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My Take: How Romney could transcend Mormonism with civil religion
Mitt Romney in Illinois, which holds its primary on Tuesday.
March 20th, 2012
08:13 AM ET

My Take: How Romney could transcend Mormonism with civil religion

Editor's Note: Dan Birdsong is a political science lecturer at the University of Dayton, teaching courses on the presidency, campaigns and elections and media.

By Dan Birdsong, Special to CNN

(CNN) - There has been a deliberate and concerted effort on the part of the Mitt Romney campaign, even before it officially began, to divert attention from the presidential candidate’s Mormonism by attempting to connect with primary voters by talking about a shared civil religion. But to be effective Romney must take this strategy much further.

What’s civil religion? It’s patriotism’s kissing cousin. It’s a kind of deeper version of nationalistic pride. It is an effort to link patriotism to morality and virtue. Think the phrase “God and country,” or the solemn reverence so many Americans have for our nation’s founding documents.

Romney puts himself at a disadvantage to his rivals and past presidents because he cannot, or is unwilling to, seamlessly link his faith to his patriotism.

Such a strategy would enhance what media types call his “personal narrative” and would go a long way toward forging a strong emotional connection with voters. Here’s how he can do it:

1. Talk about a sacred Constitution

Consider this: For some, the Bill of Rights is seen as analogous to the Ten Commandments. And even though the Bill of Rights is a human creation - and thus imperfect - many see the Constitution as sacred, beyond reproach.

Recently in Arizona, Romney used this sentiment on the campaign trail, saying the nation’s founding documents “were either inspired by God or they were written by brilliant people or perhaps a combination of both. …”

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Here we see Romney attempting to preach a version of American exceptionalism that many believe, but it comes off as soft, and fits into the troubled “Which Mitt?” brand.

A year ago, before Romney officially announced his candidacy, he said President Obama didn’t “understand what it is that makes this nation so successful, so powerful, so good.”

These rhetorical choices go beyond normal patriotic rhetoric and reveal Romney’s belief in America as good and the Constitution as sacred. They have the flavor of civil religion, but Romney remains too vague and needs to be more declarative.

2. Present himself as America’s patriarch

In the current campaign, Romney sings a song of American greatness.

After his win in New Hampshire, Romney tried to culturally connect with voters by defining his campaign as “... saving the soul of America.”

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“We want to restore America to the founding principles that made this country great,” Romney said. “This election, let’s fight for the America we love. We believe in America.”

Romney’s words paint the election as a moral imperative and a redemptive narrative.  By giving America human qualities, Romney makes himself the patriarch who can lead America back to a redemptive path.

Yet his rhetoric rings hollow because he does not define those founding principles, nor does he share a personal anecdote to connect to voters. You preach to the choir to get them to sing, but Romney needs to preach to the unconvinced.

3. Use civil religion to compensate for his Mormonism.

The former Massachusetts governor must convince the GOP primary voters that he is enough like them to rally the suburban warriors to join his campaign, and he must quell the quiet queries about his religion.

You see, Romney is facing a political reality: people don’t know much about Mormons. And as Ishmael reminds us in "Moby Dick," “Ignorance is the parent of fear.”

A recent Pew study found that when asked for one-word descriptions of presidential candidates, “Mormon” was the most common answer when describing Mitt Romney.

In June, a Gallup Poll found that only 76% of Americans would vote for a Mormon. The Pew Center found that while 68% say being a Mormon wouldn’t matter to their vote, 25% say they would be less likely to vote for a Mormon candidate.

While these perceptions are troubling for a country that values religious freedom, they are a political reality for the Romney campaign.

Indeed, these perceptions may help explain why Romney failed to win evangelical voters in Iowa, South Carolina, Missouri, Minnesota, or Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama.

4. Follow the lead of previous presidents

Past presidents have spoken with civil religion rhetoric, some more directly than others.

Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were masterful in their weaving of civil religion into their rhetoric, allowing them to connect emotionally with the American public.

In comforting the nation after the Oklahoma City bombing, President Clinton called on the American people, “…to purge [themselves] of the dark forces which gave rise to this evil.  They are forces that threaten our common peace, our freedom, our way of life.”

President Bush in 2004 made this appeal tied to the War in Iraq: “… one of the Iraqi men used his new prosthetic hand to slowly write out, in Arabic, a prayer for God to bless America. I am proud that our country remains the hope of the oppressed and the greatest force for good on this Earth.”

Both Clinton and Bush authentically tie a sense of religion to what it means to be American and what America means to the world.

A 1980 campaign ad for Jimmy Carter strikes an overtly religious chord as the commercial pans from the spine of a Bible to a shot of Carter sitting behind his desk.

The message is clear: Carter’s religion is part of his character.

Twenty years earlier, John Kennedy, our first Catholic president, went to great lengths to reassure the public that he could separate his religion from his governing.  Times have changed.

5. Look for a “Book of Mormon” moment

When Romney downplays his religion and speaks vaguely about his love of country and Constitution, he fails to seamlessly link his faith to his patriotism in creating his personal narrative. I’m not convinced that this is a smart strategy for Romney.

He appears to lack a core belief in something, thus we voters lack information to connect with Romney.

What he needs is a “Book of Mormon” moment.  In the Tony Award winning Broadway musical, Elder Price reaffirms his core beliefs via song.

But Romney shouldn’t just sing, as he did with "America the Beautiful" last month.

Romney could start by saying: “I believe that my faith in God led me through the tough times. I believe this because I’ve lived it. I’ve doubted myself as a young missionary, but my faith was my anchor. And, I believe that I would not be the person I am today if it weren’t for my faith, my family and this country.”

