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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. Jurah

    Nielson cops out stating President Obama has "polarized the country." "They hate hime so much." Why do "they" hate him so much? How has he "polarized the country" more than any other president? Did not Jefferson who spoke vehemently against religion, or Lincoln who presumbably presided over the most divided United States in history because of a little thing called the Civil War, or Roosevelt who trampled on states rights for the economic survival of the nation?

    July 2, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • shep

      They hate him because Fox Fake News tells them to. Because they're stupid and believe he was born in Kenya, or is a Muslim, or a Marxist, or whatever Karl Rove makes up. They hate him, because America has turned into a giant trailer park and the GOP knows they will believe whatever they shovel out. Time to fight back.

      July 2, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
    • niknak

      We can only do that one way Shep, at the ballot box.
      If the OWS people don't show up, or the Hispanics, or blacks, or the independents, or the soccer moms, like they all did in the midterms, then Rmoney will win as it is that close.
      Get your friends, your friend's friends, casual aquaitances, that guy in the alley, to the polls on Nov. 3rd and vote Dem.

      July 2, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      Faux News repeating their propaganda gets poor southerners to vote against their own best interest. sad.

      July 2, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
    • LinSea

      Why are you so full of hate, Shep? Every post I see from you is bursting with slander, dishonesty and prejudice towards the people you hate. Carrying around that much hate and bitterness is very sad way to live.

      July 4, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
  2. shep

    If Romney is elected, can we all have a Mormon harem?? And can we wear the Magic diaper? Cuz it would be cool to be watching a ballgame and just do my business in my recliner. Hell, you'd never have to get up!

    July 2, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
  3. dyslexic dog

    I was raised a christian, then I actually read the bible, now I am an athiest. I'm betting that most christians haven't actually read the bible and have just listened to the endless brainwashing of the church and think they believe.

    July 2, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
    • One one

      If the bible was a movie it would be rated X because of all the s.e.x and violence.

      July 2, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • Sim34

      One one
      They tried to rate Mel Gibson's "Passion" up too, but too many good Christians complained that their little kids wouldn't be allowed to enjoy it if they did. As it was, 14 year old boys were the top repeat viewers. Boys that age love the t.itulation of so much gore.

      July 3, 2012 at 9:51 am |
  4. dyslexic dog

    the upcoming election will prove two points.
    (a) that christians are believers according to convenience, and
    (b) that republican christians are republicans first and christians second

    Romney is a mormon which is a religion that, as well as co-optingsome parts and characters from the bible word for word, also contradicts and makes a mockery of so many key christian religious beliefs that it should be a bigger issue to christians than gay marriage and abortion. But ... the same way as christians always pick and choose which parts of the bible to loudly proclaim and which parts of the bible to pretend don't exist ... they will ignore all these issues and vote for Romney anyway.

    What do you think God/Jesus will think of you if you give your vote to a man who truly believes that he will one day be a God? Or a man who truly believes that Joseph Smith, a 19th century reknowned con-man, is an equal of Jesus?

    Go on christans, pretend you never read this post. Find some obscure bible quote that will justify you supporting a cult. What a joke!

    July 2, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      LET's Religiousity Law #4 – If a bible verse furthers the cause, it is to be taken literally. If a bible verse is detrimental to the cause, it is either: taken out of context; is allegorical; refers to another verse somewhere else; is an ancient cultural anomaly; is a translation or copyist's error; means something other than what it actually says; Is a mystery of god or not discernible by humans; or is just plain magic.

      July 2, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • Denise

      Hey, LET, I'd love to see your whole list if there is one. Please publish it!

      July 2, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
    • dyslexic dog

      me too!

      July 2, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      I'll post them tomorrow, I keep the list at work.

      July 2, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
  5. Making up lies to "prove" you are right is not logical

    Let's all congradulate the atheists.I mean calling God a "sky fairy" or "sky daddy" is pure genius.Comparing God to Santa Clause also shows their genius skills! Who else would think of something so genius?! Saying the bible is a book of fairy-tales shows how educated they are.I mean let's all thank them for how awesome and accepting they are.

    July 2, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      Congratulations (That's how it's spelled BTW) troll, I see your trailer-park's internet is back up.

      July 2, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • AverageJoe76

      What's your testimony for having faith in God? Or you don't need that? You don't believe because it's popular, do you?

