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My Take: Romney should take reporters to church more often
Mitt Romney and his family attend church last weekend.
August 21st, 2012
09:20 AM ET

My Take: Romney should take reporters to church more often

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

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

Mitt Romney’s team invited reporters to go to church with him last Sunday, and The New York Times is reporting that the upcoming Republican presidential convention will showcase Romney’s faith in an effort to humanize him. So are we finally going to get a Mormon candidate for president?

Romney has been widely criticized for running against his past - against what he did at Bain Capital and as governor of Massachusetts, and against his prior views on abortion and health care. And while he hasn’t flip-flopped on his membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he has been loathe even to mention it in public.

In his 2008 “Faith in America” speech, Romney boldly proclaimed his religious heritage. “I believe in my Mormon faith and I endeavor to live by it,” he said. “My faith is the faith of my fathers - I will be true to them and to my beliefs.”

But in recent years he has been hiding that faith under a basket. In fact, in a much anticipated speech to evangelicals at Liberty University in May, he never used the M-word.

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The concern is there is little to be gained (and much to be lost) by emphasizing his Mormonism.

Latter-day Saints founder Joseph Smith was assassinated during his run for president in 1844, and anti-Mormonism has a long and sordid history in American life. Today many on the secular left and the religious right alike are wary of a Mormon president, and according to a recent Gallup Poll roughly one in six Americans say they would not vote for an otherwise qualified Mormon.

For all these reasons, Romney's campaign strategy so far seems to have been two-fold:

1. Whenever possible, avoid talking about Mormonism.

2. When pressed, speak of the importance of religion in general and emphasize the common moral values shared by Mormons and evangelicals.

3. Emphasize the American heritage of religious liberty.

I have been arguing for months that this strategy is not sustainable. What self-respecting debate moderator wouldn’t jump at the chance to ask Romney about how his Mormonism might affect his policies on taxation or food stamps or war with Iran?

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

And is it really plausible to do the two-step around the religion question all the way to November when the candidate in question may well be the most religious candidate in U.S. history - someone who spent two years as a missionary, followed by decades of church service, first as the Mormon equivalent of a Methodist pastor and then as the Mormon equivalent of an Episcopal priest?

It made sense for John Kennedy to draw a sharp line in 1960 between his private Catholic faith and his public life since he came from a Democratic Party that followed Thomas Jefferson arguing for the strict separation of church and state.

But Romney’s GOP has spent a generation attempting to overthrow the Jefferson/Kennedy consensus by bringing religion ever deeper into U.S. public life. So it just doesn't make sense for this Republican nominee to try to cordon off his private faith from his public policies.

CNN Explains: What’s Mormonism?

For all these reasons, I have argued repeatedly that Romney would be well advised to take the initiative - to define his faith in his own terms rather than awkwardly and defensively fielding (or fumbling) questions about it.

Now it seems like a faith offensive may be in the offing, not least at the upcoming convention.

But how to talk about Mormonism without unearthing all the awkward stuff - the history of polygamy and theocracy, the Mormon underwear?

One way, of course, is to try to emphasize the values similarities between evangelicals and Mormons - on questions like abortion and gay rights. But an even more effective way may be simply to invite reporters to church.

Like any religion, Mormonism has changed over time. And today Mormon services don’t look all that different from Methodist worship. In fact, the common theme coming out of much of the reporting about Romney’s church service Sunday seemed to be how unremarkable it was.

In Buzzfeed, reporter McKay Coppins, who also happens to be a Mormon, referred to that service as an example of “the fundamentally un-exotic Mormon experience.”

Admittedly, they serve bread and water rather than bread and wine, but Latter-day Saints worshippers praise Jesus in song as their “Redeemer” and send prayers up to their “Heavenly Father." And when their worship service is over they march off to Sunday school.

For generations, scholars of religion focused their research almost exclusively on Scriptures and belief. In recent years they have shifted their collective focus to religious practice. Perhaps that is the strategy of the Romney campaign, to shift the focus from the eccentricities of the Book of Mormon and the heterodoxy of Mormon beliefs to the ho-hum of hymns sung at 10 a.m. on a New Hampshire Sunday.

