Thursday, June 29, 2006
Can a D-e-m spell G-o-d?
Nothing is more transparent than inauthentic expressions of faith -- the politician who shows up at a black church around election time and claps, off rhythm, to the gospel choir. Secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square. To say that men and women should not inject their personal morality into public policy debates is a practical absurdity.

Those aren't my words. I'm quoting. And who am I quoting? You might guess an evangelical Christian leader. Perhaps even a Republican strategist or conservative lawmaker. But would guess a Democratic senator? Those are the words of Senator Barack Obama, addressing a bipartisan religious conference sponsored by Sojourners founder Rev. Jim Wallis.

Obama had strong words for the Democratic party, both in his speech and in an interview I conducted with him afterwards, about the party's historic aversion to talk about faith. Faith is a very big part of the life of many Americans, contends Obama, and for Democrats to not talk about religion or even try to understand a person's faith is to eliminate almost all possibility of communicating meaningfully with them.

Republicans are great at talking about faith. And they are rewarded for it. In 2004, white evangelicals counted for 23 percent of voters. And they broke overwhelmingly for President Bush. "The biggest mistake the Democrats have made is to cede the entire territory of religion and values to a religious and political right, who then narrow the issues to only two -- abortion and gay marriage -- and then manipulate them politically," says Jim Wallis.

Democrats are trying to correct the mistake. There is a movement afoot led by Obama, the new superstar of the Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton, Howard Dean and others to encourage party members to acknowledge faith as a means to broader communication. Whether it's for a Democratic politician to make public his or her own faith, or simply learn how to talk about it, party leaders believe it could be a foot in the door to get those exurban evangelicals to listen.

Democrats are also trying to expand the field of "moral" and "value" issues to include some of their strengths. For them to play, it needs to be about more than abortion and same-sex marriage. So they're attempting to making moral issues out of poverty, hunger, human rights and "creation care" (a new phrase for "environmentalism"), believing that if there is common ground on belief in the idea of moral values, there might be fertile ground to approach evangelicals on the Iraq war, the deficit and other issues.

Take Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, for example. He talked a lot about his personal religion during his election campaign. Not in terms of politics, but he let people know that he was a person for whom faith was important. He spoke of his mission in Honduras, and he talked about religion as part of his background. On faith issues, he sounded more like a Republican than a Democrat. No one questioned his sincerity. And wouldn't you know it, he won.

Many Democrats acknowledge that they have been the party of secularism for so long that they have alienated a significant part of the electorate. And they want to try to win those voters over. As Senator Obama pointed out, the majority of great reformers in American history -- Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, Williams Jennings Bryan, Dorothy Day and Martin Luther King among them -- were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause.

Now, certainly this is going to make secularists uncomfortable. They will argue about blurring the line between church and state. But some Democrats have their eyes on another line. The 50 percent line. And they know that unless they can peel off a portion of that growing segment of society that is firmly rooted in the South and now sweeping across the Midwest, they will likely remain the party of the minority and continue to see "red"in the White House.
Posted By John Roberts, CNN Senior Correspondent: 10:46 AM ET
While some people might say that the democrats should change their attitude toward faith to get more swing voters, I think that the events on the world stage, and Republicans' gross mishandling of them will be enough. While some southern states may depend on religious candidates, most will stay loyal to Republicans no matter how religious the Democrats are. As to the 50% line; that would just offend secularists, and would not be enough to turn many, if any, of the Religious Right.
Posted By Anonymous Sam, Chicago, Illinois : 11:22 AM ET
This is a very timely article and congrats to Obama. The majority of us are/were raised in some type of religious environment. In my family, God created all things. And all things are good.

Jesus was a radical and wanted to change the religious establishment to help all people and not just the few who were born into the upper class. Jesus fought for the poor and disregarded. Jesus preached very high ideals for all humankind.

For me, it is not about gay marriage or abortion, but about the issues that face humankind. Proverty, education, health care, clean environments, loving others as yourself, these are what I grew up with in my Catholic family.

Religious conviction is not the right of the conservatives and the more Democrats speak to their faith, the better off we will all be.
Posted By Anonymous Woodson, Roeland Park, KS : 11:41 AM ET
What confounds me is that America promotes itself as a diverse country, comprised of many religions and faiths, so how does a politian express their faith without offending or leaving out other faiths? And what faith are they to express? Their true faith or the "popular" faith? Call me an old fashioned secularist, but I believe our founding fathers created the "seperation of church and state" mantra for this very purpose. Maybe I am a liberal elitist, but I don't want my leaders talking about their religious beliefs. I want them to speak rationally about proactive measures they are going to take to resolve issues, not that they are going to pray to some illusive being in the sky for answers. While I respect freedom of religion and freedome of choice, I don't respect people of faith pushing their beliefs and agendas on me. For instance, Gay Marriage. The only argument I hear against it is, "the bible says it is wrong", well that is a religous statement not a fact based statement. You are basing your rational on a book that may or may not be true, but your faith tells you to belief. While I respect your faith and your right to have such faith, your faith is not the faith of all of America, so leave it out of politics. If faith is such an important issue for someone, then I say become a priest or a preacher, but stay out of government.
Posted By Anonymous Katherine, Woodland Hills CA : 11:45 AM ET
I wish the Dems good luck courting to their side religious people this election. They are going to need it. People aren't stupid enough to actually believe what the Dems say they are all about. Their record stands for itself. Talk is cheap. Elections are about ideas and leadership, two things the Democrats are void of.
Posted By Anonymous Kevin, Bellmore, NY : 11:48 AM ET
The only thing that scares me about the whole religious issue is the mega churches and their associated colleges that are sprouting up everywhere. They basically brainwash thousands of people at a time to believe only as they do. They are communities within themselves. Some day will wake up and there will be no room for any other beliefs other than what the likes of Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and James Dobson tell us to believe. There are already millions of Americans who think this is a good thing. A wolf in religious clothing is still a wolf. I�m not afraid of religion, just those that use it to push their biased agenda and want their beliefs to be the one and only.
Posted By Anonymous Steve Goshe, Jasper, AR : 11:50 AM ET
How are we(the public) supposed to believe the politicians who have spent lifetimes, political at least, saying faith has no place in government and those who choose to make decision based on their moral beliefs-religious or otherwise-rather than the logical, intellectual & lacking a better term, scientific reasonings, suddenly have a change of heart and now "We do believe, we were just mis-understood".
Are the Democrats in Washington now going to accuse the Republicans of twisting their views on religions and faith-based decision making? After spending the last several months accusing the Republican politians of using various issues to try to win the Nov elections, they should be very careful of how they present this new strategy, because noone-even those who don't have strong beliefs-are going to appreciate feeling played.
Posted By Anonymous Rachel, Boston, MA : 11:53 AM ET
Democrats are going to have a difficult time getting votes from Christians due to the "platform" of the Democratic Party that includes abortion and same-sex marriages. Democratic candidates can spend time talking about these "values," however their walk is not like their talk. Christian believer's will see through this charade.
Posted By Anonymous Bradley James, Atlanta, Georgia : 11:58 AM ET
Mr. Obama is correct in his statement that inauthentic expressions of faith to garner votes is going to backfire. I am a born again Christian who left the Democratic Party because I felt my faith was marginalized and mocked.

