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« Bill Moyers Rewind: Barbara Tuchman (1988) | Main | New Media, Political Discourse, and the 2008 Elections »

Religion In Politics

In this week’s edition of the JOURNAL, Bill Moyers asked Kathleen Hall Jamieson and Melissa Rogers about Presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s high-profile speech regarding his Mormonism, highlighting the following quote:

"Given our grand tradition of religious tolerance and liberty, some wonder whether there are any questions regarding an aspiring candidate’s religion that are appropriate. I believe there are."

This is a debate with deep historical roots that has long defied easy categorization into "left" vs. "right" terms. While some liberal figures - like Jimmy Carter - have embraced linking religious principles to their political values, a number of conservative statesmen have taken stands arguing for the stringent separation of church and state. In 1981, Republican U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater said:

"On religious issues there can be little or no compromise. There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs. There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls this supreme being. But like any powerful weapon, the use of God's name on one's behalf should be used sparingly. The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent. If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both.

I'm frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in 'A,' 'B,' 'C' and 'D.' Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me? And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of 'conservatism.'"

(For more on Barry Goldwater and Bill Moyers' interview with Goldwater staffer Victor Gold, click here)

What do you think?

  • Is it acceptable to ask candidates questions about their religious faith? If so, which questions?

  • Is it appropriate for a candidate to promote, as Mike Huckabee has, their religious viewpoints as part of their appeal?

  • What is the proper relationship between candidates’ religion and their decisions when they reach office?


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    Comments

    Thinking of running for the senate seat in Fla. on the Mainstreet People's Party of Can-do people. See, Gov. Crist promised to "drop property taxes like a rock", what I did not understand was that my property value would drop like a rock first & he is seaking the senate seat.

    I will attend debates with my leather bound King James Bible, so all will know where my values were derived***now, now, I don't believe in burning people at the stake, but people (Congressmen esp) should be held responsible for their acts.

    This day & age one would have to be a stupid idiot to have an unwanted pregnacy, so abortion should be a non issue for those with enough brains to vote.

    When you have those responsible for the 'hen house' telling Congress ONLY they are smart enough to figure out why the chickens continue to disappear & Congress goes on recess then voting them back into office would require ONLY stupid idoits be allowed to vote & the Dummie-crats know how to disallow votes!

    For those diluted dimwits that pretend that many of those present at the birth of our country did not derive their values from Christian beliefs, I may be able to understand why the 'morning-after' pill is important to you.

    Billy Bob, Florida

    What has God done lately? His music is passe'! His magic tricks have been debunked. Agents keep promoting a comeback, but I think he's anesthetized like Michael Jackson. I hope his doctor hasn't gone to the bathroom.

    Christina Marlowe -

    I do hope you continue to look for God. You have a lot of true passion.

    I tend to think that God really hates religion. Its a man made thing.
    traditions of man I believe Jesus said.

    The God I believe actually wants me to 'come boldly before the throne of God'
    and let Him know exactly how I feel. He has no problem with me yelling at Him.
    Hes big enough to take it.
    What He wants is the Truth (like any good parent would)

    Please dont think that everyone who calls himself/herself a Christian is one.
    Only God knows who the real Christians are. Whats in a name anyway?

    I believe in God and He is loving and kind and forgiving. I used to be afraid
    to question God. My fear put up a constant barrier between Him and I.
    Im pretty sure God doesnt want those barriers. He can handle any and all
    questions and rants and tirades. He still seems to love me.

    If He exists of course. it is a matter of faith.

    Peace!

    Yet it's fascinating to watch, you must admit.

    Posted by: Christina Marlowe


    Actually, Christina, it's not, imo.

    But I enjoyed your rants!

    Godlessness is Good

    I am an atheist. I do no claim to have answers and, conversely, I do not believe that anyone else does either. And, if there truly IS a god, I am thoroughly off the hook for not believing in it/him/her--the only god that I would ever believe in would be a kind and loving and understanding god, and that god would really like the fact that I question such god's existence. I believe that actions are everything in life. We all control each and every moment that we live, totally and completely vis-a-vis our own actions, inactions, words, thought, etc. I do not put the onus on some other thing out there; I take full responsibility for everything that involves my own self. Furthermore I do not believe in repentance for sins or forgiveness for repeating mistakes. Instead, I choose knowingly and intentionally to always do the right thing with respect to living my life. I always do my very best each and every moment of each and every day. I have no hang ups; I am free. Free, that is, from the many and varying twisted and pathological idees fixe that almost every religion seems to impose on it's followers. I always do the right thing, having complete control of myself. I don't make mistakes, except maybe in math. I like to rant, I like to rave, I like to tell people what to do, but I really don't care if they listen...I AM the Jehovah of my own universe. I don't need to wear hair shirts to repent and I don't need to confess to anyone for sins because I don't "sin" in the first place. I am kind, loving, generous, understanding and intelligent. There is nothing in this world that I need or want for myself. I am perfect, PERFECT FLAWS AND ALL.

    The question of just which of the many religion has it "right" and has the answers is asinine and useless. My contention is that I and I alone have it all right...get my point?  
    I kind of like the simplicity of what the 14th Dalai Lama has said. He said: "My religion is simple. My religion is kindness." End of story. 

    WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 4, 2009

    Instead...

    Instead of basic human kindness, the world is filled with unspeakable atrocities, mind boggling hypocrisy and countless criminal injustices.  Many of these wretched and abhorrent behaviors are personified in organized religions and in the name of "god."  So-called Christians are among the worst of offenders.  I am a lifelong agnostic, bordering on atheist and, by my witnessing the absolutely reprehensible behavior and deranged beliefs by and of the most dogmatic right-wing fundamentalist religious types, I come to believe more than ever that religion is the root of all evil.  I sincerely believe that religion, particularly the various and horrible forms of Christianity, is far more damaging than helpful. I do not believe that one can do one horrible deed after another and then simply repent and ask forgiveness; rather, you, um, to quote the bible "reap what you sow."  In Buddhism it's called "Karma." And I am certain that every religion and belief system around the world has a word or phrase for it.  What ever it is that you give out, you shall get it all back in spades;  I don't believe in repentance or forgiveness;  live your life with the best of intentions ALWAYS, and always do your best.  That's really all there is to it.  Be kind, generous and open-handed.  Do not bean asshole or greedy, stingy tight-fisted and judgmental.  It's all so very simple, why do so many religious people get it all so, well, so wrong?!?!  If more so-called "good Christians" would actually follow the words and teachings of their hero Jesus Christ ( a great prophet,  in my estimation) then they wouldn't be the hypocritical, right-wing, bigoted, judgmental cretins that so many of them are in reality. There is absolutely no excuse for such behavior from anyone in this world of ours.  Look at yourselves, as you ruin the world!!!!  And in the name of god, to boot!!!!!    The current rise of Christian crusades,  preaching creationism and strict fundamentalism, are more than just ignorant, stupid and vile;  they are dangerous.   These incomprehensible busybodies want the rest of the world to see things just as they do.  Why can't these people just keep their mouths shut and be content in their own lives without trying to force their asinine and evil notions on others?

    CHRIST(INA) MARLOWE 

    It is my contention that each religion has a basic and good foundation, and each has a measure of good words and good teachings. That being said, I think that once human beings, particularly those who don't practice looking closely at themselves and their own behaviors, that instead latch onto a certain book and then these people go on to ruin their own lives in such puzzling and crazy ways. Particularly if you're saddled with the belief that the almighty god is a jealous, nasty, ill-tempered and hateful god, um, that that bastard in the Old Testament. And if you spend your time believing in that, you're, well, you're just fucked.

    Cheers,

    Christ Marlowe

    The blasphemy of Politics in Religion--

    (Don't these morons know that the Constitution is a utterly GODLESS document??)

    As I cringe again and again at the fact that every single politician,  Democrat and Republican alike, tries to pander to the organized religious institutions in our country, I become more resentful that religion of any kind should be an issue at all in the political arena.  The presidential contenders in both parties are playing a game of one-upmanship as to whom has more faith in god whilst the word "god" should never, ever, enter the political arena at all. The most omnipresent danger in politics is religion--and time after time, particularly with the fanatical right-wing conservatives, it, religion, seems to be at the forefront; and this is indeed dangerous.

    The so-called and much-more-often-than-not-so-good 'Christian' soldiers have been,  still are and will continue to be devils incarnate: President Bush, Dick Cheney, Condaleeza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, Carl Rove ( just to name a few ) have participated in the most impeachable offenses from the very beginning of their dictatorship;  in fact, they are war criminals and repeatedly override the Constitution--there are no checks and balances left and they are ruling the world into irreparable oblivion and a quagmire so deep and dense that it's utterly mind boggling.  Yet it's fascinating to watch, you must admit.

    I despair at the dissolution of the wall separating Church and State, and can only ascribe it to the collapse in our school system.Religious belief and practice belongs in the private sector, has no place in government, and legislation must not be based on the Bible.Of course this turn backward might only herald the first stage in collapse of Empire.A sated citizenry loses the watchfulness Jefferson urged.

    Religion has no place in public political life.

    This is Not a Christian Country, and that issue was in fact fiercely disputed during the birth of our nation and settled to that effect: religion has no place determining state or federal politics, because that is inherently discriminatory against all others, and that is Not Allowed in these United States, by deliberate intent.

    America stands for Reason and Religion Hates Reason. Reason rescues humans, therefore humans should attack anything that attacks Reason: attack my Reason, attack Me; if you cannot prove that your God exists and that your God wants what you say your God wants, then I wish to hear no further of your God. Keep him/her/it/them to yourself and have a happy life.

    Religion has no place except in human history, sorry. Spiritual things remain; religions will teach you nothing of them. Read Richard Dawkins’s “The God Delusion” and Sam Harris’s “The End of Faith”.

    I was a little disappointed that no one talked much about the Mormon church's attitude toward women. I was told by a friend of mine,who was raised a Mormon, that the church teaches that unless a woman is married she cannot, upon death, ascend to the 7th (highest) level of heaven. How can a woman vote for a candidate that believes in such inequality? If you are are woman, do you want to live in a country governed by such bigotry?

