Why a president’s faith may not matter
We’re accustomed to presidential displays of piety but historians say a president’s faith is no sure guide to how he will govern.
June 30th, 2012
10:00 PM ET

Why a president’s faith may not matter

By John Blake, CNN

He called himself a “life-long Quaker and a church-going Christian,” and at first there was no reason to doubt him.

He played piano in the church, taught Sunday school, and praised Jesus at revivals. His mother thought he was going to be a missionary. His friends said he would be a preacher.

We now know this former Sunday school teacher as “Tricky Dick” or, more formally, President Richard Nixon. He was one of the most corrupt and paranoid men to occupy the Oval Office. Nixon gave us Watergate, but he also gave presidential historians like Darrin Grinder a question to ponder:

Does a president’s religious faith make any difference in how he governs?

“I don’t think so,” says Grinder, author of “The Presidents and Their Faith,” which examines the faith of all American presidents.

“If I asked George W. Bush what he thought about torture, I think outside the presidency he would say he hates it,” Grinder says. “But he’d do it for the country if he thinks it’s right in terms of American security.”

We elect a president every four years, but perhaps we also elect a high priest.  Ever since George Washington spontaneously added “so help me God” to his inaugural oath, Americans have expected their presidents to believe in, worship and publicly invoke God.

A presidential candidate who doesn’t meet these religious expectations won’t go far, Grinder says.

“It’s going to be a long time before anyone who openly admits that he or she is an agnostic or an atheist is elected,” Grinder says. “We tie character and religious beliefs together.”

Piety and presidential greatness don’t always mix

 History suggests, however, that piety and presidential performance don’t always match. Some of America’s most religious presidents have been its most brutal. And two of its greatest presidents wouldn’t even be considered Christians today, scholars say.

Consider Abraham Lincoln, who is widely acknowledged as one of the nation’s three greatest presidents, along with Washington and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. But Lincoln, who never joined a church, was not a Christian, says Niels C. Nielsen, author of “God in the Obama Era.”

“Lincoln believed in an active God, he believed in providence. But if you asked Lincoln if he believed in the deity of Jesus, he would have said no,” Nielsen says.

Or look at Roosevelt, who is virtually a national saint. With his perpetual grin and a cigarette holder perched jauntily in his mouth, he guided the nation through the Great Depression and World War II. His legacy is built on his New Deal, an array of programs that protected the poor and elderly from the abuses of unrestrained capitalism.

But Roosevelt was no saint in his personal life. He rarely talked publicly about his Episcopalian faith, preferred golf over church (before he was stricken by polio), and likely cheated on his wife, scholars say.

Yet few presidents embodied the biblical concept of “comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable” as much as Roosevelt, who once called the heartless business tycoons of his day “the money changers” in the temple.

Nielsen, the historian, suggests that it was Roosevelt’s suffering that drove him to look out for the most vulnerable, not his faith. According to his wife, Eleanor, polio taught her husband “infinite patience and never-ending persistence.”

“I think it made him more sensitive to the feelings of people,” Eleanor said, according to Nielsen.

Another contemporary president’s concern for others seemed to be driven more by his exposure to suffering than his faith.

Lyndon Johnson plunged America deeper into Vietnam. Yet his “Great Society” programs displayed a concern for “the least of these” in America. Under Johnson, the government launched programs to protect the civil rights of minorities, improve the educational chances of needy children and protect the environment.

Johnson saw poverty as a sin, something that should be attacked and defeated.

But Johnson never seemed to have any problem with a little personal sin. He grew up in Texas, where he affiliated with Disciples of Christ and Baptist churches. But he is widely believed to have stolen one of his earliest elections. He was a womanizer, historians say, and his speech was filled with such vulgarity that reporters had a difficult time quoting him on the record.

“He didn’t have any morality,” says Nielsen.

But he did have the experience of teaching in a poor, rural, immigrant school in Texas, Grinder says, where Johnson once said he learned “what poverty and hatred can do when you see its scars on the hopeful face of a young child.”

One of Johnson’s domestic advisers says in Grinder’s book that Johnson’s commitment to racial justice and eliminating poverty came from his teaching days in Texas.

“Equal opportunity became for him a constitutional obligation, and he pursued it with messianic conviction,” said Joseph Califano Jr.

Our first ‘infidel’ president

Some American presidents didn’t just seem indifferent to religion.  They were accused of being hostile to organized religion and dismissive of Jesus.

Washington, the nation’s first president, was not a Christian but most likely a Deist, someone who believed in a divine, beneficent being who ordered the world. Clergy would often try to goad him into publicly stating that he was a Christian, but he refused to do so, Grinder says.

Thomas Jefferson, though, aroused the hostility of more religious leaders than any other president, except perhaps for President Obama.

The nation’s third president once said that he didn’t care if his neighbor worshiped one God or 20, and argued for the separation of church and state. His opponents called him a pagan and an infidel. New England farm wives buried their family Bibles in gardens because they heard Jefferson would confiscate them, Grinder says.

Grinder wrote that one pastor who campaigned against Jefferson’s election warned:

“If Jefferson is elected, the Bible will be burned, the French Marseillaise will be sung in Christian churches, and we may see our wives and daughters become the victims of legal prostitution.”

Most presidents, however, didn't speak out against organized religion like Jefferson. Some took on the high priest role of the office, and few did it as eagerly as our nation’s seventh president, Andrew Jackson.