I disagree with the Republicans on issues like poverty and the environment (not to mention pandering to the likes of Falwell and Robertson), so I guess I would classify myself as an independent.

Would I like to see the Democratic Party become more welcoming of expressions of faith? Yes. BUT, I don't want to hear people who would be caught within 50 feet of a Bible before the 2004 election, all of a sudden start invoking the name of Jesus (are you listening, Mrs. Clinton?)
Posted By Anonymous Kathy - Nashville, TN : 12:02 PM ET
In Texas, we have what is called the "holy trinity." These are three subjects you want to avoid if you don't want to get into a heated debate, and they blend together like oil and water....they don't. The "holy trinity" is religion, politics, and football.

Unless politicians are willing to cover ALL the religions practiced in the US, religion should not be used in campaigning.
Posted By Anonymous Genevieve M, El Paso, TX : 12:06 PM ET
That's a sad state of affairs that a politician would win based on their religious beliefs rather then for their merit and their past actions and abilities to serve the people. As a Democrat, if I hear a Democrat start spouting off their religious beliefs, that person will NOT get my vote. There needs to be a clear separation of Church and State. How would you feel if a religion other then your own was forced on you?
Posted By Anonymous M. Wong, Van Nuys, CA : 12:09 PM ET
Let me get this straight: Hillary, Howard Dean, and other Dems are considering "coming out" with religious beliefs they have, but didn't express them because they feared it might hurt them politically - OR - they are considering expressing religious beliefs they don't really have, or perhaps only marginally have, because it might help them politically.

Either way, whatever they say or don't say about what they believe or don't believe, I'm sure it will all be done with the utmost sincerity.
Posted By Anonymous James Marr, Los Angeles CA : 12:10 PM ET
Conservative-to-moderate Christians prioritize moral actions. If you can't say "no" to abortion and gay "marriage," you will never, ever get our votes, regardless of your stand on poverty, etc.
Posted By Anonymous Frank Saige, Columbus, Ohio : 12:15 PM ET
It just seems like too-little, too-late for the Dems. You see a winning formula and you want to copy it. Too hollow.
Posted By Anonymous Pete C., Charlotte, NC : 12:19 PM ET
I, one of many, am sick and tired of having religion shoved in my face by both parties. Get off your high and almightly horses and quit bringing up religion when the discussion is and should be politics! Enough already!

I am not religious and think it is for the weak. It is funny how the various religions have hated each other enough to kill each other each other for thousands of years, yet they are able to be PC in front of the camera and fake a "meeting of the minds" when it comes to politics. Talk about hypocritical! It is disgusting.

Go back and re-read the Constitution of the United States of America.

Then repeat after me:

Posted By Anonymous Cynthia Chance, Santa Monica, CA : 12:22 PM ET
I believe that nobody should have to deny their faith. As far as I am concerned, this is extremely wrong, because in denying a person's faith, you also deny part of the person. How things stand right now, this is what is expected for many people in this country, especially teachers. Obama's stand could seriously change this. Like many Democrats, however, I strongly believe in the Separation of Church and State, and I worry about ideals swinging too far, with the Democrats becoming as fanatically religious as many Republicans.
Posted By Anonymous Sarah, South Bend, WA : 12:22 PM ET
Katherine wondered how the politicians can profess their faith and what faith is it without offending others....if they are sincere about THEIR faith then what difference does it make as to which one it is? If someone is truly expressing their beliefs then that should not be offensive to anyone. If its not sincere then thats a whole different ballgame and these politicians should in no way fool themselves into believing the American public is that stupid and going to fall for it. The founding fathers did want separation of church and state for very good reasons and I dont disagree with that for a second but these politicians do as individuals have the right to express their belief just as any of us do.....but dont use religion as some sort of game to pander for wont fly.
Posted By Anonymous Lisa JAX FL : 12:23 PM ET
I think Mr. Obama is great, I'm a big fan becuase I think he speaks honestly and intelligently and will help bridge the divide between red and blue. However, I am sick and tired of our government, which is separate from religious authority by order of the constitution, having to pander to the "faith" of Americans. Faith should not be coming up at all when it comes to cafting the legislation of this country. Its already established that religion has no place on government law because there are people like myself who do not subscribe to any organized religion. My faith is my own and it has nothing to do with laws that govern the environment, that govern corporate affairs, that govern criminal law. Why do our politicians have to cater to these people. Who is going to cater to me and the hordes of people like me who have faith of some kind, or none at all, which is their choice and their right, who are constantly subject to the idiocy of the pro-life movement and things liek GWBush saying other cultures are"evil". Who's going to represent me or do I have to be subject to politicians constantly bickering over things like "evolution" and same-sex marriages.
Posted By Anonymous Yeaple, Beacon, NY : 12:25 PM ET
Hi John,
I think as the Church Lady from Saturday Night Live used to say..."How Convenient!" Take Care
Posted By Anonymous Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif. : 12:26 PM ET
Interesting could we see new campaign ads coming this Fall like "Methodists for Net Neutrality" and "Catholics Supporting Democrats", "Unitarians for More Katrina Relief."

