Monday, April 09, 2012

"We’re a nation of heretics in which most people still associate themselves with Christianity but revise its doctrines as they see fit." Possibly one of the best definitions for modern Christianity that I have ever heard.

Courtesy of the New York Times: 

 The six presidents elected before Kennedy’s famous breakthrough included two Baptists, an Episcopalian, a Congregationalist, a Presbyterian and a Quaker. The six presidents elected prior to Barack Obama’s 2008 victory included two Baptists, two Episcopalians, a Methodist and a Presbyterian. Jimmy Carter’s and George W. Bush’s self-identification as “born again” added a touch of theological diversity to the mix, as did losing candidates like the Greek Orthodox Michael S. Dukakis. But over all, presidential religious affiliation has been a throwback to the Eisenhower era — or even the McKinley era. 

That is, until now. In 2012, we finally have a presidential field whose diversity mirrors the diversity of American Christianity as a whole. 

Barack Obama, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum all identify as Christians, but their theological traditions and personal experiences of faith diverge more starkly than any group of presidential contenders in recent memory. These divergences reflect America as it actually is: We’re neither traditionally Christian nor straightforwardly secular. Instead, we’re a nation of heretics in which most people still associate themselves with Christianity but revise its doctrines as they see fit, and nobody can agree on even the most basic definitions of what Christian faith should mean. 

This diversity is not necessarily a strength. The old Christian establishment — which by the 1950s encompassed Kennedy’s Roman Catholic Church as well as the major Protestant denominations — could be exclusivist, snobbish and intolerant. But the existence of a Christian center also helped bind a vast and teeming nation together. It was the hierarchy, discipline and institutional continuity of mainline Protestantism and later Catholicism that built hospitals and schools, orphanages and universities, and assimilated generations of immigrants. At the same time, the kind of “mere Christianity” (in C. S. Lewis’s phrase) that the major denominations shared frequently provided a kind of invisible mortar for our culture and a framework for our great debates. 

Today, that religious common ground has all but disappeared.

I have seen this Ross Douthat chap show up on a number of news programs recently, and I am not always in line with his thinking. And I find myself once again in disagreement with the final premise of this article, that America is suffering from a lack of a cohesion as the result of a decline in institutional religion.

 I, of course, believe quite the opposite. Essentially I believe that the removal of ALL religion from our political climate will ultimately be of a great benefit to this country, and that the fundamentally flawed premise that morality is the result of Biblical teaching, is embarrassingly outdated and unnecessarily prejudicial toward potential political leaders from other faiths, or dare I say, no faith at all.

However I still enjoyed reading this very interesting examination of religion in presidential politics and recommend that you do so as well.

Then feel free to discuss your feelings, disagreements, and revelation in the comments section.


  1. Anonymous3:17 AM

    Tebow said yesterday that American needs to return to "one nation under God" as the Founders intended. He does know that that phrase was not from the Foudners, but from Eisenhower, who had it put on our money, right? I'm betting Tebow does not have a clue, but is so wrapped up in his idea of faith, and being famous for that, that he thinks his mision is to Tebow America into being HIS version of Christian. And if he does know he's lying shame on him and this 'reborn' movement, using the US as a pawn in their scheme. I figure that God created everyone, and gave us all a brain. We are different for a reason, and we are all acceptable. What is not good is people forcing their religion on anyone else, be it Catholics or Mormons, evangelicals or Jews. There is no "one right religion." There is God and trying to live a good life. And sometimes, there is no God, and I have found those people to be very good, too.
    I also have a huge problem with people professing Christ who think that war is just fine, and who think that hitting people for money is some 'talent' from God (or going into a poor nation and circumcising young boys, either.)

    1. Anita Winecooler8:38 PM

      Little Timmy is a paid shill of Focus on the Family, should be a clue to his focus on "facts" and "history".

      Here's his preacher father and mother in an interview on "the miracle baby"

  2. Finally! A religion related point on which Gryphen and I agree! All vestiges of religion should be purged from the political landscape. Even the bible says to keep the laws of the land and the laws of God separate.

    While I tell myself this is what is right- a political landscape which does not diverge AT ALL with religion, when I hear Barack Obama speak about his faith with such a reverent passion, it IS hard for me to think "well, he shouldn't have said THAT, obviously".