      July 2, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • Badda Bing

      Work on that punctuation too, CapitalistClown. They are going to mark your papers down at college for writing that incompetently.

      July 2, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • Making up lies to "prove" you are right is not logical

      Lol thanks for proving my point and now the entire world can see it.Not so logical now!

      July 2, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • AverageJoe76

      @Making up lies to "prove" you are right is not logical – What point was proven? You didn't answer my questions.

      July 2, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      "proving your point?" I'm sorry, but babbling your idiocies trolling for atheists to reply to you is a pathetic attempt at attention. I wouldn't really call that proving any kind of point.

      July 2, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      You're right. All those things are genius.

      July 2, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • why the blog reverts to insults

      Logic and knowledge are not your strong suit, dogma and insults are the stock and trade of you and some of your fellow bloggers. Insults beget insults, but yours start out of ignorance and you are unwilling to see past your obsession. Peace and love to you and yours, try not to hate too much, it can be dangerous for your well being.

      July 2, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • Sim34

      Making up lies to "prove" you are right is not logical
      Well then, how is God not like a "sky fairy", "sky daddy", or Santa Clause? Dazzle us with your reasoning skills.

      July 2, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
  6. Lucifer's Evil Twin

    “When the Rapture comes and God bodily transports all of the good, kind, charitable, compassionate, tolerant, humble, loving Christians, I'm sure the world will miss both of them.” – Doc V.

    July 2, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • AverageJoe76

      I think I'll go up on the magical-rapture-tractor-beam into the clouds. But just to tease me. I believe once I get to the pearly gates, St. Peter's gonna play bouncer and pull me outta line. There, I'll finally realize that the faithful were just waiting to go buckwild in the afterlife. That's why they tried to behave on Earth. I see togas getting thrown around, lots of wine..... it looks like 'Project X' from where I'm standing. They faithful are teasing and taunting me, saying, "Should've just belived in J, could've had some of this J". Then I fall down an incredibly long staircase, roll into a lake of fire, and my testies catch fire. There, is where I'll scream out, "Please Biggie give me one more chance!"

      July 2, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      I see two problems with heaven and hell. First, heaven will be full of christians so that'll suck. Second, hell will be filled to the brim with "good" christians which will probably also suck. So kind of a lose-lose scenario either way.

      July 2, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • Ting

      Do you have your rapture hatch?

      July 2, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • Cq

      Problem with this is that it's the "Redeemed" who will be raptured according to myth, regardless of how "good, kind, charitable, compassionate, tolerant, humble, and loving" they are. Heaven, like churches here on Earth, isn't going to be filled with only good people. Makes you wonder why anyone would throw somebody else under the bus just to better their chances of getting into that place?

      July 2, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • Up Your Rear Admiral

      As I often say to Christians:

      " I'll see you in the rapture capsule with the unicorns. Don't forget to wear your nose ring – the big steel one that I padlocked the chain onto when we were practicing for the uplifting."

      July 2, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
    • Denise

      something about yanking a chain there, honorable Admiral sir?

      July 2, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
    • One one

      I was reading revelations the other day. It actually depicts god sitting on a big throne and angels playing harps.

      I thought that imagery was just cartoon stuff. But it's actually in the bible.

      July 2, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
  7. AverageJoe76

    So it's either Jesus or H ell, right? Wow....... So deciding to be agnostic is punishable by eternal flame?!? (pretty drastic, no?) Because all it means is "I don't know". But if God is real, he will kick me into this vast lake of fire for not knowing him. Because he walks on Earth everyday reminding us how important it is. And he's picked the best people on TV to represent him. And he left no evidence of his physical exsistence. As God, or as baby Jesus. I am totally fooked.

    July 2, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • john the guy not the baptist

      AJ76
      Jesus is alive and well and walks amongst us in Puerto Rico, actually hunderds maybe thousands, no miracles seen to date though.

      July 2, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
  8. AverageJoe76

    If the faithful are so up on the TRUTH being the Bible, then why let all these false images of Jesus be circulated without there being an uproar? Inconvenient truth, I guess. Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus couldn't hide from King Heron if they didn't look like the surrounding masses. How can you hide white, in a backdrop of all brown? Same goes with baby Moses, who was hiding in Egypt. 'Heeeeeeello common sense.... haven't seen ya in awhile......."