For the Dems to resort to invoking God for votes really seems like an act of desperation but both parties seem to equally press their religious foundations in an attempt to get votes for their candidates.

Your observation does bring a cynical smile "...the politician who shows up at a black church around election time and claps, off rhythm." It is kind of funny when we see it and it ALWAYS makes a story on the 6:00 news.

Is my private faith or anyones private faith really considered as fodder for political rallies?
Posted By Anonymous mike from Houston : 12:30 PM ET
The current administration has made such a MESS of things, that the Democrats should not be having any trouble presenting a better plan.

It is not a lack of invoking God in their speeches, it is a matter of presenting a plan, a belief, a direction--ANYTHING--that shows they can effectively govern.

The current administration is so obviously corrupt, incompetent, arrogant, and frightening (think unauthorized phone taps, looking into your bankaccounts, intercepting your mail) that the Democrats should not be having any trouble at all presenting a better story.

The fact that the Democrats can't seem to do anything with this, and are in fact afraid to stand up to the current administration is a damning indictment of their lack of resolve, lack of ideas, lack of direction, and lack of backbone.

If the tables were turned, the Republicans would be all over them like a cheap suit.

Currently, the Republicans--once the party of limited government--are almost Fascists, and the Democrats--once the defender of the working man-- are weak-kneed, spineless sissies. They cannot muster enough spunk to make a difference and so do not deserve our votes.

Our only hope is to force the Republicans to become more moderate and reasonable, instead of the political arm of the Religious Right.
Posted By Anonymous Bill, Chelmsford, MA : 12:30 PM ET
anytime I see a politician talk about his/her faith, its always the Christian faith that they promote. I understadn this country was founded on Christian principles, but professing ones Christian faith to a country full of diverse faiths makes me feel disconnected. Though I'm not particularly denominational, I'd like it better if the politicians just left it to faith rather than their christian faith.
Posted By Anonymous B, Louisville, KY : 12:36 PM ET
The situation Democrats will have to navigate is one where candidates are comforatable showcasing their faith without alienating voters who don't share their faith. My guess is that Democratic candidates will try to talk about faith in a way that is not as divisive as expressions by Republican candidates, because they will be trying to walk the fine line between convincing Christian voters (who currently vote Republican) that they are candidates of faith while trying not to scare away voters who currently make up the Democratic base. Because their strategy does not involve actually changing their stances on any issues, but to reframe current Democratic strengths (environment, poverty, etc.) as issues of faith, I'm not sure how well their strategy will actually work. For those voters who believe that abortion and gay marriage are the most important issues, the Democratic party isn't going to offer anything new. The Christian voters who already view social justice issues as religious issues are probably already voting for Democratic candidates. Of course, reframing some issues as matters of faith and morals may win some on-the-fence voters to Democratic candidates. Ultimately, it will come down to whether voters can be won over by expressions of faith without changes to the candidates' positions.
Posted By Anonymous Chris, Philadelphia, PA : 12:42 PM ET
I wish the Dems luck. The real problem is that when it comes to "energizing" each parties' base, there are more people that consider themselves conservative than liberal. It takes a little more than talk to convince a churchgoer in Stark County, Ohio, that a party raking in millions in contributions from the most ammoral institutions around--Hollywood, the politically-correct academic nihilists that infect our universities, and the ACLU--suddenly cares about "faith-based" voters. The secular left can call our Marines "baby-killers", yet support partial-birth abortion with a straight face. Churchgoers in increasing numbers are not comfortable with polically empowering people like that by voting Democratic.
Posted By Anonymous Phil Creed, Canton, OH : 12:46 PM ET
While I consider myself a moderate Republican, in that at times I am frustrated by the extremism of some of the party, and at times I see the validity of some Democartic Party ideas, I am also what some would call a "conservative" christian. From this standpoint I can not ever consider supporting the Democratic Party due to its support of state sanctioned murder in the guise of abortion and support for the bastardization of traditional marriage (a religious institution adopted by the secular world) in the form of same sex-marriage.
The Democratic Party therefore faces a Sisyphean task in attempting to win over conservative christian, moderate Republicans, such as myself, by trying to acknowledge faith when they have exhibited such hostility to faith itself.
Posted By Anonymous Ian Sutherland, Minneapolis, MN : 12:55 PM ET
I don't recall our voting ballots having a place on them for religious beliefs? Correct me if I'm wrong. I really don't care what religion someone is as long as their guidance in our country is good.
What about those of us that don't have a 'religion'? I gave that up years ago when it became a social event. Who was who in my small community and who had more money to put into the church. I guess politics is the same thing, but my voice does still count when I vote. And I don't really care what religion someone is as long as they do the job they promise to do. Religion has no place in Politics. Religion belongs in a church.
Posted By Anonymous AM Angola, IN : 12:59 PM ET
People have to begin to understand that humans are born with morality. They know right from wrong from the beginning. God has nothing to do with morals. They are then shaped by those who raise them. I know more church going christians who will just as soon screw you as look at you, and I know many non-church goers who are respected, honest pillars of the community. Man has always invented gods to place faith in because man can't have faith in his fellow man. Until we can have faith in each other, the human race will continue to fashion gods to suit their needs. This is fact, not politics.
Posted By Anonymous Pete Pearson, Netcong, NJ : 1:00 PM ET
I agree with the Senator. Everyone screams about separation of church and state, but when all goes wrong, who do we pray too?
Posted By Anonymous Larry Klipstein Elyria Ohio : 1:01 PM ET
You can be secular but still be "moral". Having a code of ethics is independant from religion even though most of the "codes" are shared by many of the same religions.