Without a statement of his core beliefs linking to his life experience, Romney’s personal narrative is shallow and his civil religion rhetoric will continue to ring hollow.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dan Birdsong.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: 2012 Election • Mitt Romney • Mormonism • Opinion • Politics

soundoff (440 Responses)
  1. Dapper Dan

    Mitt is doing the right thing by keeping silent about his religion. There is no good that can come of talking about his religion. It is a religion that teaches that all other religions are false.

    If Americans knew the contents of Joseph Smith's first vision, it would absolutely destroy Mitt's ability to appeal to 98% of American voters. Joseph Smith claims that God told him that all religions were false and an abomination. This is a core belief of the Mormon faith today.

    Mitt would be very smart to continue to be silent on his "Mormon" problem. You must be an Obama supporter to suggest that he should flaunt his religion to the American people. The less the American people know about Mormonism the better for Mitt.

    March 20, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
    • LinCA

      @Dapper Dan

      You said, "The less the American people know about Mormonism the better for Mitt."
      And the more they know about christianity, the better it would be for America.

      March 21, 2012 at 9:37 am |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      "There is no good that can come of talking about his religion. It is a religion that teaches that all other religions are false." Isn't that the exact same thing that can be said about christianity?

      March 21, 2012 at 9:57 am |
    • Dave

      Mormons believe men and women should worship as they see fit. And, they acknowledge truth in all religions.

      April 11, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
    • kenhbradshaw

      I know the contents of Joseph Smith's first vision. And I believe it. I think I am a pretty intelligent person. If it did not make spiritual and logical sense, I would walk away. But by based on my experience, it does make sense.

      April 26, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
  2. Prayer is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer makes you frothy like Rick Santorum. Just google him to find out or go to http://santorum.com
    Prayer takes people away from actually working on real solutions to their problems.
    Prayer has been shown to have no discernible effect towards what was prayed for.
    Prayer prevents you from getting badly needed exercise.
    Prayer makes you fat.
    Prayer wears out your clothes prematurely.
    Prayer contributes to global warming through excess CO2 emissions.
    Prayer fucks up your knees and your neck and your back.
    Prayer can cause heart attacks, especially among the elderly.
    Prayer reveals how stupid you are to the world.
    Prayer exposes your backside to pervert priests.
    Prayer makes you think doilies are exciting.
    Prayer makes you secretively flatulent and embarrassed about it.
    Prayer makes your kids avoid spending time with you.
    Prayer gives you knobbly knees.
    Prayer dulls your senses.
    Prayer makes you post really stupid shit.
    Prayer makes you hoard cats.
    Prayer makes you smell like shitty kitty litter and leads you on to harder drugs.
    Prayer wastes time.

    March 20, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • Toad

      Atheist filth

      March 20, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
    • just sayin

      Toad, don't worry he is going to burn forever.

      March 20, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
    • 101st birds

      Just saying,

      my god says you are going to burn forever!!
      are you Afraid??

      neither are we....

      March 20, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
  3. Urafkntool

    Forget it all. Let's give ALL of the politicos cement shoes and put me in power. I can fix this country in 3 easy steps.

    March 20, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • Okey Dokey

      That would make you a politico. So, since charity starts at home, give yourself cement shoes and solve the problem.

      March 20, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • Urafkntool

      Nope. Politicos lie and rely on public opinion of their lies. I'd tell the truth and expect my word to be obeyed. Of course the penalty for any form of disobediance would be summary execution, but hey.. can't have everything, right?

      March 20, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • Okey Dokey

      Good enough for me. I now appoint you Overlord Of The Universe! The customary greeting for the Overlord is "Jack"

      ALL HAIL JACK OVERLORD!!!!

      Yeah, that's pretty obscure, Dan-o.

      March 20, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
  4. So, you follow the words of an angel named Moron?

    This article is a collection of some of the worst advice anyone could give Romney.

    "Talk about himself as America's patriarch"? Thats fine if you want to lose women voters. The patriarchal aspects of Mormonism are amongst its creepier parts, and having that expand into the nations political arema . . . yeah, bad idea. Let's see who else we can insult with Birdsong's advice:

    "Use civil religion to compensate for his Mormonism" – Birdsong does not really describe what he means by this, but he is clear that people perceive Mormonism as a cult, and are dubious about having a cultist president. I guess he means make Mormonism seem ordinary like Christianity. That will be a very tough sell, and it will make Romney seem disingenuous – not what you want in a guy people don't quite trust.

    "Follow the lead of previous presidents" – meaning, play up the watered down version of spirituality he thinks Romney should sell the American public, and hope they buy it and forget that he is a Mormon, which is just like a Christian. Which does not work really well with moderates who do not particularly want religion in government, and which will be thought a fraud by the hard right.

    Basically, the previous two ideas suggest that Romney falsify his beliefs for the American public, make them tamer and more generic. And then . . .

    "Romney needs a Book of Mormon moment." Right. That would actually be a "Romney needs a Glock in the mouth moment." Embrace the thing that Americans are most dubious about in a Book of Mormon moment. Plant those golden plates and that impossible archaeology and good old Planet Kolob and the magic undies and the baptisms for the dead right in the public's perception. Maybe he could make it a real Eagleton moment and do it in late October so there is no recovering from it.

    What bad advice! I'm beginning to feel a bit sorry for Romney – okay, no I'm not. I think he should do EXACTLY what Birdsong suggested so we can have a good laugh as his campaign augers in.

    March 20, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • kenhbradshaw

      His name is Moroni (Ma roon' eye). And the answer is no. We follow the words of Jesus Christ. Do you follow the words of Luke when you read the New Testiment or are you following the words of Jesus?

