Satan and I bow at Lord Satan's feet! Satan will rule America!!!!

    July 2, 2012 at 10:37 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Christians know this and that Jesus gives satan his 15 minutes of fame.

      July 2, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • AverageJoe76

      @HeavenSent – No matter what, I hope you, and everyone else on here finds the true peace they seek (if it's being sought at all)

      July 2, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • john the guy not the baptist

      @Heaven Sent
      I do not understand your moniker, please explain. The name implies that you were in heaven but left to come back to earth; but I thought the goal of all you christian types was to get to heaven. It begs the question, did your fellow residents run you out of town, so to speak? Did they just get sick of you spouting your nonsense ad nauseum and just said begone? One wonders, at least try and discard the hatred in your heart, perhaps that is what they sensed, for anyone that does not believe what you do. Peace and love to you and yours.

      July 2, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • Honey Badger Dont Care

      That's a typo. Its supposed to be HeavenScent.

      July 3, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
  7. tibs

    I am a conservative. I am also an atheist. I want to end the war on drugs. I want to end the war in Afghanistan. I beileve that a free society, a truely free society, not present day America, is the best way, so far discovered, of improving the lot of everyone.

    However, religion is an absolute joke. It is fantasy and is so far divorced from anything that could be considered moral. Even if jesus did exist, and he was resurrected, it doesnt mean his teaches are true, or moral. I am excited for when atheists will be the majority. We can all just exist and focus on creating a better world, not praying for a quick death so we can dance in heaven.

    Earth is not just a waiting room. There is no life after death. The meaning of your life is for you to choose.

    July 2, 2012 at 10:35 am |
    • Yep

      Got proof? because without proof its a fairy-tale you live in.You see,you also don't know yet you act like you do.

      Without real proof of whay you stated,its basically a religion..so no logic there!

      July 2, 2012 at 10:45 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Another one that does know the difference between religion and Jesus' truth.

      July 2, 2012 at 10:56 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Yep, you demand proof when you can't provide any? The onus is on you. One cannot prove a god doesn't exist anymore than one can prove the Easter Bunny doesn't exist. The burden of proof is on the person claiming that something does exist.

      July 2, 2012 at 10:57 am |
  8. Why the blog reverts to insults

    There are a group of christian bloggers/trolls that repeat ad nauseum their refrain that atheism is a danger to society and a number of agnostic/atheists that choose to rebut that premise, given the evils that religions have perpetrated on worldwide societies. Hitchen's God is not Great is a good read on the subject. Although atheist criticism is directed at ALL religion and ALL so called gods, the christian bloggers, supposidly the turn the other cheek crowd, then proceed to tell us that we will be punished by spending eternity in agony in their fairytale hell; hard to accept without a sarcastic reply. So it goes on, the christians have no trouble condemning other religions and non believers, but woe betide anyone that dares criticise or ridicule them.
    If you can"t take it, don't dish it out, hypocrates.

    July 2, 2012 at 10:30 am |
  9. PrimeNumber

    “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.”

    THis is a version of Separation of Church and State. Isn't this want we wanted?

    July 2, 2012 at 10:30 am |
  10. Reggie19

    I would accept the Mormon faith anyday over the M u s l i m. It seems that we American would quicker accept this religion which we did in 2008. Do we have such short memories that we hve forgotten how these people hate us and our country. The Mormons do not hate America and have never done our people any harm. Come on people, since 2008 our country has suffered so many disasters and it will continue if Obama is elected in November. Our country, with his failed policies, is heading to becoming a total disaster. Come on people wake up and vote for Romney in November.

    July 2, 2012 at 10:09 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Generalizations aplenty.

      July 2, 2012 at 10:11 am |
    • mm

      :facepalm:

      July 2, 2012 at 10:12 am |
    • shep

      So America's solution is a diaper wearing cult member? If we elect a Mormon, Jesus Christ will reach down and wipe America off the face of the earth. Mitt Romney is the false prophet the Bible warns us about.

      July 2, 2012 at 10:37 am |
    • shep

      Does the average American know that the Romney family fled Utah for Mexico because they would not give up polygamy?
      That Mitt Romney's father was born in Mexico? Do some research before you elect a cult member.

      July 2, 2012 at 10:41 am |
    • myweightinwords

      Have you ever sat with a Muslim and spoken about faith, about religion, about what he believes and does not believe? Have you ever taken the time to get to know a Muslim?

      Or do you judge all who wear the label "Muslim" by what you think you know about the religion, based on the actions of the extremists?