I want my leaders therefore, to be moral and not religious. Like another stated before me: I want my leaders looking at evidence and to provide rational answers to problems. I don't want them "feeling" or merely believing that what they say is true because of their faith, I want evidence and supported facts.

This is not to say that all religions are irrational and have no absolute place in politics. I think Obama is right it is absurd to seperate the two, but I would hope that polititans would try to focus on objectivity, us, and the situations of the country rather than themselves and their faith.

All we end up having then are popularity contests in faith, and not the best man or woman for the job.
Posted By Anonymous Chris, La Mirada, CA : 1:05 PM ET
Creation Care?!?! Are you kidding? That's the most pathetic thing I've seen all week. Do the Christians really need to be spoon-fed like that? Sad.
Posted By Anonymous John Hawkins Gordon - Astoria, NY : 1:05 PM ET
Those secularites calling for Dems to avoid discussing faith must really enjoy the current state of one-party control in this country. Most people in this country are of a faith. All that Obama is saying is that faith is a powerful basis for defining values, an area that Dems are loathe to discuss, but where the public lives in on a daily basis.
Posted By Anonymous Bill, Newton, MA : 1:06 PM ET
I once heard of a man who applied for a job. He was telling the boss what all he could do, and the boss told him to get out there and show him what he could do. Talk is cheap, but action speeks loud and clear. I havn't seen anything out of D.C. and the Republican party that controls the country that reminds me of Jesus's teaching, however I do recognize the fact that the Democrat Party who started social security (under great protest from the GOP) shows humane compassion thru programs to help common people. This is action, not TALK. The last 6 yrs. have been rough on the Veteran's medical benefits, by major funding cuts, just one program out of many. Demo. also gave the military good pay raises across the board, GOP gave a small raise to E-5 Thru E-9, a small portion of our brave boys and girls, but as of now, the next time they change duty stations, thier BAQ will will be reduced..another pay cut!!!Wake up and look around, my Grandad said even a dog opens his eyes in 9 days. There is a big differance in religion & Christianity, one is talk, the other action!
Posted By Anonymous Tom Hughes, Wilburton,Okla : 1:09 PM ET
The persistently offensive context in this debate is the implication that 'values' and 'morals' only spring from belief in a religion (and, within the US political context, a particular religion - Christianity). CNN is guilty of adding to this context with their 'faith and values correspondent', who pretty much exclusively covers Christian religious news.

I have never understood why someone whose morals are, in whole or in part, the result of a fear of divine retribution is somehow superior to someone who is equally moral, ethical and charitable yet doesn't need the bribe of an eternal reward or the threat of eternal punishment to do so.
Posted By Anonymous Arachnae, Sterling VA : 1:14 PM ET
I am complete agreement with Katherine in CA, and would also like to add that being religious or not has absolutely no bearing on someone's ability to be a good senator, congressperson, etc. Any citizen who does not understand that shouldn't be allowed to vote in the first place because they'd be doing it for the wrong reasons. Likewise, any politician who does not understand this (and there seems to be many) ought not to be put in office!
Posted By Anonymous AM, Piscataway, NJ : 1:15 PM ET
Talk, talk, talk. So now the dems are supposed to use the bully pulpit themselves to avoid the real issue of governance. They too can wax moralistically about searingly important issues like flag burning and internet porn. With both the dems and their repub buddies spending all their time rearrange the deckchairs; I wonder how long it will take for someone to notice those icebergs.
Posted By Anonymous Finn, Providence, RI : 1:16 PM ET
As a Christian, I've been shunned by other Christians for not standing behind our president, this "man of great faith," and I've even been told I'm not a Christian, I don't believe in God, I'm not saved, I'm going to hell, I'm misguided, I've been lied to, my soul's in danger...the list goes on and on. I recently started reading Wallis' book. This is a man I admire and whose words make sense to me. Morality and values aren't exclusive to the Christian faith. Obama's got it right: of course your beliefs should play a part in your politics. But *Christianity* should not dictate our government's actions. Morality and values should be the order of the day.
Posted By Anonymous Rhonda, Chapel Hill, NC : 1:16 PM ET
A very timely topic and a very interesting argument on both sides, I must admit.

In response to a few comments by others who say moral actions and values should reign supreme in election choices, where in the Bible does it say gay marriage is more sinful than leaving a man to die in poverty? Where does it specifically say abortion is a far greater sin than allowing AIDS to go unchecked, when we have the resources to put a serious dent in its progress worldwide? The problem with the Religious Right, in my opinion, is not the fact that they are religious, but the fact that they selectively choose Biblical passages that "might" have some political relevance. Many of these arguments focus on the Old Testament as well, especially those opposed to gay marriage. If you're going to use that as the basis of your political argument, then please use the entire Old Testament. Women should be stoned to death for adultery, men should be allowed to procreate with other women should their wives prove infertile (story of Abraham), and a good daughter should sleep with her father if she feels he will soon be too old to produce children (story of Lot).

This stuff is ridiculous and no one would consider it socially or politically acceptable on any party lines. As such, we can't use the Bible as our Constitution. It provides a great example to follow in many instances (especially the life of Jesus) but the fact of the matter is it wasn't written with the year 2006 in mind. Use it as an example, not as law, and focus on broader issues than gay marriage.