Jackson was a devout Presbyterian who read three to five chapters of the Bible daily, built a chapel in his Tennessee home and publicly attended two Washington churches while in the White House. He is known as one of the most devout presidents.

Yet he was also known for his violent temper (he killed a man in a duel) and for being a rich slaveholder. Jackson’s claim to infamy, though, comes primarily from his treatment of Native Americans. Some historians describe it as genocidal. He slaughtered Seminole Indians and their families in Florida, and he is responsible for the deaths of thousands of Cherokees, who he forced from their homeland in Georgia.

How could Jackson reconcile his fervent religious beliefs with the mass killings of Native Americans? Grinder thinks he knows:

“He was brutal because he did not believe the persons he was being brutal to were human.”

 Obama and his faith

Anyone who doubts that a president’s faith remains important to the American people has only to look at the experiences of Obama.

Obama has declared his Christianity in his biography, and in many speeches. He evoked it recently when he came out in support of same-sex marriages. But arguably no president has had his faith so aggressively questioned. Many Americans still believe he is a Muslim.

Stephen Mansfield, author of “The Faith of Barack Obama,” is a political conservative who has written about the evangelical faith of President George W. Bush. He became curious about Obama and spent time talking to Obama’s spiritual cabinet, a collection of ministers who counsel Obama.

Mansfield says he has no doubt that Obama is a devout Christian. His belief has angered some fellow conservatives so much that he says he has had speeches canceled and received angry e-mails.

“I take him seriously as a Christian,” Mansfield says. “He’s a politically liberal Christian man who is making a deeper journey of faith all the time.”

Mansfield says Obama’s health care law is an expression of faith: his belief that Christians are obligated to look out for the most vulnerable.

“Barack Obama believes that the mechanism of the state ought to be used in service of the biblical idea of saving the needy and the poor and the oppressed,” says Mansfield.

For some, though, Obama’s faith will always be associated with the angry sermons of Jeremiah Wright, his former pastor. Yet Mansfield says Obama has embraced a more traditional form of Christianity since becoming president.

In his book, Mansfield tells a story about Obama ministering to a pastor who had experienced a death in the family. Mansfield says he was stunned that Obama could draw so easily from a deep well of scripture to minister to a minister.

“He is serious about his faith,” says Mansfield, also author of  “The Mormonizing of America.”   “He’s absolutely not a Muslim.”

Nielsen, author of “God in the Obama Era,” has a theory why some Americans believe Obama is a Muslim.

“They hate him so much,” Nielsen says. “He’s polarized the country.”

Nielsen says Obama’s unconventional religious background may arouse suspicion, but it’s an asset. Obama was raised in Hawaii and Indonesia, where he was exposed to Catholicism, Islam, Buddhism and other religions. When he lived in Chicago, his Christianity was shaped by the black church’s emphasis on social justice.

“He knows more about world religions than anybody that’s been in the White House,” Nielsen says.

The persistent scrutiny of Obama’s faith, though, has helped his presidential opponent more than the president, says Grinder, author of “The Presidents and Their Faith.”

“If [Mitt] Romney had almost any other opponent than Obama, I think we’d be hearing a lot more about Mormonism,” Grinder says. “He would be in the same place that Obama has been in the last five years.”

Once Obama leaves the Oval Office, don’t expect the religious scrutiny of presidents to fade, Grinder says. We still want our presidents to act like a politician and a priest.

“The religious rhetoric gets louder each year,” he says. “That’s not going to change anytime soon.”

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Books • Christianity • Church • Church and state • Culture wars • History • Poverty • Uncategorized

soundoff (2,727 Responses)
  1. Jessica

    I am always stunned by the absolute arrogance of the faith-based–the assumption that personal virtue is tied to public displays of religious belief. In my experience, the more someone goes to church, the more public their faith, the more obnoxious and judgemental and insensitive they really are. I have no problem with Jesus. It's his fans who disturb me.
    It's a sad truth that Americans would vote for a thieving incompetent who loves God over an honest genius who is an open agnostic.

    July 1, 2012 at 7:24 am |
    • A dose of reality

      Very well said. Thank you

      July 1, 2012 at 7:26 am |
    • gg

      You can't be a Christian and be agnostic. Which is Obama?

      July 1, 2012 at 7:28 am |
    • Shawn H

      gg why does it matter? He's answered the question for those that need an answer. Why would you care if he prays to his oatmeal in the morning? You either like his policies or you don't.

      July 1, 2012 at 7:30 am |
    • gg

      Obama needs to tell the truth. He is not a Christian. This is another fabrication of his, like so many other tales he's told of himself.

      July 1, 2012 at 7:30 am |
    • gg

      It matters because he said he is, but his actions don't reflect that. Is it alright to say I've won the Nobel Peace prize yet I haven't done anything to deserve it.

      July 1, 2012 at 7:32 am |
    • gg


      I never said personal virtue is tied to Christianity. My gripe is that Obama is using the Christian label to garner more votes and I think he's just a sleaze.

      July 1, 2012 at 7:42 am |
    • Dana

      I would prefer an reasoning atheist president to a brain-washed president.

      July 1, 2012 at 7:51 am |
    • Mop

      ** matters because he said he is, but his actions don't reflect that. Is it alright to say I've won the Nobel Peace prize yet I haven't done anything to deserve it.

      You are an idiot.
      You act like Obama gave himself that award.
      He didnt ask for it.
      As for him not being "christian" enough for you,
      did you even read the article ?
      He wanted those who couldnt afford health care to have it,
      not christian enough for you ?
      Or does your version of "christian" mean starting two wars ?