    July 2, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      It is the traditional look of Jesus back when brown-skinned people weren't too highly thought of. Most of those paintings and glasswork with Jesus on it are white because the majority of Christians were white.

      July 2, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • AverageJoe76

      @Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler – So when will they start photoshopping some corrections? I mean, they need to stick to the truth as much as possible. People will start to (gasp!).......... ask questions.

      July 2, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • LinSea

      King Heron?

      July 3, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
  9. ANGEL FOR LIFE

    I'm a walkin' miracle!
    I'm a talkin' miracle!
    And soon I'll be a German miracle!
    Guess who I love workin' for!

    July 2, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • The Corrector

      You love workin' for Jesus!
      Me too!

      July 2, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • Mafia Don

      Unfortunately, I must remain catholic :(
      I've done too much bad stuff :(

      July 2, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • G.I. JOE JUST GOT VERY IMPRESSED!

      At last we've got ANGEL FOR LIFE on our side!
      Love your Jesus miracles already ANGEL FOR LIFE!
      G.I. JOE is an ANGEL FOR LIFE too!
      Let's invite G.I. JANE too!

      July 2, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • G.I. JANE

      A PROPER ORGASM AT LAST!

      July 2, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      Christards are scary...

      July 2, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
  10. Jim Hahn

    At first glance, they all looked asleep, or bored to death.

    July 2, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
    • niknak

      That is what I thought too when I first saw that photo.
      But that is what religion does, it puts ones mind to sleep in the stupor of ignorance.
      F^ck god.

      July 2, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
  11. BoldGeorge

    The article states: "History suggests, however, that piety and presidential performance don’t always match."

    And doesn't this go with any other profession? As a matter of fact, doesn't this go with the human race as a whole? I would say piety and human performance don't always match, don't you think?

    I see this article coming from two angles, and you don't have to read much into it to see this. This article tries to boost Obama without or without his faith and second, it's also an affront against Christianity. When will we learn that Christianity is not the problem (biblical Christianity that is), but man and his sin that's the problem?

    Until each one of us acknowledges his or her own sin and our rebellion towards God and our need for redemption, some people won't ever have a clue as to why human performance is always flawed. And we'll still be accusing Christianity and not ourselves for the ills of the world.

    July 2, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • Cq

      Perhaps the best part about biblical Christianity is that it didn't have the Bible to mess it up.

      July 2, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  12. AverageJoe76

    I have been waiting for a sequel to the Bible. Revelations kind of leaves you hanging, y'know.

    July 2, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • The Knight of God

      There's two endings to revelation. If you love God you'll go to heaven, if you hate em you go to hell... you choose your own ending.

      July 2, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • AverageJoe76

      @ The Knight of God – I don't see that as being what the author intended. I believe the sequel will invovle taking the Spear Of Destiny, and throwing it into the mouth of a volcanoe (like Mordoor). There, Jesus will meet Frodo (who's just finished his epic journey), and Jesus, Frodo, and Gandolf the White will go battle the forces of Hell in one last attempt to save souls before the 'H ell Gate' shuts closed. If they don't make it, Jesus and the others will be trapped in H ell forever! (sounds exciting doesn't it.....?) Can't wait till this hits theatres.

      July 2, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • The Knight of God

      Let's be serious for a moment, assuming that the Bible is true... what then? Instead of joking about a possibility, why not find out the truth before its too late?

      July 2, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • john the guy not the baptist

      As a Pastafairian, may I suggest the Flying Spaghetti Monster arrive in the nick of time and extend three noodly appendages that Frodo, Gandalf the Whie and Jesus can latch onto and make an amazing escape as the final scene. As an alternate ending, the noodly appendage that Jesus grabs onto is stiill covered with a tomato and permesan sauce and unable to maintain his grip slips back into he*ll, my preference.

      RAmen...blessings from the FSM

      July 2, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • BRC

      @The Knight of God,
      In all honesty, if the Bible is word for word true, I would even more firmly oppose it. I can't think of any reason other than fear of reprisal to follow the "God" of the Bible, and I refuse to be lead by fear.

      July 2, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • AverageJoe76

      @ The Knight of God – OK, so let's say the Bible is true. I have questions for this God, if it's true. I've critized him, joked about him, denied him, and have become dissappointed in him............. but all AFTER trying to really understand and love him.
      Why the sacrafices? Why was 'h e ll' even created if he's so merciful, and why not correct the problem in the soul-factory? Why not walk among us? Children don't do well with long-distance, parent-child relationships. Trust me. So yeah, I got questions....