My beliefs tell me God will be much more pleased with you helping starving children worldwide, than preventing two men or women from getting married. I don't know where in the Bible it says otherwise.
Posted By Anonymous Adam Supernant, Bay City, MI : 1:17 PM ET
Although Barack is trying to seem sincere in his views; there could be an underlying theme to his approach. Right now we have an administration in office who practically speaks the good word from the good book. They are also leading us down a bad road in the wrong direction. Obama needs to take a new approach and be anything but what the President is now. He is meandering towards republican views instead of fleeing from them. This might be a way to get into the White House but definitely not what America needs.
Posted By Anonymous Joseph Vezzani, Darien, IL : 1:20 PM ET
When it comes to religion it's easily apparent to most christians that the democrats are 1) pandering to votes, and 2) hypocrites. Christians aren't stupid rednecks, the democrats have repeatedly put themselves on the opposing side when it comes to morality and faith, often times outright blaming religious forces for instituting policy. The problem is, christianity is no place for indecision, there is no polling going on at the church to decide what to believe. If democrats are going to go there they will actually have to take a stand for something, there is no gray area to happily play in. Otherwise they are just pandering hypocrites.
Posted By Anonymous Jason, Phoenix, AZ : 1:22 PM ET
Oh goody. Just what we need. Another opportunity to dispense with reason, logic, arguments developed of fact and derivative thinking, and instead to fall pell-mell into gut-level policy making.

What is to be the nature of our new reformist legislature at the Church of the US Congress? Each law-maker consulting with their priests before casting a vote instead of consulting a good text of history, public policy, or political discourse is just not my idea of an educated, free nation.

The Economist in 2000 posited on a 2-d scale that the US was the lone first-world, "developed" Western nation that sat with the "fundamentalist" (and often third world) nations on religious idealogy and pedagogy. I was amused at that unusual correspondence at the time, but am plum scared now.
Posted By Anonymous Leena S., Cambridge, MA : 1:38 PM ET
Religion does not belong in politics--PERIOD. I do not even want to hear the word 'God' mentioned in a public forum. Mixing religion with politics, education, and policy is sickening and fascistic!
Posted By Anonymous Emily Kurtz, NYC, NY : 1:41 PM ET
There is a HUGE difference between "God" and "religion". Those that know the difference will know also that more people have been killed by "religion" than any other phenomenon/ideology/personal conflict in history. The SECOND we put religion into our governmental ideology we are heading towrd the same place that the Middle East, Ireland and others have headed. GET RID OF THE "RELIGIOUS" DIALOGUE before we destroy ourselves. There are FAR more important things to concern ourselves with than gay marriage and abortion. Wake up, people!
Posted By Anonymous Tom Davis, Reno, NV : 1:45 PM ET
B, Louisville, KY:

One should be careful when stating that "this country was founded on Christian principles" This isn't very accurate. I doubt many Christians today would consider the Founding Fathers to be Christians. They were certainly at odds with the church in their own day and likely would be at odds with the church today. Consider Thomas Jefferson's own words:

"They [the clergy] believe that any portion of power confided to me, will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly; for I have sworn upon the altar of god, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. But this is all they have to fear from me: and enough, too, in their opinion."

-Thomas Jefferson to Dr. Benjamin Rush, Sept. 23, 1800

Most of the Founding Fathers were actually Deists. They believed in a creator, but they were not referring specifically to the Christian god. Try reading some of the writings of the Founding Fathers and the correspondence to each other and you'll see more evidence of this. So, to say that the Founding Fathers based our country on Christian principles isn't entirely true. If there is any truth in this statement, it stems from the fact that most religions share some basic tenants such as "love thy neighbor" and "do unto others". In this sense, yes, the country was founded on principles that Christians hold, but so do many other faiths.
Posted By Anonymous Ryan, Seattle, WA : 1:50 PM ET
I personally am glad some of the Dems are trying to reclaim the language of faith and values from the Republicans. I believe that, for example, the debates last week in the Episcopal church about gay marriage and allowing gay men and women to become bishops are not just superficially about these issues, but about what one's vision of God is (if one believes in God, of course, and I have no problem with those that don't). Does God hate people because of whom they love? The movement to placate comservatives within the Church should be a concern to other Episcopalians, such as myself, because many of us have gay friends and believe that their love is every bit as valid as ours and also because a position deeming homosexuals as less worthy of God's love undermines the view of God that many of us share.

I believe Jesus cared about helping the poor, but his teachings on this subject are conveniently forgotten by many Republicans who try to cloak themselves in religion even while promoting corporate welfare (such as allowing big oil companies to drill in many spots without having to pay the royalties they would normally pay) while cutting services for the poor, the elderly, and/or those with disabilities. Would Jesus have wanted us to go to war in Iraq without sufficient evidence, planning, and international support? Would Jesus want us to sit on our hands as thousands die because of the genocide in Darfur? Would Jesus want us to pollute the environment?

Personal faith and separation of church and state are not mutually exclusive. Many of us come to our positions because of our view of God. That does not mean we need to impose our views on others or use faith to override the Constitution, but it can influence our passion to help others. Whether or not you are religious, helping others, being tolerant, and protecting the environment are issues of morality.
Posted By Anonymous Norah, West Chester, PA : 1:50 PM ET
Typical Democrat campaign idea. "What lies can we tell American's to get more votes?" The problem with Democrats is you have to watch what they do, not listen to what they say. That is exactly why I left the party in 2003 and will NEVER vote Dem again. Call me a conservative, call me a libertarian, but you'll never call me a democrat again.
Posted By Anonymous Matt, Palisade, CO : 1:55 PM ET
Religion has no place in government and I would never cast a vote for someone who clearly knows better, but who engages in professions of faith to convince the chaff across the south and midwest that he speaks for them. Come to think of it, I won't vote for *any* candidate who speaks for them.
Posted By Anonymous Matt, Manhattan, NY : 2:10 PM ET
I respect a person's right to their faith, whatever it is--Christian, Muslim, Catholic, Jewish--whatever. But each religion is subject to interpretation and that is where I have a problem. Under no circumstances should a person try to impose their interpretation of their religious beliefs on anyone. That includes their definition of marriage and what my children can learn in the public schools.
Posted By Anonymous Cathy, Minneapolis, Minnesota : 2:12 PM ET
Don't any of your writers understand the English language? This position Obama stated so clearly is not "religious" but based on faith and morals and values."