      July 1, 2012 at 8:24 am |
    • An Atheist

      for real, gg, get your head straight, every single idiot politician from either the left or right has always used religion as a way to garnish votes. it sounds to me like you have some personal issue with obama. this i think has nothing to do with his politics, i think its either because a black african american man, or youre brainwashed by faux news to hate him with real reasons why. ive always asked people why his religion is an issue, after all i see no reason why anyone should care. personally i have an issue with him believing in anything at all. it scares me that anyone who has their finger close to a button that could in the planet in fire, believes that a magical being in the sky wants to someday end the planet in fire.

      July 1, 2012 at 8:50 am |
    • Prarie

      if Obama didn't profess to be Christian, he wouldn't be president. My guess is that he's too intelligent to really believe all that Christianity teaches, and not stupid enough to say he's agnostic. What matter is how he governs, and that's the jist of the article.

      July 1, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • Prarie

      gist* (before someone basis my intelligence off of a misspelled word. Man that gets old on these comment boards.)

      July 1, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • E

      gg, I am not religious but it seems that the religious believe that faith is personal, in the heart, and cannot be measured. It is the only response we athiest have no answer for "because I believe". Why do you deny Obama this? You have peered into his heart and found no faith in Jesus or Christianity? This is why I cannot follow these people. Everything is black and white with no room for gray. I do not believe in God, am I positive he does not exist? Of course not, how could any human be? Yet you KNOW your god is real, you KNOW he (I guess, he, right?) is the only true one, and you KNOW Obama is not one of you. Where do you get this knowledge? Oh yeah....faith.

      July 3, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
  2. Shawn H

    I'm hopeful for the day we can elect a leader who isn't beholden to a storybook.

    July 1, 2012 at 7:24 am |
    • gg

      You must be talking about 'Dreams from My Father'.

      July 1, 2012 at 7:39 am |
    • Dana

      I hope I am still around when that happens.

      July 1, 2012 at 7:52 am |
    • Aldewacs

      Already happened.
      Both Clinton and Obama are too intelligent to fall for the magic stories, and too street savvy to admit it openly, because they know there are millions of deluded voters with their head up their a$$ who would vote for a dead horse if they thought it shared their brand of religion. Scary and sad.

      January 22, 2013 at 10:50 am |
  3. gg

    Obama says he's a Christian for politics only. A true Christian actually goes to church. A true Christian does not even condone abortion, much less support it. A true Christian tells the truth.I will vote for a true Christian, someone who is moral, not Obama.

    July 1, 2012 at 7:23 am |
    • Shawn H

      So I guess you're not voting this election since Romney can't keep his own stories straight either, right?

      July 1, 2012 at 7:24 am |
    • One one

      A true Christian goes to church ? Did Jesus say you must go to church to be a "true" Christian ? That's BS.

      July 1, 2012 at 7:32 am |
    • gg

      "For where two or three are gathered in my name, the am I among them" Matthew 18:20

      July 1, 2012 at 7:37 am |
    • ian

      gg you're not too bright are you? Judge not that ye be not judged. Matthew 7:1-3

      July 1, 2012 at 7:38 am |
    • gg

      You tell me not to judge and in the same breath, say I'm not too bright!?

      July 1, 2012 at 7:40 am |
    • ian

      so gg... it's ok for you to judge someone you have never spoken to and never met but when someone judges you it's not ok. So you did get my point.

      July 1, 2012 at 7:58 am |
    • frodo1008

      gg: Having two or three gather together is NOT necessarily going to a formal church, and in fact in the book of the Acts of the early Christian church the Christians met in their homes, there were no formal buildings to be churches. Christ also stated that the most effective prayer was in our own closet out of the public view entirely, so that the only one that would see and here your prayers was God in secret in heaven.

      Besides which, did you not bother to even read the article at all? Where people that make it their actual jobs to know about the religious aspects of all past presidents have stated that President Barack Obama is not only NOT a Muslim, but a devout Christian. But he is also Christian enough to know that he should attempt to be the President of ALL the people including non Christians. Even a relatively conservative such as Mike Huckabee (who is also a minister) not only believes that President Obama is a Christian, but is also a very fine Family Values man as well.

      And no, I am NOT judging you in this, just pointing out where your views are totally incorrect.

      July 1, 2012 at 8:08 am |
    • Mop

      A true christian doesnt need a church to have god....................IDIOT.

      July 1, 2012 at 8:26 am |
    • Brandon

      you recognize you "true Christians" have been on the wrong side of every civil rights issue for the last couple hundred years... including slavery

      July 1, 2012 at 9:06 am |
    • e

      Obama has said no such thing and you know it. If he has, quote it. time date and location.

      July 1, 2012 at 9:28 am |
    • George Marshall

      I would love to see an atheist or a Wiccan elected president, not because I'm advocating atheism (Im' not) nor because I'm a witch (I'm not) but because it might signal an end to these unproductive brouhahas over religion..

      July 1, 2012 at 10:58 am |
    • George Marshall

      You are scary gg, really scary–a Torquemada for our time.

      July 1, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • Cindy

      God said "Do not forsake the assembly" which means go to church. Look it up.

      July 3, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • E

      Is Bush a Christian? Caught in multiple lies.

      July 3, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
    • E

      The majority of Americans hold anti-Christian views (ie. legal abortion, the death penalty, birth control). A President should uphold the desires of the people who elected him, that is his job. Sounds like a Christian would be unqualified to hold public office.

