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September 14th, 2011
10:58 AM ET

My Take: Don’t be fooled by candidates’ God talk

Editor’s note: Brian T. Kaylor is assistant professor of communication studies at James Madison University and author of “Presidential Campaign Rhetoric in an Age of Confessional Politics.”

By Brian T. Kaylor, Special to CNN

Rick Perry’s Wednesday visit to Liberty University marks only the latest effort by the Texas governor to reach the White House by confessing his faith.

Even in an election cycle dominated by economic concerns, Perry and several of his Republican presidential opponents have spent the last few months trying to out-God-talk one another in hopes of attaining salvation at the ballot box.

While debate moderators and election commentators focus on economic issues, the religious rhetoric of the presidential candidates appears to go mostly unnoticed - except by the key Republican voting bloc being courted. After being a Republican, the best predictor of someone being a Tea Party supporter is whether a person has a desire to see religion significantly impact politics.

This type of confessional politics, in which candidates invoke God and cite Scripture to win elections, has unfortunately dominated U.S. politics for three decades. Ever since Bible-quoting Sunday school teacher Jimmy Carter won the White House in 1976, presidential candidates have followed his example of using religious rhetoric that is testimonial, partisan, sectarian and liturgical.

Exemplifying the confessional political style, Perry said he felt “called” by God to run for president. He kicked off his campaign with brazen confessional gusto, bringing tens of thousands together in an NFL stadium for a day of prayer and fasting.

In June, Perry secretly met a group of nearly 80 conservative Christian leaders at a gathering organized by evangelist James Robison. The Texas evangelist led a similar secret meeting in 1979 to plot Jimmy Carter's defeat.

That earlier effort culminated in an August 1980 religious-political rally with Republican presidential nominee Ronald Reagan that helped Reagan mobilize conservative pastors for his victory. At the event, Reagan famously used a line suggested by Robison to win over the crowd: “I know you can’t endorse me … but I want you to know that I endorse you and what you are doing.”

Perry isn’t the only candidate who believes the road to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue runs down the church aisle.

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who has also said she felt God was “calling” her to run, won the Iowa Straw Poll last month in large part because of support from conservative evangelicals. Her campaign strategy includes speaking in churches and garnering pastor endorsements.

Now that Perry has entered the race with a similar strategy, Bachmann’s poll numbers are in free fall. As Jesus warned, those who live by the sword will die by the sword.

Even candidates who might not be expected to try their hands at confessional politics have orchestrated come-to-Jesus moments.

Libertarian-leaning Ron Paul may idolize thinker Ayn Rand (even naming his son after her) but he is rejecting her atheistic worldview as he hopes to become the GOP’s standard-bearer. In July, Paul’s campaign launched its “Evangelicals for Ron Paul”  initiative.

The website for the effort prominently features a quote from Paul: “I have accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior, and I endeavor every day to follow Him in all that I do in every position I advocate.”

Even Mormon candidates Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman, whose faith makes them suspicious to many evangelicals, work references to Jesus into their speeches.

In the last presidential campaign,  Romney proudly confessed, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God and the Savior of mankind.”

At the June Faith & Freedom Conference run by former Christian Coalition chief Ralph Reed, Huntsman attempted to endear himself to the evangelical audience by crediting Jesus with bringing his adopted Chinese daughter into his family.

These candidates may not have the same natural religious swagger as Perry, but they're clearly seeking faith-based voters in hopes of not being left behind.

Romney has spoken at Liberty University, founded by the late Jerry Falwell, as has Paul, while Bachmann is speaking there in a couple weeks. Then-presidential candidate John McCain spoke there in 2008, even after labeling Falwell an “agent of intolerance.”

Sometimes the political conversion experience on the way to Washington seems even more dramatic than the spiritual conversion of the biblical Paul on the way to Damascus.

Not to be outdone, President Barack Obama also employs the confessional political style. During the 2008 campaign he spoke of God and cited Scripture with more eloquence and ease than McCain. Obama continues to weave biblical themes and divine references into his speeches, including in remarks last weekend at the September 11 anniversary event in New York.

Voters should ignore attempts by candidates to out-confess one another and instead focus on what really matters.

John F. Kennedy declared in a speech to Protestant pastors in Houston: “I believe that we have far more critical issues in the 1960 campaign … the hungry children I saw in West Virginia, the old people who cannot pay their doctors bills, the families forced to give up their farms - an America with too many slums, with too few schools.”

These same issues demand our attention today. When religious confessions crowd out critical issues, we all lose. We are not electing an evangelist-in-chief.

When political elections come down to who can claim to love God the most, we all lose. Religious devotion and piety does not inherently equal governing competence.

When religion becomes merely another political trick, we all lose. The politicization of faith profanes the sacred.

