Dissecting Presidential Theology is not an American Tradition

There have now been billions of words (to which On Faith has made a considerable contribution) written about President Obama’s … Continued

There have now been billions of words (to which On Faith has made a considerable contribution) written about President Obama’s religious beliefs. Is he a Christian? Exactly what kind of Christian is he? Is his Christianity “tainted” by having a father who was born a Muslim? Although the last question is the most idiotic of all, almost everyone–liberal, conservative, and centrist–who has made any comment on Obama’s religion has failed to say that there is nothing ordinary, or traditional in American politics, about subjecting a president’s private faith to this kind of scrutiny.

I don’t think that Obama, even with a mixed racial and religious background that serves as an excuse for such speculation, is the real issue. What we are witnessing is, rather, the outcome of a 40-year process in which Americans have become increasingly ignorant about and contemptuous of the necessary division between religion and government established by the founders.

The headline above a long piece in Sunday’s New York Times, “God and Politics, Together Again,” embodies the mistake that nearly all of the pundits are making. It implies, somehow, that this pointed personal debate over Obama’s theology is really nothing unusual–that it somehow part of American culture and tradition, extending back to the origins of our nation. It is not.

In a long essay, Sam Tanenhaus suggests–and I think he is right about this–that Obama’s Christian beliefs incorporate both a modern version of the Social Gospel (that is what Glenn Beck hates so much) and a more cerebral and conservative religious philosophy that recognizes the limitations of human institutions (including religious ones) to change social conditions. He goes on to suggest that the “tension between these two religious ideas–one wedded to progress, the other mindful of the limits of worldly activism–reflects the broader tension in Mr. Obama’s liberalism.”

The same religious tension, he suggests, has been present in many other presidents, including Franklin D. Roosevelt on the left and Ronald Reagan on the right. Implicit in this statement is the idea that there has always been a close relationship between presidential politics and presidential religion, a balancing act in which a chief executive’s political fortunes are linked to public perceptions of his faith.

This is simply not true. The only time in this century in which perceptions of a potential president’s religion played a critical role was during the campaigns of Al Smith and John F. Kennedy. Smith, in 1928, was defeated and his Catholicism was a major factor. Kennedy, of course, became the nation’s first and only Roman Catholic president. Once Kennedy was elected by the narrowest of margins, and the public saw that he wasn’t running to the Vatican for instructions, his religion became a non-issue.

Indeed, the president Obama most resembles in his privacy and reserve about religion is Kennedy. No one talked about whether Kennedy did or did not go to Sunday Mass–just as no one talked about how infrequently Reagan and Roosevelt went to church. But this was all before the full ascendancy of the religious right, which would love to undo the constitutional mandate that there be “no religious test” for public office. In a practical sense, the right-wingers have succeeded in undoing this portion of the Constitution and are subjecting Obama to a religious test.

Roosevelt almost never talked about religion, according to presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, and although he was an Episcopalian (like so many born into the upper class in 19th-century America) he did not often attend church as president. The president’s religion, or lack thereof, almost never figured in political attacks on his policies (though the lunatic right did occasionally suggest that Roosevelt was really a Jew). Reagan was the darling of the religious right because of his policies, not because he wore his faith on his sleeve. Like Roosevelt, Kennedy, and Obama, he was not a regular churchgoer. But in the 1980s, the erosion of separation and church and state had not yet progressed far enough for a president to be required to pass some kind of religious litmus test, whether administered by a loopy TV commentator who fancies himself an heir of Martin Luther King or by political analysts who seem to think it is perfectly proper for a president to be treated as theologian-in-chief rather than commander-in-chief.

Although orthodox Christians often had deep suspicions about the unorthodox religious views of presidents from Thomas Jefferson to Abraham Lincoln, such suspicions were almost never used to attack presidential policies. Jefferson and Lincoln, among others, were not Christians at all–if by Christian one means believing that Jesus Christ is God and took human form to save mankind from its sins. When Protestant ministers came to Lincoln and asked him to support a constitutional amendment assigning not only God but Jesus Christ the supreme governmental power held by “we the people,” Lincoln quietly buried the amendment. No influential commentators were frothing at the mouth and accusing Lincoln of practicing a religion unacceptable to most Americans.

There is a tendency to assume that the unprecedented attention paid to Obama’s religion is almost entirely the result of his being biracial, having a foreign-sounding name, and having had a father who was born a Muslim (although both of his parents were apparently atheists). I think that this un-American attempt to peer into a president’s soul has been enabled by both religious liberals and religious conservatives in the media and politics.

