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
Some believe that the United States is held together by a common creed. What marries our “pluribus” to our “unum,” they argue, is a common commitment to a shared "American idea."
I am not so sure. Americans may agree on certain values such as “liberty” and “equality” but we disagree fiercely about what these keywords mean and how to weigh one against the other.
What holds us together are rituals.
As I observed in my book "The American Bible," Americans come together - like rabbis in the Talmud - to argue about our core texts, trying to divine what Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” might have to tell us about affirmative action or what King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” might have to say about the separation of church and state. And as long as that argument is civil and informed, it serves to unite the nation.
Another rite of our republic is the election itself, where we put our arguments on the table and let the voters decide. But this ritual is only unifying if both sides accept the outcome and manage to be gracious in both victory and defeat.
Last night we saw a lot of gloating from ebullient Democrats. We also saw an ungracious loser, in Donald Trump, who as the scales were falling from the eyes of Romney supporters tweeted: "We can't let this happen. We should march on Washington and stop this travesty. Our nation is totally divided!"
But in the key players in this election — President Obama and Gov. Romney — we saw something else. We saw men who, for the moment at least, put country above party.
Especially in recent years, it is easy to see the United States as a house divided, a nation of culture warriors denouncing their political opponents as enemies of the state. But woven throughout U.S. history is a great tradition of conciliation that has sought to calm what George Washington referred to as the “mischiefs of the spirit of party.”
In an era in which many citizens referred to their respective colonies as their “countries,” Patrick Henry rose before the First Continental Congress in 1774 and declared, “I am not a Virginian — I am an American.”
After his victory in the bitterly fought election of 1800, an electoral college tie broken only after 35 ballots in the House, Thomas Jefferson struck a note of bipartisanship in his first inaugural address. “We are all Republicans,” he said. “We are all Federalists.”
In 1861, on the eve of the Civil War, Lincoln concluded his first inaugural address with: “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies.”
Closer to our own time, there is Barack Obama at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, pledging his allegiance not to blue states or red states but to the United States. And there is George W. Bush, after the closest and most contentious presidential election since 1800, saying in 2000, “Our nation must rise above a house divided. ... Republicans want the best for our nation. And so do Democrats.”
Early Wednesday morning morning, we saw the unifying spirit of this great tradition of conciliation in the words of Romney and Obama.
“At a time like this," Romney said in his gracious concession speech, "we can’t risk partisan bickering and political posturing. Our leaders have to reach across the aisle to do the people’s work.”
He added that he was looking to Democrats and Republicans alike “to put the people before the politics.”
In his acceptance speech, which he addressed to his “American family,” Obama referred to the United States as “one nation” and “one people,” a country where “it doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, able, disabled, gay or straight.”
But he also lauded our political diversity, referring to the arguments we have not as a mark of our division but as “a mark of our liberty.”
Obama thanked those who worked for his re-election and those who worked to elect his opponent. Then, returning to the signature theme of what many still see as his signature public utterance (his 2004 Democratic National Convention speech), he concluded: "We remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are and forever will be the United States of America.”
A few years ago, an Indian economist wrote a book called "The Argumentative Indian." You might imagine that this book would be a lamentation on how the tremendous diversity in India is driving that nation apart. Instead it is a celebration of a political tradition that not only exhibits intellectual diversity but embraces its argumentative nature as a strength.
I see the United States in a similar light. Our arguments and our elections bring us together, but only if those arguments are civil and the winners and losers on Election Day remember that the reason we vote is not to coronate one party but to govern an increasingly diverse country.
I am not naive. I know that things are going to get nasty again, probably sooner rather than later. Republicans are already arguing that this election was not a mandate, and Democrats are already insisting that it was.
But when we find ourselves back in the muck and mire of petty partisanship, when our politicians once again mistake anger for strength, it is good to remember these brief, shining moments when, as John F. Kennedy once put it, "civility is not a sign of weakness" and our common life seems more important than the "mischiefs" of our parties.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.