My prayer is that candidates and voters will move away from confessional politics. As a committed Christian and former Baptist pastor, I do not wish to see religion excluded from the public square. However, giving religious beliefs too much weight in electoral decisions undermines the basic democratic values that have guided our nation for over two centuries.

The expectation that candidates talk about God and their personal religious beliefs shifts attention away from critical policy concerns, creates a de facto religious test for office and essentially disenfranchises those of minority faiths or who have no faith. Confession may be good for the soul, but it is not always good for democracy.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Brian T. Kaylor.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Opinion • Politics

soundoff (1,643 Responses)
  1. bruce6va

    Amen.

    September 14, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
  2. eric

    When Perry says he was 'called by God' to run for president, that should be our first clue that this guy is the devil.

    September 14, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
    • I_get_it

      eric, More like a clue that he is delusional - and not the first one, either.

      September 14, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
    • Geekalot

      Delusional, or more likely, pandering.

      I will admit that I am a bit left of center in my political views, but not completely. In some respects I am more libertarian. I think I could support a fiscal conservative candidate who didn't have the social conservative baggage. For me, a candidate who owes favors to extreme religious groups that want nothing more badly than to force their religious views onto everyone else, is a show stopper...as it should be to anyone who values personal liberty.

      September 14, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
  3. Kathleen

    While I believe in God, and His son Jesus Christ – I do not agree that we need public outcries from our candidates regarding Scripture. We NEED the candidates views on our most pressing issues!

    ** Off Topic ** PLEASE U.S. Senators/Representatives, quit arguing about whose idea what was, and get OFF YOUR ASSES and GET TO WORK!! We are tired of not getting anything done – PASS a Jobs Bill! If you don't like President Obama's, create your own but QUICK! Thank You!

    September 14, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
    • Geekalot

      Kathleen, I agree. See, an atheist and a Christian CAN come to some common ground. What makes this possible is the secular republic...and a willingness to listen to good ideas, wherever they come from. Unfortunately, people at the political and religious extremes have taken control of the discussions. These people think in absolutes. It doesn't matter if strong evidence supporting another way is presented. It's their way or no way. Compromise is a dirty word for them, which is unfortunate for the rest of us. The problem is made worse by the fact that people this fanatic are focused and organized and more likely to stand up and be heard.

      September 14, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
    • Kathleen

      Geekalot,

      I completely agree with you! Our Forfathers new of this issue – choice of Religion, and NOT to mix Church and State (religion and politics).

      I want to know WHAT Religion they do or do not practice and ARE THEY WILLING to follow the Law – even if it is against their religion/morality. Does that make sense and keep our common ground? 🙂

      September 14, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
    • Geekalot

      Kathleen. Yes. Yes it does. 🙂

      September 14, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
    • Kathleen

      Good!

      September 14, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
    • John Richardson

      Yes, secularism is the key.

      September 14, 2011 at 7:42 pm |
    • Albert

      John, I think "equality" and "liberty" and "accountability" are also key...

      September 14, 2011 at 8:25 pm |
  4. TRH

    I sincerely wish we could have an African-American Lesbian Atheist for president, along with an atheist majority in the house and senate. Yeah, I'm fantasizing. But we might finally become the compassionate country we think we are...we are not.

    Our country was founded on the principal of a secular republic. Our "god-fearing" founding fathers, although they might have prayed and mentioned "god" in the bill of rights and other places, they were smart enough to know that religion has NO PLACE in the political process.

    September 14, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
    • huh

      Well, if you don't require eyebrows, we could nominate Whoopi Goldberg...

      September 14, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
    • Kyle

      Yeah, but she's ugly.

      September 14, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      I think we should all just wait for the Matrix. Everyone in their own pod and computer designed world so that those that they want in power will be in power and those they do not will not. Entire races, religions, and nationalities.... gone.

      Seriously though, if a person that shares none of your beliefs, morals,different gender or racial identi'ty said "I have a plan to get people back to work, and save peoples homes.... could you vote for him or her? In other words what is more important, the social or the fiscal?

      September 14, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
    • *frank*

      Why not? It's 2011 and you still can't be president without professing belief in Dark Lords and wizards and spectres like the U.S. is Middle Earth.

      September 14, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
    • Benjamin M.

      I agree that religion and politics shouldn't mix so much.. If religion becomes the state, then the state becomes a religion, and it creates all sorts of headaches for non-state religions or the nonreligious. Imo an agnostic approach to the state is the best approach, regardless of one's religious affiliation, since there are extremes on both sides of the aisle; the Spanish Inquisition and the 'Cult of Logic' both come to mind. It's best if the government stays out of it entirely, aka, it shouldn't be why someone is elected and another is not.. Religion should be the individual's affair, and we are doing our elected officials a disservice if we are forcing them to 'be' something they are not.