If I have the tune right, the message seems to be that Romney is one of us, and his religion is not so different from whatever yours might be.

Will that message resonate?

It depends. It depends on what Americans know about Mormonism and about their own creeds. However, it also depends on how much they think faith should matter in presidential politics. Ironically, if voters follow the Republican line on that one, Romney might well lose. If they follow Jefferson and Kennedy, he has at least a fighting chance.

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

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: 2012 Election • Church and state • Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints • Mitt Romney • Mormonism • Opinion • Politics • United States

soundoff (1,105 Responses)
  1. bspurloc

    get religion OUT of politics...
    get RID of tax exemptions.... this is what we should hear MORE of

    August 21, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Yeah repeal the first amendment!

      August 21, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
  2. Jim D

    Mormonism is a man-made "religion" founded only in the 1800s by a charlatan mystic with a criminal record who had more than 30 wives. It's origin is kind of like the founding of the cult Scientology by L. Ron Hubbard. Romney is a Mormon bishop and missionary. Didn't Romney check out its sketchy origins before he got real involved in Mormonism? He is not presidential material.

    August 21, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
    • ME II

      ...founded in 1800s in NY?
      ...founded in 1950s in CA?
      ...founded in 10s in ME?
      ...founded in 1500's BCE in ME?

      August 21, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
    • I prayed this morning you would stop this crap.

      Just like Christianity was made up in the 1st Century, by humans. It's all a pile of dung.

      August 21, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
  3. QS

    "according to a recent Gallup Poll roughly one in six Americans say they would not vote for an otherwise qualified Mormon."

    And since Romney isn't even qualified, where does that leave him?

    "Perhaps that is the strategy of the Romney campaign, to shift the focus from the eccentricities of the Book of Mormon and the heterodoxy of Mormon beliefs to the ho-hum of hymns sung at 10 a.m. on a New Hampshire Sunday."

    That may be the strategy...and like all others that Mitt has tried to implement, this one will not work either.

    August 21, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • ME II

      But he's not qualified, that's what Americans are looking... isn't it?

      August 21, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
  4. HeavenSense

    Unless this nation's politics changes, we are close to the doom all civilizations must face. It does not matter who the president is. A bankrupt nation is a nation with a death sentence and no one has an answer for what the Republicans have done to destroy our nation's economy for their own personal gain.

    Amen.

    August 21, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      It was Woodrow Wilson, a democratic president and a democratic congress which gave us the Federal Reserve System. Politicians have been mortgaging our future to the Rothschilds for 100 years to jockey power between the two parties. Now the credit limit has been reached and the bill is due.

      August 21, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
    • J.W

      So are you saying the Federal Reserve system is bad?

      August 21, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
    • Really-O?

      @J.W. –

      Forget about the political arguments against the Federal Reserve and those foisted by paranoid conspiracy theorists. Fractional-reserve banking, controlled by the Fed, is how money is created in the United States (and most of the developed world). The result is that, categorically, debt will always exceed the amount of money in our economy. A recipe for inevitable disaster.

      August 21, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
  5. Who invited me?
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    August 21, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
    • Take it easy

      Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand this is why this website needs a moderator...

      August 21, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Who invited me?

      you're a prat. Stop doing this. It is irritating, futile and a waste of our time and energy.

      August 21, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
    • I prayed this morning you would stop this crap.

      Not again ?

      August 21, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
  6. Take it easy

    The Geoge Bush's were bad Republicans. Barack Obama is a bad Democrat. Mitt Romney does not appear to be a good or bad Republican. Just a generic one. Because of who we have had before – Bush and Obama – many of us would die to just have a generic candidate. So it looks like generic vs. Evil in this election. I wish we had a good candidate, but for now, I beg of people to please vote in generic Romney so we can get the self-proclaimed enemy to the free market, Obama out!

    August 21, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
  7. stanton

    WHEN DID BARACK SAY HE WAS A MOSLEM ???? WHAT DAY WHAT YEAR ???? I DON'T THINK THE TWO PEOPLE THAT SAID THAT OR WROTE THAT KNOW WHAT THEIR TALKING ABOUT !!!!! I THINK THE TIN FOIL HAT'S YOU WEAR FELL IN THE HOLE'S IN YOUR HEAD'S AFTER YOUR BRAIN'S FELL OUT!!!!!