Prayer changes things
I preyed for a good, moderate president to be elected, so maybe you're right?
Prayer = Talking to yourself
Proven by common sense.
Actually, talking to yourself and pretending it is to a "god" is a sign of an inflated ego really, as if your thoughts and values are so superior to those of "mere humans."
"Ronald Regonzo" who degenerates to:
"Salvatore" degenerates to:
"Douglas" degenerates to:
"truth be told" degenerates to:
"Thinker23" degenerates to:
"Atheism is not healthy ..." degenerates to:
"another repentant sinner" degenerates to:
"Dodney Rangerfield" degenerates to:
"tina" degenerates to:
"captain america" degenerates to:
"Atheist Hunter" degenerates to:
"Anybody know how to read? " degenerates to:
"just sayin" degenerates to:
"ImLook'nUp" degenerates to:
"Kindness" degenerates to:
"Chad" degenerates to
"Bob" degenerates to
"nope" degenerates to:
"2357" degenerates to:
"WOW" degenerates to:
"fred" degenerates to:
"!" degenerates to:
This troll is not a christian:
Does troll alert have wait for mommy to turn its computer on for it in the am?
You're a proven liar. Prayer does 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
The election had the potential to result in several ways but in the end we remain divided. There is a reason for this result and an apparent outcry from our entire nation. Regardless of how our congress is divided by party, it's time for each and every congress elect to show their true patriotism and love for our country. Leave your party's agenda at the door and focus on what will truly get out nation back on track to economic recovery.
Jesus, Natalie, how much have you had to drink tonight?
Nice sentiment, but I hope that you copied this post somewhere on Fox News, because it's the people who get their news there who really need to show some patriotism and cooperate.
We got to keep our prez, we got to keep the senate and the icing on the cake, lots of Donald Trump drunk-tweeting!
I kinda miss the Trump of yore. Just an eccentric rich guy with a bad hair piece. The last few years have changed his legacy to "nut"
Narcissist + Alzheimer’s + Wealth = Nutty Trump
It just goes to show you, you do't need to be smart or tasteful or appealing or normal or sane to get rich. All you need is to inherit your dad's massive real estate development fortune and company to get rich. Love those self-made milionaires.
First Chuck Norris, then Clint Eastwood, and now the Donald. I sure do hope that I don't get as bitter towards my fellow man, or as ridiculous. I'm almost in my 80s now, so maybe I've grown through that problem age?
You're safe old-timer ;)
Nations rise and fall...that is just the way it is.
I bet you thought that sounded all wisey and schmarty and stuff when you wrote it.
I think, what KRHODES is trying to say, is, nations will sometimes rise, as great empires, fearsome and mighty, but....also nations will, you know, fall down because these are, the circumstances of the way, it is.
Didn't Rome fall just after Christianity rose to power there?
We just scraped the American Taliban off our boots like dog poop and America got so much better over night. Night, night, Kroddy! Want to borrow my hanky? Careful, it has boogers on it.
No actually Rome was well on the way down, and Christianity was used to try to prop the fall. It didn'y work too well.
Actually the Roman Empire became the Holy Roman Empire, and the emperor of THAT, is crowned, and sits on his throne today in Rome. The call him a "pope". His "empire" is a few acres.
Gods come, and gods go. Humans always cook up more gods. Actually 100 years ago, if anyone had said "god is love", as they do today, they would have been run out of town. (St. Paul said "love was the greatest of the virtues", not the god). Every culture has it's nuanced interpretation of that word.
Squirrel-gods come, and squirrel-gods go. Humans always cook up more squirrels. And that thar is the end of a certain mouthy little squirrel who kept proclaiming his dee-iffy-kay-shun, whatever that is. Little bastard kept tellin me to cow-tow, like I'z a cow or something. Kept sayin "squirrel is nuancey love, now die, sapien scum!" Took a special joy in making him listen to Achy Breaky Heart as he line danced right into the boiling stew. Yes I did.
Did anyone ever tell you ya have a purty mouth?
