November 23rd, 2013
07:13 AM ET

How Catholic was John F. Kennedy?

By Daniel Burke, Belief Blog Co-editor

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(CNN) - When John F. Kennedy was a boy, his mother counseled her children on Good Fridays to pray for a peaceful death.

Young Jack joked that he’d rather pray for two pet dogs.

If you’re looking for the CliffsNotes version of Kennedy’s Catholicism, that anecdote touches on the key themes: the pious Irish mother, the light-hearted irreverence, the ever-present prospect of death.

But there’s much more to the story.

In the words of one biographer, Kennedy was Mr. Saturday Night but also Mr. Sunday Morning, rarely missing a Mass.

He was famously unfaithful to his wife but fiercely loyal to his church, even when it threatened his quest for the presidency.

One scholar suggests that Kennedy was becoming more religious as the Cold War wore on. Another says that Kennedy’s public displays of piety were little more than political lip service.

As the country marks the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s death - and it was far from peaceful, as we all know - almost every aspect of his life is again under the media microscope. But for all the ballyhoo about Kennedy being the first and only Catholic president, the topic of his faith remains largely untouched.

We’ve been told that he was venerated by many who shared his religion and vilified by many who didn’t. We know that his family shared sacraments with popes and confidences with cardinals. And we’ve heard about Kennedy breaking more than a few Commandments.

We also know that Catholics, particularly Irish Catholics, revere Kennedy, hanging his portrait in their parlors next to images of the Sacred Heart, naming their schools and children after him.

But the halo around Kennedy’s head has dimmed in recent decades as revelations about his marital infidelities and carefully concealed health problems have come to light.

“Being the first of any group to get to the White House is worth taking seriously and showing respect for,” said the Rev. John Langan, a Jesuit priest and ethicist at Georgetown University. “But there is bound to be a very ambivalent reaction to Kennedy at this point in our history.”

That still doesn’t tell us much about what kind of Catholic Kennedy was, to the extent that we can ever know.

“It’s hard to look into the soul of a person, especially a person who’s been dead for 50 years, and judge their religion and belief in God,” said Thomas Maier, author of “The Kennedys: America’s Emerald Kings.”

No doubt Maier is right. But Kennedy's Catholic faith remains central to questions about his character and his legacy. And even if we reserve final judgment for the Almighty, we can still probe history for clues about how religion inspired and guided his short and star-crossed life.

The Irish Catholic ideal

When Kennedy was 13 and attending a Catholic school for the only time in his life, a visiting missionary spoke to the students about his work in India.

Afterward, Kennedy eagerly informed his parents that “it was one of the most interesting talks I’ve ever heard,” according to the Robert Dallek biography “An Unfinished Life.

The Catholic missionary inspired two aims that day that would drive Kennedy for the rest of his life, according to Ted Sorensen, one of his closest advisers: the desire to enjoy the world, and the desire to improve it.

Few historians argue that Kennedy’s reputation as a womanizer isn’t well-warranted. But even tough-minded idealists such as Eleanor Roosevelt, who once regarded Kennedy as cocky and callow, eventually saw him in another light.

“My final judgment is that here is a man who wants to leave a record (perhaps for ambitious personal reasons, as people say), but I rather think because he is really interested in helping the people of his own country and mankind in general,” Roosevelt said after meeting Kennedy in 1960.

Kennedy put his personal mission another way: “Those to whom much is given, much is required.” That phrase echoes Luke’s Gospel, which, like many parts of the Bible, he learned from his mother, Rose.

Joseph Kennedy, the family patriarch, was often away making his millions and insisted that his children attend top private (and secular) schools such as Harvard. That left the nine Kennedy children’s religious education to Rose, a devout Catholic.

“At the time, it was the Irish Catholic ideal,” Langan said, “a big and active family where the father was successful in business and politics and the mother was the spiritual center, the person who held it all together.”

In other ways, the Kennedys were anything but typical Irish Catholics, said Kean University historian Terry Golway. They were lucratively rich. They mingled with Boston Brahmins. They went to Harvard, not Holy Cross.

“Some people saw them as a faux Catholic,” Golway said, “too big for their britches.”

But few historians doubt Rose Kennedy’s devout attachment to Catholicism.

She attended the country’s top Catholic schools, and she supervised her family like the nuns who ran those schools, according to biographer Barbara A. Perry.

Rose neither spared the rod nor tolerated emotional outbursts. Any bumps and bruises were to be “offered up to God,” the matriarch insisted, no complaining allowed.

“She was terribly religious,” John Kennedy said as an adult. “She was a little removed.”

Still, many say the stoicism Rose Kennedy instilled helped her son deal with the debilitating health issues that plagued his short life. Other historians theorize that Kennedy's poor health - he was twice given last rites before recovering - played a role in his wanton womanizing.

“His continual, almost heroic sexual performance,” wrote Catholic scholar Garry Wills, was a “cackling at the gods of disability that plagued him.”

Well before her son's playboy days, Rose neatly noted her children’s medical histories and church milestones such as baptism, confirmation and first Holy Communion on small index cards.

She left rosaries on their beds, tested their knowledge of the Catholic Catechism and oversaw their prayers for hints of apostasy.

Rose regularly took the children on walks to the local parish or the zoo, where she would show them the lions and explain how they once devoured faithful Christians. It was an effective, if morbid, method to hold the children’s interest, Perry notes in her book “Rose Kennedy: The Life and Times of a Political Matriarch."