    August 21, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • mkriley

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tCAffMSWSzY HERE IS YOUR PROOF!

      August 21, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @mkriley

      HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

      You think this "proves" Obama is a Muslim? You're not serious are you? I swear you must be a poe, you can't be that fucking stupid. This video is about as honest as Expelled (absolutely no honesty).

      August 21, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • mkriley

      So Barack Obama saying, "my Muslim faith" is not an admission? What libtard weed are you smoking? Watch the video idiot!

      August 21, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      Oh yes editing tricks are always fun. You really are stupid enough to think that video shows anything aren't you? OH that is just too funny!

      August 21, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
    • therealpeace2all

      Courtesy of @ME II

      http://www.snopes.com/politics/obama/muslimfaith.asp

      Besides all of the f ucking legal disclaimers that the people that put up the video make.

      This a ssertion that President Obama is a Muslim is absurd.

      Peace...

      August 21, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • mkriley

      So Hawaiiguest, you probably still believe that Obama was born in Hawaii. Well, watch Michelle Obama admit, in her own words, that "Barack's home country is Kenya!" I guess you'll find a way around this one too. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6M7Rp_Ghv6k

      August 21, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      Yeah... calling "Troll" on @mkriley

      August 21, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
    • El Jefe

      Good lord, mkriley – that youtube video is what you consider "proof?!" I would say "LOL", except it's not funny, and I'm not laughing. Has the education system in this nation truly failed completely? I graduated high school in '93, got my MBA in 2001. 2001 was only 11 years ago, and even the freshmen at that point knew what "proof" was. Since you don't, I'll tell you what it isn't: sound bytes, wild conjecture, and misrepresentation of facts. You probably also believe that Saddam Hussein is really Santa Claus, Moussolini was a cartoon who was chased by a cat named Tom, and that Republicans spent the last 3 decades keeping our deficits low.

      August 21, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
  8. John

    Latter-Day Saints normally do not refer to themselves as "Mormons". We're Latter-Day Saints, or if you prefer, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the last part being necessary to distinguish it from the church that was established by Christ some 2,000 years ago before it apostasized). Mormon was a prophet and scholar and the principle editor of the Book of Mormon. We don't worship prophets. We don't pray to them. We don't call our church after them. We don't call ourselves by their names.

    August 21, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
  9. m

    All this religious crap is making me want to throw up. Should have nothing to do with the election. Religious type are creepy and scary and are basically Jesus salesmen for their own monetary gain. This holier than thou stuff is stupid.

    August 21, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
  10. Who invited me?

    666
    666 666
    666 666 666

    August 21, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • Take it easy

      You should type out Obama's name in all 6's.

      August 21, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
  11. Hairbear

    Umh

    August 21, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
  12. LiberalAllMyLife

    Romney is a one percenter. cant be trusted. Any rich person cannot be.

    Raise taxes on them to the roof. save the 99%

    August 21, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      And then shoot them? Or shoot them first?

      August 21, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
    • LiberalAllMyLife

      no shooting. Use the ballot not the bullet. Vote in people who will care for you and do things for you. then see the difference.

      August 21, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @Bill Deacon

      Remember, Sarah Palin is a Republican, so we have to worry about that side more in terms of shooting people.

      August 21, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
  13. MaryAngeline

    I don't think a candidates belief or non-belief is important. That said, extremismdoes bother me alot, and I do think that Mitt's religion is a good example of a religion that takes things to an extreme. They are overly rigid in their practices and treat their followers terribly when they question anything about their faith.

    Being an Independent voter, were I considering him, his religion might just prevent me from voting for him.

    August 21, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      Remember that the Mormon religion has a "prophet" with "disciples" at all times, and every mormon is supposed to listen to what they say, or says that god wants without question (their own doctrine). So we have to wonder, if the current prophet says that god wants Mormonism to be the official religion of America, will Romney be true to his own religion and push for it, or will he disregard it and show that he's willing to follow the doctrines when it's convenient.

      August 21, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
    • .