      September 14, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
  5. Teacher

    Ann... you mean JFK the Catholic?

    September 14, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
  6. RB

    Atheists are so ignorant they think this is Christianity, while Christians are so ignorant they think they God is about politics. The egomaniacs in one direction say they're doing God's work, the ergonomics in the other direction say God is a delusion.

    September 14, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
    • Geekalot

      I don't consider myself an egomaniac, but I am an atheist. I do not think the case for the existance of an all powerful, all knowing deity has been made. However, I have said it bofore and I will say it again now: I support every person's right to believe or not what they want so long as they those beliefs do no directly harm another person or force them to convert or disallow them from changing their mind about which religion or no religion to follow.

      All that said, I think mixing religion and politics is a recipe for disaster...especially if the religious folk with particularly strong convictions get into the mix. Then you get politicians pushing policies based on radical religious views onto everyone else. Bad idea.

      September 14, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
  7. Dan

    "Religious devotion and piety does not inherently equal governing competence."
    Quite the opposite, actually. Religious devotion and piety inherently equal governing incompetence.

    September 14, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
    • huh

      You said the same thing. How is that the opposite?

      September 14, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
    • *frank*

      reading is fundamental

      September 14, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
    • Dan

      Yeah. He said, "religion does not equal competence." I continued, "yeah, quite the opposite." Doesn't take much...

      September 14, 2011 at 7:11 pm |
    • tffl

      Dan – the opposite of "Religious devotion and piety does not inherently equal governing competence." is "Religious devotion and piety _does_ inherently equal governing competence." You aren't saying the opposite, you are going beyond his statement that there is no correlation to state that this _is_ a correlation, but a negative one. Don't accuse others of misunderstanding your statements until your statements say what you think they say...

      September 14, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
    • huh

      Ah, I see where I messed up. Thanks.

      September 14, 2011 at 7:35 pm |
    • Dan

      @tffl: I wasn't opposing the author of the quote. I accepted his statement and added my own. It's called conversational English. My statement is an implicit agreement followed by my own "two cents." I should add that it's VERY easy to read that way.

      September 15, 2011 at 11:19 am |
  8. postedbygeorge

    Christianity is the anti-christ, it perverted a good man by turning him into a god. This is America, enough of Middle-Eastern religions. If you want a religious government , move to Iran.

    September 14, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
  9. greg

    the mingling of religion and politics is toxic to both. look at saudi arbabia. iran. look at europe during the early migrations to america. getting away from this toxic mix was a prime driver for european immigration to america. freedom of religion–a cherished right–but that freedom becomes retarded if certain sects use their influence to impose their belief systems on everyone else through legislation. "making" someone conform to a particular moral code based on a belief system pollutes the believers by taking them away from their own spiritual affrairs and pollutes the political system with demagoguery.

    September 14, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
  10. Bernie Lomax

    There is "a grotesque mismatch between the American intelligen­­­­­­­­tsi­a and the American electorate­­­­­­­­. A philosophi­­­­­­­­cal opinion about the nature of the universe, which is held by the vast majority of top American scientists and probably the majority of the intelligen­­­­­­­­tsi­a generally, is so abhorrent to the American electorate that no candidate for popular election dare affirm it in public. If I'm right, this means that high office in the greatest country in the world is barred to the very people best qualified to hold it, the intelligen­­­­­­­­tsi­a­, unless they are prepared to lie about their beliefs. To put it bluntly, American political opportunit­­­­­­­­ies are heavily loaded against those who are simultaneo­­­­­­­­usl­y intelligen­­­­­­­­t and honest."

    -R. Dawkins

    September 14, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
    • mike

      trouble is that this is effectively the nature of a democracy. democracy at some point tends to the lowest common denominator. and i realize that what i'm saying, the path to nietsche and then hitler is not that long. but that doesn't mean it's not true. all correct thinking involves getting aways from one-seided views, to multifaceted opinions. most people are too lazy (intellectually and morally) to navigate complicated systems of thought.

      September 14, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
    • TRH

      Dawkins is right. This country is so imbued with religion being the "right thing to do" that to say you're an atheist can cost you family, friends, even your job. These people are so narrow-minded that they equate an atheist with being immoral. They'll cite Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin, et al without actually researching these people. Stalin was a true atheist but he was also a paranoid madman. His atheism had nothing to do with his crimes. And Hitler was a Roman Catholic by the way.

      I won't bother to go into history to cite the various atrocities executed by devout Christians, Muslims, etc. and they are legion. I'm just very frustrated, fearful, and ANGRY at the way this country seems to be going.

      September 14, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
    • Kyle

      hitler just wanted to be an artist. Had he been accepted into art school instead of rejected, then none of this would have happened.