      April 26, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
  5. GodPot

    The Presidency is a job much like any other. You are hired to perform a service for others who pay you for your service. If a jewish person applied for a job at a BBQ Pork Rib House I would hope no one denied him an application based on his faith as that would be discriminatory, but I would also hope that person didn't then refuse to work on pork products after he got the job based on his faith. The job we are hiring the President to do as commander in chief has NOTHING to do with being a religious figurehead or self-promoting any faith, it is a civil job and there are by definition NO civil religions.

    civ·il/ˈsivəl/Adjective: 1.Of or relating to ordinary citizens and their concerns, as distinct from military or ecclesiastical matters.

    March 20, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
  6. AGuest9

    Fortunately, we'll never have to find out.

    March 20, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
  7. Primewonk

    EllaCC wrote, "An LDS Church authority, Richard G. Scott, recently reminded members that after the world was created, the night was divided from the day, the earth was populated with animals and vegetation and after man was created; the Lord created woman as His last and crowning creation. Women in the church are regarded with respect and deference. We are equal partners with our spouses."

    Except, of course, that this is a lie, and yet another excellent example of what an absolutely terrible scientist your god was.

    He could not have separated the "day" from "night" on the first day. What determines night and day is the positional point with reference with respect to the sun. And, as we know, your god didn't get around to creating the sun until day 4.

    March 20, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • Primewonk

      Also, your god claims to have created vegetation on land on day 3. Yet, again, there was no photon source to drive photosynthesis – the sun.

      He claims to have created fish and birds on day 5, but no land animals until day six. But as anyone who has even a basic unserstanding of science knows, birds evolved from land animals. Thus your god messed up this as well.

      He also claimed to make a woman from the rib of a man on day 6. Yet again, he demonstrates his ignorance of even basic biology. Eve would have been a genetic clone of Adam, with the same XY chromosomal pattern as Adam, instead of the necessary XX pattern of a female. Your first woman, was a man. Adam was boinking himself.

      March 20, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • fred

      Primewonk
      Ok, whats up with the theory that humans evolved from one single primate, a female often dubbed "eve". Was that a hoax or is it still a valid part of the eolution theory? If so what does that do to you XX theory

      March 20, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • Primewonk

      Fred – you are talking about mitochondrial Eve. This the MRCA – most recent common ancestor on the matrial side – since in primates mitochondrial DNA (as opposed to nuclear DNA) is passed via linkage in the X chromosome.

      This does not mean that Eve was the first human. Just like DNA analysis points out Y-Chromosome Adam as the MRCA in the paternal side. These individuals lived in vastly different times and vastly different areas.

      March 20, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Mitochondrial Eve is not biblical eve – it is simply a name for the most recent female-line common ancestor
      She lived with other human like females – they simply failed to produce a direct unbroken female line to the present day.
      There is also a "Y Chromosome Adam" – estimated to have lived some 50,000 years after Eve.

      March 20, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • GodPot

      Ok, then whats up with the theory that Charlie Brown evolved from one single football headed female, a female often dubbed "Lucy". Was that a hoax or is it still a valid part of the eolution theory? If so what does that do to you XX theory...

      You see fred, the names are simply added for convenience so we don't have to say "Australopithecus afarensis" every time... It has nothing to do with actual origin.

      March 20, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • fred

      Doc
      Prmewonk
      If I understand correctly evolution does not claim male or female came first so at a minimun we cannot contest if God was right or wrong in male first then female. At issue would be the creation of female out of Adams rib which if God is who the Bible claims would not be a problem. If it is not litteral could the Bible be speaking of a prototype "Adam" cell where a chromosome was taken and put into another cell and the tecnical aspect dumbed down so man thousands of years ago could visualize where man and women came from?

      March 20, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • Primewonk

      Fred – your problem is that you have chosen to be ignorant about science. Which is fine, we all have to choose many things to be ignorant about, as there just isn't enough time to learn everything we want to learn. But, your problem is that you then make posts that demonstrate that ignorance, and in fact will wear that ignorance as a badge of honor.

      You keep thinking there was a "first" man or "first" woman. This mis not what science says. Evolution occurs at the population level, not the individual level. Additionally evolution does not state that things go – Species "A"-Species "A"-Species "A"-BOOM-Species "B"

      This is all stuff you should have learned in Junior High.

      March 20, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • fred

      Primewonk
      Based on what you learned in Junior High your initial statement attacking the Bible for creating women out of mans rib is without merit. On what scientific basis can you prove it was not male which came first?
      If God wanted to write a science book instead of the Bible he could have said “166million and 6 days ago my ancestral mammal developed an allelic variation” !
      Even Moses would never be able to translate that so the Hebrews could understand

      March 20, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • OhYeah

      "Based on what you learned in Junior High your initial statement attacking the Bible for creating women out of mans rib is without merit. On what scientific basis can you prove it was not male which came first?"

      The bible is not a historical document, it's only used for religious cults, it's not based on real facts.

      March 20, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • momoya

      @ fred

      Anybody with a decent understanding of evolution could write a better analogy than either of the two genesis accounts.. Imagine that Genesis simply detailed the proper order of species arriving on the planet through evolution, or imagine that Genesis gave described a simplified, but fairly accurate account of the major epochs of the big bang, or imagine that Genesis provided a basic understanding of the geological evolution of the earth.. It'd be a very simple task for most people, and certainly it wouldn't be any problem for god..

      You say a lot about the level of your faith when you claim that even god wouldn't be able to convince Moses of a certain fact.. I'd think that you should consider nothing too hard for god, especially describing scientific facts in a way that was accurate, yet simple enough for Moses to understand.