      @hawaii. You don't seem to be familiar with our beliefs. Here is our 11th article of faith:

      “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the di ctates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

      August 21, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
    • JWT

      or skip the worship bits entirely.

      August 21, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
  14. pbernasc

    yeah, take case to the UFO church planet ... ridiculous

    August 21, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
  15. Steve

    Perhaps we should all attend a Mormon service this week to see how radical or non radical they are. I for one wants to know for myself, not just what the reporters on both sides of the issues will spin. I found the following app on their website. http://www.lds.org/rcmaps/#lat=0&lng=0&z=2&m=google.road&layers=selected&x=find&find=advanced
    I invite the rest of you to join me in the next week or two to check them out for ourselves. Perhaps then we will know does Mitt have a Pastor Wright issue. (I voted for Obama despite Pastor Wright). Never the less, I want to know what his belief system is.

    August 21, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • therealpeace2all

      @Steve

      " Perhaps we should all attend a Mormon service this week "

      No thanks.

      Peace...

      August 21, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
    • Carl

      Steve, stop astroturfing for the lds.

      August 21, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
  16. williepitt

    A Mormon service isn't that different from any other Protestant service. Trust me; I've been there.

    That said, I wouldn't show my face at ANY church service these days, unless the worshiped deity were the GSM.

    August 21, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • therealpeace2all

      Did you mean the "FSM" ? Never heard of the "GSM" 😀

      Peace...

      August 21, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • williepitt

      Thank you, "therealpeace". I erred.

      August 21, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • therealpeace2all

      @williepitt

      No problem, bro... too much 'pasta' overload ! 😀

      RAMEN !

      Peace...

      August 21, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
  17. Smokey

    For my part, I find Romney's religious values to be the most appealing thing about his candidacy. Evangelical views on Mormonism have changed considerably in the past decades. When I was at a Christian high school, we would watch videos on how Mormonism was a wicked, sinful cult with bizarre beliefs and a disturbing history, but today Mormons are seen as a personally disciplined, loyal, family-values-centric people who are kind and polite and charitable almost to the point of creepiness. There's been a vast improvement in their public profile. I think Romney should be emphasizing his faith, not downplaying it. Do you realize it's been twenty years since there was a non-weed-smoking President? Maybe it's time for one who doesn't even drink coffee.

    August 21, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • Carl

      That evangelical views (or any other religious views) can change shows that they are based on falsehoods to begin with.

      August 21, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
    • m

      All religion is bad.

      August 21, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
    • Smokey

      Y'all don't know what you're talking about. Religious beliefs and values are changeable, we need to adapt to changes in society and adjust with the times. And faith is obviously a force for good in the world, you're crazy to say otherwise. I'm not a very religious person but the people I know who are are the best people I know.

      August 22, 2012 at 1:31 am |
  18. History Bear

    One thing Mormons and evangelicals, heck most religions have in common is this over whelming desire to tell you how to run your life and what you can and cannot do. I dispise Organized Religions for that very reason. I believe in GOD, but not a "revealed" god and not one that says you can run my life. Mittens church is one of worst offenders there is. Right up there with Baptist.

    August 21, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      mkriley, go sit in the Dunce Corner with your pal, KEEF. He doesn't know anything, either. You morons are priceless.

      August 21, 2012 at 7:33 pm |
  19. Jimmy

    A social justice Christen,a Mormon and two Catholics running.
    Gosh............ how come there are no Athesist running?
    Could they not get elected because their views are "too exterme"?

    August 21, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • ScottIndependent

      At one point it was too extreme to believe the earth rotated around the sun or that our planet was round

      August 21, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • mkriley`

      Who is the "Social Justice Christian?" Barack Obama is a self professed Muslim.

      August 21, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • OOO

      Jimmy,
      Its because religious people think their views are too extreme. In reality, their views are totally rational.

      August 21, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • therealpeace2all

      @mkriley

      " Barack Obama is a self professed Muslim. "

      Really ? Direct quotes from him (Obama) if you got them ?

      Peace...

      August 21, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • ME II

      @mkriley`,
      "Barack Obama is a self professed Muslim."
      I'm thinking this makes you a self professed idiot. That right?