Rodents for Romney
At the time, plenty of Roman thinkers blamed the shift away from the state gods in favor of self-centered foreign cults, including Christianity, for the decline.
"I bet you thought that sounded all wisey and schmarty and stuff when you wrote it."
Did you think that up all by your "lonesome?"
End religion...catchy name...did you think that up or did you have help?
Jethro "Throbby Bob" Dogfondler, Kool Kolorful Knight of Southern Baptism
Is you post meant to be clever or are you just that stupid?
keep religion out of national office, that's what everyone really wants but for some reason they think THEIR guy should have THEIR religion and impose some stuff on other people. If romney woulda come out for weed, abortions, and gay marriage for everyone he woulda won.
since when does imposing YOUR beliefs on others help you get to heaven??? and if your religion says that... should it???
Election day is the Chtistmas day in Democracy.
Carnal being, thinking and doing, never to learn Jesus' spiritual truth. All words are divinely inspired by God to scribe the Bible. My 12-year-old daughter made a small fortune pulling the handles behind the polling place. Wave to me when I reside with Jesus and you're sitting complaining with your atheist buddies on the wrong side of the divide.
She pulled my handle just fine. I tipped her a whole quarter for that! I'd have given her a whole dollar except she smoked so much it just took the magic out of the moment.
And pregnant women shouldn't knock back so much Jack.
But she does have that handle pulling down just fine.
The South is a wonderful place!
Goon of Jesus, denier of truth absolute Allah.
Hey look everybody, I think we should, just, stop...and pet a cat, you know...or a little doggie, that type of thing. All the stress, of the election, takes a toll. So...give, yourself a break, and, smell the roses, or, get high, something like that.
Worst Walken ever!!!
@who invited me?
Fella, look. We, the both of, us, have to occupy this, space, ya know? So..try to be friendly. Besides, and I say this because I know, it is past your bed time.
Better, but still needs work.
666 troll, coming from you, that means, well nothing, really.
The 666 trorll was just that brody fool of a thousand names who stole my nom de plume and went crazy.
Though I know of whom you speak, I am the original..The real Christopher Walken would have known that
Hate, intolerience, and bigotry with a bible in your hand is still hate, intolerience, and bigotry.
Is that like the old saying "Everyone has an opinion, but having an opinion and a gun makes you right"?
More on that, Christianity was just an opinion, one of many, in Rome until it rose to power. Then, it was an opinion with the power to eliminate it's rivals. Does anyone really want to give Christians power again?
Analogy for the Belief Blog from the movie "Where the Buffalo Roam".
Other blogs = Nixon's plane
Belief Blog = Journalists plane
Fuck the doomed!
We can't stop here! This is bat country!!!
"Elections are the rite of our American republic."
No sh1t Sherlock. You never took an Anthropology course ?
I like how this idiot writer has tied "rite" to what is a "right". While a "rite" may also be a "solemn occasion" it is basted in good ol' religious overtones. Voting is not a rite. It is a right that has nothing to do with religion.
Fluffy tole me he dreams about Central Scrutinizer.
@Rodents for Romney
The Central Scrutinizer is always listening. There are still many laws that I must enforce that haven't been passed yet.
I find it quite sad to see this article's attempt to pull religious rites up to the same level as democratic process. Religion is purely autocratic and therefore detestable; either it's the way of some "god" (or really the power holders of the religion) or you are punished. In the democratic process, even the least wealthy and the underprivileged have a right to an equal say in matters. Democracy and religion are antithetical, and putting the two on the same plane doesn't make sense.
Only so far as religious beliefs never seem to be decided upon democratically. Religion lends itself towards totalitarian rule. The religious Right certainly sees itself as much an elite as Germany's Aryans.
When the votes are tallied and the majority speaks (even the slim lead one side had over the other, this time), we have to accept the leaders that were elected.
Mark my words though, there are some things that we will not compromise on and will not stand for. There are battles being fought right now that will end up bloody. Maybe not in a year, or five. But bloody they will end.