      July 2, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • Sim34

      It kinda ends with "And they (the righteous Christians) lived happily every after", like all fairy tales.

      July 2, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • TR6

      @The Knight of God:” assuming that the Bible is true... why not find out the truth before its too late?”
      I tried that . I didn’t get very far. Man there is nasty stuff in those first 5 books. Evil, war, genocide, fratricide, ince$t, adultery, patricide, r_ape, child mole$tation and slaughter of the entire population of entire cities (every man, woman, child and even animal) in city after city … and that was the good guys, with god’s blessing. I didn’t really become an atheist until after I started seriously reading the bible.

      July 2, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
  13. AverageJoe76

    Maybe the God's of this world work like a Twitter account. Whoever has the most followers is probably the 'true' God, right? If that doesn't make sense to you, then that goes double for me. Why a God needs me to worship it, is beyond me.

    July 2, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      "Maybe the God's of this world work like a Twitter account" LOL, that's pretty funny...

      July 2, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • Nii

      JOE
      In almost every book of the Bible God states that loving our neighbor as ourself is true worship of Him. Not piety! Religious people emphasise piety. Spiritual people emphasise charitable love! If loving this way is true worship tell me what is wrong with it? Waiting for your insight!

      July 2, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
    • AverageJoe76

      @Nii – "I liked to be hugged. We'll be frinds to the end. Ha, ha, ha". – Sorry, I had a Chucky-moment. Ummm, I like the last thing better. Thanks for clearing that up.

      July 2, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      Now you've done it Joe... Nii the barely literate, English as a second language (nigerian grand-prize money sharing, if you send him the cost of taxes) lunatic is talking to you...

      July 2, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • niknak

      @ Nii,
      Here is some insight;
      Why can't you and your religious ilk just be good charitable human beings without the fairy tale?
      I have never believed in god, even when I was forced to go to sunday school. Yet I am a very charitable human being.
      I try every day to make a difference and be a stand up guy. NOT because I want to go to heaven or to please some imaginary freind, but because I choose to do what I feel is right.
      Why can't you do the same?
      Why do you need the crutch of relgion and "god" to make you be that way?

      My advice Nii, free yourself from religion, think for yourself, and be a stand up person because you want to be that way, not because there is some threat but because you want to be that way.

      July 2, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • AverageJoe76

      @Lucifer's Evil Twin – Thanks, Louie! I forget how easy it is to fall for boobey traps on here.

      July 2, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • Cq

      Nii
      I support my gay neighbor's right to marry and my female neighbor's right to control her reproductive life. Aren't these fine examples of "charitable love"?

      July 2, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • sam stone

      Cq: I don't think those things qualify under Nii's version (and by extension. GOD's version) of charitable love

      July 2, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • Cq

      sam stone
      The Christian view of charity often means doing something nice for somebody, but expecting to get something in return. How much charity would Christians actually do if they didn't have the opportunity to proselytize while doing it? That's why I support secular charities like the Red Cross. No preying on people's misfortune just to further your organization's aims. In some cases the actual charity work that takes place is just a byproduct of the missionary work. It's so self-serving that I don't even think that people like Nii understand what the word "charity" is supposed to mean.

      July 2, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • TR6

      @Nii:” In almost every book of the Bible God states that loving our neighbor as ourself is true worship of Him.”

      Have you actually read the bible? At least half the books say no such thing and some passages directly contradict it.

      "Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. "For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household."
      – (Matthew 10:34-36)

      July 2, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      @TR6

      I don't even bother responding to Nii anymore. Never says anything of worth, or truth, and runs away at the first sign of serious challenges.

      July 2, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
    • sam stone

      Hawaii Guest: Regarding Nii, that is what preachers do. If you show them you don't accept their supposed authority, they either spew out empty proxy threats, or run like little cowards. Nii is the latter category

      July 3, 2012 at 8:50 am |
  14. AverageJoe76

    Honestly, Mormonism is just as credible as every other religion. So if you think Mormons are silly for one reason or another, please look at your own faith, hide that stone in your hand, and polish your glass house.

    July 2, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
    • Cq

      Yup! People who are waiting for the Rapture, or believe that creationism actually makes sense really shouldn't be picking up any stones.