      August 21, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • Anyone

      Please don't consider OBAMA christian even he says that, it clear that he is a Muslim and youtube.com full with he word "my muslim faith" anyway I respect Muslims but I don't accept hidden your self to run the country by way not that you promised us and we accepted you.

      August 21, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
    • mkriley

      You asked for proof. Watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tCAffMSWSzY And then you can give me a public apology for your stupid remarks.

      August 21, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
    • therealpeace2all

      @Anyone

      Again, it appears that you and -mkriley have proof of President Obama being a Muslim.

      Please provide proof, ... a video tape of him actually saying... "Yep... I'm a Muslim." 😀

      Peace...

      August 21, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
    • therealpeace2all

      @mkriley

      O.K... I went and watched your you tube video. You know, the one with the... *Legal Disclaimer* that says: "The writers, producers, and editors of this video are (not) *claiming or *implying that Barack Hussein Obama is a *Muslim, or that *Obama *said he was a Muslim. "

      Ooooooopsy ! 😯

      Nowhere on this video does he "profess" that he is a Muslim.

      You just wasted my time ! You owe 'me' an apology.

      Peace...

      August 21, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
    • Anyone

      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Auwe-aGF4Lo&w=640&h=360]
      This is the prove

      OBAMA said this not us, again we respect everyone but is it a BIG lie

      August 21, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
    • mkriley

      So Barack Obama saying, "My Muslim Faith" is not an admission? Did you even watch the video?

      August 21, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
    • ME II

      @Anyone, @mkriley,
      Youtube? really?
      No where, that I can tell, in those clips does he say that he is Muslim. The only one that's close is "My muslim faith" which is a quote from an interview that is taken out of context. Take a look here: http://www.snopes.com/politics/obama/muslimfaith.asp

      August 21, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
    • ME II

      As someone once said, "The correct answer is, 'He's Christian'. The really correct answer is, 'So what if he is Muslim'?" Or something like that.

      August 21, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
    • mkriley

      Sorry, my bad. I guess you know more about Obama's faith than Obama. Remember, these were HIS words, not mine...."MY MUSLIM FAITH." Can you read English?

      August 21, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      @mkriley

      Did you go to snopes and read the transcript? You should, then you would know how false this whole perception is.

      August 21, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
    • ME II

      @mkriley,
      First, it's a video, which I don't normally "read". Second, if you watch the full interview, that phrase is in reference to what others had been saying about him, not what Obama believes.

      August 21, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
    • Anyone

      You know for religious people they can't forget it as you can't forget your name or you are man or woman, it is something you say nature and doesn't need another one to remind you, even in the interview the discussion about christian faith, no one spoke about Muslim faith, anyway I'm not stopping for him, he is free and you too. God bless you and want to tell every muslims that we care about them and this argument s about truth. Thanks and I got to go

      August 21, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
    • ME II

      Prosecuter:
      When did you stop beating your wife?

      Defendant:
      That's a trick question, which cannot be answered.

      Prosecuter:
      Have you ever beaten your wife?

      Defendant:
      Thank you for not asking about my "beating my wife".
      The answer is, no, I have never beaten my wife.

      August 21, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
  20. tjkarani

    Religion and faith is extremely important in this country. Putting the fear in a higher diety in people's minds is what keeps most of them from killing, stealing, raping, etc...
    Can you imagine if the bible-thumpin' wackjobs knew there was no consequences or repercussions in the afterlife for doing the things that the bible tells you not to?

    August 21, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • History Bear

      Why you'd call those people politicians. And fear of the after life is not what keeps most people straight.

      August 21, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • therealpeace2all

      @tjkarani

      Interesting... I've had several conversations with theists arguing that without a "moral law giver" like 'God', then our society wouldn't know what to do with itself. We'd devolve into utter and complete moral chaos, i.e...murder, a ssault, r-ape, theft, etc...

      However, I 'do' actually agree that there 'is' a certain % or segment of society that without a belief in God, and the 'eternal hot-house' then... they 'would' commit crimes.

      And... there are still a certain amount of folk who 'do' (already) believe in God, hell, etc... and commit these crimes anyway. 😯

      Oooops... *Cue... 'No True Scotsman' arguments from the theists.