      March 20, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • @youignantdotcom

      "If God wanted to write a science book instead of the Bible he could have said “166million and 6 days ago my ancestral mammal developed an allelic variation” !"

      Too bad "god" didnt write the bible. Man did. Actually man men over a long period of time. Then other men edited it. #youignant.

      March 20, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
    • Primewonk

      Fred wrote, " On what scientific basis can you prove it was not male which came first?"

      Seriously? What part of "You keep thinking there was a "first" man or "first" woman. This is not what science says. Evolution occurs at the population level, not the individual level." do you NOT understand?

      You are denigrating what you clearly do not understand. Perhaps you would be better served by spending less time reading myths and instead enrolling in a remedial freshman level biology course at your closest college?

      March 20, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • fred

      OhYeah
      “The bible is not a historical docu-ment, it's only used for religious cults, it's not based on real facts. “
      We continually dig up artifacts and proof that back up the historical facts as presented in the Bible. Those artifacts are as real and as proven as other antiquity. The Bible has the history of the chosen ones through the perspective of likes of Moses, Isaiah and many others. Until the Dead Sea Scrolls were found atheists even claimed the Talmud was made up out of thin air.
      As to the New Testament atheists claim it is all fake yet there are key manuscripts and letters that all reputable scholars attest to as very real. With artifacts to boot.

      March 20, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
    • momoya

      @fred

      I'm not sure what archeology you are talking about; as a body, archeological discoveries disprove the bible, although they do prove the existence of certain geographies discussed in the bible.. Although I'm speaking of multiple archeological facts, I'll provide you with one: Egyptology makes it inconceivable that a large number of "Hebrews" were ever slaves or workers in Egypt.. Throw in an impossible world-wide flood and stupid creation stories, and you're left with a myth-book..

      March 20, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
    • fred

      momoya
      You are suggesting God brainwash or inplant specific detailed knowledge into the brain of Moses 3,400 years ago. Moses had no reference point and neither did his people of that time that could allow for comprehension or transmission of such information. Even 1,400 years later Jesus used symbolic reference to known cultural events and objects not Dr. Phil psycho babble to explain good and evil in man. The Bible can’t really describe heaven without use of gold, jasmine etc when drawing an image.
      momoya you can understand great things yet you cannot understand the smallest things of God. You are suggesting that God zap your head to reveal to you what has never been fully revealed to another soul. You would no longer be momoya but a new creation of God. I suppose God could do that but that would be your plan and idea not Gods. If there is a God the assumption should be he is more capable than we are to design a plan.
      You do not like the current plan which gives each individual free will to choose the things of God or something else. If God laid out the compete DNA sequence in the appendix of the Bible instead of the book of revelation there would come a point in time were man could figure it out. Then from that point forward scientists would not need faith in order to find God. Do you think if heaven was filled up with souls that arrived by proof over faith it would be the same? Eve turned away from perfect goodness of her Creator to something more appealing at the moment. Since that moment only those that turn back to the Creator preferring that over the creation understand what is of greater value. You are suggesting we need to give God a head start if His ways are to win out. Simply thinking your power of reason trumps faith says God has chosen an inferior path.

      March 20, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
    • momoya

      @fred

      No, I'm not suggesting that god do anything.. I'm telling you what the bible is: a book of collected myths.. It makes perfect sense as a myth-book, but makes for a rather stupid and childish god.. I believe what makes more sense.. If you want to claim it's more than that then you are left making excuses from one minute to the next, if not for apologetic reasons, then for your own reasoning.. It makes more sense to believe the bible is a myth book then to seriously suggest it explains god in any rational way.

      March 20, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
    • fred

      momoya
      “I'm not sure what archeology you are talking about; as a body, archeological discoveries disprove the bible”
      =>I was speaking of antiquity that came from King David and the like

      “Egyptology makes it inconceivable that a large number of "Hebrews" were ever slaves or workers”
      =>The population was 150,000 plus at the time of the pyramids in Egypt last I heard. The number of Hebrews is not necessarily that far off 50 generations latter when Moses showed up assuming normal growth. I am just guessing here by the way as I always took the numbers in the Bible for granted. I will take a look when I get a chance.

      “ Throw in an impossible world-wide flood”
      =>God does not follow the way of science however; does it matter if the flood was literal, allegory or metaphor? The story remains the same and tells the same principles which anyone who wants to know God will find refreshing.

      “stupid creation stories, and you're left with a myth-book..”
      =>In 10,000 or 200,000 years we may find your creation story little more than a myth. Darwin the king of a race of people called evolutionists, wizards of science, cosmologists that could look back 13.7 billion years in time, paleontologists that unveiled creatures of old much beyond the unicorn – creatures that transformed from fish to dogs and back to dolphins and whales, men with mighty bats like the Babe were worshiped, lady GaGa a female with many faces worshiped with wild dancing while the $ex goddess Jay lo slay millions
      Then one day we awoke from the induced dream state in the presence of endless souls some of light and some lost in a void of nothingness far from the warm glow we are continually drawn towards.

      March 20, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
    • fred

      momoya
      Bottom line I saw the Bible as nonsense and did not even have the time (or perhaps intellect) or desire to dig into its stories. I would agree with you it was best read as a book of myths that inspire religion. If I had not had a conversion experience, if I had not personally witnessed Gods miracles in my life and if some low probability event had not occurred each time I began to slip back into my previous world view then I would not be on this web site.
      I have little to offer the intellectual and less to offer any scientific discipline. Perhaps I am testing God as every time someone throws out a tid bit that is new I run to God with it for an explanation. Take for example your statement as to the number of Hebrews in Egypt. I need to sort that out and squeeze it back into the Divine Word of God. If it is bad on any point I will toss the entire Bible out.