As the Kennedy kids grew up, Rose pinned questions about priests’ sermons and Holy Days on the family blackboard, expecting the children to discuss them at dinner, according to Perry.

The matriarch continued preaching the faith well into her children's adulthood, advising them that praying the rosary was as good a way to relieve stress as any drink or pill, and a good bit better for their figure.

And Rose wrote to Jacqueline Kennedy to “remind Jack about his Easter duty” to attend the sacrament of confession. “I’m sure that the church is quite near” to their home in Washington, she nagged.

Teasing and testing

Surrounded by his mother’s intense piety, Jack Kennedy couldn’t help but tease and test her.

He interrupted her Bible stories to ask odd questions such as what happened to the donkey Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday? Who took care of the ass after the crucifixion?

Later, Kennedy’s questions grew more probing.

Traveling through the Middle East as an adolescent, he visited Jerusalem, where Christians believe Christ ascended into heaven and Muslims believe the same about Mohammed.

Upon his return to the United States, Kennedy promptly asked a priest, “Mohammed has a big following and Christ has a big following, and why do you think we should believe in Christ any more than Mohammed?”

Get this boy some religious instruction, before he becomes an atheist, the priest told Kennedy’s parents, according to Dallek’s biography.

Later, Kennedy teasingly threatened to teach a Bible class - then a strictly Protestant practice - when his parents pressured him to dump his married girlfriend, Inga Arvad.

“Don’t good works come under our obligations to the Catholic Church?” he needled his mother and father.

“We’re not a completely ritualistic, formalistic, hierarchical structure in which the Word, the truth, must only come down from the very top - a structure that allows for no individual interpretation - or are we?”

Kennedy even ribbed Rose and Joe while fighting in the Solomon Islands during World War II. He told them he had dutifully attended Easter Mass at a native hut, even as enemy aircraft circled overhead. And his parents would be pleased to know a priest had devoted all his energies to Kennedy’s salvation.

“I’m stringing along with him,” Kennedy wrote, “but I’m not giving over too easy as I want him to work a bit - so he’ll appreciate it more when he finally has me in the front row every morning screaming hallelujah.”

The lion’s den

Joking aside, Kennedy took his faith seriously, according to several biographers, especially when it became a political issue.

In 1947, when Kennedy was a representative from Massachusetts, Congress held a hearing on public funding for parochial schools. He exploded when a Freemason testified that Catholics owe their loyalties to their church, not their country.

“I am not a legal subject of the Pope,” Kennedy countered. “There is an old saying in Boston that we get our religion from Rome and our politics from home.”

The congressional contretemps was just a prelude to the prejudice Kennedy endured during his 1960 presidential run.

Protestant leaders - from backwoods evangelists and radio preachers to prominent pastors such as Billy Graham and Norman Vincent Peale - warned the country would go to hell with a Catholic in the Oval Office.

“I’m getting tired of these people who think I want to replace the gold at Fort Knox with a supply of holy water,” Kennedy complained.

Against some advisers’ counsel, the candidate decided to directly confront the anti-Catholic bias with a televised speech to a group of Protestant ministers in Houston in 1960. It was like Daniel walking into the lion’s den, a journalist said at the time.

In the now famous speech, Kennedy said he believed that America’s separation of church and state is “absolute” and that a presidential candidate’s religious beliefs are “his own private affair.”

“I do not speak for my church on public matters, and the church does not speak for me,” Kennedy said.

The Protestant ministers pressed Kennedy on those pledges in a question and answer session that followed, according to Dallek, but the candidate’s calm reassurances seemed to win many of them over.

“He responded with such poise and restraint that the ministers stood and applauded at the close of the meeting, and some came forward to shake his hand and wish him well in the campaign.”

A ‘little less convinced’

As president, Kennedy continued to say his daily prayers, morning and night, his sister Eunice told historians. But “that doesn’t mean he was terribly religious,” she said.

“He was always a little less convinced” than the rest of the Kennedy clan, Eunice continued, especially his brother Robert Kennedy, who took after Rose.

Still, Eunice said John always hustled off to Mass on Sundays, even while traveling. Maier, the Kennedy biographer who called him Mr. Saturday Night and Mr. Sunday Morning, said The New York Times’ index of the president’s travels show him faithfully attending Mass once a week, wherever he happened to be.

“The popular perception is that he wasn’t all that religious,” Maier said, “but by today’s standards he would be called a traditional Catholic.”

Dallek said he believes Kennedy attended religious rituals more out of duty than desire. “This is the faith he was reared in, and something his parents expected him to do,” the historian said.

“As president it was kind of mandatory to go to church, to show that he was a man of good Christian faith. But was it something that informed his daily life and decisions as president? I don’t think so.”

Others, however, see echoes of Kennedy’s Catholic upbringing in his most famous speech, the 1961 inaugural address. In it, the new president urged Americans to “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

“The words chosen seem to spring from a sacramental background,” the Rev. Daniel Coughlin, first Catholic chaplain in the U.S. House of Representatives, wrote in a recent blog post.

“In fact, the whole speech was framed by his belief in a living and ever-present God both at its beginning and in the end,” Coughlin wrote.

Two months later, in a move that may have harkened back to meeting the Catholic missionary, Kennedy founded the Peace Corps.