      Peace...

      August 21, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • Jimmy

      Theist, Athieist, and Agnostic......
      The first two are beleifs and I don't know about the third.

      August 21, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • therealpeace2all

      @jimmy

      Dude... that was so horrible that it made me chuckle. 😀

      Peace...

      August 21, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • m

      Good point but might be less pedofiles.

      August 21, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
    • J.W

      I think that Atheist and Theist are both beliefs because it takes a position on whether or not there is a god. Since according to agnosticism they dont know, it does not really take a position. So the only one out of the three that is not a belief is agnosticism.

      August 21, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @J.W.

      Atheism isn't a belief that there is no god, it's a lack of belief in a god/gods. How is this so hard for people to understand?

      August 21, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • fred

      J.W
      Everyone carries on with their lives based on some core belief. Christians believe they follow the way the truth and the light yet most do not follow what they claim and follow their own belief. Agnostics and atheists claim their core belief is not of God. They have no proof of this yet only believe in that which can be proven as their core belief. This is why their belief is considered foolish because its very foundation is conflicted thus must constantly defend their belief with science that does not apply. In fact atheists and agnostics have a belief and at their core operate according to the prevailing Christian World view as do most Christians. This is why there is little difference between behavior of Christians, agnostics and atheists. Christians defend their belief even though their actual behavior does not reflect it as do agnostics and atheists.
      Atheists and agnostics like to think they have purpose and meaning in life that is different than most Christians but the results of their lives do not seem much different. The only difference is we belief Christ will cover our sins by his mercy and grace while atheists and agnostics think they do not sin or by definition are saved by semantics.

      August 21, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
    • fred

      hawaiiguest
      So you expect me to believe that you grew up in bubble and your core belief was not affected by the Western Judeo-Christian World View? Even Stalin and Hitler were affected they simply sided with evil.

      August 21, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @fred,

      you have this so wrong on so many levels.

      Atheists understand that Christians can find purpose and meaning in their beliefs and there is nothing wrong with this.

      Atheists don't need everything "proven". I don't believe in God. The non-existence of God is not "proven". You can't prove the non-existence of anything, We've explained this a bunch of times yet you choose to ignore it.

      August 21, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @fred

      When I deconverted from Catholicism, I had to rethink all of my moral stances. I used to oppose gay rights with a passion, and then realized that there was no reason to oppose it without my religious delusions. I had to justify everything that I believed to be morally correct in my life without the fallback of "god said so". Anything unjustified was discarded. You throw out a completely irrelevant accusation based on me giving the difference between "X doesn't exist" and "i don't believe X exists", and expect it to mean something? Where the hell do you get off?

      August 21, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @fred,

      "The only difference is we belief Christ will cover our sins by his mercy and grace while atheists and agnostics think they do not sin or by definition are saved by semantics."

      Saved from what exactly? Sin is a religious construct, but right and wrong are knowable to everyone – these are societal. If you don't believe in an afterlife there is no notion of eternal punishment for behaving 'wrongly' but that doesn't imply that atheists think such behavior is therefore appropriate.

      Show me where choosing 'wrong' behavior leads to contentment for anyone. Happiness and contentment in this existence derive from choosing the 'right' behaviors.

      August 21, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
    • fred

      Hawaiiguest
      You had a de-conversion while I had a conversion experience. Suddenly I realized my core beliefs which resulted in acts and actions that I thought “right” or justified were “wrong”. I used simply the words of Christ as the foundation. This was a radical change in my most inward thoughts that resulted in obvious outward expression.
      Gay rights is not the issue at hand with regard your rejection of Christ. What you are speaking about is a denomination or cult like religious extraction from the truth (Word of God) that reflects poorly on Christians and the Bible. You cannot fault the truth of Christ because someone used it in a wrong way.
      I did not say all atheists are like Stalin anymore than I said all Christians are like Hitler. My post related to Christians behaving no different than atheists or agnostics while claiming a higher belief. Very few Christians adhere to the words of Christ or attempt to follow his teachings which results in things like gay bashing.