And it's not surprising thatliberals who still write and talk about "separation of church and state" apparently haven't read the same Constitution I have, which never refers to separation but only to the "Establishment" of a religion.
Posted By Anonymous John Sullivan, Indianapolis, IN : 2:18 PM ET
When someone is elected president, they must do thier best to represent "ALL" the people, not just thier own base like Pres. Bush has.
Republicans do not have an exclusive on religion and if you look at all the wrongs they've caused (everything from torturing prisoners, invading soverien countries by creating lies, steeling elections, redistricting a state to gain an unfair advantage, and so on) I think you'd be hard pressed to argue that they have ANY moral values.

Democratic president Jimmy Carter (a well known evangelical christian) was probably one of our best presidents from either party. Look at the peace between Eygipt and Isreal he helped to broker. Just look at what he's done since! He is a wonderful person who does not impose his beliefs on people.

Chris Eldridge
Posted By Anonymous Chris, Harrisburg PA : 2:29 PM ET
I find some of the comments here frightening. A pre-American culture died in what is now the USA in the 1690s because the people, who fled England to achieve religious freedom, in turn forced their beliefs on others. It became known as the "Salem Witch Hunt" and was supported by government (then, British) until the governor's wife was accused of witchcraft. This is what happens when people become obsessed. The McCarthy days in th 1950s replicated the phenomenon.

The religious right has gone way too far. When the world is falling apart due to war (most with a religious base) and global warming and people say they will vote on the basis of abortion and gay marriage--well, no wonder the whole system is ill.

Everyone has the right to religious beliefs--even the democrats. Those who vote on the basis of religion, however, should think about the countries that are ruled by Koranic law (Islam) and ask themselves if it would be right for someone to force them to comply with those laws. If the democrats have to "come out of the (religious) closet" to get votes, we're headed back to the 1600s and the doom of another culture.
Posted By Anonymous Gypsy, an American in Mexico : 2:29 PM ET
If the Democrates begin to espouse religious fervor in order to court votes, then they will be even more like the Republicans they want to replace and I will not support them. I want answers to the problems that face our country, not pious proclamations of faith. Who cares who or what you believe in - just do the job you were elected to do and stay out of my private life. Religion has no place in politics, and that is what Obama should be preaching.
Posted By Anonymous David, Seattle Washington : 2:32 PM ET
The Democrats believe in God and comply with the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Romans 13 tell us "to obey the laws of the land and to pay your taxes." This is something that constitutionally illiterate and reading comprehension challenged Republicans have problem with the United States Constitution and The Holy Bible. They profess faith when it suits them.
Posted By Anonymous Donna A. Reuter, Bremerton, WA : 2:36 PM ET
For the record I am a Christian and Jesus is my Savior. That being said, I also believe in the Seperation of Church and State. I want the Government out of my Church and the Church out of my Government. Religion is a personal issue and should be left up to the individual. That is what the Founders of this Country called religious freedom!
I see no ideas or leadership from the current Republican administration. They have made a mess of this Country in every respect. I am sixty years old and have never seen my country so leaderless or incompetent.
The current crop of Republican lawmakers are obsessed with controling everyone's sexuality/sex life! That is NOT running the country!STAY OUT OF THE BEDROOM!
Posted By Anonymous Susan Prock, Fort Pierce, Florida : 2:50 PM ET
The religious right has abandoned the very tenants of christianity in their ceaseless efforts to enforce archaic laws from the old testement. Jesus is a loving and caring God. All I hear from the religious right is a fountain of hate aimed at various minority groups (gays, atheists). Jesus asks us to love everyone, not just those who agree with us. The democratic party will never be able to match the power that the hate-mongers like Pat Robertson have over the religious community. For those who have faith and have actually read the bible there is little we can do but hope that the babylonian captivity of the church will someday come to an end.
Posted By Anonymous Michael Lowell, MA : 2:51 PM ET
We all need God in our lives, like it or not. Senator Obama is correct. Democrats, are you listening?
Posted By Anonymous Kelvin, Leavenworth Kansas : 2:51 PM ET
You know, citing God in your voting values is, quite frankly, up to me. Or you. Or anyone else. Call ME old fashioned, but if I can cite being straight, being a minority, being gay, being conservative or being liberal as part of my "handle" when being identified to voters, than it would be close-minded of some "open-minded" folks to limit (in the context of free speech) my ability to mention my faith. There would be little to no dispute if I were a democrat talking about my Islamic faith, and that's the truth, people. I don't understand why it's detestable or tawdry, in a FREE society, to stake my claim with Jesus. As for me, I don't take my "sould to the polls", and I don't think that politicians have a right to use the church as a campaign stop. Where were you the rest of the 3 years? With the poor? Neglected? Anywhere else some of us Christians are interested in going?
Posted By Anonymous Eliza, Kalamazoo, MI : 2:57 PM ET
B, I understand your point. BUT, this country was not based on Christian principles. People came to this country to escape religious persecution. Our founding fathers were very specific about how they felt about Christianity and religion. I don't want to offend, so if you would like to learn more about their real feelings, you can go to any search engine and find quotes regarding the issue.
Posted By Anonymous Renee Macon, GA : 3:04 PM ET
Oh Puleeze, these hacks are reacting to the Michael Lerner book, The Left Hand of God, substitled Taking back the country from the Religious Right. Once again, the Dems got it wrong. It's about a spiritual covenant for the country that transcends religion. This book is MANDATORY reading for anyone who considers themseles left, liberal, green, democrat or espouses social change..
Posted By Anonymous Susan, Albuquerque, NM : 3:07 PM ET
I personally think that it is a disgrace that Democrats need to pander to those who believe in fairy tales in order to gain more control. Religion only clouds the judgement of those who could otherwise be perfectly reasonable people. What need to happen is that Americans need to abandon these notion that some mythical being is watching over us and take some responsibility, maybe even think for themselves rather than regurgitating the mindless prattle that cults like the Catholic church dole out to thier followers.
Posted By Anonymous Tom G, King of Prussia, PA : 3:11 PM ET
As a Christian, I stand appalled by a government who goes to war with those of another faith who want theocracies that control education and enforce narrow law that denies many 'human rights', but would like to mold the USA into the same type of government/society based on a different 'word'. And I agree with the letter about the persecution of other Christians by those who are Evangelical in this country. Is this different than the Sunni/Shite divisions? We won't even touch Catholicism that yells about abortion/stem cell but not only protects but promotes those involved in sexual abuse while promoting a system that perpetuates serfdom. As we went to war the US leaders and much of the media promoted the 'religious' aspects by their speech. So, was it the Crusades v. Jihad? Is 'swift boating'or torture an acceptable Christian behavior? Did I miss something in the Bible? Did Christ sit with the rich and powerful to build great temples, wealth, armies, and power or did he walk among the people attending to their suffering? Let them be judged by their acts.
Posted By Anonymous linda, bella vista, ar : 3:13 PM ET
The moral, religious aspects of issues has always been the basis of liberal politics. Acceptance of all others, oposition to war, oposition to economic suppression, and the true freedom of "free will" have always been the at the core of liberalism. Hating "queers", worshiping the "god almighty dollar" and killing other to gain their riches (oil) is not, thank you. As we watch our rights systematically ripped away we the people must defend the liberal constitutional moral values. Read it some time.
Posted By Anonymous Patrick in DC : 3:21 PM ET
A person's faith or lack of it has no bearing on my decision to vote for him or her. It is necessary for people to realize that faith alone cannot help someone make the important decisions that affect our daily lives day in and day out. Intelligence, honesty, compassion and courage are also needed, perhaps more.
Posted By Anonymous Bonnie, Waco, Texas : 3:22 PM ET
Religion SHOULD HAVE NOTHING TO DO with politics.
Posted By Anonymous Krista, Cincinnati, Ohio : 3:23 PM ET
It is a truly sad state of affairs in this country when our progressive party feels the need to ride the wave of faith-based conservatism rather than addressing the many issues screaming for good ideas. Let the Democrats pray or not pray to whatever deity suits their fancy, but without substantive policies that resonate with voters, they're dead ducks.
Posted By Anonymous Michael Sievers, Los Angeles, California : 3:26 PM ET