A monk predicts the assassination 

Regardless of how faithful Kennedy was, Irish Catholicism is as much a culture as a set of religious rules and rituals, said Peter Quinn, author of “Looking for Jimmy: A Search for Irish America.

Kennedy’s gift for gab and love of language; his fierce loyalty and clannishness; his temper and his wit; his concern for the poor and sense of the tragedy of life - he lost a beloved brother and sister at a young age - all are hallmarks of Irish Catholicism, Quinn said.

“The church was the building block of Irish identity, and Kennedy was imbued in that culture.”

Golway agrees. “There was a chip on his shoulder, a sense of being embattled and having to fight for everything. That’s a very Irish-Catholic thing.”

Other historians believe Kennedy was becoming more religious, in the traditional sense, as the threat of nuclear war loomed over his presidency.

“He never talked about his religion, never,” said James W. Douglass, author of “JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why it Matters.” “But at great personal risk, he was turning from war toward peacemaking.”

Kennedy would not have been the first president to “get religion” in the Oval Office.

Lincoln, an unorthodox believer, once said that “I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go.”

Historians say Kennedy kept a note on his desk paraphrasing another quote from Lincoln, “I know that there is a God and I see a storm coming. ... If he has a place for me, I am ready.”

If Lincoln’s storm was the Civil War, Kennedy’s was the Cold War.

As Douglass notes, some Catholics had little confidence that Kennedy, the youngest elected president in American history, had the wisdom and humanity to carry the country through the existential threat.

“Maybe Kennedy will break through into that some day by miracle,” Thomas Merton, the American Trappist monk and author, wrote to a friend.

“But such people are before long marked out for assassination.”

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Belief • Catholic Church • Christianity • Church and state • Leaders • Mass • Politics • Prejudice

soundoff (1,019 Responses)
  1. Wasthatreallynecessary

    If he was unfaithful to his wife, he was not a good Catholic or Christian, despite his loyalty to it. He was a disgrace to it.

    November 24, 2013 at 10:31 am |
    • Rz

      How do we really know he was unfaithful. What if she was ok with it. She was a fashionable intelligent woman. Catholicism is about much more than who you sleep with. This guy started the peace corp ..... whats more catholic than that.

      November 24, 2013 at 11:44 am |
  2. Reticuli

    Considering some of the people who may have had a hand in killing him sort of hijacked the poor little American Orthodox Catholic Church in the Bronx at the time and were using it as a front, I'd say not quite as much as them.

    November 24, 2013 at 10:16 am |
    • igaftr

      There was one person who had a hand in killing him.

      November 24, 2013 at 10:29 am |
  3. SuZieCoyote

    We expect absurd things from our president. And when he falls short, as does every man, we attack. All we should expect (and the most we should expect) is leadership and inspiration. JFK provided both. People who aspire to the highest office in the land are not generally paragons of religious virtue.

    November 24, 2013 at 10:09 am |
  4. SuZieCoyote

    I have to wonder how much of Kennedy's debilitating disabilities (especially the back problems) were the result of the frequent beatings as a child?

    November 24, 2013 at 10:00 am |
    • BeverlyNC

      President Kennedy's serious back problems came from his lifelong battle with Addison's disease – a deadly disease in his time. His father desperately looked for a solution and steroids helped him tremendously. However, his regime of treatment began to disintegrate the vertebrae in his back. He had to have several fused so they would not break and a steel plate was created to strengthen his back. He lived in terrible pain but refused to stop. One reason he was killed is he had no flexibility in his back and could not lean over or duck down after the first shot. Posting negative non-facts makes you only look foolish

      November 24, 2013 at 10:23 am |
      • demon or 2

        Waht do you want on a religious blog?
        Facts from mature, reasonable people?

        November 24, 2013 at 11:12 am |
  5. Joeyd1999

    People who claim to be atheist's don't have enough faith in their "non-belief " to be what actually claim to be. If they truly didn't believe they would simply go about their day and NOT believe. However the deep resentments towards religion can be found in the faithfull as well. As can the tearing down of faith by these people the same can also be said about people of faith tearing down others. All of this runs contrary to the true essensce and life in judeo-christian values. To make unfounded statements such as you can have a moral compass without faith is philosophically blind. You may not subscribe to the rituals, organaztion and structures that have beeen vechiles of virtue and love, right and wrong ... but subscribing to the ideals of treating others good, taking care of one another, not stealing, killing, coveting your neighbors wife etc is taking on the actuality of real faith. Need proof ? Well as " logical minded " and science based thinking men and woman, you would have to agree in it's PUREST and TRUEST form of law you find yourself to adhering to natural law .. dawrinism (not talking about evolution) in which theroises the strong survive the weak don't. Then you have a world that would in " intellectual " law would have the need to purge itself of the weak, afflicted and sick.

    November 24, 2013 at 9:55 am |
    • SuZieCoyote

      This is not in any way true. This view isn't based on reasoning, but yin our strong belief in your own faith. You have the right to that faith, but don't tell others they can't be moral without it, because that just isn't so. There is a strong moral social code that transcends religious mythology. It is part of human evolution and comes from the the natural strength that being in a strong community confers upon a tribe of people. While I agree that a set of myths can and frequently does bind people, the specifics of those myths vary across societies.