    I guess it's because whereas Obama's faith seems so true and genuine, his predecessor's seemed so- hollow. When GW spoke of his Christianity, I always pictured Jesus face-palming- thinking to Himself "I have GOT to appear in a dream to that guy and tell him that we can still TOTALLY be friends- if he could just pay off mentioning my Name in public".

    I guess a simpler way of seeing it- GW has religion. Barack Obama has FAITH.

  3. wakeUpAmerica4:19 AM

    Q. What do you get when you cross an atheist, an insomniac and a dyslexic?

    A. A person who stays up all night wondering if there is a Dog.

  4. Hey Griff - have you and Andrew Sullivan been having a religion Inc week - I know it's easter but if I want religion I head off to Church - preferably one that doesn't encourage sports stars to pray for their success.

    It's time all Presidents stopped the religion nonsense - only good thing about Mitt - he sure doesn't want to discuss religion

    1. Anonymous5:43 AM

      ''''It's time all Presidents stopped the religion nonsense - only good thing about Mitt - he sure doesn't want to discuss religion''''

      Because he is ashamed of that cult he belongs to. If he were president(which of course won't happen) that would all change. He just wants to get elected first.

    2. Anonymous5:59 AM

      Gryphen why do you spend so much time mocking people who believe in God and Jesus?
      The saying, 'live and let live' comes to mind here.

      If you don't believe in God, I am OK with that. That is your business.
      But for us who do believe in God, why not you just be OK with that?

      Not all of us who love God are rightwing jerks. I am a die-hard liberal, God loving, Jesus follower, and have been all my life..

      I think the reason you mock those who believe in God, is because God is tugging at your heels, and you are running away from HIM. You are trying to fight God off.

      I can tell you are a good person, and goodness only comes from God.

    3. Anonymous6:08 AM

      Romney doesn't want to discuss anything. He has not said a damn thing, but bash President Obama.

    4. OK - my comment sure didn't mention "mocking" I don't see Griff "mocking" anyone - I do see Anon at 6.59am insisting that his/her religion is the only way to go - pardon me - goodness is within us all - with or without this being you call God. Saying you can tell Griff is a good person because goodness comes from God reminds one of the trolls who tell us how wonderful is the Palin family. I enjoy Griff's blogg - he thinks my way on lots of issues - he comes across as educated, intelligent, thoughtful and caring, none of which needs a higher being to exist.

      Mitt - sure Mitt doesn't want his form of religion discussed - exactly my point. He can be easily defeated on his policies - same way as John Kennedy won with his policies. "Faith" and "Belief" is such a copout - the answer for those who have no logical argument. Religion should be no part of politics or government.

    5. Anonymous10:57 AM

      "I think the reason you mock those who believe in God, is because God is tugging at your heels, and you are running away from HIM. You are trying to fight God off.

      I can tell you are a good person, and goodness only comes from God.'
      I'm sure that that "holier than thou" feeling you get from saying total crap like that makes you FEEL great,but it makes you sound like an ass.I would put my "goodness",and many others I know up against yours any day.People like you chase people away from religion.One question.If there is a God and he told men to write the Bible(but not women),where does he tell you to amass wealth in his name,build idols in his image,worship in large,expensive buildings,and speak in tongues,"Lay on hands" to heal the sick,engage in wars to force or kill others to become Christians,co-opt pagan religious holidays and ceremonies,marry multiple wives,etc?These are things Christians do,or have done,in the name of "God".I think men have taken a cult movement from antiquity and used it to amass wealth and power,and control the masses.Nothing the man Jesus Christ said or did even remotely instructed his followers to do these things.Though I will admit that in the Morman case the men who wrote the Bible certainly had no problems with multiple marriages.If the Biblical people were happy with multiple wives,why is 90 % of the Christian religion so adamant against it today?

  5. I still think Obama is more Atheist than anything but knows he has to lean toward the church to stay in favor of most of the public. When someone in office has enough courage to put religion away once and for all, only then we will move forward as a society.

    1. President Obama is how you speak of your President. He has done NOTHING to indicate he is anything but a Christian - an atheist has to be elected - nothing to do with courage - everything to do with the voters.