      July 2, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • BetterOutWest

      Shep, does Mitt Romney practice polygamy now? I'm pretty sure we're not electing his grandfather.

      July 2, 2012 at 10:56 am |
    • AverageJoe76

      So basically, you're world ended when a black man became president. Because nothing else you've stated makes any sense, holds any facts, or has a hint of truth.

      July 2, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
  11. Dee Wallace

    If the good Lord came down and sat in the Oval Office people still would not be satisfied. I believe what scrutiny is done for one the same should be done for the other.

    President Obama was vilified by everyone about Rev. Wright and I hear noone speaking about Romney and when he was sitting in his Church and the hatred was spewed about blacks just look on line about his church history.

    July 2, 2012 at 10:09 am |
    • Reggie19

      Were you in his church listening to the preaching of hatred for black people? Tell me, who murders more black people than their own? What about Obama's pastor who showed his hatred for white people? I suppose to you thats okay because its oming out of a black person's mouth. When the shoe is put on the other foot, you do not like to hear about it. HYPROCISY to the fullest!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      July 2, 2012 at 10:13 am |
    • mm

      Hey Reggie – You're not spinning a little there are you? I once had a pastor that preached the high & mighty road for decades. Come to find out years later that during all of this he was a regular john in the local red light district. He had a gambling addiction, and he was convicted of tax evasion. We subsequently left that church.

      July 2, 2012 at 10:18 am |
    • LinSea

      I've attended the LDS church for over 40 years and can't remember one time where hate towards black people was "spewed," endorsed, or condoned. There are many, many black members of the Church all over the world.

      July 3, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
  12. Rev. Rick

    Quoting from the article, "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.”

    Mr. Blake, given the ti.tle of your article, that's a very counter-intuitive way to close it.

    July 2, 2012 at 9:44 am |
    • Priorities First!

      There is only one big problem in this, Obama feels that there is nothing greater than a mans logic so he lacks a soul. I'd feel better if he came out and declared that the stars were aligned correct for something to happen.

      July 2, 2012 at 10:14 am |
  13. *aremu godwin

    The president is the high priest.

    July 2, 2012 at 9:39 am |
  14. Lee Mann

    I would say the most corrupt man to ever be in the Oval Office is the one occupying it today.

    July 2, 2012 at 9:24 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      I wouldn't.

      July 2, 2012 at 9:25 am |
    • Libs Are A Disease

      Amen! Obama is easily the worst and most immoral man to ever occupy the White House.

      July 2, 2012 at 9:26 am |
    • 8 hours a day

      Obama is the equal of any President to ever occupy the white house. They all slept.

      July 2, 2012 at 9:31 am |
    • mm

      Then you would be wrong.

      July 2, 2012 at 10:10 am |
    • aprilirene

      Citing specific examples, please explain in what way has Obama been corrupt? Emphasis on corrupt. Do we need to get a dictionary out?

      July 2, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • TR6

      Slept through history class did you?

      July 2, 2012 at 11:46 am |
  15. Libs Are A Disease

    Atheists cannot be president. They are incapable of understanding morality and freedom. Last time an atheist was leader millions of Russian and Chinese people died. Atheists are demons with no souls and must never have any power.

    July 2, 2012 at 9:22 am |
    • stupid followed to its logical conclusion

      arrives at atheism

      July 2, 2012 at 9:23 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      TROLL!!!

      July 2, 2012 at 9:25 am |
    • truth be told

      Truth is never ever trolling

      July 2, 2012 at 9:32 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      I agree, which is why the above is the perfect example of trolling.

      July 2, 2012 at 9:35 am |
    • truth be told

      this is America you can be wrong if you want to be.

      July 2, 2012 at 10:00 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      I agree, but there's a difference between being wrong and accepting your mistake and being wrong and refusing to accept facts, evidence and/or rationalism.

      July 2, 2012 at 10:04 am |
    • mm

      What does that have to do with the price of tea in China? Man, you ought to get that 'disease' of yours checked out.

      July 2, 2012 at 10:11 am |
    • Atheists keep OUT!

      If you think somebody's statement/argument was wrong. You should make a more convincing counter statement/argument to prove it wrong. And calling that somebody a troll is definitely not the best one.

      July 2, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Atheists keep OUT!

      Yeah, your moniker definitely exudes rational discourse.

      July 2, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • Atheists keep OUT!

      Yeah, creatures like you justifies my moniker.