    There was a baptist woman on the Moyers Journal PBS program the other night who was extolling the need for seperation of secular and politicial (my words; I'm tired of "church and state" as many people are not getting the drift.) by saying (paraphrase) "there needs to be tolerance for those who hear god's call and those who [u]reject[/u] god's call.

    Gimme a break, lady.

    As a citizen who happens to be a naturalist, don't patronize me by saying I deserve tolerance even though I "reject god's call."

    Don't damn me to you're version of an afterlife by your faint praise of toleration.

    I would like to thank Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Ph.D., for her comment that the world has not changed much, we just hear about it more now because of the advancement in communication. This sentiment is exactly what I've thought for years. When the shooting at Columbine occurred, the news media was all over it as something unprecedented and new, but I said then that it was nothing new, we just hear about it more often now, then we did in the past.

    Very thought provoking discussion on the Moyers program, and the posted thoughts! It seems incredible to me that a candidates religion wouldn't be a source of concern: i.e., Southern Baptists (Huckabee) statement of belief regarding the status of women, "subject to their husbands". Wasn't that re-affirmation of women's status the reason Jimmy Carter publicly removed himself from that denomination?

    Your recent discussion of religion in politics was a bit disturbing:
    Ordinarily, I expect only facts from Ms Jamison and she didn't disappoint.

    Ms Rogers's contribution I found condescending: So people have the free will to "embrace faith or not"? As an Atheist I find no free will available when deciding whether to believe in ghosts, especially those trying to redefine America as a theocracy. Her faked based framing to include poverty and immigration as suddenly of interest is disingenuous, especially in view of comments such as "Life begins at conception" and "whether religion bears on the teaching of i.d. in public schools".

    Although I record Mr. Moyer's program without fail, and although I believe he mentioned some phrase supporting or acknowlediong separation of church and state, Barry Lynn of Americans United said it best re. Romney's "statement of religion in politics". Quoting Adams rather than Jefferson and Madison means a great omission on the issue. For one of very many examples from "Words of our American Founding Fathers", we cite only Madison: "And I have no doubt that every new example will succeed, in shewing that religion & Govt will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together."

    Romney, you're no Jack Kennedy. Likewise, Melissa, you need to do less preaching and more study of our nation's founding as god-less.

    This discussion surrounding the misogynist comments made about Clinton seemed a bit naive. While it is sad that such tripe is uttered, the guest's reaction to online posts (ie facebook) seemed misguided. If her sensibilities are so easily offended, she need not read them. From my perspective it is remarkable that internet technology allows us to hear what is being said in other social circles, even if we are offended by it. Instead of reacting as if the sites should be shut down or censored, we should use them to inform honest discussion about where we stand as a nation and a culture, and what we need to do to get where we want to be.

    The only issue I take with the discussion is Melissa Rogers' repeated references to people who "respond to God's call or..reject God's call."; who "embrace faith or choose to reject faith."; who either "choose or reject God."

    There are many of us who acknowledge the embrace of a universe exquisitely ruled by natural law and do so with awe and reverence.

    That universe requires us to reject nothing. Democracy requires only civility.

    What do you think?

    Equality is nature's truth.


    Is it acceptable to ask candidates questions about their religious faith? If so, which questions?

    Yes, and the question would be:
    What do you believe or think, and how will your beliefs negatively or positively effect this planet.


    Is it appropriate for a candidate to promote, as Mike Huckabee has, their religious viewpoints as part of their appeal?

    It is right to know a future leaders truth as well as his or her faith.
    It is up to us to judge its appear or not.


    What is the proper relationship between candidates’ religion and their decisions when they reach office?

    If his religion unites all things, it should guide him. If on the other hand his faith divides, he should not lead anything at all.

    =
    MJA

    As ever, Mr. Moyers has the perfect tone and a good subject to rile us.

    I am jealous of countries such as England. It must be easier for a public to respond appropriately (that is, with visceral revulsion) to any hint of a state religion if they have, at least geographically, personal experience with it.

    Our first amendment is brilliant...but is just a law; only sacred because we DECIDE that it is, not because we fear (with examples!) for its loss.

    Will it take an American Henry VIII for us to internalize the historical truth that ANY state religion, while awfully convenient for the governor, is a disaster for the governed?

    I was enjoying your program's illuminating conversation when I did several double takes while Melissa Rogers was speaking. I checked the transcript and found which word had caught my ear four times. Ms Rogers, and I quote each instance, defined religious freedom as "the freedom to choose or REJECT God," "freedom either to respond to God's call or to REJECT God's call," "to choose or REJECT religion," and freedom to "choose or REJECT faith."

    Hearing the word "reject" used this way gives me pause, both as an American and as a person of faith. "Rejecting God" is pretty strong language to describe the religious apathy and despair many now feel as Christianity is increasingly co-opted by the fundamentalism so rampant in our country, and so damaging to our national political discourse. Surely, the term, "religious freedom" in the American tradition should be defined in a way that better implies a political and moral equality between the choice to be religious or not. "Accept," and be one of God's own; "reject," and what does that make you?

    Some random thoughts....

    We elect or political leaders, not our religious leaders. Seems ironic our political leaders find it necessary to appeal to our religious beliefs. I think if our political leaders religious beliefs were that important, the almighty him/her-self would anoint our leaders for us.