      July 2, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • Adam

      Actually, Joe, Mormonism is OBJECTIVELY less true than Christianity, insofar as it takes all the (specious) claims of Christianity, and adds to them various demonstrably false claims of North American anthropology, language, bronze age cross-Atlantic sailing, etc. So, while all religions are false, insofar as they make unjustified claims about the nature of the universe, some are clearly more wrong than others. And Mormonism is very, very wrong.

      July 2, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
  15. MaryM

    If Mitt Romney believes in magic underwear and that God lives on the planet kolob, how can anyone think that Mitt has good judgement. What other nonsense would Mitt believe

    July 2, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • Some Stuff

      True, MaryM, but unfortunately we have the same problem with believers in *any* supernatural beings and events and the superst'itions attached to them.

      July 2, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      And that is any less ridiculous than any other form of Christianity, how exactly?

      July 2, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • LinSea

      I can promise you that Romney doesn't believe in either of those things, MaryM, because no member of the LDS church does. You are repeating the same old tired misinformation (i.e. lies) that haters like to use.

      July 3, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
  16. PrimeNumber

    "Johnson saw poverty as a sin, something that should be attacked and defeated" Before the Reformation, catholics could be assured of salvation by receiving the sacraments and defering to those who had been given authority to "bind and loose". The reformers threw this out. Now the question became, "how do I know I'm right with God?" The answer was easy: "If I'm right with God, I'll be blessed in health and material prosperity." By default anyone who was sick and poor was NOT right with God and was being punished for his sin. The reformers would have thoroughly approved of Johnson's view.
    However, this Prosperity gospel of the reformers allowed the masses of sick and poor to be used as slaves in mines, mills, factories, and fields. The money holders were, of course, the elect of God. Eventually, millions of poor and sick slaves around the world turned to Marxist Communism. THis to a confrontation between Capitalism and Communism. A straight line can be drawn from the Reformation to the threat of nuclear annihilation.

    July 2, 2012 at 11:27 am |
  17. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    July 2, 2012 at 11:24 am |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      But you must only pray to Lord Lucifer. He is the Lord of my life!

      July 2, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      I have more to say at http://prolapsed.net. My favorite page.

      July 2, 2012 at 11:31 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 11:31 am |
    • John the guy not the baptist

      Atheism is very healthy for children, it allows them to grow up with an open mind and if later in life they are exposed to religion, they can choose to do so rather than be brainwashed by some money grubbing religion to grab another member before they can reason for themselves.
      I challenged you to pray really, really hard that those that posted against you would just go away. Either you didn't try, knowing it wouldn't work or you did pray really, really hard, over and over again and it did not work.
      This post proves that prayer does not work.
      Proven again that you need to try different medications untill you find one that works.

      July 2, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      Being 'Born-Again' Linked to More Brain Atrophy: Study http://www.philly.com/philly/health/132456883.html

      July 2, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      Atheism got rid of the water stains my dishwasher was leaving.

      July 2, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
  18. Pat F

    What an Obama-phile puff piece. Take another hit of Kool-aid.

    July 2, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Kool-aid made by you Pat F....sounds like you're the propagandist...

      July 2, 2012 at 11:21 am |
  19. Donald Stark

    His faith may not matter, but his ethics do. If he is a hypocrite about his religion he will also be about his politics. I just read this piece about Romney and abortion: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/07/romney-bain-abortion-stericycle-sec . Whatever ones stand is on abortion, this kind of distancing ones ethics from his business is inexcusable, to say nothing of his hypocricy.

    July 2, 2012 at 11:15 am |
  20. Mike Blackadder

    A leader's faith matters insomuch as it is indicative of values. One who identifies themselves as an atheist or just non-religious can have similar values that people identify in a practicing Christian. Leaders whose value systems deviate significantly from those of Christianity are not appealing to Americans.

    The actions of a Christian president needs to be considered in light of their role as a leader. This fact is acknowledged by any reasonable system of faith. For example, it is one thing for a very devout Christian to accept martyrdom or turn the other cheek to a hateful enemy, but quite another question in terms of morality to martyr others who you swear to protect. A leader does not have the same freedom as an individual, and it would be hypocritical for Christians to suggest that they about justice for humanity, but forbid themselves from involvement in public life.

    July 2, 2012 at 11:00 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.