      August 21, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @fred

      My deconversion took place because I did the one thing the Catholic church says not to do, actually read the bible. Study he history, independently think about what I'm reading. Pray like a mad-man for the faith or the revelation or whatever, and getting absolutely nothing. Then I realized that any truth is not dependent on whether you want to believe it. Things like the Earth being round is not dependent on whether I want to believe it or not.
      fred, you've shown before that you only care about things in the bible you like, and are willing to rationalize or ignore the things that make you uncomfortable, so pardon me if I don't take what you say about the "word of god" (AKA The Bad Book, The Big Book of Multiple Choice).

      August 21, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
    • fred

      I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV
      Sin is an offense against a holy God and it does not matter if you believe in God or not. Christians and non Christians justify sin in various ways. If there is no Holy God then of course sin would be nothing more than a religious construct. As far back as our records go we see the construct of good as something the pleased a higher authority not a lower authority. It is pure speculation that this construct of good just happened for social purposes across almost all cultures. Certainly there is no proof God did it yet why the necessity of higher authority if there is not one needed.
      Jefferson for example found Christ to be a great example of a moral individual that lived out his belief. He did not buy into the existing religious construct but adopted morals that went back to the beginning. Are these not the morals you hold high?

      August 21, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @fred, (reposted)

      I think that the teachings ascribed to Jesus* in the Gospels are indeed excellent words to live by. I also think that the Buddha and Lao Tsu have very worthwhile things to say too.

      * Except for the references to the 'kingdom' etc. I don't find them as relevant.

      Disbelief in God doesn't mean I think that everything written in the bible is garbage. I just don't believe it is the 'word of God'.

      You say this: "It is pure speculation that this construct of good just happened for social purposes across almost all cultures."

      I disagree here. It is not speculation at all. It is empirically observable. The study of anthropology could provide us with many examples of cultures defining a moral code without ever hearing a burning bush or seeing graven tablets. They are all able to figure out that killing, stealing and lying are 'wrong' in their communities.

      August 21, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
    • fred

      I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV
      Christian conversion experiences are also empirically observable. The experiences have predictable foundations and predictable results. Conversion experiences in the past 300 years where there is abundant data matches the conversion experiences written about by Paul during the establishment of the Church. The steps to conversion follow those given by Jesus and I can personally testify to the complete transformation of thought. Now, the excuses I hear on this site is that the same happens with any self help book so you cannot claim any Divine path as the cause. Another excuse is that the same happens with other religions etc.
      Well how is it that your empirical observations from a period where records are incomplete just happen to point to no God needed and is acceptable when in fact your evidence is much weaker?
      The methodology of Christian conversion experiences is clear while source of morality is unclear.

      August 21, 2012 at 11:27 pm |
    • fred

      I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV
      The burning bush was unique to Moses but evidence of worship and afterlife goes back to Neanderthal. The tablets were in the days after the escape from Egypt related to the Hebrew while the question of good goes back to the first modern man. A believer would say good is the image of God imparted into man as Genesis sets forth. You suggest somewhere about that time goodness began to evolve. This social evolution theory cannot answer the question of the origin of morality anymore than abiogenesis explains the origin of life.

      August 21, 2012 at 11:46 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @fred (reposted here in context)

      What does conversion to Christianity have to do with intrinsic morality?

      I don't presuppose an origin of morality other than to say it exists. It is fluid and since it clearly differs from culture to culture and with time it is not absolute.

      Even Christianity has a fluid definition of morality. Contemporary Christians would agree that slavery is 'wrong'. But slavery is clearly condoned in the bible. What changed? The bible didn't change. The moral interpretation of a society that happened to be predominantly Christian changed.

      Christian morality therefore is not immutable or absolute. There is no objective 'God-given' standard.

      August 21, 2012 at 11:55 pm |
    • fred

      I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      “What does conversion to Christianity have to do with intrinsic morality?”

      I was simply trying to figure out why empirically observable moral code in various cultures was acceptable evidence whereas empirically observable conversions over various cultures and times were not acceptable evidence as to source . Applying different standards of acceptable evidence for the roots of intrinsic morality and the roots of faith did not make sense.
      As to objective God given standards love your enemy would most likely have resulted in the end of Hebrews given the cultures around them at the time of exodus. God seems to work with the people in their place and time or the people simply are reflecting their revelations of God through their eyes and culture. Either way it certainly appears subjective.