      November 24, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • igaftr


      Since we see many other animals ( and as far as we can tell, all animals are atheists) with the same morals as we have, you can clearly see the moral compass is an evolved trait. No gods required.
      Atheists don't run around killing and stealing because there are no gods, so no consequences...there are consequences dictated by other men. We have laws, and we do not need any gods to create those laws....they originate with the social laws of men.
      Look to the rest of the animal kingdom, especially the social animals which iinclude almost all mammals, you will see morality...the same morality that the social human mammal possesses. No reason or cause and effect indicating any gods at all.

      November 24, 2013 at 10:06 am |
      • Joeyd1999

        Clever, however you still avoid the strongest survive theory. If you see a man whom you don't know ... or even better someone who is your enemy, trapped underneath a car, why do people then race to help this stranger or this enemy ? There is somthing profoundly different about us. Now back to the original point I was getting at. Your issues with organzied religion I can understand. I am a devout Catholic, but not everyone finds " ZEN " or " PEACE through my journey of faith. You may say that the moral foundation of mankind are simply " parameters" by which a society functions but you are still left with a POSITIVE and progressive means of enhancing " our kind ". Faith is not somthing you can intellectualize ... nor is love. The greatest scientific minds that layed the foundation, we seeking and acknowledged a higher power. Men much more brilliant and insightfull then either of us. But if you don't choose to see things through my lens ... thats ok, and I still wish you fufillment in your life, whatever that may be. I just wish that many on your side of the argument could have the same spirit of good will back( instead of trying to devalue and marginlize my holy days )We all seek truth ... we just have different lenses we are searching through.

        November 24, 2013 at 11:11 am |
        • igaftr

          You clearly have not studied animals at all. There is nothing profoundly different.

          To you trapped by a car scenario...you think that helping someone in need is different?
          Ants will help trapped ants, they work together to free trapped individiuals ( only their family though)
          Rats will help strangers out of traps, and will share food with strangers as well when there is a limited amount.
          There are many many more examples of social behavior exactly like what you see in humans.

          Why do you think that only humans co-operate...that is simply not true at all, so the rest of your post is moot since you base it on a flase premise. Care to try again?

          November 24, 2013 at 11:15 am |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          Please use paragraphs. Please.

          Your opening statement about atheists not being secure in their position, or whatever, because we discuss god belief and similar topics is wrong. If you knew a group of adults who spent a large portion of their time discussing Santa's existence and performing special rituals and such for Santa, you'd probably say something about that; same thing for atheists when confronting believers.

          November 24, 2013 at 11:42 am |
    • ME II

      First, Atheists might be less vocal about non-belief if believers weren't trying to force their beliefs on the rest of the country via laws such as, creationism in science class, banning gay marriage, banning stem cell research, blue laws, etc.

      Second, evolution even Darwin's version of it is not "the strongest survive" it's the best adapted reproduce more or survival of the best adapted. The best example of this is the survival of small weak mammals after the extinction of the vastly stronger dinosaurs.

      November 24, 2013 at 11:11 am |
  6. Peter G. Harrison

    Loyal to his church (religion), rebellious and debaucherous toward Jesus, God and the Holy Ghost.

    November 24, 2013 at 9:53 am |
  7. Kathleen Zaworski-Burke

    If you did not live during the '60's, you can not understand the the anti-Catholic feeling that was in the nation..."No Catholic will ever be elected president" was the mantra. Reminds me of what President Obama has endured with "No black will ever be elected president." For Kennedy it was the religious issue, for President Obama it is the color issue. Come to think of it, the same anti-Kennedy fervor that I recall in the '60's is what I hear now regarding President Obama...how pathetic...how about addressing some issues!!!!

    November 24, 2013 at 9:38 am |
    • Crimzin

      Except that Obama did get elected, just like Kennedy, and most of the "anti-Obama" sentiment you refer to has nothing to do with his race but rather his poor leadership and divisiveness. Of course, his supporters try to frame every criticism as racism.

      November 24, 2013 at 9:46 am |
    • Dana

      You said the same thing three times.

      November 24, 2013 at 9:54 am |
  8. Rainer Braendlein

    "And we’ve heard about Kennedy breaking more than a few Commandments."


    I could burst out with saying now that Kennedy was certainly no true Christian when he persistently broke some commandments. The Jewish King David (he was an ancestor of Jesus) was called a man according to God's heart though he commited some outrageous sins (his adultery with Uria's wife, the murder of Uria, the near murder of Nabal which was luckily prevented by Nabal's wife Abigail who later became David's wife after Nabal had been punished by God, etc.).

    I will refer to the story of David, Abigail and Nabal. The core of the story is that if Abigail had not spoken wisely with David he had murdered Nabal (Nabal had deceived David, and the murder had been vigilantism). It was God's grace that prevented David from doing wrong through Abigail.

    Though David was a believer he was still able to sin, and to commit even heavy sins. We can be sure that basically David was against murder and adultry, and did not want to commit that sins. But the problem is that David AND we have inherited the degenerated nature of the falllen Adam – our body is sinful, or the sin dwells in our limbs in a real way (almost biologically). If the faith in Christ's releasing power (the releasing power of his death and resurrection) is not there, and the old nature reigns, even a Christian can commit heavy sins – return is possible through Jesus sacrifice seen as atonement.