I am so sick and tired of the millions of brainwashed "Christians" in this country who blindly follow the Republican party simply because they believe that's what a good Christian should do.

Wake up people.

It is time for Christian Democrats to stand up. Obama is right on.

Anyone who really believes in the teachings of Christ knows that showing humanity and love is Godly, passing judgement on people who do not share your beliefs is for God ONLY.

There are Christians out here who believe in the seperation of Church and State. Although we may think that abortion and gay relationships are immoral, it is not our right to restrict the personal choices of other people. When you make something illegal, you make it possible for someone who commits that "crime" to go to prison. I don't remember Jesus telling us to put the lost in prison. I think he said to love them, right?

Only God can judge. Get off your high horses.
Posted By Anonymous April Mpls, MN : 3:29 PM ET
The entire religion vs politics debate sadly boils down to one issue - abortion. The Christian right doesn't care how incompetant a candidate is, they ONLY care about where they stand on abortion. And to me, abortion boils down to this - the rights of a woman vs the rights of an embryo or fetus. I feel that the rights of a fully developed, living, breathing human, who has fully developed feelings, intelligence, etc., and whose life will be forever impacted by an unwanted pregnancy, override the rights of an undeveloped, unborn, human. I don't know how a religious leader can look a woman living in a 3rd world country, whose 10 children are starving, in the eye and tell her she can't have an abortion, and can't even use birth control. Women in these coutries also don't have the luxery of being able to tell their husbands "they have a headache".
Ones beliefs, whether they come from religion, their upbringing, or education, will always shape the way they live their life, so of course politions will be influenced by this. It's when politicians start being elected BECAUSE of their religion, or when a religion begins ELECTING politions that we will no longer be a democratic society, and we are pretty much there already.
Posted By Anonymous Patty, Seattle, WA : 3:35 PM ET
Politicans do not belong in religion and religion does not belong in politics. Separation of church and state should be upheld at all costs. Religion is, and should remain, personal. If we listen to religious fanatics who are trying their best to group all Americans into religious robots then we are in deep deep trouble. Take a look at the Middle East and what group religion has done to the people of that region. Religious brainwashing is not needed, nor should it be tolerated in America. Americans can think for themselves!
Posted By Anonymous Moe, Liverpool NY : 3:43 PM ET
I am happy to see some discussion on this topic, but I still am overwhelmed at the closed-mindedness of the "holier than thou" group of people.

As I've seen several people post on here, I can see both sides of the story and I know good and bad on both sides. Whether someone has a faith and belief in God or Allah or what have you should be irrelevant. I'm completely against what I call the Sunday only "Bible Thumping Christian Evangelicals" and groups like "Focus on the Family" imposing thier agenda on me. As you can see, I live in Colorado Springs, so I get more than my dose of Dr Dobson on a daily basis.

It amazes me when someone like Dr Dobson can have someone fired from their job because of a protest. FoF personnel actually walked around a parking area and looked for distinguishing marks on cars and then reported these people to their employers--I personally know of 5 people that lost their jobs because of this.