    I do not judge a person based on their religious viewpoints. I judge a person based on their character and personal integrity. Ones religious beliefs does not qualify them as a good person.

    All the religious debate in politics seems to accomplish is a distraction from other more important issues.

    Please help me out. Why has religion in United States politics become a pivotal issue? Wasn’t America founded on freedom FROM religion? That each, according to his religious beliefs or non beliefs could function as citizens of this country? How has this happened? Please tell me, are there several gods, or is there one god? Is there a god for Lutherans, Baptists, Jews, Islamists, Mormons, Episcopalians, Catholics, Muslins, etc or is there one god? If there are several gods that oversee all of these religions, how come these gods are not at war with each other? If there is one god, how can we all be god’s children and god as a parent not be totally devastated over the killing, rape and destruction that has transpired in his name? Is this rational? Or is this an excuse for taking gods name and making it political and a power struggle? I just don’t see any rational and logical line of thinking going on here. What are these people thinking? God is supposed to be love. Where is the love? Please tell me, where is the ‘do unto others’? Folks seem to take excerpts from the bible and or Koran and make it gospel! But all of this seems contradictory, and applicable only to the thrust of the current issue, be it gays, lesbians, illegal immigrants, or any other of the multitude of issues that can be thrown in gods lap. How can the holy books justify love and murder under the came cover?
    I am in awe of how god can be so multidirectional in his power and wisdom. I am in awe of how so many millions can claim one god for their own, each with their own dogma and not question in the least what they are thinking. Group soup. Sheep. If not for the fact that all this thinking is causing world chaos, it would be easy to dismiss. Isn’t it time for human beings to evolve from the tribal mentality, the grip of religious power struggles, and begin to function for the good of humanity? Are we doomed to fight to the last man standing? Just to prove a religious right? If I choose not to embrace a certain religion, but choose to live freely and not be affiliated with any religion, am I a target for evangelists out to save my sorry soul? Does that get the faithful an extra feather in the angel wing? Where is hell? If hell is in the bowels of the earth, and burning all those lost souls, maybe that has something to do with global warming. God knows every religion is convinced the ‘other’ infidels are doomed to the fire. Who decides? Which god is in charge here? Does god hate women? Surely there must be a bias here as men rape women with regularity and aplomb all in the name of Allah. They do not seem to fear any retribution for this sordid act. God does not seem to punish them. I am puzzled about all of this. How can god be love and compassionate and ignore what his out of control kids are doing on this planet by way of cutting off heads and raping women? There seems to me to be a lot of contradiction no matter what book you read. It sure is difficult for me to know just which god to trust. Which is why up to this point, I do not belong to any organized religion, but consider myself a child of the Universe which I trust a whole lot more that all those uncaring gods.

    On the question of whether the Republican candidates believe that the Bible is the Word of God, a better question is what they believe about some of these specific Bible verses (NASB), in light of their policies that oppress the poor, reward the rich, wage wars, and promote hatred against gay people:

    Words of the Hebrew prophets:
    “He has told you, O man, what is good;
    And what does the Lord require of you
    But to do justice, to love kindness,
    And to walk humbly with your God?”
    Micah 6:8

    “Is this not the fast which I chose,
    To loosen the bonds of wickedness,
    To undo the bands of the yoke,
    And to let the oppressed to free,
    And break every yoke?
    Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry,
    And bring the homeless poor into the house;
    When you see the naked, to cover him;
    And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
    . . .
    If you remove the yoke from your midst,
    The pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
    And if you give yourself to the hungry,
    And satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
    Then you light will rise in the darkness,
    And your gloom will become like midday.”
    Isaiah 58:6-10

    Words of Jesus:
    “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.”
    Matthew 5:9

    “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
    Matthew 5:16

    “But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.”
    Matthew 5:44

    “Do not judge lest you be judged yourselves.
    . . .
    And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?
    . . .
    You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly enough to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
    Matthew 7:1-5

    Words of the apostle Paul:
    “But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction.
    For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil.”
    1 Timothy 6:9-10

    And a warning from Jesus:
    “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits.”
    Matthew 7:15-16

    What is frightening to me is that the world seems to be flowing backwards. We are leaving the age of Enlightenment that informed the basic principles of the founding of the United States and, much like some other nations, are retreating into religious bigotry and "faith-based" fundamentalism. How are the evangelicals who want to abolish Darwinism from public schools any different from muslim fundamentalists who reject modern concepts of democracy or the equality of women? Each believes literally in their Holy Book and doesn't tolerate any positions that don't conform specifically to their own beliefs - and furthermore, want these beliefs to be reflected in the laws of their nation.

    It was interesting to hear the first part of Kennedy's speech as aired on your programme and how it differs so much from today's discourse. How far we have come! Unfortunately, in the wrong direction.

    In this age of faith based bigotry it is relevent to ask questions about religious belief. Several Roman Catholic bishops have pledged to deny the holy sacrements to our political leaders who vote against church orthodoxy. How can we expect our leaders to not be affected by these edicts?