      September 14, 2011 at 7:10 pm |
  11. Larry

    Is stupid perry really a christian? Do not read his lips. Instead look at his actions. How does he care for the poor, the elderly, the infirm, the children, the money? He wants to give more money to the rich, take more from the poor, put the elderly out in the cold with no retirement and no medical and to die if some illness affects them. He wants others to care for the children just not government. Have I covered it all yet? He actions say stupid perry is not really christian. Me thinks he speaketh with forked tongue. Just saying, words only sound good, action actually speaks volumes.

    September 14, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
    • Kyle

      Sounds to me like he wants the people who work to have money, and the people that don't, well, guess they should start working, eh?

      September 14, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
    • Buckles

      You missed that he's eager to sign death warrants (capital punishment).

      September 14, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
    • Larry

      Actually Kyle quite the opposite. stupid perry wants those that he cannot create jobs for to crawl into their hole and die so that the rest of us do not have to keep them as required in the bible. Or have you not read the bible lately. And to put people to death is against the teachings of the bible. So now we have proof in action that stupid perry is not really a christian. Action speaks much louder than words.

      September 14, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
    • Kyle

      I don't care if he's a christian or not. I like the death penalty. And no, I'm not a republican.

      September 14, 2011 at 7:11 pm |
  12. Richard S Kaiser

    Such simpletons are the many,,,,,,,, can't even ascribe to biblical truths let alone see that "THIS WORLD IS NOT THE KINGDOM OF GOD",,, Damn the lot of us all!

    September 14, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
    • Dave Davis

      This world is not His kingdom. True enough. However, we Christians DO live in this world for the time being, so you Liberals just might as well go on and get over it. We will run for office becuse we still pay taxes. We will vote because we fight in this Country's Armed Forces. We will function as citizens because we believe in this Country. How would you Liberal folk like to try to get along without our tax dollars to support your welfare programs? Or function as a secure Nation without all the young men and women in the Military who believe in God and come from the South (the BIBLE BELT which u all so despise) or from God-fearing rural regions of the North and the West. God bless America.

      September 14, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
    • Richard S Kaiser

      @ Dave Davis,,,,,,,, "However, we Christians DO live in this world for the time being, so you Liberals just might as well go on and get over it."

      I am no liberal as you so write Dave. I am a Christian who knows well where the Kingdom of God is and that is literally inside our bodies. 1Cr 3:9 “For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, [ye are] God's building.”

      I is further known that, 1Cr 4:5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.

      These "hidden things of darkness" are of INNER SPACE and OUTER SPACE things, They are one and the sameness. Fractal Cosmology is yet at its’ infancy of theoretical science but I stand firm in that this theory will find for itself that INNER SPACE things are the 1st order and OUTER SPACE things are secondary. We who are of Celestial based Life gives shelter to that which lives upon the INNER SPACES of things. When we die we are returned to the place(s) we once fled or were transfixed and vexed to be extolled and committed apart from the God and His subjects who rules our embodiment’s cellularized universes. We are the mechanized life-beings that are God’s buildings.

      September 14, 2011 at 6:51 pm |
    • Larry

      Actually dave davis how can you claim to be christian? Your words say you cannot be. The bible that some of you seem to hold so dear calls for you to care for your neighbor. So how much care are you putting forth when you compel those unfortunate enough to not be able to secure one of the very few minimum wage jobs that stupid perry claims to have created to continue to exist without any help from society? My question to you is how much have you and are you willing to contribute to care for the less fortunate in society as the bible dictates? Or are you just a foul mouthed spouter of false words? You say the words Sunday but the rest of the week you are just one of the foul evil that you condemn Sunday. Since your words say you are only a Sunday christian then we want no further word out of your mouth. We see your actions. You cannot really be christian.

      September 14, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
    • Albert

      You don't EARN U.S. Citizenship, it is given to you. A free gift. An ent.itlement if you qualify. Whether you work or not or pay taxes or not, a citizen has citizenship and all the rights and freedoms that go along with it.
      That unemployed poor person might join the Armed Forces. That soldier might become poor and unemployed.
      Those workers can lose their jobs through no fault of their own. People can become poor through no fault of their own.
      If you don't like people being out of work, then give them a job and quit making snide remarks about them.
      Ass-hole.

      September 14, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
    • u7string

      @Dave,,,, How would you like to try to get along without the science that your religion tries to falsify? By the way, science produced those advanced weapons our military use to keep our nation safe. (Not to belittle the brave men and women who use those weapons.)

      September 14, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
    • claybigsby

      Dave, you may pay taxes on your income but your church doesnt. Maybe its time to relieve the tax exempt status for the church.