      March 20, 2012 at 8:41 pm |
    • momoya

      @fred

      Archeology does not support a believable bible narrative.. You've got to make countless excuses for the bible in order to cling to the belief that it is more than myth.. Some christians are better than others at that task.

      Egyptology disproves the biblical account of the jews in Egypt; the flood never occurred, and portrays a very ridiculous god with stupid ideas, so of course you've got to justify it by excusing it as a myth that serves a moral purpose or some other mechanism..

      That you can describe our current culture as a myth with similar features as are found in your silly myth isn't very impressive, and of course science and philosophy and maths will be defined to greater and greater accuracy, and of course new data will make for better conclusions–that's the point.. Your god is one of your own making.. You claim to understand what you cannot (because it was written in a different culture and spoke to a people with understandings unique to that language and time period).. You claim that reality is how you say it is, because you have privileged knowledge that enables you to forgive glaring problems with the dominant myth of your own culture while you would consider them disproof were they simply problems for a myth-belief of a different culture.. You might as well recognize your own arrogance if you're going to continue.

      March 20, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • momoya

      @ fred

      It all depends on how honest you can be with yourself.. If you can be honest, and evaluate the bible and christianity with exactly the same rigor as you would some other belief and it's holy book, then you will reach the conclusion that the bible is mythical and your belief in its god is ridiculous to continue.. Few christians are able to apply unbiased criticism to their own book and belief, though they have no problem in doing this with another's book and belief.. How hypocritical are you willing to be in order to maintain your dedication to your god?

      March 20, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
    • fred

      momoya
      I imagine you think it coincidence that there were two trees in the Garden and two sons of Abraham named Isaac and Ishmael. God said (writing dated 750 bc to 1400 bc, Abraham much sooner) Ishmael would always attack and seek to destroy Isaac yet God told Abraham he would bless both with great numbers. God told Israel he would make her a great nation in the Promised Land. Today we still have the nation of Israel, Jews descendents of Isaac and the Arabs /Palestinians descendents of Ishmael ready to destroy Israel. The Bible is a story about God redeeming a people for Himself and we are in the final chapter of that story.
      Two criminals on the cross next to Christ one mocked the other simply recognized his sin and that Christ was innocent. How we see God reveals our soul. The Jews reject this Christ so their soul is revealed in the never ending squabble of two brothers over the Promised Land. Jews are waiting for the Messiah the Muslims awaits the 13th Imam to free them of their enemies.
      Atheists see this as nonsense yet the Christians, Muslims and Jews are marching towards Armageddon. The unfolding of this myth will impact atheists today and in the future. Can a myth be real in the present? Is a Bible, that predicts a bright light which makes the promised land uninhabitable destroying 2/3 of the population nonsense when 5,000 years later we see the brothers of Ishmael building an atomic bomb and telling the world they will annihilate Israel, simply a collection of myths?

      March 20, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
    • momoya

      @ fred

      Yes, the bible is a collection of myths; no, I'm not surprised that people who believe in the myths of Abrahamic origin can shoehorn their interpretation of the scripture into their understanding of current events.

      March 21, 2012 at 9:29 am |
    • Dave

      It is interesting that the odds of God creating the earth are criticized, but the odds of the earth being created by itself are not.

      April 11, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
  8. J.W

    I am sure now that Obama will be reelected. Eva Longoria is campaigning for him. She is very lovely.

    March 20, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
  9. EllaCC

    I think the assertion that Romney "appears to lack a core belief in something" is backwards. Romney is firmly rooted in his faith but he is often speaking with people who are not. Many religions today are a la carte. People chose a religion that affirms their choices and then pick and choose what aspects of the faith they will apply in their lives; in essence, they put Jesus Christ in the passenger seat. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we strive to align our lives with the teachings of Jesus Christ; we put Jesus Christ in the driver's seat. We want Him one day to hear Him say "well done, good and faithful servant".

    March 20, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • Primewonk

      Since the Consti.tution mandates that no religious test be used for any office – what an individual President's beliefs are, or are not, should be irrelevant. We elect a person to be President of 300,000,000 Americans. Not a group of Mormons, or Catholics, or Lutherans, or atheists.

      For some bizare reason, the fundiot tea baggers have turned this election into which candidate can "out-Jesus" the others.

      This is exactly the same thing we are fighting against in the middle east.

      March 20, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • Sue

      Primewonk, re "out-Jesus the others", what a great description of what those idiots are doing.

      Not that Jesus was much to follow, given that he opposed both business and democracy.

      March 20, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  10. MarriedToAFormerMormon

    My wife, a former Mormon, wants to know one simple question. Does Mitt's wife know his Secret Heaven Name? When my wife asked her former husband what his Secret Heaven Name is, she was told that she could not know it.

    Seems that he is the only one who knows her Secret Heaven Name. that's so she can get into heaven through his hand only.

    Now, I don't really care much about secret Heaven Names and all, I do care about a President who grew up in a religion that treats women as second class citizens ... in heaven. How are they treated here on earth?

    Does Mitt's wife know his Secret Heaven Name? Bet not.

    March 20, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • Primewonk

      " I do care about a President who grew up in a religion that treats women as second class citizens .."

      Well, that leaves out all of christianity, islam, and judaism

      March 20, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • EllaCC

      "Former" anythings often present contrarian views. An LDS Church authority, Richard G. Scott, recently reminded members that after the world was created, the night was divided from the day, the earth was populated with animals and vegetation and after man was created; the Lord created woman as His last and crowning creation. Women in the church are regarded with respect and deference. We are equal partners with our spouses.