      August 22, 2012 at 12:35 am |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @fred, (reposted here in context)

      I'm still not getting point of your references to Christian conversions.

      Are you trying to suggest that since the west embraced Christianity, the tenants of Christianity were superior in some way to the religions of the pagans?

      Given the early successes of Christianity, arguably they were. Embracing a monotheistic God of 'love' in Jesus probably appealed more than a pantheon of pagan Gods who liked to mess with the mortals for sport and required a regular diet of temple offerings to placate them.

      Christianity of course ran into all kinds of squalls with the exact nature of the divinity and person of God resulting in schism after schism. Then when the adherents learned to read, the Protestants reactivated a vengefull old cuss from the pagan, late-bronze age, DL called Yahweh and we've been dealing with the divisive consequences of the wars of the reformation (particularly in this country) ever since.

      Given the spectacular success of Islam in the 6th century immediately following the death of the prophet it's no doubt that Muslims think theirs is the true faith too. Their record of conversion was faster and more permanent that the Christian conversion.

      But we are in agreement that morality is subjective.

      August 22, 2012 at 12:48 am |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Sorry – tenets, not tenants.

      Ooops.

      August 22, 2012 at 12:53 am |
    • fred

      I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV
      The conversion experience where there is a spiritual awakening of the soul happens about 2-3 million times a year. Every time I suggest empirical observation of conversions is proof that there is a soul I get shot down. Why do these consistent observations not support the position that man has a soul? The awakening is consistent in understanding by faith what could not previously be seen by the non believer. On what basis can you conclude that what is now seen does not exist?

      August 22, 2012 at 1:59 am |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Good morning fred, (reposted)

      An unbeliever isn't going to allow any inferences of a soul but empirical observation of conversions really does not evidence a soul. Conversion can have many causes that are not spiritual in nature. People convert and unconvert all the time.

      Far more compelling than conversion as illustration of a soul is the existence of such notions of the perception of truth, love, and beauty etc – concepts that are not measureable in physical terms – distance, mass, voltage, etc. Almost by definition I don't accept this as evidence, but the whole brain chemistry thing is a weak argument.

      August 22, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • fred

      Hawaiiguest
      I have had a conversion experience and my faith keeps my mind (soul etc) focused on Christ. I have never experienced a de-conversion. Personally at this point I do not think I could un-know what I think I know about that which cannot be seen or measured in a materialistic sense.
      Prior to your “de-conversion” would you say you had a theological knowledge of God or an encounter with God that opened up the Kingdom in a real sense? Where I am going with this is that I see some of the points of reason raised against Gods existence but none that can overpower the personal experience and faith element.

      August 22, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @fred

      Prior, I would say I definitely thought I did. I felt all that sense of peace and conviction, yadda yadda. Essentially, I felt like you probably do right now.

      August 22, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • fred

      hawaiiguest
      Well there have been times disbelief creeps in. At those points I backtrack over the miracles and points where Gods presence was clear from deep personal need. My thought is since I was pulled out of a deep pit it seemed more miraculous. It is also why I look for the goodness of God in all things as my experience was one of Gods overwhelming good towards me.
      When you toss stuff like the slavery issue I focus on the warning that God gives the Hebrews never to forget what it was like to be a slave. But, I do wonder why God just did not say I don’t care what your neighbor’s do we don’t own slaves period. I can justify why God did what he did and the Bibles account of it yet fall short of getting non believers to go along with the excuses.
      As to Catholicism they added a lot of sacraments of manmade ceremony on top of what the Bible actually said. If I was a Catholic and discovered how men’s ways crept into Christianity I would be skeptical of religion. Fortunately I see the Pope, Bishops of LDS, Mohamed etc. As men that preferred their version of truth over the truth that always was. These men all have records of failure in truth. I still have not found failure in Jesus or the major truths Jesus expressed. Jefferson and others discount miraculous events of Jesus but that cannot overide my personal experience of miricales.

      August 22, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @fred

      I have never seen a miracle, nor seen a confirmation of one occuring.

      August 22, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
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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.