    There has been a denial of the relationship between religion and politics in our country, along with others, for way too long. We must ask the questions that will bring to light these direct and indirect relationships. As a scholar of religion my self at the University of South Florida, I understand the importance of the role religion plays in all spheres of life, though I do not know all the mechanics, I have a humble appreciation for the power that religion holds. Did not Osama invoke the name of God? How about Michael Bray and the abortion clinic bombers? Aum Shinrikyo in Japan, the Montana Freeman, Christian Identity, Heavens Gate, all these groups around the world and in our backyard use religion as a way to empower and motivate others to action for the sake of their circumstances, are our politicians not doing the same?
    It is only with a renewed sense of appreciation, not acceptance or promotion, but simply a respect for something so enduring and powerful. Enduring enough to outlive the most controlling states, namely communism, and powerful enough that one would kill his or her self for the preservation of it. We must understand these relationships quickly or we are bound to wake up too late and be caught in the midst of a Fascist state.

    I think Mr. Jacques from Honolulu is correct: "...certain beliefs are completely incompatible with running this country..." I was raised in a Christian fundamentalist household, luckily escaping to the military as a young adult. However, it took another 25 years to finally get those beliefs completely out of my system. With these people (fundamentalists and probably most evangelicals) there is no compromise; there is no middle ground, e.g., G.W. Bush. How could one who believes that the Bible is the literal word of God make rational, unprejudiced decisions with regard to Israel and Palestine for example? I don't believe they can. Huckabee seems like a smart guy and a nice guy but he belongs in the pulpit, not in the Oval Office.

    Therefore, I think it is perfectly acceptable to ask questions about a candidate's religious beliefs; Questions such as "Do you believe that the Bible is the literal word of God", or "Do you believe that those who do not share your beliefs are destined for eternal damnation?" (Huckabee would have to answer "Yes" to both of these questions). This way voters will get more of the true measure of the candidate and a clearer idea of how he or she might govern.

    Candidates and their campaign strategist have elevated the religious aspects of their persona. In large part this is due to the second term victory of George junior Bush. The fact that he won with a large religious vote and (I believe the only reason he won) was not lost on the strategist. Religion is part of politics/Government because the American people are voting for it,...watch out America,..protect our Constitution in every way

    Aloha,
    I think that certain beliefs are completely incompatible with running this country, for instance:
    1. End of days: If the candidate believes in this stuff would he/she use U.S. power and diplomacy to hasten the end? He/she could fall in line behind those who wish to rebuild the Jewish Temple on the rubble of the Al-Aqsa mosque. S/he could give comfort to the settler movement and deepen rifts between the U.S. and the Muslim world.
    2. The world is 6000 years old: What kind of science policy could come from such a person. Would anything ever get done with the problem of global warming?
    3. Denomination: I'm sorry but certain denominations should never be given the reigns of power. Would you vote for a Scientologist? Some scifi authors who were friends of L. Ron (ElRon) Hubbard claim that this was a giant scam. While none of us was around for the founding of the LDS church, my reading of the history seems to indicate another scam or, more generously, a delusion. Jehovah's Witnesses: See my comment on End Days above.

    Finally, we've gone through almost 8 years of a president who talks to God and nobody else. How many people has he had killed or tortured?

    I bailed out of the Christian church ages ago and now practice Buddhism. It's not so much the Buddha but his teachings that are important.

    Mahalo (thanks),
    Jacques
    Honolulu

    Mr. Moyers and Professors Jamieson and Rogers provided a great perspective on the debate stoked by the religious conservatives and Mr. Romney. It's curious that the nature of the debate, at least as pursued here and in major media, is cast so high. I suspect that the low acceptance of the Church of Latter Day Saints comes not from theological misgivings and metaphysical prejudices but from the fairly common experience of having Mormon missionaries at the front door. The young men in white shirts and ties are there not because they want to have a free exchange of religious ideas but because they want to make converts to Mormonism. For non-Christian freethinkers or even lots of mainline Protestants, the proselytizing may be amusing or irritating, depending on the moment, but for fundamentalist Christians, Mormon assertions that "we don't all believe the same way" cast doubt on the listeners' absolute beliefs. In the same vein, if the Latter Day Saints wish to baptize my ancestors in absentia, I wish them well, but some Jewish organizations have objected strenuously to the practice. I think the popular elements in the sociology of religion--the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the scrubbed adolescents pitching their earnest faith door-to-door, a governing structure that makes the Vatican look youthful--have more sway than ideas in reactions to Mr. Romney.

    Kennedy said that nobody should be held from or be elected to office because of his religion, and while I do believe that most Americans will agree with this statement, I pose the following question:

    Would the Americans who believe in this credo ever elect a candidate who is unsure about the origin of life?

    It seems that most Americans would not have a problem electing a president as long as the person puts faith in a higher being, however I believe electing an agnostic or atheist president is not anywhere in our country’s near future. It seems that another problem in our society's government is not just the “separation of church and state,” but also a separation between “all churches within state and any other point of view.”

    While I realize that some voters would only elect a person of similar beliefs, this question is directed at religious people that would look past differences in religion, but not outside religion. I would argue, that is not separation of church and state.