      March 20, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • Mormon Wife

      "Women in the church are regarded with respect and deference. We are equal partners with our spouses." Except that our husbands hold the key to our entrance into heaven so we better behave, which we should want to do anyway because God says the Husband is the head of the household, so it's more of a separate but equal thing. What is that called again?...

      Oh yeah, apartheid...

      March 20, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • You nailed it.

      Mormon women are raised to be breeding stock. Yes, that sounds harsh, but the truth is that they are not encouraged to go be productive, high-functioning professionals, and they are never allowed into the upper levels of their Church's practices. The are encouraged to raise families and bear lots of children.

      March 20, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • LinSea

      Growing up in the Mormon church, I was always taught to get as much education as I could and to be self-supporting. I know many Mormon women who are lawyers, doctors, dentists, family therapists, educators. and all kinds of professionals. There are tens of thousands of Mormon women currently attending LDS universities. This talk about men being superior to women in the LDS church is complete garbage. And just a reminder–"Mormon Wife" - the husband can't get in without his wife, either. Marriage is meant by God to be a partnership, and that is what the church teaches. Perhaps you have not been paying attention. If your husband is trying to assert some kind of superiority or domination, he is in the wrong.

      March 21, 2012 at 4:28 am |
  11. Rev. Rick

    If most of the GOP is made of the idiots who still believe Obama is a Muslim, Romney should have to do very little to convince them to vote for a Mormon.

    March 20, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
  12. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    March 20, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • Jesus

      You've been proven a liar over and over again on this blog. A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested Friday morning...

      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.

      Plus don't forget. 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!! .. .. .. ... .. . ..

      March 20, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
  13. onestarman

    The Author is confusing MAMMONISM with Mormonism – Mammon is the god of Wealth and Power. This is essentially the GOD of ROME which worshiped the STANDARD of the EMPIRE like we WORSHIP the FLAG.

    March 20, 2012 at 11:53 am |
  14. "No Apologies Allowed" Weekly Apologetics Cartoons

    These are interesting thoughts and, who knows, maybe someone will bring them to Romney's attention.

    It would likely be that only those of us termed "religious" would find the idea of uniting under "civil religion" a worthwhile cause. The trouble is: religious teachings regarding morals (what they are and how they are to be executed) are not all the same. The distinctive features of Mormonism - its view of origin and purpose of The Book of Mormon; its regard for Joseph Smith; its use of the term "apostle"; etc. - would make it difficult if not impossible to unite under one banner. For example, as a Christian, the core of my life centers around the teachings of Jesus, His ecclessia, and the Bible (Old and New Testaments); that is where my sense of moral duties (who's, how's, and why's) are formed and refined. They don't come from The Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, or The Pearl of Great Price, and they don't involve a temple with a golden angel on top and they are not governed in relation to any of those. Besides, Jesus teaches an inside-out approach to social change (starting in the individual human heart), not a top-down approach through government bodies. (He was offered the kingdoms of the world and was nearly forced to become king. He rejected both.)

    So, wishing is fine. Praying is better. But to have us support someone who is part of an organization whose founder wrote us off as "all corrupt" (Joseph Smith, History 1:18-19) and that our teachings were "an abomination" (ibid) would require a miracle, I think.

    Anybody else have any thoughts?

    March 20, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • Brad

      You know, it's possible Romney doesn't actually believe Mormon doctrine. A politician would have great difficulty leaving behind a religion he once embraced publicly.

      March 20, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • Ron

      If one examine closely the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and its core teachings and roots, and sincerely ask God himself trough prayers and not some Pastors or crazy anti Mormon websites then one will come to know that it is the most Christian religion you will ever experience and will surely be changing your life. Others will ridicule the Book of Mormon, Pearl of great price, Doctrine and Covenants without trying to examine it purely and finding faults will surely come to no benefit (like the pharisees of Old). The Book of Mormon exposes the enemy of Christ, the wrong doctrines and practices, and foretells a pattern on how to overcome the pride, lies and worldy things that is in our time. If i will be in the shoes of other Christian religion it will not be easy for me to understand all this things because doing so means leaving the old ways they have grown with. To some means breaking a hard habbit, to others doing sacrifice, and many other things that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints members are practicing in their lives. But once one step out from their customary belief and follow the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints they will experience a tremendous freedom and peace in this chaotic world that which we now live.

      March 20, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • Primewonk

      Ron wrote, " then one will come to know that it is the most Christian religion you will ever experience and will surely be changing your life."

      Kind of like when they wouldn't let black men become priests? Kind of like how they subjugate women yet today. Hmmmm... Just like other christian religions!

      March 20, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • GodPot

      "when they wouldn't let black men become priests? Kind of like how they subjugate women yet today"

      But Primewonk, Ron is trying to say if you study the book of Mormon you to will understand that belittling blacks and subjugating women is the best way to live, God's way, I mean, he didn't give blacks very clean skin now did he, and he makes women bleed every month so they must be inferior...Right Ron?

      March 20, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • Primewonk

      But godPot – that isn't anything different than any of the other christian cults, er, sects, er, faiths.

      March 20, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • GodPot

      But Primewonk, the difference is that Mormons are a little behind the other faiths in finding way's to rationalize their bigotry and eventually making the claim that they didn't really discriminate at all or those who did weren't "real" Christians who represent their current state of faith, which as you know is as solid and unchanging as the firmament, if firmament referred to something with the consistency of pudding...