      July 2, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • aprilirene

      Rational Libertarian is calling out a troll for good reason. There is nothing thoughtful or informative about Libs Are A Disease's statement. It is ignorantly hateful and full of hypocrisy.

      July 2, 2012 at 10:51 am |
    • MaryM

      faux news troll bot

      July 2, 2012 at 11:09 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      AKO, you ARE a troll. There's no libel if it's true, bozo.

      July 2, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • When you can't anymore debate, call him a troll

      @april

      The original poster's stance may sounds hateful to you but, apprently, he based it with facts from history.

      What can you say about leaders Stalin, Mao et, al.)who banned religion and burned churches?

      July 2, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • TOOL Tom

      Tom Tom you're not a troll but a TOOL.

      July 2, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      And you're an illiterate dolt.

      As far as the original post, it's dreck, like all those posted by the thumpers. Attempting to make some point about atheism by using dictators like Stalin, Mao, and Hitler is beyond lame. If that's all you have, you lose.

      July 2, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      And really, if you have to post under another name to try to defend your own posts, you're nothing short of a troll. Atheists are no less "moral" or ethical than believers. Unless you can show statistics that say otherwise, and stop using the canard of "Stalin was an atheist, therefore all atheists are without morals and cannot understand freedom" you're laughable.

      July 2, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • A.K.O Lawyer

      And Tomitina is making the classic HYPOCRITICAL GUESSING (atheist's version of the hypothetical guess).Lol!

      July 2, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • When you can't anymore debate, call him a troll

      TTTPS

      Care to expound why it's lame?

      July 2, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      And I nailed my target, obviously.

      My word, but you're a complete moron.

      July 2, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Why would I bother to try to teach a pig to sing? It wastes my time and annoys the pig.

      July 2, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • spoken as one

      who has a lot of experience "annoying" pigs

      July 2, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Awww, don't talk about yourself that way!

      July 2, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • onehippypoet

      Tom Tom the pipers son
      stole a pig
      And annoyed it
      in really unspeakable ways
      really gross Tom Tom

      July 2, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
  16. gavin

    What is America without faith? The founding fathers built the nation based on faith and religious principles. It is one of the reasons why the country is greatest nation on earth.Faith builds moral character and integrity. It provides a strong foundation that binds a society together based on hope.Great American Presidents were men of faith, courage, moral character, and integrity. They led the nation to American exceptionalism. A nation of leaders without faith is a nation heading toward moral decline, mediocrity, and decay.

    July 2, 2012 at 9:21 am |
    • alpg49

      Please read your history. 11 of the 13 colonies had state religions. In MA, they went overboard and hung some quakers who strayed out of Rhode Island (one of the 2 states with freedom of religion). Our Bill of Rights was a response to this tyranny. It guarantees that, while a moral, spiritually-guided society is good, that the government has to stand on the sidelines. The government has to serve as a referee, not as a player.

      July 2, 2012 at 9:32 am |
    • Wrenn_NYC

      Gavin said "What is America without faith? The founding fathers built the nation based on faith and religious principles. It is one of the reasons why the country is greatest nation on earth.Faith builds moral character and integrity. It provides a strong foundation that binds a society together based on hope.Great American Presidents were men of faith, courage, moral character, and integrity. They led the nation to American exceptionalism. A nation of leaders without faith is a nation heading toward moral decline, mediocrity, and decay."

      "The founding fathers built the nation based on faith and religious principles"

      No. They built a nation in opposition to being treated badly by those they either left Europe over (as in the Pilgrims, though it is argued that they came here so they in turn could treat others who did not conform to their way of life, badly.) The orignators of the United States built a nation based on what were at the time quite secular ideas. They took the 'divinely appointed' doctrine which gave us kings and monarchs out of the equation. They wanted religion and ruling separate, having seen how such, combined, was damaging to the populance.

      "It is one of the reasons why the country is greatest nation on earth.Faith builds moral character and integrity."

      Nope. DISTANCE and RESOURCES is why we are one of the greatest nations on the earth. We did not have near neighbors who were of any consequence, we did not have the constant ongoing wars as Europe had from the 17th century through the 19th depleting our manpower and diverting our natural resources. And those resources. We had them in abundance.

      I suggest you get your history from a critical read of history books, and not from 'feel good' 'pat us on the back' 'horray for our team' sermons from your local pastors

      July 2, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • Voice of Reason

      @Wrenn_NYC

      Nice job Wrenn! Thanks for putting gavin in the place he/she belongs. It's called the truth and I'm sure they cannot handle it.