    Congratulations to Moyers and to the staff at The Journal. Another excellent program (12/07/07). I was pleased to "meet" for the first time Melissa Rogers from Wake Forest. She added many logical insights to the discussion. Kathleen J. was perceptive as always. Given the awful statements about Mrs. Clinton, persuade me to vote for her. Signed:Dick in Illinois.

    An excellent commentary on the Romney speech is available today at commondreams.org, by Professor Juan Cole. Here is an excerpt:

    "Deists, freethinkers and Freemasons–the kind of people that Romney was complaining about– produced the First Amendment. When Tom Jefferson tried out an earlier version of it in Virginia, some of the members of the Virginia assembly actually complained that freedom of religion would allow the practice of Islam in the US. Jefferson’s response to that kind of bigotry was that other people believing in other religions did not pick his pocket or break his leg, so why should he care how they worshipped? And that’s all Romney had to say. But he did not want to say that. Romney said the opposite. He implied that is is actively bad for a democracy if people are unbelievers or if there is a strict separation of religion and state.

    We know the Founding Fathers and Romney is no founding father.

    By Romney’s definition of freedom, Sweden and France, where 50% and 40% of the population, respectively, does not believe in God, cannot have a proper democracy."

    Acceptable to ask about their religious faith? The US has been brought to near ruin by a president who admits that God tells him what to do! The fact that it was just Cheney through the vent has nothing to do with it, it's who he 'thought' it was that counts. Non-belief in the supernatural should be a requirement.

    Acceptable to ask about their religious faith? The US has been brought to near ruin by a president who admits that God tells him what to do! The fact that it was just Cheney through the vent has nothing to do with it, it's who he 'thought' it was that counts. Non-belief in the supernatural should be a requirement.

    The discussion on the show missed the point as to why many Christians find it difficult to vote for him. I don't think it is all based on exactly on his Mormonism, but rather on his representations of his beliefs.

    The more he claims to have beliefs essentially the same as the rest of the Christian community, the more hypocritical he appears.

    An investigation of core Mormon beliefs will show fundamental differences. One of the main being that the God he speaks of is the God of only of this planet. And as a good Mormon, it is his devout wish that he should have his own planet to rule over as God after his death. Strange? Mis-characterization? Do some research on Mormon beliefs!

    The attempt to be as God is, was the fundamental sin mentioned in Genesis, resulting of the casting out of Adam and Eve. This is in sharp contrast to the embracing of the idea that man will become as God that is part of the Mormon faith.

    These and other theological doctrines of the Mormon church are at extreme variance with the standard cosmology and theology of the Christian church.

    As a result, claims of, "my beliefs are the same as your beliefs" are met with great skepticism by many and make Romney appear to be even more hypocritical than he has appeared with other issues. As a result, the religious issue becomes part of a trust and believability issue.

    While personal faith should be left out of politics and the person considered on their policies and past actions, when the candidate brings this type of statement of beliefs forward, it then becomes a part of the debate.

    And, the puzzlement over the use by Huckabee of the phrase "Christian Leader" should not be a puzzle--the use of the word "Christian" is a code attack on Romney, because Mormons are not real "Christians" in the eyes of much of the Christian church due to their variances in beliefs. With this statement, Huckabee is saying, "I am the real "Christian", and Romney is not".

    By the way, I am a Christian who votes Democratic because the Republican party exhibits so little of Jesus' values of loving your neighbor (AND the stranger, AND the person not like you, AND your enemy), as you do yourself. God loves the whole world, not just Republicans.

    I find these responses very depressing from this particular blog thread thus far. Someone as accomplished and learned as Melissa Rogers has invaluable knowledge on the way ALL OF US perceive these statespeople. I choose to believe this bright individual can not only read between the proverbial "Conservative" line, but evoke poignant insight for those who rule on these important matters. The vulgarity and misogyny within the circles she must carry, must be a daunting journey in itself! So you go sister!!

    Why be pissed off?!? We're suppose to be able to use religion as a guidepost in our lives. All I hear is ' I hate this guy' or 'that crazy bitch.' Find someone to love. Peace

    Mike Huckabee talks about himself as being a "Christian Leader" who is running for President of the United States. Mike Huckabee is not alone in this regard; for Mitt Romney too, is a "Christian Leader" who is running for President of the United States.
    For years the Mormon Church has been under attack as not being a Christian Church, as not being a church who believes in Jesus Christ, as not being a Church who believes in the Bible, and as not being a Christian church at all; but rather as being a secretive cult.
    Many people have accepted these blatently false statements about the Mormon Church as being the truth.
    On Washington Week, the program that follows Bill Moyers, statements were made to the effect that really very little is known about the Mormon faith. Mr. Duffy even called the Mormon Church, "The Church of Latter-day Saints". That isn't the name of the Mormon Church. The actual name of the Mormon Church is, "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints".
    Many Evangelical Christians do not know that Latter-day Saints believe in Jesus Christ. They do not know that Mormons believe in the Bible and accept it as the Word of God. They do not even know that the Mormon Church is a Christian Church.
    On your program Mr. Moyer's, it was very much implied that Mitt Romney did the wrong thing to talk about his religion, and his personal beliefs. Your guests reasoned that if it isn't important to the running the government then a person's beliefs shouldn't really be made public; that we shouldn't wear our religion on our sleeve, etc, etc. All of this very intellectual conversation was done in total ignorance of the facts.
    Mitt Romney had to take a stand. He had to make his personal religious beliefs known if he is going to have a fighting chance to win the Republican nomination to run for President of the United States.
    Isn't it obvious? If the voters actually believe all of the false doctrine that is being taught about the Mormon church, the people aren't going to vote for Mitt Romney.
    Mitt Romney did exactly the right thing. And - - he had to do it before the Iowa caucus. He had to confront the lies told about the Mormon Church and his beliefs. He had to refute them once and for all with his own voice - like, "I believe in Jesus Christ. I believe in the Bible, etc".
    This subtle criticism of Mitt Romney's decision to speak about his religion, both on your Journal and on Washington Week, was done without all the facts and therefore this criticism was totally undeserved. And the sad thing is - it has been put forth by brilliant, though uninformed minds, and broadcast as truth throughout the Country.