    Therefore I will not condemn Mr. Kennedy because of breaking some commandments. I would more criticize that he kept the Catholic doctrine, and did not convert to pure Christianity. However, maybe, he was naive concerning religious matters, and did not care very much about the doctrine. Luther said that a very few Catholics can be true Christians when they simply try to live a righteous life on the basis of their (infant) baptism denying or not being aware of the false doctrine of Catholic Eucharist.

    Generally it would be better when a Catholic who really wants to follow Jesus leaves the Catholic Church. Because the Catholic Church offers Christ every Sunday again in form of the host, and that is diametrically opposed to the Christian doctrine of the Lord's Supper: Christ is not offered every Sunday again but through bread and wine our community with Jesus is renewed, and we receive strength to overcome our sinful nature, and to love God and our neighbour. If Christ would be sacrificed every Sunday again, we could keep on sinning, even sin more, as believers because we had a new atonement every Sunday. I hope that Kennedy did not believe that Catholic heresy.

    Furthermore all people of the Western world are trapped in an awful idolatry which is materialsm. Today there is not much distinction between the life of a Catholic, a Protestant, a Muslim, a Hindu, a Free Church Christian, etc.. Why? The materialsm seperates us from the Godhead no matter what we believe, and even if we had the true doctrine, and would still espouse materailism, we would be seperated from the Godhead. The sad thing is that we are not aware of our materialsm but simply regard our today Western lifestyle as the usual lifestyle. Yet, never in history people were so busy with producing goods and services, and consumption of goods and sevices like today, and that is our sure doom. However, maybe Kennedy was naive, did not realize the situation, and then it would be an further excuse for his infidelity.

    We as a society must learn again to find a healthy balance between spiritual things and material things. We must reduce the time and energy which we invest in producing and consuming goods, and instead spend more time for contemplation in silence, praying, fasting, having community with other believers, and reading the Bible.


    November 24, 2013 at 9:27 am |
    • igaftr

      Feel free to go to this ridiculous site and see why it is YOU aren't a true Christian.

      Rainman's site is nothing more that the No True Scotman fallacy on a grand scale.

      November 24, 2013 at 9:40 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      "Furthermore all people of the Western world are trapped in an awful idolatry which is materialsm." – Rainer

      "There can be, or be conceived, no other substance but God." – Spinoza

      Materialism sounds godly to me, Rainer.

      November 24, 2013 at 9:44 am |
  9. Dan

    It's hard to believe that we still elect presidents who believe in talking snakes, magical ribs, and an invisible man in the clouds. It's embarrassing really.

    November 24, 2013 at 9:03 am |
    • igaftr

      Try getting elected as an atheist...you'll never make it. People love their myths and superst!tions, and really don't like those who don't share their delusions.

      November 24, 2013 at 9:06 am |
    • joe

      It's actually worse than that. If you reveal that you don't believe in such garbage, you have no chance of even being elected.

      November 24, 2013 at 9:10 am |
      • Science Works


        At least the courts are not letting it be taught as fact.

        Ohio Supreme Court upholds the firing of a creationist science teacher !

        Ohio’s Supreme Court upheld the firing of an eighth-grade science instructor who taught creationism instead of evolution to his students.


        November 24, 2013 at 9:16 am |
        • Dana

          Maybe he thought that he was teaching mythology class.

          November 24, 2013 at 9:45 am |
        • Crimzin

          That's Ohio. In several other states and counties, particularly in the Bible Belt, creationism is in fact being taught in public school biology classrooms as an "alternative theory" to evolution. Very sad.

          November 24, 2013 at 9:49 am |
        • SuZieCoyote

          Creationism is not a "science." It is a set of myths to some and a faith to others, appropriately taught in church, not in public schools. This teacher was teaching creationism *instead* of science and rightfully was let go. The most any public school teacher should say about creationism is "Many people have faith-based ideas about human beginnings. Look to your church for those teachings."

          November 24, 2013 at 9:58 am |
        • Science Works

          Evolution debate again engulfs Texas board

          The last stand for creationists and it boils down to when the earth cooled off – 4.2 billion years ago or 4 billion years ago ?

          November 24, 2013 at 10:13 am |
        • Science Works


          The real destructive force is the RCC and its biblical stand on procreation !

          When they teach and supposedly understand evolution.

          November 24, 2013 at 10:30 am |
    • lol??

      A&A's believe in the tree of money, not Life. Socies are like that.

      November 24, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
  10. Gawd

    It must be make believe day again.

    November 24, 2013 at 9:00 am |
  11. Dan

    "He was famously unfaithful to his wife but fiercely loyal to his church"

    Typical religious nut

    November 24, 2013 at 8:58 am |
    • Crimzin

      Translation: he was a hypocrite just like all religious zombies.

      November 24, 2013 at 9:50 am |
  12. Ken

    John Kennedy's rampant adultery is indicative of the duality under which too many people live. They sin rampantly when they think no one is looking and put on a face of piety in public and espouse their strong religious beliefs.

    I strongly believe that if Kennedy were not assassinated, his Presidential legacy would have reflected it's true mediocrity if not ended in embarrassing and destructive scandal.

    November 24, 2013 at 8:41 am |
    • hermittalker

      JFK's extra-marital activity would have unravelled his record you say? Wonder how Jesus assesses that?