  6. Anonymous7:54 AM

    I am currently reading Sam Harris' book, "The End of Faith" where I read that Osama bin Laden's favorite philosopher believes that culturally relativistic pluralism will bring about the end of American society.

  7. Randall8:05 AM

    As I've said before...
    Christianity's "dirty little secret" is that very few "Christians" have actually read the Bible.

    No kiddin - ask those in your own family if they've read the Bible. Cover-to-cover. Reading bits and pieces doesn't count. (As a matter of fact - reading bits and pieces is the problem)

    1. Anonymous11:17 AM

      As a child in a violent,neglectful family,I taught myself to read before kindergarten,from reading ketchup labels and such at the table,to what ever books were around.Funny but the 2 complete books in our home were the Bible,and a coffee table picture book of the concentration camps in Germany as they were liberated.As frightening as that picture book was in pictures,the Bible was as frightening in words and the pictures it created.Even with all of the "begats" I learned to skip over as I advanced and read and reread some more.We were dropped off at the door of the church on Sundays so my mother could go visit friends while we were there.I was a little star,always ready with verse and chapter for anything,leading services for teens when I was 10,etc.But you know one day I started to notice how I was talked about because of my white-trash family,hand me down clothes,and father in jail.There was nothing truly "Christ-like about these people.No one from that church that I served so well helped,encouraged,or was supportive in any way of the child who needed them.As I pulled away from the people who went to church on Sunday to see and be seen in their Sunday best clothes,I made some friends outside the church,Friends who did good things for other people because they were good people,not because it made them look good.People who had books in their homes by a myriad of authors on fascinating subjects,like Nietzsche,and Kurt Vonnegut and John Updike and Tolkien.People who read and lived and loved others in a good way because they were people,not because of some imagined call from God.When I was in that church,I was sanctimonious and looked down on non-Christians,like you.When I left,I learned to love my fellow man and be tolerant of others and to help them because we are all human,instead of to aggrandize my self and some god.

  8. Anonymous9:15 AM

    "God is tugging at your heels, and you are running away from HIM. You are trying to fight God off.

    I can tell you are a good person, and goodness only comes from God."

    Saying those sorts of things are why you are mocked.

  9. Great quote!!!!! Thanks!!!!!

  10. If you feel excluded by, or don't care about, organized religion, you don't see the good side of it. But when was the last time a group of free-thinking agnostics or atheists joined together to build a hospital?

    OK, you say the government should build the hospitals, with no religion attached. If this were an ideal world, I would agree with that. The whole society takes care of the whole society. On the other hand, in the real world, religious motives can make a difference. I would rather have a nurse who believes he or she is serving God than one who is merely serving the state for a paycheck. Imagine being sick and being cared for by your average postal clerk. ("You're in pain? I'm on break!") Of course, government-run, non-religious hospitals can and do employ religious nurses. But if no one were religious, I think something would be lost.

    I don't think of myself as strongly religious, nor do I think atheists or agnostics are amoral. But I find it hard to imagine that an atheist or agnostic could have the same self-sacrificing devotion to others that a religious person can have, who sees the suffering stranger as Jesus or the image of God-- even though I know that is an ideal that 99% of religious people don't reach, and probably can't. Perhaps such people are deluded -- if there is no God, they are -- but we still need them.

    1. Anonymous6:53 PM

      That's a crock of shit. Just because someone is religious doesn't make them more compassionate! Those hospitals are built because they are tax free money investments not because they are there to help the poor. Religious hospitals are run by the kind of people who want to prevent these hospitals from serving the most underserved and turn away women who need a therapeutic abortion to save her life!! Everyone is capable of self sacrificing devotion!! It has nothing to do with religion.

    2. Anonymous6:55 PM

      I want religion OUT of my face! I teach my son to say "one nation, indivisible." There is no room in MY AMERICANISM for religion!!

  11. Anita Winecooler8:44 PM

    Love the graphic.

    I'm also of the camp that church and state should remain separate, and all churches should pay taxes.

  12. Anonymous7:41 AM

    I thought you said "love the garlic". Anyways, this seems to be a large problem these days.

  13. Anonymous7:41 AM

    Wait, wrong thread...oops.


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