      July 2, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • TR6

      @gavin:”What is America without faith? The founding fathers built the nation based on faith and religious principles.”

      Typical Christian and his imaginary history. They had no faith in religion in general or the Christian religion in particular. That’s why they included separation of church and state in the const1tution. They did not the country on religious principles. They used ethical standards that have existed much longer then Christianity and which overlap with some the better principals of most all religions.

      July 2, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
  17. Daniel6

    How do you know where you are going without some type of moral/spiritual compass?? I prefer an POTUS with some spiritual conviction–even if it's shared by me--

    July 2, 2012 at 9:05 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Why does your moral compass have to be spiritually guided? Fear of reprisal says a lot about "Christian goodness".

      July 2, 2012 at 9:14 am |
    • Priorities First!

      Rational Libertarian, where do you get your moral compass from ? It has to be based on something, vene if you directly never took part in it. Your parents or grandparents probably passed it on in the forms of your upbringing, but it stems from something. If only ruled by logic, as you might have us think then when you are older and sick, it may not be worth the cost and trouble to heal you. Ah geese, looky there, we fell straight down into the Obamacare pit.

      July 2, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      I get my moral compass from common sense. What I wouldn't want done to me, I won't do that to others. Basically, just stay out of other peoples' lives. Also, I'll have the money to take care of myself when I'm older. Daniel Plainview is my idol.

      July 2, 2012 at 10:33 am |
    • Common Sense + God

      I also get mine from it. However, when it inevitably malfunctioned or broken, I still have God to keep me in track with the true north of morality.

      July 2, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • Voice of Reason

      @Common Sense + God

      Why don't you just come out and say it? Your weak minded and you cannot think or act for yourself, period. Bogus way to live, just sayin'.

      July 2, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • Whine of Treason

      Voice...Voice....VOICE!!!

      Weak minds CAN'T (contraction of CAN NOT) determine the difference between "your" and YOU'RE.

      July 2, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • Double R

      @ Rational Libertarian

      You say fear of reprisal says a lot about "Christian goodness." If you got a steep speeding ticket for going 15 over the limit, willing breaking the law like most of us do when we're on a freeway, wouldn't fear of further reprisal from the law make you want to straighten up and fly right as they say? Unless your rich and don't mind paying the fine, for most of us that's a hefty price to pay. Well, the same holds true for Christians. The fear of God, fear of reprisal from God's law, fear of having to stand accountable in front of our one true Judge, fear of further separation from His graces makes us want to stick to our moral compass as defined to us in the bible.

      July 2, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I don't need a belief in a supernatural being or any threat of punishment to guide me as to what is ethical and what is not.

      July 2, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • Double R

      @ Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I never once said you needed that. I was trying simply trying to explain the reason for our "fear of reprisal" like Rational was saying. Trying to relate it to something non-Christian. Speeding is something very common, we all do it for the most part. You already got one ticket, so fear of getting a second one, and possibly getting your liscense suspended may make you want to do what's right and not speed. Although most of us continue to speed either way. The same holds true for Christians. Some Christians say they have a "fear of God" however continue to succomb to the same old sin, whether it be speeding or what have you. They have no "spiritual" moral compass, per say. They're guided by their own desires to do what feels right at the time. And what feels right, is not always what IS right. Spiritually or not.

      July 2, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
  18. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    July 2, 2012 at 9:01 am |
    • Jesus

      Prayer doesn’t not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!

      July 2, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • LinSea

      Will you two grow up? You both keep posting the same tired lines over and over.

      July 3, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
  19. mm

    Franklin Graham is a right wing bigot.

    July 2, 2012 at 8:54 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      There are far worse men than Graham on the Christian Right.

      July 2, 2012 at 8:58 am |
    • mm

      You've got a point, Rational.

      July 2, 2012 at 9:00 am |
    • Q

      "WHITE HORSE PROPHESY"

      July 2, 2012 at 9:07 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      White Horse Prophesy- Save the US Const.itution by ignoring its key aspect.

      July 2, 2012 at 9:15 am |
  20. john the guy not the baptist

    It would be nice if we elected a President who could actually maintain the speration between church and state and had the cojones/estrogen, him/her, to tax the immense wealth of all the reigions in the country; they have been getting a free ride on the backs of the people for far to long.

    July 2, 2012 at 8:44 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      It would take far more cojones (and a great deal common sense) to just abolish income and corporation tax.

      July 2, 2012 at 8:50 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.