If you think I'm being extreme or overexaggerating, then you seriously underestimate the depth of resolve behind our beliefs and our ideals.
Jonathon, who is "we", and what are the disputes that you will resort to violence to resolve?
Hey, internet warrior, it wasn't a slim loss. Romney suffered a huge loss. And Senate Republicans lost more seats than expected by either side. Get that? So go ahead and spew your "christian" veiled threats, but this is exactly why you lost. You claim religion is love and yet here you are promising violence. You are the perfect hypocritical example of why religion has failed and is dying. you won't do anything about it now or in the future, because you're a simpleton internet warrior with a sack of balls about as big as a gerbil's.
he is talking Pacquiao's upcoming fight in December.
Who said anything about us resorting to violence? I merely stated it will end bloody.
@ End Religion:
Obama got more electorial votes by far, yes. The popular vote is the more accurate depiction of how people voted because ... that is how actually people voted. A president can win with electorial votes even if the popular vote went for the other guy.
Nice try at an escape re Flounder's question, but your threat was only thinly veiled behind your closing line "don't underestimate". Won't let you get away with that one.
I'm also curious, though, who the "we" is that you refer to. Really, who is it? Some extremist group?
So you're threatening violence because you can't have what you want? Oh do grow up. You are a silly little boy, hiding behind internet anonymity and throwing a temper tantrum. The majority of the country does not want the same things you do Deal with it. Hey, if you don't love America, you can go ahead and leave it.
303 electoral votes to 206 is a "slim" lead?
There was no threat, no matter how hard you try to read into it. It was a warning. We will resist and we won't back down from our ideals. I never said it would be us who would strike first. It was merely a way of saying you can't make us do what YOU want without violence. Even then, you still wont win. It is how every human dispute has eventually been settled throughout history.
Once again, there was no threat of violence. The 'majority' of the country wanted something and that 'majority' happened to be a slim 1% (Obama won the popular vote by 51% to 49%). That is almost 'equal'. Your 'majority' does not speak for the entire country.
Also, I'll repeat. 'Popular votes' not electorial votes. THe popular vote is the way people actually voted. The electorial vote is not a direct representation of this.
ta ta Romney!
DUMP hINDUISM, RACISM, FOUNDATION OF hINDUISM, DENIAL OF TRUTH ABSOLUTE GOD CALLED RELIGIONS.
Have peace, Islam on earth, DUMP hINDUISM, DENIAL OF TRUTH ABSOLUTE.
Expect nothing better but mayhem among humanity by following of hinduism, denial of truth absolute, Allah, and following of hindu pagan Mithra ism, savior ism, neither commanded, nor allowed in Islam as a religion, but Theen Allah, consti tution of truth absolute. Foundation of American consti tution.
hindu Mithra ism, savior ism invented little over 100 years after Sydana Mohammad pbh by tribes of Kujar of north Africa and imposition as Fatmid Khalaphit by force by denial of Hidth and Quran, justified by hindu Judaism, pagan secularism to impose hinduism, racism by hindu, fabricated relationship with Family of Syadana Mohammad pbh to justify existence of hindu criminal Kings, a violation of fundamental commandment, human equality under the LA. truth absolute Allah. Cause of conflict among Muslim's and cause of down fall of Muslim's and Islam in Spain.
Sunisim, invented by Turk's by corruption of Quran and hidth to justify existence of hindu King's as Khalipha, after death of Ruler Mohammad, but later renamed, Mehmmat, wisdom of spirit of truth by siblings from his Armenian wife, follower of hindu pagan Mithra ism, savior ism in 13th century.
Christianity, invented by hinduism,. corruption of truth absolute by hindu Pharisees, pagan self centered, follower of hindu filthy pig ism by corrupted Torah, known as Greek Torah, translated and commented by Ben Asheer in 250 AD in Yiddish, secularist, self centered language, also known as Old Testament, part of book of Mithra ism labeled as Bible. A way to justify hindu criminal Kings and self proclaimed Prophets, fortune tellers as god's to rule over humanity.