      November 24, 2013 at 8:48 am |
      • JJ

        Jesus assesses nothing since he's been dead for 2000 years.

        November 24, 2013 at 8:54 am |
      • Ken

        I'm sure Jesus would feel the same way and does. Adultery is one of the Ten Commandments. Kennedy's Presidential record is not that remarkable. His success was making people feel good with the help of his wife, his actions in office weren't so stellar and quite often were failures.

        I wonder if he appreciated his wife when he was in bed with the woman of the moment?

        November 24, 2013 at 8:56 am |
    • saggyroy

      "I strongly believe that if Kennedy were not assassinated, his Presidential legacy would have reflected it's true mediocrity" – Except for the part about going to the moon.

      November 24, 2013 at 8:53 am |
      • Ken

        Kennedy was long gone before we set foot on the moon. He set the wheels in motion, but others carried the day.

        November 24, 2013 at 8:58 am |
        • lol??

          You can't eat moon rocks. Well,some dogs do, notwithstanding.

          November 24, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
    • abc

      Do you really believe he was a philanderer? I DON"T! There has not been one woman who came forward.

      November 24, 2013 at 8:58 am |
      • Ken

        Mimi Alford, Judith Exner, Mary Meyer, Gunilla Von Post just to name a few...

        November 24, 2013 at 9:02 am |
        • igaftr

          abc was right...there was not ONE woman...there were many...

          November 24, 2013 at 9:04 am |
        • truthprevails1

          Marilyn Monroe to name another.

          November 24, 2013 at 9:16 am |
        • lol??

          Gwowed up Monica types??

          November 24, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
  13. Brian K

    Of all the John Kennedy articles this season this was one on the best. Well researched and written!

    November 24, 2013 at 7:55 am |
  14. hermittalker

    Jesus called the CHURCH a HOSPITAL for the sick, St Paul says where Sin abounded Grace did more abound AND said we hold these treasures in clay pots. JFK was an extraordinary member of our flawed and grace-filled Family.

    November 24, 2013 at 5:49 am |
    • Science Works


      And the RCC is still covering up.

      St. Paul News Conference Tuesday

      First Child Victims Act Lawsuit to Name Treatment Facility Run by Bishops
      Where Known Offenders were Recycled into Ministry

      Father Francis Hoefgen admitted abuse to police, sent to St. Luke’s
      and placed back in Hastings parish where he molested Doe 27

      November 24, 2013 at 6:23 am |
    • Terik Ororke

      Those who protest too much are people who may in fact be hiding something. They are the oners who always attack the church but will not speak about the massive coverups of groups that make the church look pale, like teachers, scouts, and familiy members. But to the point: the self righteous are always ready to attack sinners but cannot see that they are among that same group and when they point out the sins of others, they take on the same sins. Kennedy knew he was weak.

      November 24, 2013 at 8:05 am |
      • hermittalker

        Shakespeare PT IT WELL; .methnks HE doth protest too much. Psychologists say WE HATE IN OTHERS WHAT WE FEAR IN OURSELVES.

        November 24, 2013 at 8:39 am |
        • lol??

          So you're accusing A&A's of hating God because Christians are the temple of God?? And they fear hell and cope by denial?? Sounds like JW's and Unutarians.

          November 24, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
    • sam stone

      sin is a man made concept, herman

      November 24, 2013 at 8:25 am |
      • hermittalker

        IF you think humans imagined sin and did it and then invented a God to condemn it and talked about hell and heaven. you should be writing fiction and film scripts and sell them. A bookstore chain just beat you to that by listing the Bible as FICTION

        November 24, 2013 at 8:37 am |
        • igaftr

          "Sin" itself is a construct of religion, and all religions are constructs of men, and as far as anyone can tell, so are all gods.
          That is not to say that people won't harm others or act against even their own best interests, but the word "sin" is only pertenant to religion.

          I do not believe or follow any religion, so it is impossible for me to "sin" though I can do things that are morally wrong. One does not need any religion or gods to have a moral compass. The moral compass existed BEFORE religions, and were incororated into religions.

          November 24, 2013 at 8:52 am |
        • AtheistSteve

          Actually you have the order wrong. Man first came up with the god concept. But it wasn't enough to just say that there was a creator god with a vested interest in your eternal happiness. Rules and conditions were applied to exclude those deemed unworthy. Viking warriors who died in battle gained access to Valhalla but the sick or aged who died of natural causes were denied. "Sin" in this case was fear, cowardice and weakness. Only the elite, the strong made it into heaven. Similar constraints existed in Greek and Roman ideologies.
          Christianity flipped this idea upside down. A pacifist ideology in which the meek are favored over the aristocrats. The very things that once were regarded as virtues suddenly became sins. A cunning ploy because the proportion of commoners to elites opened a much larger pool of potential converts. Ironically this created a ruling class of elites within the church itself who's power rivaled or even usurped the political leaders of the day.

          November 24, 2013 at 9:48 am |
        • sam stone

          i am not claiming that the bible as fiction is something new

          it was been fiction for millenia

          November 24, 2013 at 10:10 am |
    • sam stone

      hermit, too

      November 24, 2013 at 8:26 am |
    • abc


      November 24, 2013 at 8:59 am |
    • Dan

      It's fun to quote fiction.

      November 24, 2013 at 8:59 am |
  15. Apple Bush

    @Lionly Lamb

    I understood something you said today.