      March 20, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • Primewonk

      I don't know godPot – I'm betting that there aren't a whole lot of Mormons in Mississippi and Alabama. In recent polls, about half of all republicans (read: fundamentalist christian) in these states say that it should still be illegal for those "colored" folks to marry white folks.

      March 20, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
    • GodPot

      I didn't say the Christians weren't bigoted racists, I just said the Mormons are a little behind them in at least allowing their wives out of the kitchens or let darker skinned members get into their special heavens. Many in the south have accepted that they can no longer own black people, though few really believe they are equals... sadly most will never accept equal rights for minorities or women and will die clutching their bigotry and bible to their chest.

      March 20, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
    • J.W

      None of that is true.

      March 20, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • LinSea

      But if everything was right with the path Christianity was on, why did Martin Luther believe that something had gone very wrong, why did he post his 95 theses? Why did Calvin decide to go down his own path? What about Wycliffe, Hus, Zwingli? Many of those men literally died to try to correct what they saw as corrupt teachings.

      Why did so many different denominations split off if everything was just fine and no one disagreed about doctrine or never heard teachings in the churches that they thought were contrary or changed from Christ's original teachings? Why did the Greek and Eastern/Russian Orthodox churches split off even earlier than the Reformists? Why were there Agnostics and Coptics and many other very different versions of Christianity even earlier? Aren't new denominations and churches still being established?

      March 21, 2012 at 5:10 am |
  15. Brad

    The Caesars understood civil religion. It seems out of place in a constitutional republic with a president of limited powers. Shall we make a Caesar of Romney – a god-man in charge of our sacred political institutions?

    March 20, 2012 at 11:15 am |
  16. momoya

    Just think, no matter who becomes president, it'll be somebody who believes in talking snakes or magic underwear..

    March 20, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • Haylie

      You know, our country could use a little more civility. Part of that civility is not ridiculing people for their beliefs, especially when you don't understand what those beliefs entail.

      March 20, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • Primewonk

      Haylie – the problem is that no matter how much the fundiots whine about it – we are not a theocracy.

      Perhaps if these folks spent less time trying to "out-Jesus" each other, we wouldn't even have these discussions?

      March 20, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
  17. BRC

    This is more of a political post than a religious post, so sorry for going off topic; but stuff like this is what drives me crazy about our Nation's politics, and why I think our government kind of really sucks right now.

    STOP TALKING ABOUT HOW TO GET ELECTED! Stop strategizing, stop scheming, stop crafting and manipulating images; and this means everyone, not just one specific candidate (presidential and congressional candidates on both sides of the aisle). Instead, take the time you were planning to spend coming up with how to get in the office, and focus on what you would do in office. Come up with plans/programs/ideas, develope them, have the ability to explain them to the people, and figure out how to put them in place. The color of a candidate's tie shouldn't matter, they're ability to put together a strong group of specialists to address and fix major financial refulation issues should.

    And the PEOPLE are just as much at fault. Stop caring about the superficial, look at what they mean and what they will do. If a person's campaign is nothing but I feel and I believe, and things that are obviously intended to make you like them, they're full of it, don't trust them. Find a candidate who says these are the problems, here are my solutions, if you elect me I will make them work. Stop falling for political campaining, it's an insult to our combined intelligince and it's damaging this nation.

    Thanks all, rant over, and I would have no trouble voting for a Mormon if they said they were a President first and a Mormon second, and actually had good ideas.

    March 20, 2012 at 10:42 am |
    • momoya

      That's asking too much of the american people who for the last 60 years or so has simply voted for the tallest and best-looking of the options available.

      March 20, 2012 at 10:45 am |
    • BRC

      @momoya,
      A depressing yet pretty accurate point.

      March 20, 2012 at 10:48 am |
  18. Mormonism = Civil Religion

    No book contains more prophecies about America than the Book of Mormon. Whether you're inclined to doubt it or accept it, everyone should read it. Mormons do not need to conpensate for their beliefs. Mormonism = Civil Religion.

    March 20, 2012 at 10:35 am |
    • Primewonk

      No holy book of any religion gets any prophesy right.

      March 20, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • Mark Twain

      “All men have heard of the Mormon Bible, but few except the "elect" have seen it, or, at least, taken the trouble to read it. I brought away a copy from Salt Lake. The book is a curiosity to me, it is such a pretentious affair, and yet so "slow," so sleepy; such an insipid mess of inspiration. It is chloroform in print. If Joseph Smith composed this book, the act was a miracle — keeping awake while he did it was, at any rate.”

      March 20, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
  19. catholic engineer

    “The Deklaration of Indypendance dogmatically bases all rights on the fact that God created all men equal; and it is right; for if they were not created equal, they were certainly evolved unequal. There is no basis for democracy except in a dogma about the divine origin of man.” – G.K. Chesterton What I Saw In America, 1922

    March 20, 2012 at 10:31 am |
    • momoya

      It's obvious that people are not equal, whether created or not.. It's a stupid lie.. However, you could have a representative democracy without its presence in the const.itution.

      March 20, 2012 at 10:43 am |
    • Primewonk

      If your god created all men equal, why did he keep changing his mind about it? You'd have thought an omnipotent, omniscient god would have gotten it right in the beginning.

      But no. At first, it was all white, land-owning MEN, who were created equal. Your god didn't get around to creating black men as being equal until the 1860's (yeah, right). He didn't get around to creating women as being equal until the 1920's. Then your god changed his mind yet again and decided to create 18, 19, and 20 year olds equal in the 1970's.

      Sorry.

      March 20, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • fred

      Primewonk
      God has not changed any position relative to man, women, black or white. What are you going on about? Do not confuse religeous stuff like that coming from the Mormons who have changed their position with God who has not. If you want to attack the Hebrew Bible stick with the facts from the Hebrew Bible. If you want to bash God at least use the words of God not the words of man.