      September 15, 2011 at 10:07 am |
  13. RichXX

    I will not vote for Perry or Bachman because their "brand" of religion feels they are required to convert the rest of us. I cannot vote for an evangelical fundamentalist for that reason. I don't care to hear a sermon from my president at his/her every speech. That would be worse than listening to Obama give one or 2 speeches everyday of his presidency. I see why Obama gets noting done for jobs. If he's not giving a speech he's planning one. I find it frustrating that we can't have one good candidate for president. The intelligent people know they will be scrutinized by the media as to what color toilet paper they use. Not for free speech or that the people have a need to know, but for the media to make a buck.

    September 14, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
    • Dave Davis

      You know in your own heart that you would NEVER vote for a conservative, regardless. So, why pretend?

      September 14, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      >>>"I see why Obama gets nothing done for jobs. If he's not giving a speech he's planning one. I find it frustrating that we can't have one good candidate for president. "

      As a Republican I wonder what would it look like if Hilary Clinton had of been the Democratic nominee. Right now the politicians are hearing us but, now they are in year round campaign mode. Soon as they are elected they have about a few month before they are campaigning again.

      September 14, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
    • Know What

      Dave Davis,

      I will not vote for anyone who claims that they hear imaginary supernatural voices... 'calling' them or 'telling' them what to do... no matter what their political slant is.

      September 14, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
  14. *frank*

    I think we should clone the biblical pharaoh from dna extracted from his mummy, hybridized with a clone wooly mammoth from the Siberian permafrost, to give birth to the greatest president this nation has ever known–"Wooly Mammoth Pharaoh," a leader endowed with the Machiavellian mind to make tough pragmatic decisions and the fearsome tusks to impale those foolish enough to oppose his will.

    September 14, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
    • Albert

      LOL
      And a good memory, too!

      September 14, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
  15. Ivan Bial

    heaven help us all

    September 14, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
    • claybigsby

      space help us all.....there fixed.

      September 15, 2011 at 10:08 am |
  16. Jameson

    People want to know if candidates share their most important life values, and nothing shapes one's
    values like religion. We want to know who we're electing. Deal with it.

    September 14, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
    • Dan

      I would agree. I know of nothing more corrupting to values than religion.

      September 14, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
    • dn

      If a man discovers on his wedding night that his bride is not a virgin, he must stone her to death on her father’s doorstep. (Deuteronomy 22:13-21.) Nothing like Christian values.

      September 14, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
    • Dave Davis

      Amen, Brother! Didn't our taxes help keep this Country gong for four years? We have the right to MAKE OUR VOICE HEARD!

      September 14, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
    • Dave Davis

      To dn: Your quote from the book of Duet. as well as any other Old Testament book is hardly an example of Christian values. That all took place BEFORE Calvery! That was "under the Law of Moses". Yes, God gave the Law for a time but now that time is over. Study the Scripture and know what it says. Why waste your time and everyone elses?

      September 14, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
    • Kyle

      religion does not nothing but shape the values of self gratification. After all, if you want to get into heaven you have to do good deeds and pretend to love everyone.

      Kinda makes you wonder what some of these people would be like without the fear of hell forcing them to be good citizens.

      In other words, they're obviously selfish. Yeah, thank god for bloody religion.

      September 14, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
    • Kyle

      Dave Davis,

      You might want to read your bible again. Jesus specifically stated that every letter of the law is to be followed. ALL OF IT. This includes the old testament. He chastised those who did not practice jewish law.

      So, get back to your bible and before you post again, you'd better know what it says first.

      September 14, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
    • Kyle

      Then again, you'll probably pretend like that it isn't in the bible and you'll say I'm adding to it, so here you go:

      “For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:18-19 RSV)

      "It is easier for Heaven and Earth to pass away than for the smallest part of the letter of the law to become invalid." (Luke 16:17 NAB)

      "Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest part or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place." (Matthew 5:17 NAB)

      "All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness..." (2 Timothy 3:16 NAB)

      Oh, and if you think I'm MISINTERPRETING, as ALL christians do, then read this:

      "Know this first of all, that there is no prophecy of scripture that is a matter of personal interpretation, for no prophecy ever came through human will; but rather human beings moved by the holy Spirit spoke under the influence of God." (2 Peter 20-21 NAB)

      As you can see, your precious bible specifically states that the scripture is NOT to be interpreted.

      Good luck, hero.

      September 14, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
    • Dan

      "Yes, God gave the Law for a time but now that time is over."
      Cool! I'm sure all the women who were stoned to death because God said they should be if they weren't virgins (or fell of a horse or any of the other myriad of accidents that can break a hymen) take great comfort in your revelation.

      September 14, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
    • A Theist

      @Kyle
      2 Peter 1:20-21 says "20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit."