      July 3, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
  4. Leeroy

    BTW, no mention of Clinton's exploits in the oval office or JFKs exploits with Monroe. I doubt we'll be seeing any of those distractions with Romney.

    July 1, 2012 at 7:23 am |
    • vulpecula

      4 years with no such distractions with Oama either. In fact The president, first lady and two daughters seem an ideal family.

      July 1, 2012 at 8:42 am |
  5. Leeroy

    What conclusion did that article come to? Holy cow . . . Anyway, GO ROMNEY!!! 🙂

    July 1, 2012 at 7:20 am |
    • An Atheist

      lol leeroy, scream go romney when you not only dont have a job but dont have a home and are a slave to a corporation from one of romneys big business buddies. or had you forgot that hes been responsible for buying out companies selling them off and then getting rid of them, costing all of the workers their jobs? oh thats right you live in the bubble and romney is you guys's new it boy. need i remind you that this guy is the one person who had the least ability out of all of your idiot candidates to connect to the common man? remember this guy has a car lift inside his 5 story house? ya he really understands what its like to be a middle class american. dont be stupid and niave

      July 1, 2012 at 8:55 am |
    • wcupunk1

      atheist, come on man. obama started going to a private prep school in 1971. he is worth a minimum of $11m, you can't be serious. ...and the has flip flopped around just as much as Romney, increased troops in afganistan that has cost more than double the american lives in 3 years as 7 years under bush...signed the republician pushed through NDAA. provided government bailout money to the unions of the auto industry and gave money to a bunch of green companies that had supported him in '08 election. Don't get high and mighty my man...you know they are both tools. voted for obama in '08 won't make that mistake again

      July 1, 2012 at 9:56 am |
  6. Rev Wright

    You say god Bless America? I say God damn America! -President Obama

    July 1, 2012 at 7:19 am |
    • Mop

      Reverand Wright said that, not Obama.

      July 1, 2012 at 8:28 am |
    • Timothy Biddiscombe

      I hope you are not a Christian 'cause you just lied there, pal. Obama never said that. Stop bearing false witness, ok?

      July 1, 2012 at 9:07 am |
    • e

      Never happened.

      July 1, 2012 at 9:32 am |
    • Patrick from Minnesota

      That was Rev. Wright idiot. God, you Republicans can be such boneheads...

      July 1, 2012 at 10:01 am |
  7. A dose of reality

    A few questions should help shed light on the relationship between religion and rational thought.
    The completely absurd theory that all 7,000,000,000 human beings are simultaneously being supervised 24 hours a day, every day of their lives by an immortal, invisible being for the purposes of reward or punishment in the “afterlife” comes from the field of:
    (a) Astronomy;
    (b) Medicine;
    (c) Economics; or
    (d) Christianity
    You are about 70% likely to believe the entire Universe began less than 10,000 years ago with only one man, one woman and a talking snake if you are a:
    (a) historian;
    (b) geologist;
    (c) NASA astronomer; or
    (d) Christian
    I have convinced myself that gay $ex is a choice and not genetic, but then have no explanation as to why only gay people have ho.mo$exual urges. I am
    (a) A gifted psychologist
    (b) A well respected geneticist
    (c) A highly educated sociologist
    (d) A Christian with the remarkable ability to ignore inconvenient facts.
    I honestly believe that, when I think silent thoughts like, “please god, help me pass my exam tomorrow,” some invisible being is reading my mind and will intervene and alter what would otherwise be the course of history in small ways to help me. I am
    (a) a delusional schizophrenic;
    (b) a naïve child, too young to know that that is silly
    (c) an ignorant farmer from Sudan who never had the benefit of even a fifth grade education; or
    (d) your average Christian
    Millions and millions of Catholics believe that bread and wine turns into the actual flesh and blood of a dead Jew from 2,000 years ago because:
    (a) there are obvious visible changes in the condiments after the Catholic priest does his hocus pocus;
    (b) tests have confirmed a divine presence in the bread and wine;
    (c) now and then their god shows up and confirms this story; or
    (d) their religious convictions tell them to blindly accept this completely fvcking absurd nonsense.
    I believe that an all powerful being, capable of creating the entire cosmos watches me have $ex to make sure I don't do anything "naughty". I am
    (a) A victim of child molestation
    (b) A r.ape victim trying to recover
    (c) A mental patient with paranoid delusions
    (d) A Christian
    The only discipline known to often cause people to kill others they have never met and/or to commit suicide in its furtherance is:
    (a) Architecture;
    (b) Philosophy;
    (c) Archeology; or
    (d) Religion
    What is it that most differentiates science and all other intellectual disciplines from religion:
    (a) Religion tells people not only what they should believe, but what they are morally obliged to believe on pain of divine retribution, whereas science, economics, medicine etc. has no “sacred cows” in terms of doctrine and go where the evidence leads them;
    (b) Religion can make a statement, such as “there is a composite god comprised of God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit”, and be totally immune from experimentation and challenge, whereas science can only make factual assertions when supported by considerable evidence;
    (c) Science and the scientific method is universal and consistent all over the World whereas religion is regional and a person’s religious conviction, no matter how deeply held, is clearly nothing more than an accident of birth; or
    (d) All of the above.
    If I am found wandering the streets flagellating myself, wading into a filth river, mutilating my child’s genitals or kneeling down in a church believing that a being is somehow reading my inner thoughts and prayers, I am likely driven by:
    (a) a deep psychiatric issue;
    (b) an irrational fear or phobia;
    (c) a severe mental degeneration caused by years of drug abuse; or
    (d) my religious belief.
    Who am I? I don’t pay any taxes. I never have. Any money my organization earns is tax free and my own salary is also tax free, at the federal, state and local level. Despite contributing nothing to society, but still enjoying all its benefits, I feel I have the right to tell others what to do. I am
    (a) A sleazy Wall Street banker
    (b) A mafia boss
    (c) A drug pusher; or
    (d) A Catholic Priest, Protestant Minister or Jewish Rabbi.
    What do the following authors all have in common – Jean Paul Sartre, Voltaire, Denis Diderot, Victor Hugo, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Immanuel Kant, David Hume, René Descartes, Francis Bacon, John Milton, John Locke, and Blaise Pascal:
    (a) They are among the most gifted writers the World has known;
    (b) They concentrated on opposing dogma and opening the human mind and spirit to the wonders of free thought and intellectual freedom;
    (c) They were intimidated by the Catholic Church and put on the Church’s list of prohibited authors; or
    (d) All of the above.
    The AIDS epidemic will kill tens of millions in poor African and South American countries before we defeat it. Condoms are an effective way to curtail its spread. As the Pope still has significant influence over the less educated masses in these parts of the World, he has exercised this power by:
    (a) Using some of the Vatican’s incomprehensible wealth to educate these vulnerable people on health family planning and condom use;
    (b) Supporting government programs that distribute condoms to high risk groups;
    (c) Using its myriad of churches in these regions to distribute condoms; or
    (d) Scaring people into NOT using condoms, based upon his disdainful and aloof view that it is better that a person die than go against the Vatican’s position on contraceptive use