    Relevance to governance? How is someone's identity NOT relevant to the choices and attitudes they will bring to the oval office? An atheist, lacking an "institutional" system of thought, can speak freely about himself, but a solid Christian for example has to be careful not to make obvious the harmony that exists between their outward politics and inner governance.

    Staged or not, the event simply points to the fact that millions of Americans agree that inner convictions are of the utmost important to leadership.

    In response to what Senator Goldwater said, integrity must respond by pointing out that he would be hardpressed to find an interest group or political action committee that is not as adamant about their own views. However, Senator Goldwater reserves his vehement disklike for the faith-based groups. Is this because they sometimes appear to be unified in purpose and thus powerful? Is the ideal American people one that has only limited influence over its own elected representatives?

    Yes there is wonderful diversity in this country. However, tearing out pieces of history from our courthouses, and limiting the passions of our forefathers to the crafting of the separation of church and state is a deliberate, and shameful subversion of one group in that diversity. "Believers" persist in the political climate of this country, to the dismay of those who would have governance be acceptable only if it reflects, not the people and the richness of the cultures and heritage they represent, but the progressive “truth-values” of elitist liberals in this country.

    In defining the "freedom of religion" rights in this country, Melissa Rogers frames this as either accepting or rejecting religion. The implication is that religion (christian, specifically) is really there and either you are a believer or choose not to believe in something that is there. I look at the "freedom of religion" right to also imply freedom FROM religion. This is very different from the question of believing or not believing, it has to do with not having a belief system forced on one group by another.

    The issue with the current political lineup, specifically on the right, is that they've placed their religious belief system at a level that all their decisions will need to pass through their religious filter first and foremost. In effect, a theocratic leadership based on a specific religious orientation that may or may not fit that of the Americans being governed. The current rising level of intolerance demonstrated by religious groups towards anyone different from themselves is a perfect preview of things to come.

    I am profoundly disappointed with this evening’s program of yet another christian spin of ‘faith in politics’. All three panelists being christian; we are treated to a tonality that seems to say “...or the poor misguided dears don’t have to accept THE truth...” Really? Gee, thanks. Should one be patronized for not believing in Santa Claus? We are not talking about a chess club president here but a man or woman who may one day have the power to unilaterally take this nation to war or imprison anyone that they may deem a threat !!! (ring a bell ? ) Rational argument for and with rules of conduct and laws governing this nation’s stance and policies must not be allowed to be forged in the emotionally based crucible of any religion whatsoever. Imagine the field day corporate, right wing media would have if an imam were elected again in Iraq or Iran . Should we not reasonably fear the same distorted view of reality logically inherent in a myth based world view of an American President? I must also state that I do agree that voting for or against anyone for a public office based solely on their personal beliefs is just as dangerous and un-American ; unless of course one of it’s founding principles is to convert everyone to their way of thinking and believing. Such is the case, I believe, with evangelicals and mormons alike; not to mention some sects of buddhism and others. Please note that just this evening the BBC news reported that Germany has announced that Scientology is unconstitutional.....and away we go ! “Mission Creep” is not just an aspect of military programs. But don’t worry, “It could never happen here”. Six million Jews, twenty million Russians, one hundred thousand Rwandans, fifty million Chinese, thousands of untold early Christians, 16th century Protestants and tens of thousands of Somalis or Croations might beg to differ; if they were alive.

    In the discussion of religion and politics guest Melissa Rogers asserted that we all have ". . .the freedom to choose or reject God." This is frustrating for non-believers like me. Atheists do not "reject God," we reject people's claims about God or gods, just as most everyone today rejects claims that were once made about Zeus, Poseidon and Hades.

    In this weeks discussion of religion and politics, all bemoaned the requisite declarations of faith among the current presidential candidates. It is unfortunate that all likewise chose not to declare the reason for this recent need to adhere to nonsensical recitation of Christian dogma in political campaigns: radical right-wing Christianity. It is the religious in this country who have attempted to hijack government and simultaneously vilify those of us who have the sense to reject all religion as utter nonsense and detrimental to humanity. This point is the important end of your discussion, and obviously missing. To re frame political discourse let us not simply ponder what is appropriate, but also address the cause. Perhaps you need more atheists guests rather than Christian lawyers on your program.