    November 23, 2013 at 9:54 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      but that's impossible...!

      November 24, 2013 at 3:49 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      Yeah, I think our friend Lionly Lamb needs to loosen up his synapses with a bit of reefer.

      November 24, 2013 at 5:18 am |
  16. Apple Bush

    Good news folks! Turns out nothing is actually something.

    November 23, 2013 at 9:49 pm |
  17. Reality # 2

    Dear Ghost of JFK,

    Only for the new ghosts of this blog 🙂

    Jesus was an illiterate Jewish peasant/carpenter/simple preacher man who suffered from hallucinations (or “mythicizing” from P, M, M, L and J) and who has been characterized anywhere from the Messiah from Nazareth to a mythical character from mythical Nazareth to a ma-mzer from Nazareth (Professor Bruce Chilton, in his book Rabbi Jesus). An-alyses of Jesus’ life by many contemporary NT scholars (e.g. Professors Ludemann, Crossan, Borg and Fredriksen, ) via the NT and related doc-uments have concluded that only about 30% of Jesus' sayings and ways noted in the NT were authentic. The rest being embellishments (e.g. miracles)/hallucinations made/had by the NT authors to impress various Christian, Jewish and Pagan sects.

    The 30% of the NT that is "authentic Jesus" like everything in life was borrowed/plagiarized and/or improved from those who came before. In Jesus' case, it was the ways and sayings of the Babylonians, Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, Hitt-ites, Canaanites, OT, John the Baptizer and possibly the ways and sayings of traveling Greek Cynics.


    For added "pizzazz", Catholic theologians divided god the singularity into three persons and invented atonement as an added guilt trip for the "pew people" to go along with this trinity of overseers. By doing so, they made god the padre into god the "filicider".

    Current RCC problems:

    Pedophiliac priests, an all-male, mostly white hierarchy, atonement theology and original sin!!!!

    Luther, Calvin, Joe Smith, Henry VIII, Wesley, Roger Williams, the Great “Babs” et al, founders of Christian-based religions or combination religions also suffered from the belief in/hallucinations of "pretty wingie thingie" visits and "prophecies" for profits analogous to the myths of Catholicism (resurrections, apparitions, ascensions and immacu-late co-nceptions).

    Current problems:
    Adulterous preachers, pedophiliac clerics, "propheteering/ profiteering" evangelicals and atonement theology,

    November 23, 2013 at 6:34 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Nothing survives death – no ghosts.

      November 23, 2013 at 6:41 pm |
      • Lionly Lamb

        Quite right Tom...

        Nothing is the only thing that survives material death...

        November 23, 2013 at 7:24 pm |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          From the bleeding edge of semantics:

          True or false, nothing exists or nothing does not exist?

          November 23, 2013 at 7:35 pm |
        • Lionly Lamb

          Nothingness is that which holds together all mannerisms of material being and essences, therefore nothing is and will forever be the glue of everything materially conjured within every dimension of spatial relationships...

          November 23, 2013 at 7:48 pm |
      • devin

        You know this with such certainty how?

        November 23, 2013 at 7:38 pm |
        • Stache

          Because nothing survived death. Stop watching "The Walking Dead". It's not real.

          November 23, 2013 at 9:40 pm |
    • Reality # 2

      My ghosts are those dead who appear alive in my dreams. P, M, M, L and John had the same issues.

      November 23, 2013 at 11:53 pm |
  18. JW

    Scholar Charles Freeman answers that those who believed that Jesus is God “found it difficult to refute the many sayings of Jesus that suggested he was subordinate to God the Father.” As a result, church tradition and opinions of later authorities were substiituted for the Gospels. To this day, many of the clergy elevate the uninspired sayings of so-called Church Fathers to a plane higher than the Word of God! If you have ever discussed the Trinity doctrine with a seminarian, you have likely noticed that.

    The New Encyclopædia Britannica describes one major factor that led to twisted reasoning: “Christians who had some training in Greek philosophy began to feel the need to express their faith in its terms, both for their own intellectual satisfaction and in order to convert educated pagans.” An important doctrine that was given a pagan twist had to do with the identiity of Jesus Christ. The Bible calls him the Son of God; the lovers of Greek philosophy insisted that he is God.

    November 23, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
    • Jill

      JW, don't obfuscate the primary prenuptials with rasberries. Often, the pertinent cat presents fabled necessities in the parking chamfer. Realize your net precedent. Triangulate! Save the best for the alligators. Ever the bastille notches the orchestra but Wendy is not green and horses will capitulate. Filter out the log from the turnstile and cry prevalently.So there brown stare. Feed your inner walnut and resolve. Subject your lemon to the ingenious door in the presence of snow and animals. Aisle 7 is for the monetary cheese whiz. Faced with the kitchen, you may wish to prolong the sailboat in the cliff. Otherwise, rabbits may descend on your left nostril. Think about how you can stripe the sea.Regale the storm to those who (6) would thump the parrot with the armband. Corner the market on vestiges of the apparent closure but seek not the evidential circumstance. Therein you can find indignant mountains of pigs and apples. Descend eloquently as you debate the ceiling of your warning fulcrum. Vacate the corncob profusely and and don’t dote on the pancreas.