JUDAISM, Self center ism, pig ism, or Atheism, invented by hindu's pagan's of Egypt by corruption of truth absolute in Torah to Justify hindu pagan Pharaoh's and their hindu pagan Santans, goons as god's to rule over humanity with impunity.
HAVE hINDUISM, CORRUPTION OF TRUTH ABSOLUTE, RELIGIONS AND LIVE WITH MAYHEM, AS HAS BEEN THE CASE FROM hIND, DARK AGES TILL TODAY. FOLLOW THEEN ALLAH, CONSTI TUTION OF TRUTH ABSOLUTE, ALLAH , GOD AND THE LORD, FOUNDATION OF CONSTI TUTION OF AMERICA TO HAVE PEACE AMONG HUMANITY. To learn more please visit truthisthelimit.com
word hindu is based on Latin word hindered, negative, Hun, great, Han, to be in greatness, hin, to be negative to both of them, hindu, a noun in negativity, hinduism, way of negativity.
Visit limitisthetruth.com to learn about hinduism, criminality of hindu's, criminals to impose hinduism, racism on humanity by hinduism, corruption of truth absolute by force.
People....while we. bask...in this. election. result. Perhaps we should...take time to remember....the many. unfortunate. citizens of this, you know, country. Busted. for dope. If. legalizing Pot gains the ah...momentum then, can we. turn these folks, who's only crime is Smoking some, you know weed. Can the be let go. I say....yes.
nope is false
nope...If. that is your...real name. You seem...to me...a little, you know...negative. Relax and smell.. the uh, you know the coffee. Take a load off.
I'm nearing 58. I have been a smoker nearing 44 years. I smoke both types and for the longest time I was phobiatic regarding pot smoking. Nowadays. I only smoke pot 2 or 3 times a week. My phobia regarding smoking pot was grown out of my fears of getting caught and jailed. I can no longer stand idly by in fear created by governmental politics! Florida, when will you stop being as a big brother and quit it already with your mothering of my and others' personal choices for choosing to partake of a joint with our friends? No more government created phobias please! Let the people choose their own habits be it recreational drug usage or paying for s3x or even types of gambling.
This post needs more cowbell!
Easy, guys.. I put my pants on just like the rest of you - one leg at a time. Except, once my pants are on, I make gold records.
If I may. quote. from the song "Perfect Vision" by the Icky Blossoms, "nothing to do...but to get high...in the afternoon" I don't see how...one can argue. this point. People happy. High. It's, you know, a good kiind of a thing.
True personal fteedoms, be it drug use or gambling or selling of s3x will most likelt not be recognized in my lifetime. Legalize pot America before I am dead! I wanna be free to smoke pot legally instead of my having a phobia about it!
I see you met my friend Christopher Walken. That dude always be passing the dutchie to the left.
An now for some reality. How are we going to pay off our $16 trillion debt? Said election did nothing to solve the problem. Even Romney had no answers.
One great starting point is to get rid of all religions putting the money currently spent supporting these outdated beliefs towards paying off our national debt.
There never were and never will be any angels i.e. no Gabriel, no Islam and therefore no more koranic-driven acts of horror and terror LIKE 9/11.
– One trillion dollars over the next several years as the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan will end.
– Eighteen billion dollars/yr to Pakistan will stop.
– Four billion dollars/yr to Egypt will end.
There were never any bodily resurrections and there will never be any bodily resurrections i.e. No Easter, no Christianity!!!
– The Mormon ti-the empire will now become taxable as will all Christian "religions" and evangelical non-profits since there is no longer any claim to being a tax-exempt religion.
– the faith-based federal projects supported by both Bush and Obama will be eliminated saving $385 million/yr and another $2 billion/yr in grants.
– Saving 15.5 million Orthodox followers of Judaism:
Abraham and Moses never existed.
– Four billion dollars/yr to Israel saved.
– All Jewish sects and non-profits will no longer be tax exempt.
Total debt paydown: $ one trillion twenty-nine billion in one year alone !!! Now we are getting somewhere.