    I believe the proper answer about religion for a politician is "It's none of your business. My beliefs and morals are reflected in my actions. Examine my personal life record as a public servant to see what I've done to speculate on what I'll do."
    But, since they've chosen to answer differently:

    Romney interview, All Things Considered, December 3, 2007

    ATC Broadcast of December 3:
    Republican Party presidential nominee candidate Mitt Romney said “I would welcome an America where there was such consensus around abortion that we ended the practice altogether . . . it would be a wonderful state for this country to be in where there was a massive national consensus that abortion should not be a practice of this country.”

    Romney further said he finds it “hard to believe that NPR is going to inquire on people's beliefs about various parts of the Bible”. I can't believe his answers about his beliefs.

    The questions I would like answered by the candidates are:

    The incumbent godfreak says he does what his god tells him even when the advice is catastrophically wrong, immoral, unConstitutional, unAmerican, and known to be based on false information. If you have a god who talks to you, will you follow its advice even though it could be catastrophic, immoral, unConstitutional, and/or unAmerican even if it's based on provable facts?

    Candidate Romney also said he wants to eliminate abortions in the USA. Therefore a few questions for him and other candidates who share his opinion:

    [b]What programs do you propose[/b] to care for the first eighteen years of the unwanted children who will be born to victims of rape (oh, Romney allows them to have abortions), underage, incompetent, or simply unwilling mothers?

    [b]What programs do you propose[/b] to care for women who botch self-induced abortions with the likes of wire coat hangers, soda bottles, and other objects? Will you prosecute them after treatment?

    [b]What taxes do you propose[/b] to pay for each of those programs?

    From: http://www.mittromney.com/Issues/american-culture
    GOVERNOR ROMNEY: “I am pro-life. I believe that abortion is the wrong choice except in cases of incest, rape, and to save the life of the mother. I wish the people of America agreed, and that the laws of our nation could reflect that view. But while the nation remains so divided over abortion, I believe that the states, through the democratic process, should determine their own abortion laws and not have them dictated by judicial mandate.” (Governor Mitt Romney, Boston Globe, Op-Ed, 7/26/05)

    Barry Goldwater had it exactly right, as did JFK. Religion and professions of faith, whether Romney's or Huckabee's or anyone else's, have NO place in politics or the exercise of government. I have no respect, but rather disgust and shame, for candidates who use their religion to pander for votes, no matter how sincere their professions of faith. As Ms. Jamieson said, positions on critical issues such as abortion, stem cells, the death penalty do have relevance to political discourse; the possible religious belief sources of such positions do not.

    Romney's implication that his tolerance for all believers does not extend to "secularists," and Huckabee's clear self-characterization as a "Christian leader" are depressing and frightening examples of the increasing infiltration of religion into American politics. Ms. Rogers correctly highlighted the dangerous implication in Romney's statement about religious freedom as applied to believers, but implicitly excluding non-believers or atheists.

    If candidates feel the need to run on their faith, rather than on their beliefs and principles, which may or may not be guided by faith, they have no place in American politics.

    Considering how much harm and devastation people of some religious faith have inflicted on civilization over the centuries, I would be happy to vote for an atheist or at least a politician who refused to bring religion into the debate whatsoever.

    The Romney "event" was too scripted, too staged for me. My morning paper carried a photo of Romney hugging an African-American minister, as a man wearing a kippah (skull cap) and tallit (prayer shawl) stands next in line.

    Prayer shawls are worn only to pray and are inappropriate at a political event.

    So who is this man? A representative of the Jewish people, a skeptic now won over?

    He is identified as David Nierenberg. Google that name and you will find that he is an "investment mogul" who is Romney's national finance chairman.

    Staged? You bet.

    Huckabee seems to say that he believes the Christian bible is the word of God and he believes every word of it. I don't understand, however, how he and other Christians can reconcile the contradictions in their bible. Is it "an eye for an eye" or "turn the other cheek?" If "Thou shalt not kill" is the reason for opposing abortion, why are capital punishment and war allowable? How do "blessed are the peacemakers" and "love thy neighbor as thyself" fit into their warmongering worldview?

    For the last seven years, the Republic Party has shoveled hundreds of millions of tax dollars to right-wing religious groups to further its own political agenda; the Constitution be damned!

    Now they ask for a tolerance that they themselves have been unwilling to demonstrate. Sort of a Golden Rule in reverse. "Do unto me as you would that others should do unto you.'

    There is only one brief reference to religion in the Constitution. In Article VI it says,

    "...no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

    Today, we have strayed so far from the Founders' intent and the Constitution itself that nobody could successfully run for President without making a vulgar public display of his or her supposed religious beliefs. Even worse, most now aver that they will hew to their god's laws above the civil and criminal laws of the country.

    Its enough to make one dispair for the Republic (or what's left of it).

    "Because religious belief, or non-belief, is such an important part of every person's life, freedom of religion affects every individual. State churches that use government power to support themselves and force their views on persons of other faiths undermine all our civil rights. Moreover, state support of the church tends to make the clergy unresponsive to the people and leads to corruption within religion. Erecting the 'wall of separation between church and state,' therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society."

    - Thomas Jefferson

    When will candidates realize a government is not a religion?

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