      Paul is talking about Prophecy, not all of scripture. How could a claim about all text even make sense? Everybody has an interpretation on a text no matter how you read it. It's called perception.

      Ephesians 2:13-15
      " 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, "

      Are you telling me Christ was saying literally nothing when He said, "I have come to fulfill it?"
      The point of Christ's sacrifice is that we are not bound by the rules of the Law, but are asked to follow their principles.
      Jesus also said that the greatest commandment was to Love the Lord with all your heart, so clearly He intended to inspire something here. The point of Jesus's teaching was to show that He was not bringing a new faith, but that God's intention for the crucifixion was to break the barrier between rules and God, and instead focus on giving God glory through obedience.

      September 14, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
    • Dan

      @A Theist: You're right. Much of the Old Testement is stories or lineages, etc... so there's nothing to follow. The quote from dn, though, is a LAW handed down by a PROPHET so if you're not already married check your bride's hymen when you do get married because Jesus wants you to stone her on Pop's doorstep if it's broken.

      September 14, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
    • Kyle

      Why are you interpreting?

      "Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest part or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place." (Matthew 5:17 NAB)

      You missed that little part right there that says UNTIL ALL THINGS HAVE TAKEN PLACE. Considering none of the magical unicorns from the book of revelation have swept down to start handing out plagues and things, I feel confident in saying that ALL THINGS have not taken place.

      Jesus said in plain black and white in scripture that he was not abolishing the law. If the law isn't abolished, then it obviously isn't void. I can fulfill a law by not robbing a house, but the law against burglary still exists, does it not? You also see that other tiny little part where it says:

      "until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest part or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place"

      Last I checked, this is the same earth that has always existed. According to the bible, the earth and heaven won't pass and be made new until after the alleged second coming, which by the way, will never happen, because according to jesus' own words, people of his generation would not die before he returned.

      So. Have all things taken place according to the bible?

      Nope.

      Therefore, according to jesus' words, you'd better be abiding by the law of the old testament AND the new until the four unicorns of the apocalypse come prancing forth from the skies.

      September 14, 2011 at 7:25 pm |
    • Kyle

      I feel like I need to explain this further because people like to twist things around.

      jesus was simply explaining to people that he wasn't there to get rid of the law. More than likely because one of the nutjobs thought he was really god and got excited thinking he could now eat pork. This wasn't the case. This was jesus saying, "Uh, no. You can't have pork. I'm not here to tell you that you can eat pork, because the law says you still aren't allowed to. You have to abide by the law until I return. I'm just here to continue the stupidity."

      The fact that this has to be explained in itself is disturbing. This just goes to show just how much christians are against their own belief system. They don't want to do everything the bible says. I show people what's in the bible, and they make every excuse imaginable as to why it DOESN'T say what I'm showing them. They want to justify gettnig out of doing what the bible tells them to do in any way possible. Why? Because the majority of it makes no sense, gives no clear direction, or involves killing and torture.

      The bible condones owning slaves. The bible tells you to put certain types of people to death.

      So, it makes perfect sense that christians will TRY to distance themselves from it all. But clearly, the bible states that all of it is to be followed, and none of it is to be interpreted. It is to be accomplished as it states in black and white. Period. The end. Amen.

      September 14, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
    • Fred1

      @Davis: "Heaven and earth will disappear before the smallest letter of the Law does." Luke 16:17 (CEV)

      September 14, 2011 at 10:08 pm |
    • Fred1

      @Davis: Jesus said to follow the law of the old testament ALL OF IT. He also said the most difficult path is the one that leads to heaven. Pretending that you are no longer bound by the law of the Old Testament is the easy path to hell

      September 14, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
    • claybigsby

      dave, first your church needs to pay taxes...that is clear. Second, keep cherry picking biblical scripture. Typical of christians....are you god? what you are saying is that the old testament is not true but the new testament is based on......I dont know?

      September 15, 2011 at 10:11 am |
    • claybigsby

      "Pretending that you are no longer bound by the law of the Old Testament is the easy path to hell"

      give us all a break and stop fear mongering. It works on kids, but not on free thinking adults.

      September 15, 2011 at 10:13 am |
  17. Dennis

    At times I just get sick of all the hate, whether it's because of our political parties, racial, religious faiths, or cultural differences simply b/c we are from different countries. Truth is we all come from the same father (whether you choose to accept him or not).

    It's sad we can't ever have respect and peace in our world, instead we feed off self destruction- harassing/making fun of, pointing fingers at, or killing those w/ views or opinions different than our own....... Now please bash my comment and lay into me w/ some sort of personal attack or name calling. Thanks 🙂

    September 14, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
    • A Theist

      I like everything you said... Jesus Freak. 😉

      September 14, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
    • uh

      "It's sad we can't ever have respect and peace in our world, instead we feed off self destruction- harassing/making fun of, pointing fingers at, or killing those w/ views or opinions different than our own.."