Well. If. we. tax the churches and. The mosques and temples and so forth. Then. that is a good start. But. Not enough so. legalize pot. you know, taxes on the pot sales. revenue. debt decreases. people. become happy. and feel. I don't know, good.
legalize it, tax it, regulate it
thats my creed on dealing with any prohibition be it gambling, pr0st!t4t!0n or drugs
government should not be in the personal control business
We do not need another addictive, air-borne, disease-causing drug:
To wit:- from the CDC
"Tobacco use costs the United States billions of dollars each year.
•Cigarette smoking costs more than $193 billion (i.e., $97 billion in lost productivity plus $96 billion in health care expenditures)."
•Secondhand smoke costs more than $10 billion (i.e., health care expenditures, morbidity, and mortality)."
Christopher Walken, Sam Yaza and otherly folks,
Parental governing of a land's people is bad for the economies where drug usages and pro-st-itution and gambling are concerned.Imagine all the taxable incomes from such things being legalized. Not to mention all the jobs being created.
Total federal and state tax revenue on cigarettes (avg. $2.20/pack) is $60 billion. Bottom line: Taxing addictive drugs will not reduce the federal budget because of the health care care costs related to their use.
Reality, pot. Cannibus. Mary Jane, you know, the chronic is not a dangerous drug. It. Is not. addictive. In short, it's good. nice.
You are so full of sh!t putting the blame for 'airborne diseases' thru smoking when autos and power plants dump a helluva lot more carcinogens into the air! Dumb futz!
Reality, you are not thinking this through. I know how you love stats. Figure out how much this country spends on the ridiculous, so called, war on drugs. How many murders, how much violence. What is the toll of keeping Pot illegal? What about the prison system. Crunch some numbers on that. How does it cost the government to jail non-violent offenders? Finally, you can't compare marijuana with cigarettes. They are completely different.
Reality, one other thing you left our of your opinion.
What about freedom? Is this a free country or isn't it? If something should be illegal it should be smoking and alcohol. Are they illegale? No. Why? Freedom. Income. Taxes.
God's Oldest Dreamer
no sh!t that's what i was saying
keep the government out of the personal life of the people, and allow for these freedoms to return from the black market.
Prohibition just creates crime
i agree with you on this
I know we both can agree on such things becoming a freedom and right to so choose one's desirabilities to or not to. If I am correct Colorado and Washington the state has now legalized recreational 'pot' usage. Now if only more states would step up to the plate,,,
From CNN, 11/7/2012:
"The National Inst-itute on Drug Abuse says that marijuana causes an increase in heart rate, which could put users at risk for a heart attack or stroke. Marijuana smoke also contains carcinogens similar to cigarette smoke." So chocolate chip marijuana cookies are the way to go. :) Lets see a tax of a dollar a box and we would have to consume 1 trillion boxes of said cookies/yr to eliminate the national debt in 16 years. Not likely to happen.
Prayer changes things.
Prayer failed completely and totally yesterday. So many prayed for Romney and the Republican Senate, andprayer failed. So many prayed against gay marriage, and it won in two states. Prayer failed.
Jesus said that if you pray, it will happen without fail. You can pray that a mountain will jump into the sea, and it will do it.
Prayer failed miserably. Jesus was wrong. Christianity is proven untrue.
More people just prayed for Obama than they did for Romney, then?
All i fear the democrats have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.
I'm sorry, "Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things", but your assertions regarding atheism and prayer are unfounded. Using my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module, the expression that best matches the degree to which your assertions may represent truths is: "TOTAL FAIL".
I see that you repeat these unfounded statements with high frequency. Perhaps the following book can help you:
I'm Told I Have Dementia: What You Can Do... Who You Can Turn to...
by the Alzheimer's Disease Society
Tyrants talk unity & mean: "I have the power. Shut up & follow."
Losers talk unity b/c: what else can they do?
Peace makers talk unity and give their enemies their ear & a seat at the table.
Watch and see who really wants unity.
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.