    July 1, 2012 at 7:19 am |
    • Mandor


      July 1, 2012 at 7:23 am |
    • Cuda Banks

      All good comes from God. Man was slightly more advanced than the animal before he was taught virtue and how to love his fellow man. Who thinks that their own good nature taught them to do unto other as they would have done to themselves or he who is without sin... It wasn't you it wasn't your grandma. It came from moral leaders not from aetheist who fancy themselves "good people".

      Every article some moron lists 500 bad things about Christianity without listing even 5 positives. Sound like an opnion we can trust? Not really. Those who drive moral guidance away from this country for the sake of their new god "freedom" are children. Man needs structure not more freedom.

      July 1, 2012 at 7:59 am |
    • Frank

      Sure is a lot of effort for someone who doesn't believe in god to sway others to believe in you path to "NO WHERE" or "He11" isn't buddy?

      Atheism is simply and EVIL religion, same as ISLAM.

      July 1, 2012 at 9:01 am |
    • Mike E. Whinestine

      Last time you posted this screed it had "Catholic" instead of "Christian". LOL

      July 1, 2012 at 9:30 am |
    • A dose of reality

      Anybody got any facts to refute what I posted???? Eh Buddy????

      July 1, 2012 at 9:32 am |
    • mike

      I like this, o and by the way its FREE THINKER not Atheists, to one of the replies, that word was given to us by christians. in fact the Romans gave that name to you. But if you want,I think we can come up with more names for christans.

      July 1, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • Alyson

      An agnostic myself, there are three things I want to point out:
      1. The universe is infinitely expanding, has many galaxies and started super tiny and began this rapid expansion because of we have no freaking clue. When we think about the creation of everything, what we would think of as irrational is just as valid and able to be proven as a "rational" one.
      2. I'm fairly certain most Christians don't actually believe that bread and wine turns to flesh and blood; that's disgusting. I think most sane people would say it's a representation.
      3. In response to the strife AIDS is causing in Africa, the Pope has given tepid approval for condoms to prevent the spread of AIDS.

      July 1, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
    • Rogue351

      Finally !! The voice of reason. As long as we have people like this willing to speak the obvious, America is still a free and true nation ? However the more we listen to pastors, preachers and believe the bible, torah, koran to be a specific detailed and historical account the closer we will get to losing our individuality and freedom. The FACT that so many religious people rail against government for wanting to control their lives and then roll over and let religion rule near every action and decision make no sense what so ever. The United States is not a Christian nation or a Muslim nation, or Jewish. Now that is freedom of religion !!

      July 1, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
    • Thinker

      "The only discipline known to often cause people to kill others they have never met and/or to commit suicide in its furtherance is:
      (a) Architecture;
      (b) Philosophy;
      (c) Archeology; or
      (d) Religion

      you forgot one: (e) Politician

      July 5, 2012 at 7:46 am |
  8. Joker

    If Obama wants to follow the Quran fine. But not leading this great country of in God we trust !

    July 1, 2012 at 7:15 am |
    • One one

      "I believe today that my conduct is in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator."

      – Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, Vol. 1 Chapter 2

      July 1, 2012 at 7:17 am |
    • vernon

      That doesn't make any sense.

      July 1, 2012 at 7:20 am |
    • e

      You do realize that Islam, Christianity and Judaism all belief in the same single God don't you?

      July 1, 2012 at 9:33 am |
    • dryer


      July 1, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
  9. Mandor

    I look forward to the day when the basic premise of this article becomes reality.... that what god people believe in... IF ANY... doesn't matter as we evaluate potential presidents. But I'm not sure I expect to see that day in my lifetime.