      I know christians are the worst about this aren't they. If they just became loving human beings, stopped making judgments, spewing their hate, condemning those that don't believe as they do to hell, this would be such a peaceful world.

      September 14, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
    • QS

      LMAO! "It's sad we can't ever have respect and peace in our world, instead we feed off self destruction- harassing/making fun of, pointing fingers at, or killing those w/ views or opinions different than our own..."

      And right before that, "Truth is we all come from the same father (whether you choose to accept him or not)."

      Same old religious double-speak! And you have the nerve to ask why we can never have respect for other peoples' opinions!?

      September 14, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
    • A Theist

      @uh and @QS I don't even know where to begin here, except to say, I pity your narrow-minded and faulty perceptions of what it means to follow Christ and follow Jesus's teachings.

      September 14, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
    • uh

      "I pity your narrow-minded and faulty perceptions of what it means to follow Christ and follow Jesus's teachings."

      I pity your narrow-minded and faulty perception of believing in a god that doesn't exist.

      September 14, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
    • A Theist

      @uh Are you telling me that the existence of God is impossible? Then you, my friend, are suffering from something called the Burden of Proof. Anything that is objectively true can be proven.

      I have claimed that the existence of God is possible–a much more inclusive approach than yours–and so only need defend my beliefs with evidence. Especially since I don't claim that the existence of God is necessarily true. He may not exist, and I could be wrong, but I believe there is evidence to the contrary.

      September 14, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
    • GodPot

      Well, a long time ago humans could hate and exclude based solely on the color of skin. Then as peoples started to mix and colors began to bleed accross borders, they needed something invisible to divide them, something intangible to set them apart from the barbarian's and other people they didn't like, so they invented religion which lets people hate accross races, colors, creeds and gender preference. It is an equal oportunity hater, if your not one of them, you are going to die and be tortured for eternity by their invisible God regardless of your nationality or skin color...

      September 14, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
    • Fred1

      Personally, I take the long view. Compared to 500 years ago there is a lot less hate, or at the very least it’s a lot better controlled. 500 years ago Christians would take atheists like me and burn them to death. Now (for the most part) they just write rude comments on the internet. I think we’ve come a long way

      September 14, 2011 at 10:42 pm |
    • claybigsby

      "Then you, my friend, are suffering from something called the Burden of Proof."

      No sir, the burden of proof falls on christians....sorry but you can not prove a negative.

      September 15, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
    • uh

      "Then you, my friend, are suffering from something called the Burden of Proof. Anything that is objectively true can be proven."

      Typical christian dancing around the fact they can't prove their gods existence. Let's hear your proof of a god. Since there isn't one, there is no proof. Or will you be doing the two step now again....LMAO!

      September 15, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • Mark

      "Then you, my friend, are suffering from something called the Burden of Proof."

      Let's cut to the chase and concede that the vast majority, say 99% of all humans who have ever lived, have had some concept of the divine. Given the enormous diversity of these concepts - from animism and shamanism to fetishism to manifold polytheisms to the diverse monotheisms - what kind of burden of proof does this "common consent" impose on the skeptic? The skeptic would appear to dissent from the common consent of the divine or the sacred. That is, if anything is sacred to skeptics, perhaps they should be counted within the common consensus.

      Is anything sacred for the atheist or agnostic? The answer is often "yes." Though he was not a believer in the God of theism, Einstein expressed a reverential awe for the subtlety of "The Old One," his personification of nature. Edward O Wilson's book Biophilia expresses an almost mystical sense of affinity with all living things. One cannot read the beautiful, powerful closing sentences of The Origin of Species without sharing Darwin's awed sense of the grandeur of the evolutionary view of life. The Soviet astrophysicist Yakov Zeldovich was fond of quoting Proust's remark that "The highest praise of God is the unbelief of a scholar who is sure that the perfection of the world makes the existence of gods unnecessary." Many atheists would add "amen" to that.

      Suppose, though, that an unbeliever has no sense of the divine. Literally nothing is sacred for that person. Should this person feel epistemic embarrassment when confronted with the overwhelming common consent of humankind? Well, it all depends on how that common consent is explained. Numbers alone mean nothing; otherwise ad populum would not be a fallacy. What accounts for the near universality of some sense of the divine among human beings? Is it only reasonable to explain such near-unanimity in terms of the (however misconstrued) human awareness of God? The Common Consent Argument implies that this is the only reasonable explanation. Is it?