      March 20, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • lunchbreaker

      God apparently deemed Noah and his family unequal to the rest of the human population He killed.

      March 20, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • Primewonk

      Fred wrote, " God has not changed any position relative to man, women, black or white. What are you going on about? Do not confuse religeous stuff like that coming from the Mormons who have changed their position with God who has not. If you want to attack the Hebrew Bible stick with the facts from the Hebrew Bible. If you want to bash God at least use the words of God not the words of man."

      The key phase the fundiots use is, " We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights"

      Obviously your god was quite confused, as different groups of people recieved these unalienable rights at different times.

      March 20, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • fred

      Interesting in that we are equal in Gods eyes because all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God. We are equal in that we can chase after good and or evil however we choose and God does not take away those God given rights. Then man makes choices to follow the ways of God or not and is free to do whatever. Along the line the Government or Church steps in and lays down its rules and regulations that begin to restrict that freedom and equality God gave.
      The Bible says if you follow the ways of God no rules or authority can take away from you what you have. They killed Christ yet could not take away anything that was of God. I am not aware of any laws today that restrict a man doing the Divine work of God (in the U.S.) so Gods laws must still overide all other laws in a nation that is free.

      March 20, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • Primewonk

      Fred wrote, " Interesting in that we are equal in Gods eyes"

      Why was the SBC formed? Those folks ere just positive that their god wanted them to own black people.

      Why do so many christian cults still subjugate women? Because that is how they spin their bible.

      You also wrote, "I am not aware of any laws today that restrict a man doing the Divine work of God (in the U.S.) so Gods laws must still overide all other laws in a nation that is free."

      One law from your god is that you are to killing gay folks. Are you doing this? Another law says that young unengaged virginss who are ra.ped have to marry their attacker. Are you doing this? Another law is that women who aren't virgins on their wedding night must be stoned. Are you doing this?

      Additionally, your first commandment states that I must worship your god – under penalty of death and eternal torture. My first amendment says I can worship any god or gods I want, or no gods. Guess what? My first trumps your first. I win.

      March 20, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • Primewonk

      "God apparently deemed Noah and his family unequal to the rest of the human population He killed."

      Not just humans! Think of all the puppies god killed. Think of all the cute little lambs that never got to meet mint jelly. Think of all the Kitteh's who can not haz cheezburger!

      March 20, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • just sayin

      Try reading the account of Noah and asking yourself , Why? See if you can figure it out.

      March 20, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
    • Primewonk

      just sayin wrote, "Try reading the account of Noah and asking yourself , Why? See if you can figure it out."

      Except of course, there was no global flood.

      That would have required 30 feet of water to fall every hour for 40 days It works out to a billion cubic miles of water. As you (should have) learned in junior high, when water condenses, it releases heat energy. A billion cubic miles of water condensing would have release the same amount of heat energy as a few billion atomic bombs the size we dropped on Hiroshima.

      And what did the obligate carnivores eat? Remember, besides the 40 days of rain, they floated for 9 months. Then, all the arable land would have been under thousands of pounds per square inch of pressue for almost a year – under brackish water. And since all life – including plant, and bacteria, would have died, the odds are, life would have evolved much different. So what did the obligate carnivores eat for the generations it would have taken to re-establish a sustainable ecosystem?

      Seriously, do any of you fundiots ever crack open a science journal?

      March 20, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • Ummm

      "Seriously, do any of you fundiots ever crack open a science journal?"

      They are too afraid too, it would mean they would have to face reality.

      March 20, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • fred

      Primewonk
      “One law from your god is that you are to killing gay folks. Are you doing this?”
      =>The law as to killing includes hate of another person so anyone that hates gay folk are guilty of murder. Yes, such a person will be held accountable to God for this.
      “ Another law says that young unengaged virginss who are ra.ped have to marry their attacker.”
      =>assuming you refer to Deuteronomy 22:28 this gave an out to the virgin who snuck off with a boy friend and got caught or saved face for the family while providing penalty to the rapist. The alternative is tribal war or death. Remember what happened to Dianna in the Bible when she was rap-ped (every male in the rap-ist family was killed)
      Gods law is very straight forward on r-ape and the penalty is far worse then this society can hand out if the sin is not repented and resti-tution made.
      “Another law is that women who aren't virgins on their wedding night must be stoned.”
      =>Not the law of God. If you are saying you disagree with a law that never existed for Gentiles and applied to a tribal people 2,000 ago then yes it is a disagreeable law. Even Jesus in 30AD basically said your stoning laws are wrong and foolishness of wicked religious leaders.
      “Additionally, your first commandment states that I must worship your god”
      =>no it says the tribe of Israel years ago must worship God in the context you pulled it from. Gods law is that we are to love God with all our heart and mind. The penalty is that you miss out on the blessings of God.
      “ My first amendment says I can worship any god or gods I want, or no gods. Guess what? My first trumps your first. I win.”
      =>No, God has always given you the free choice and our first amendment protects what God has already given you.

      March 20, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • Denise

      How come god hates those starving and diseased kids in Africa so much and doesn't lift a royal fukin finger to help them? Christian god must be quite the giant an-us licker.

      March 20, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
    • fred

      Denise
      We have had the resources and technology to end hunger. Problem is man chooses to spend his tme and money on feel good stuff for himself. God is not the problem man is.
      Suggest you stop wasting your time and money on the selfish stuff you must have and send it to the starving kids

      March 21, 2012 at 12:45 am |
  20. What the ...?

    Huh?

    March 20, 2012 at 10:29 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.