    I still remember Mr Powell's endorsement of Obama, when he said that look Mr Obama is a lifelong christian, not a muslim. But really, so what if was a muslim? What would be the big deal? (I'm paraphrasing but not by a huge amount.) And i remember wishing that Powell had run for office back in the 90's. We need more like him. It'll take a long time before enough of the population recognizes that what is different is not necessarily an enemy.

    July 1, 2012 at 7:13 am |
  10. Name*Ken

    A President's faith no longer matters because America has turned from G_d. Liberalism has taken off in the US and the first requirement in being a liberal is losing ones faith in the Lord. Abortion, gay "marriage," selling ones soul to the devil (naacp) to re-elect and further the destructive cause of a human. We are a disgusting nation, having lost the heroic efforts of so many to build a nation, once "under G_d", now under satan and the evil darkness. And there is nothing we can do about it. Why a president's faith no longer matters could also read, 'why americas lack of faith killed her.'

    July 1, 2012 at 7:11 am |
    • MollyBee

      And your "defense" of religion in politics is filled with villifications of your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ's people. Your faith may be admirable...your use of it to classify and judge are not.

      July 1, 2012 at 7:17 am |
    • One one

      Relax. There is no such thing as Satan .

      July 1, 2012 at 7:21 am |
    • Mandor

      Liberalism does not require atheism. But it is strongly related to some Jeffersonian ideas. You know, like this gem that can get people so riled up:

      “Question with boldness even the existence of God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear” -Jefferson

      July 1, 2012 at 7:21 am |
    • Mop

      Nut case.

      July 1, 2012 at 8:35 am |
    • Ken in MO

      This is so NOT true. Jesus was a liberal. Jesus wanted to help people...not corporations, not the rich. People are turning away from God because of the mean spirited, hate filled, money grubbing people that call themselves "Christians" today. I love Jesus and I am a liberal. I love gay folks, poor folks, rich folks, aiethist, church goers. You are confused and sound like you have been driven far from true Christianity. I will pray for you.

      July 6, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • Ken in MO

      Let me clairify one point. I do not think that all Christians are like I stated above. However, I do think a majority of Christians allow the public "spokepersons" to say and spread hateful things and dont correct them. They behave the same way the Muslims behaved with Bin Laden....they disagree with them but don't say anything because they say they are Christian. Breaks my heart and makes me very sad.

      July 6, 2012 at 11:12 am |
  11. Frank

    When its an actual faith it may not but when its "ISLAM" which is not a faith or religion. its a violent "IDEOLOGY" identical to HITLERS! And the Quran clearly states that THERE IS NO LAW OTHER THAN ALLAH'S LAW! GOT IT!?


    July 1, 2012 at 7:10 am |
    • One one

      The difference between Islam and Christianity is about as much as the difference between tweedle dee and tweedle dum.

      July 1, 2012 at 7:15 am |
  12. One one

    Is it possible that a politician , of all people, would lie about his faith in order to get elected ?

    No, that would never happen. 🙂

    July 1, 2012 at 7:08 am |
  13. MollyBee

    I am a Christian. I believe strongly in God's greatest commandments: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself. I also believe the most dangerous political candidates are those that try to impress their voters with big "shows" of their "faith". People who insist on using religion as a political tool are usually those who have questionable values...not the other way around....

    July 1, 2012 at 7:08 am |
    • Frank

      Good Christians and others of faith are all taught to have good morals and principles. THATS THE FOUNDATION OF A CHRISTIAN!


      July 1, 2012 at 7:12 am |
    • Frank

      With the exception of ISLAM! Which is a cult of perpetual war he11bent on world domination. The so called moderate or modern Muslims that we allow to grow in our free nation are simply paving the way and laying the foundation for violent ISLAM which inevitably will come in time and the moderates will either do as the devout violent Muslims do or they will be labeled infidels and outcasts of ISLAM.

      We can see this pattern all over the world TODAY! Lebanon is a classic example, now Egypt, Libya, North Africa, Europe is almost in a civil war with Muslims, they are governing THEMSELVES on European soil.

      July 1, 2012 at 7:17 am |
    • MollyBee

      Frank, Your post is full of venom. Your faith should bring you peace...not anger.

      July 1, 2012 at 7:23 am |
    • A dose of reality

      Good morals eh? That's why there are ped0philes, wi*tch Hunts, Cr*sades, Rich Pastors, hom*phobia, on and on and on, all part of the good christian religious. Please get your head out of the Bronze age book of fools.

      July 1, 2012 at 7:24 am |
    • Frank

      Hey Molly. God doesn't expect us roll over like sheep to allow ISLAM to cut our throats... Stand up for what you believe in. ISLAMS goal is world domination. WHATS YOURS!?

      Let me guess.. WORLD PEACE!? Good luck with that. Another liberal living in fantasy land!

      July 1, 2012 at 8:48 am |
    • Frank

      Furthermore MollyBee, miss FANTASY LAND. In case you haven't noticed by the "DAILY GENOCIDE" from ISLAM you read about on the front page of the news papers every day for the past 50+ years!


      July 1, 2012 at 8:56 am |
    • Thinker

      Frank, you should go look up how Christianity was spread for centuries... In many cases it was kill the pagans till they accept our loving god.

      July 5, 2012 at 8:03 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Starting with the 400,000 or so killed in Ja.pan with atomic bombs, America has flexed its might in Greece, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Korea, Iran, Guatemala, Lebanon, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Cuba, Iraq (in 63, 87, 81, 03), Panama, Indonesia, Dominican Republic, Oman, Chile, Angola, Nicuragua, Somalia and Afghanistan.
      Add up the official death tolls, and America is responsible for nearly 10,500,000 deaths.