It's high time that those that consider themselves Christians and want to impose their beliefs and ways on everyone else start acting like Christians. I would rather see them start helping the homeless and needy and "Focusing on their own damn family" before telling me what to do.
Posted By Anonymous John, Colorado Springs, CO : 3:58 PM ET
I hate to be the bearer of bad news...But GOD does NOT exist, frankly i'm sick and tired of these storytellers and thier fairly tales.

These people should be exposed and held responsible for several *millenia" worth of lies. Stripped of thier ill gotten gains which should be redistributed to the poor and disadvantaged. If they continue to preach 'imprisoned' for willfully and intentionally misleading the public. Or at the very least consigned to a sanitarium.

Face it people, wake up and smell the roses...ALL religions are false, without exception. History is my truth in that when a belief system fosters divisions among mankind the result has been bad for mankind.

Prove the existence of your god...please? Thanks.
Posted By Anonymous Dave S., Springfield VA : 4:02 PM ET
Obama for President!
Posted By Anonymous Paul,Norman,Oklahoma : 4:03 PM ET
They can't talk G-O-D becuase they generally either don't believe in G-O-D or are hostile to religion in general. Democrats and the leftists in the party have utterly no credibility on religious issues. You are what you are and the democratic party and its disdain of religion runs deep.
Posted By Anonymous patrick, dallas,tx : 4:47 PM ET
What the Democrats are failing to realize is that the reason religious people vote for conservative (Republican) candidates is because of their platform, not their religion. People don't believe in abortion and same-sex marriage, sometimes because of their faith, but they're not faithful because they don't believe in abortion and same-sex marriage. The same goes for voting. People will vote because of their belief on these issues, but they're not going to vote simply because of religion, when they don't agree with the candidate. It just seems like the Democrats are just trying to find another way to get around the facts of their lacking leadership, and instead of proving their skills by governing accordingly, they're just trying to appeal in a way that's irrelavent anyway. I'd like to see the Democrats make some progress instead of wasting our time and money devising tricks and spending tax dollars.
Posted By Anonymous Lola, Orange County, CA : 5:05 PM ET
You say Christians aren't stupid rednecks? Then you haven't been to the Bible Belt, my friend. I know that all Christians aren't rednecks, but there are reasons why the Bible Belt leads the world in almost index of crime, and social disorder you might care to name. They can't take care of their children, their mentally ill, their seniors, the sick. They can't maintain their schools, or their roads, but what they can do is spend a couple of hundred bucks to drive across the state to a football game to cheer their Volunteers or Longhorns, or Sooners on to victory, get drunk and stagger back home Saturday night.
Christianity, in the Bible Belt, is ALL about racism and greed, not about doing God's work. Half the folks who vote against gay marriage haven't darkened the door of any church for decades, but they know what's "right" . Never mind the six pack they drink every night, or the wife they beat regularly, or the kids who are ignored. Marriage must be protected! And they have to maintain the right to "bear arms" so they can shoot each other when the situation arises. God, guns,gays and good 'ol boys - what I want to know is: what does this have to do with Jesus?
Posted By Anonymous Joe R. Monroe, Tulsa, Ok : 5:25 PM ET
The only way for a Democrat to win the presidency in 2008 is if they nominate a moderate from the South or the Midwest. Look at the last few Democratic presidents (with the exception of JFK):

Harry Truman - Missouri
Lyndon Johnson - Texas
Jimmy Carter - Georgia
Bill Clinton - Arkansas

I think that the Democrats need to nominate someone like Mark Warner, John Edwards, or Evan Bayh who can carry some Southern states. The reason why many Southern states didn't vote for Kerry (and people thought Edwards would've been able to help) was because he was the Northeastern liberal who was running for PRESIDENT - which Edwards was not a candidate for in the general election.

We Democrats are bound to lose if we nominate someone like John Kerry, Chris Dodd, Joe Biden, or Hillary Clinton. I say that Clinton can't win because she will be destroyed everywhere except for CA, OR, WA, and the Northeast - and probably Illinois, Michigan, and Minnesota.

My point is that we must nominate someone who can carry places like Virginia, Florida, Arkansas, Tennessee, Louisiana, Missouri, etc. into the Democratic column.

I'm also a huge Mike Easley fan too...
Posted By Anonymous Dave from Methuen MA : 5:25 PM ET
What is being left out of this discussion on which party can be the greater Christians, is the fact that a person of another faith - Islam, Hindu, Buddist, and probably Jewish, could in no way get elected. And if a politician were to admit to being an agnostic, well heaven forbid!
Posted By Anonymous Sharon, Big Stone Gap, VA : 5:25 PM ET
Most politicians are hypocrites. They talk about God in one breath, and with another sling mud and slander those who they are running against in an election. You cannot take God out of the equation. In all you do, when you are a true believer, God's word will guide your steps.
Posted By Anonymous Tina Howell, Stockton, California : 5:40 PM ET
I care more about a politician's understanding and adherence to the US Constitution than their religious beliefs. None of our politicians seem to be able to understand the document anymore.
Posted By Anonymous John, Middletown, IN : 10:18 AM ET
Basic history - read the basic history of Palestine (not written by the Isralies) and tell me who has the right to defend themselves.

Please do not send my tax dollars to Israel so that it can reign terror and holocaust on the people of the middle east.

My 17 year old was supposed to be in Lebanon for a summer program. For the sake of the people over there please get the news out correctly. The people of Lebanon do not deserve any of this.
Please note
CNN in Europe is superior to CNN in USA. I can't believe my eyes when I see Head line Prime - it's about the movies. Stop filling our heads with nonsence. We are going to become a poor nation because of the stupid nonsence you are broadcasting.
Posted By Anonymous Elizabeth Barsoum Delray Beach Florida : 5:58 PM ET
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