      Stewart Guthrie's recent book Faces in the Clouds: A New Theory of Religion proposes the challenging thesis that the psychological basis of religious belief is the nearly universal human tendency to anthropomorphize. He argues that humans have a nearly universal and overwhelming tendency to attribute human characteristics to nonhuman things and events. He suggests that this tendency is hardwired - an evolutionary adaptation. Thus, we see faces in clouds and Jesus in a picture of spaghetti on a billboard. (This really happened!) More seriously, we tend to see random events as orchestrated by unseen benevolent or malignant intelligences. When I curse the traffic light that always stops me or the photocopier that breaks down whenever the job is urgent, I'm anthropomorphizing.

      The upshot is that the unbeliever can appeal to Guthrie, Freud, or other psychological, sociological, or biological theories to account for the near universality of some form of religious belief. In other words, the common consent phenomenon can be explained naturalistically without appeal to any awareness of God. The Common Consent Argument therefore reduces to a version of the ad populum fallacy. Hence, the unbeliever need feel no epistemic embarassment at the fact that he or she is in the 1% for whom nothing is sacred. Charles de Gaulle was wily but illogical to reply to a critic "Monsieur, forty million Frenchmen cannot be wrong!" They can be wrong; so can 99% of the human race!

      I conclude that A Theist has given no good reason for placing a special burden of proof on the skeptic. Further, he has said nothing to obviate the burden of proof that the theist must bear in debates over the truth of theism. The evidentialist challenge stands: Is there good reason to think theism true? If not, the skeptic is fully justified in taking the same attitude towards theism that he or she takes towards claims about UFOs, Bigfoot, the Lost Continent of Atlantis, the Bermuda Triangle, poltergeists, etc. These are interesting claims, but their proponents are perennially unable to offer persuasive evidence on their behalf. In such cases skepticism is an eminently rational position, and its rarity among human beings is not an indictment of it, but of the gullibility of the majority.

      September 15, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
    • A Theist

      @Uh Do a fact check. The Burden of Proof is associated with anything that is claimed to be certainly true–ie a fact. I never claimed that the existence of God was a fact, but merely a possibility; a possibility I happen to believe in. If you claim that it is impossible for God to exist, then you are declaring a fact, and now must adhere to the burden of proof. If you simple believe that God does not exist, then that's a belief founded on evidence.

      I'm saying you can neither prove nor disprove God, but there is evidence that He exists.

      September 15, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
    • A Theist

      @Mark
      I appreciate that you thoroughly grasp the Burden of Proof, and that you decided that an argument based on evidence is the right way to go. I've considered the idea of anthropomorphization before, and I think it's an interesting one. I noticed you had a lot to say, so obviously there's a chance that you simply had to leave out details, but I've never been able to understand how anthropomorphizing something would be considered a beneficial adaptation. How does assuming that an object has a conscious provide me with a better chance of survival?

      I have no qualm that the skeptic can doubt the existence of a God. I would argue that there is more evidence of a God than of Bigfoot, etc. Thanks for an intelligent response and I am eager for more input!

      September 15, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
  18. JLS639

    God, you two-faced, scheming double crosser... Always on every side of every conflict, aren't ye? Telling two, three, four different people you chose them for a job above all others.... Telling both sides in a war you are with them... And you are so perfect at it because nobody ever catches on to your game.

    September 14, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
    • Richard S Kaiser

      There are three types of the godly, one is GOD the Cosmos, the seconds are Gods of the righteous and lastly the gods who are us,,,,,,,,,,,,,, 🙂

      September 14, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
  19. Misha Gastonai

    If you don't like a candidate invoking God/religion/whatever you could always just..........................not vote for them.

    Granted, it might be less fun than acting all superior and writing blogs for CNN, but it sure is easier.

    September 14, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
    • QS

      Completely missed the point.

      September 14, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
    • Jameson

      well said!

      September 14, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
    • Dan

      Right. The problem is others do vote for them and sometimes they win and then God tells them to invade Iraq.

      September 14, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
    • Dave Davis

      Right on!

      September 14, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
  20. Ann the Atheist

    I thought for sure the author wasn't going to come out and say "I'm a christian too, but".. he just pandered to the religious freaks when he said that so it might lend some credibility to this article for religious folk. Way to practice what you preach against.

    GET OVER IT YOU RELIGIOUS NUTS, lets fix the COUNTRY, not BRAINWASH IT...... UUUUUGH where is the next J F Kennedy.... THAT would truly be a savior for the US.

    September 14, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
    • JLS639

      JFK, yeah, the guy who could not pass a civil rights bill, nearly started a nuclear war and got us into a long, undeclared war. but, dang, he looked good doing it.

      September 14, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
    • Ann the Atheist

      LOL like all the recent presidents have done close to the same! The lesser of two evils!

      September 14, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
    • *frank*

      Marilyn Monroe gave him teh clap.

      September 14, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
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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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.