      (I now await a pointlessly inflammatory comment from You Might Be Cap'n Sayin Atheism Isn't An Angry Dismissive Pervert Rangerfield Getting Air)

      July 5, 2012 at 8:41 am |
  14. A dose of reality

    Rather than inculcating our children with the primary-color simple Sunday school legends and myths most people do, might I suggest the following ten comandments to enable them to think for themselves.
    1. DO NOT automatically believe something just because a parent, priest, rabbi or minister tells you that you must.
    2. DO NOT think that claims about magic and the supernatural are more likely true because they are written in old books. That makes them less likely true.
    3. DO analyze claims about religion with the same critical eye that you would claims about money, political positions or social issues.
    4. DO NOT accept it when religious leaders tell you it is wrong to question, doubt or think for yourself. It never is. Only those selling junk cars get frightened when you want to "look under the hood".
    5. DO decouple morality from a belief in the supernatural, in any of its formulations (Christianity, Judaism, Islam etc.). One can be moral without believing in gods, ghosts and goblins and believing in any of them does not make one moral.
    6. DO a bit of independent research into whatever book you were brought up to believe in. Who are its authors and why should I believe them in what they say? How many translations has it gone through? Do we have originals, or only edited copies of copies of copies– the latter is certainly true for every single book in the Bible.
    7. DO realize that you are only a Christian (or Hindu or Jew) because of where you were born. Were you lucky enough to be born in the one part of the World that “got it right”?
    8. DO NOT be an apologist or accept the explanation “your mind is too small to understand the greatness of god” or “god moves in mysterious ways” when you come upon logical inconsistencies in your belief. A retreat to mysticism is the first refuge of the cornered wrong.
    9. DO understand where your religion came from and how it evolved from earlier beliefs to the point you were taught it. Are you lucky enough to be living at that one point in history where we “got it right”?
    10. DO educate yourself on the natural Universe, human history and the history of life on Earth, so as to be able to properly evaluate claims that a benevolent, mind-reading god is behind the whole thing.
    I sometimes think that, if we first taught our children these simple guidelines, any religion or other supernatural belief would be quickly dismissed by them as quaint nostalgia from a bygone era. I hope we get there as a species.

    July 1, 2012 at 7:05 am |
    • Frank

      Hey buddy...

      If you don't believe in GOD then go do what you atheist do best, go ki11 some cats or torture some animals, whatever it is you evil people do in your spare time. You put a lot of effort into trying to get people to believe in YOUR religion don't you? "Atheism) The religion of DARKNESS and NOTHING and path right straight to he11.

      July 1, 2012 at 8:52 am |
    • smadam1

      Frank, you do know you're going to hell too, right?

      July 1, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • Science

      frank – i've seen kids with downs syndrome post more intelligent comments than you

      July 1, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Frank, why would you discuss torturing animals? You sound like a sick creep.

      July 1, 2012 at 11:34 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Dose of what? Obviously not reality. The entire Bible teaches us the truth about life. For example:


      Here all is law and order.

      Number comes in, in many cases determining various classifications. In the Endogens (or inside-growing plants) three is a prevailing number; while in Exogens (or outside-growing plants) five is a prevailing number.

      The grains in Indian corn, or maize, are set in rows, generally straight, but in some cases spirally. These rows are always arranged in an even number. Never odd! They range from 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, and sometimes as high as 24. But never in 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, or any odd number of rows. The even number is permanent.

      One farmer looked for 27 years and could not find a "cob" with an odd number of rows. A slave was once offered his freedom if he found a corn-cob with an odd number, and one day he found one! But he had found it also some time before, when it was young; carefully cut out one row, and bound it up, so that the parts grew together as the corn-cob developed, and finally presented the phenomenon of having an odd number of rows. This exception proves the rule in an interesting manner.

      If we notice how the leaves grow upon the stem of a plant, not only is law seen in classifying their nature and character, but number is observed in their arrangement and disposition. Some are placed alternately, some opposite, while others are arranged spirally. But in each case all is in perfect order. After a certain number of leaves one will come immediately over and in the same line with the first:—

      In the apple it is the fifth leaf,
      In the oak it is the fourth,
      In the peach, etc., it is the sixth,
      In the holly, etc., it is the eighth; but it takes two turns of the spiral before the eighth leaf stands immediately over the first.
      In the larch it is the twenty-first leaf; but it is not until after eight turns of the spiral that the twenty-first leaf stands directly over the first.

      Examples might be multiplied indefinitely were design in nature our only subject. We are anxious to search the Word of God, and therefore can touch merely the surface of His works, but sufficiently to illustrate the working of Law and the presence of the Law-enforcer.

      Just because man calls Jesus' truth something else, doesn't mean it didn't originate from His truth (the Bible).

      If you stop being arrogant, I'll explain how man learned about chemistry ... also came from Jesus' truth, the Bible.

      July 1, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
    • Thinker

      Heaven Sent: What in the world are you talking about? Are you saying that the growth patterns of plants are proof of god? Or did you just read a book of interesting plant properties?

      If you want a good mathematical sequence that many plants and animals use, look up the fibonacci sequence.

      July 5, 2012 at 8:13 am |
  15. Sherry

    Is religion not supposed to matter any more because Romney is Mormon? Is that what this is really about because it sure seems to matter a whole lot most of the time and ppl do consistently ask wether or not Obama is "a true Christian"?