      Next up, control your wood. Have at the cat with your watch on the fore. Aft! Smarties (12)! Rome wasn’t kevetched in an autumn nightie. (42) See yourself for the turntable on the escalator. Really peruse the garage spider definitely again again with brown. Now we have an apparent congestion, so be it here. Just a moment is not a pod of beef for the ink well nor can it be (4) said that Karen was there in the millpond.Garbage out just like the candle in the kitty so. Go, go, go until the vacuum meets the upward vacation. Sell the yellow. Then trim the bus before the ten cheese please Louise. Segregate from the koan and stew the ship vigorously.

      And remember, never pass up an opportunity to watch an elephant paint Mozart.

      November 23, 2013 at 6:34 pm |
    • Reality # 2

      Some added details:

      Let us see what some of the experts (NT, historical Jesus exegetes ) have to say about the "Son of God/the Father references in the NT:

      Matt 7:21
      “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven."

      Not said by the historical Jesus, but more embellishment my Matthew. http://wiki.faithfutures.org/index.php/111_Invocation_without_Obedience

      Matt 9:6 Passage notes "Son of Man" not Son of God.


      Matt 10:32-33, ""Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; /33/ but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven"

      "Ludemann [Jesus, 344] states " this is a prophetic admonition from the post-Easter community. For it, Jesus and the Son of man were 'identical in the future: Jesus will return in the near future as the Son of man with the clouds of heaven. In his earthly life he was not yet the Son of man, since he will come to judgment only with the clouds of heaven (Dan. 7.13f) at the end of days' (Haenchen)."

      Matt 11:27 "All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

      http://wiki.faithfutures.org/index.php/045_Father_and_Son and

      "Lüdemann [Jesus, 330f] invokes the classic description from K. Hase of this passage as a "thunderbolt from the Johannine heavens." He notes the typically Johannine reference to mutual knowledge between Father and Son, and the absolute use of "Son" as a designation for Jesus. In dismissing the saying's authenticity, Luedemann also notes the similarity to ideas in the post-Easter commissioning scene at Matt 28:18, "All authority has been given to me ..."

      Matt 1:20- 225 (another "pretty, wingie thingie requirement)

      20/ But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. /21/ She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." /22/ All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: /23/ "Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel," which means, "God is with us." /24/ When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, /25/ but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus."

      "Bruce Chilton

      In Rabbi Jesus: An Intimate Biography (2000), Chilton develops the idea of Jesus as a mamzer; someone whose irregular birth circ-umstances result in their exclusion from full participation in the life of the community. He argues for the natural paternity of Joseph and finds no need for a miraculous conception. In his subsequent reconstruction of Jesus' life, Chilton suggests that this sustained personal experience of exclusion played a major role in Jesus' self-ident-ity, his concept of God and his spiritual quest. "

      Mark 1: 11 And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."


      "Gerd Lüdemann

      Lüdemann [Jesus, 9] affirms the historicity of Jesus being baptized by John, but does not trace the theological interpretations back beyond the post-Easter community:

      ... Jesus did not regard his baptism as appointment to be the son of God. The underlying concept derives from the community, which believed in Jesus as the son of God (cf. Gal. 2.16; 4.4) and located his appointment within his lifetime. In the earliest period, for example, the appointment of Jesus as son of God came only after his resurrection from the dead (cf. Rom. 1.4).

      "John P. Meier

      The second volume of A Marginal Jew devotes considerable space to a study of John as "mentor" to Jesus. The historicity of the baptism is addressed on pages 100-105, before considering the meaning of Jesus' baptism on pages 106-116. On the basis of the criterion of embarrassment, supported by a limited proposal for multiple attestation (relying on possible echoes of a Q version in John's Gospel and in 1 John 5:6), Meier concludes:

      We may thus take the baptism of Jesus by John as the firm historical starting point for any treatment of Jesus' public ministry. (II,105)
      Having established the historicity of the baptism event, Meier is adamant that the narrative must be seen as a Christian midrash, drawing on various OT themes to assert the primacy of Jesus over John. In particular, Meier insists that the theophany must be excluded from all attempts to understand the event, since it is a later Christian invention rather than a surviving memory of some actual spiritual experience of Jesus.

      Meier's discussion of the meaning of the baptism puts great weight on the fact that accepting baptism implied Jesus' agreement with John's apocalyptic message, and also engages at length with the question of Jesus' sinlessness."

      November 23, 2013 at 6:38 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Jesus did not say "I am God" which clearly people of the days of the early church fathers wish he had said. Trinitarians hope that various verses support the notion, even tried to add it into the text of their Bible, but their Bible still has Jesus saying something quite different:

      "Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work."

      I wonder why they were not more successful at changing the Bible to support the trinitarian view.

      November 23, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
      • Dyslexic doG

        Feel free to lie all u need. U r being a little silly. U have no evidence he didn't say, "I am god"

        BTW, he was god

        November 23, 2013 at 7:30 pm |
        • Dyslexic goD

          Curb your doG

          November 23, 2013 at 7:38 pm |
        • You're reaching, as usual, troll.

          And stealing names to do it, along with some pretty juvenile text.

          November 23, 2013 at 9:03 pm |
        • Dyslexic doG

          stealing someone else's name to post is pretty feeble, whoever you are.

          November 24, 2013 at 2:49 pm |
  19. Lionly Lamb

    In faith are hopes driven... Atheists or not; Life is never without faith...

    November 23, 2013 at 6:16 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.