    July 1, 2012 at 7:04 am |
    • vulpecula

      The thing is that a presidents religion didn't really get talked about much until about the time of Bush Jr. and the evangelicals started making a big deal out of it. If your in your 20s still, you probably not old enough to remember when this sort of topic would have been taboo in the media.

      July 1, 2012 at 7:25 am |
    • Pauls' a happy heratic.

      Those are best 10 I have ever read. I have personally upset a few mormon high priests with #4; when they say study and pray about a real question I have had.
      Which religions will god accept?
      I sadley realized that some of the mormon high priests are not capable of critical thought nor analysis; even though some have an advanced degree. They just sit still and sing hymns and ride the latter day saint submarine thru the oceans of evil to a warm fuzzy heaven full of blessings. They still say study and pray about your question. Beem me up $cotty

      July 1, 2012 at 8:29 am |
  16. One one

    I find the picture at the top of this article discusting In this country, politicians still have to kiss the ring of religious leaders to pass a litmus test.

    They say they believe, but are they really? Bill Clinton ?

    I doubt that half the Christians who claim they believe really do believe deep down inside.

    July 1, 2012 at 7:01 am |
    • vulpecula

      Bill Clinton is more than 10 times the christian you are. And a better man too.Your remark is way off base. And for an atheist to have to tell you that is pretty sad. Keep it real and know what your talking about.

      July 1, 2012 at 7:20 am |
  17. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things.

    July 1, 2012 at 7:00 am |
    • Karloff

      No it doesn't.

      July 1, 2012 at 7:02 am |
    • Boris

      Yes it do

      July 1, 2012 at 7:03 am |
    • A dose of reality

      Prove it if you're so sure

      July 1, 2012 at 7:07 am |
    • One one

      Still licking the boots of an evil doctrine ?

      July 1, 2012 at 7:11 am |
    • Dana

      Religion is not healthy for children's butts.

      July 1, 2012 at 7:56 am |
    • Dana

      Prayer just makes you look foolish.

      July 1, 2012 at 7:56 am |
    • capitalist

      "Lighthouses are more useful than Christians" – Benjamin Franklin
      You might pray to a imaginary friend that had a zombie for a son, but how about using some proven science, logic, and reason occasionallly? In Luke 24:51 of the book of myths, legends, and fables, Jesus was witnessed by several people to leave this earth in physcal form and ascend towards "heaven". The diameter of the Milky Way is about 100 light years. If Jesus, left earth 2000 years ago at the speed of light, he would not yet be out of this galaxy.

      July 1, 2012 at 11:32 am |
    • Tom Paine

      @capitalist - You got the quote wrong. Frankiln's quote is actually "Lighthouses are more helpful than churches."

      July 1, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
  18. looks like

    George Washington did call on God not allah or any other idol.

    July 1, 2012 at 6:59 am |
    • One one

      Yep. He picked the "correct" god out of the thousands of choices.

      I wonder who the correct god was before the Jesus story was invented ?

      July 1, 2012 at 7:06 am |
    • vernon

      Allah means God in Arabic. The term is not used exclusively by Muslims but also Ba'hai and even some Arabic speaking Christians.

      July 1, 2012 at 7:07 am |
    • cosmicsnoop

      God and Allah are the same.

      July 1, 2012 at 7:08 am |
    • vulpecula

      Washington believed in a god, but he was a deist like many of the other founding fathers. They were NOT christians, and rejected the idea of a holy trinity, and that jesus was anything more than just a mortal man. Check out "Deist" and "American Enlightenment".

      July 1, 2012 at 7:17 am |
  19. "militant" catholics

    people were lead to believe that if they were good, they would make it to positions of leadership. in real life, it's the other way around. bad people win.

    July 1, 2012 at 6:58 am |
    • "militant" catholics

      we were taught to look up to these folks. (we were naive. i've never found much of what we were lead to believe about men to be true. can't trust men at all is my conclusion.)

      July 1, 2012 at 7:02 am |
  20. Randy Johnson

    What a dilemma for republicans – we have a black guy or a Mormon – according to Captain America which probably is reflective of the views of most wrinkled old white americans (I can tell just from his name) – obviously black guys are out and if your middle name is Hussein then that pushes you over the top of the 'unforgiven'. So now enters a Morman – ho-lee how confusing – they found a bible written on a plate in someones back yard in 1820 and the guy that eventually 'created this new religion' was even beaten to death and now we are going to elect a President (maybe) that believes in this??? They wear funny underwear and have mysterious temples but I guess they are better than black guys with Hussein as a midddle name maybe. After all is said and done and all the loonie tunes put aside I think the majority of people will just look at the record of honesty and integrity of the candidate – (maybe – lol)

    July 1, 2012 at 6:57 am |
    • oustobamavanjonesobama

      If a black guy's religion is "God Damn America", it matters to me!!!!

      July 1, 2012 at 7:08 am |
    • GUEST

      come on man. obama started going to a private prep school in 1971. he is worth a minimum of $11m, you can't be serious. ...and the has flip flopped around just as much as Romney, increased troops in afganistan that has cost more than double the american lives in 3 years as 7 years under bush...signed the republician pushed through NDAA. provided government bailout money to the unions of the auto industry and gave money to a bunch of green companies that had supported him in '08 election. Don't get high and mighty my man...you know they are both tools. voted for obama in '08 won't make again

      July 10, 2012 at 2:17 am |
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About this blog

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