When many religious liberals jumped onto the faith-based bandwagon that authorized public spending for social programs animated by private faith–when they spoke and acted as though the only thing undesirable about a cozy relationship between faith and government was that the wrong kind of faith might make its way into politics–they set the stage for what is happening now. On the day John McCain and Obama agreed to a debate moderated by Pastor Rick Warren, they also paved the way for the inquisition Obama is undergoing now. The president made the mistake of thinking he could bow down to this violation of the spirit of the Constitution during the campaign but would be let alone about matters of private faith after the election, as so many previous presidents have been. What he underestimated was the profound erosion of devotion to the separation of church and state that had already occured.

We are now reaping the whirlwind that our founding fathers tried so hard to avoid in the the creation of their new nation.

Susan Jacoby
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  • WmarkW

    Christopher Hitches and Ann Coulter agree that Barack Obama is not a Muslim because he’s an atheist.——————————————————————————–

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    I would like to make a comment, which I have made a number of times before. I grew up in a small Southern town in the 1950′s and 60′s. In those days, there was no public or civil religion. All religion was confined to the insides of the churches; there was no Christmas pageant or celebration in school, no manger scene or creche at city hall, no public prayers or Bible readings in school or at atheletic events, no public appeals to God, to Jesus, no veneration of the 10 commandments. Almost everyone was expected to go to church, and almost everyone did, but not everyone. That is how it was then. Does anyone else remember life like this? I wish someone else of my age, or older, would reply, to say if this is they remember things, or not.

  • hebaber

    (1) Arguably, people are questioning Obama’s religious commitments in a way that they didn’t question, e.g. FDR’s because in the past few years, in part through the activities of the New Atheists, the general public has become aware that there is a significant number Americans who aren’t religious believers. In the 1930s and 1940s, when FDR was president the assumption was that virtually everybody was a religious believer and, indeed, a churchgoer.Until perhaps 20 years ago it simply wouldn’t have occurred to most Americans that one their political leaders, or anyone that wasn’t some sort of crank, was an atheist. They certainly worried that they might be the wrong kind of religious believer, e.g. a Catholic, or indeed that they might be Now things are different. Moreover, most Americans recognize that Obama belongs to a demographic in which religious believers are in a minority–the urban-coastal, academic, upper middle class. So it’s a very good guess–and I’d bet on it–that Obama isn’t a religious believer of any kind.(2) But why should it bother the public if it turned out that Obama was an atheist? Ironically, because of the Enlightenment program of reducing religion to morality. If you believe, as many Americans who imagine themselves to be Christians do, that religion is morality tinged with emotion, that the primary or only business of religion is ethics, then it’s easy to slip into the view that individuals who aren’t religious aren’t ethical.I can understand why Obama is in the closet about his atheism: given the results of surveys I’ve seen, an out atheist could not be elected. But his hypocrisy, and his condescending attitude to “People of Faith” like myself is irritating. I wouldn’t have any problem voting for an atheist and I rather wish that at some point, maybe during his second term when Americans get it into their heads that he’s done a good job, and when he has nothing to lose, he will come out as an atheist. Americans need to grow up–and look at the empirical facts. Religious belief doesn’t make people any better–or arguably–any worse and it shouldn’t be in play when it comes to politics.

  • timmy2

    Ed,”Prayers before a football game hurt no one”The lack of prayers before a football game hurt no one. Group religious prayers should only occur in places like churches where everyone has agreed to pray to one particular God. Not at public events in a pluralistic society. There is the letter of the law of the constitution, and then there is the spirit of the constitution, and both should be upheld.

  • timmy2

    Further to my comment below, just because something is not strictly prohibited by the constitution does not give a green light of endorsement by the founders. There is no justifiable reason to hold a group prayer at any public event in a pluralistic society that includes believers and non-believers of all kinds. Only those wanting to show favoritism to one particular religion would think that this is a good idea.

  • timmy2

    Hebaber,”Religious belief doesn’t make people any better–or arguably–any worse and it shouldn’t be in play when it comes to politics.”So you would have no problem voting for a scientologist? It matters to me if the president is delusional or not in his world view. But I agree that it would be a good thing for Obama, once he is a lame duck, to come out as someone who does not believe in the magic sky fairy. America could use the jolt.

  • WmarkW

    “I don’t think that Obama, even with a mixed racial and religious background that serves as an excuse for such speculation, is the real issue.”It isn’t just Obama’s pedigree that encourages such speculation, it’s the fact he has much less background than any President in recent memory. John McCain, John Kerry, George W (due to family), Al Gore, Bob Dole and Bill Clinton were familiar politicians for decades before their Presidential runs. When Obama gave the keynote speech at the 2004 convention (which Bill Clinton did 1988), my immediate reaction was “they’re annointing this guy President, who I’ve never heard of.”Other than Kennedy, the President whose religion gained the most attention in my lifetime was Jimmy Carter, who was also a chimera before his candidacy.If Obama had a stronger track record of positions he’d taken, people wouldn’t have to wonder whether his positions on health care, immigration reform, and the tools of economic recovery were coming from a belief in traditional American values; or from a belief that Americans are wrong about many important things, and their views are to be overcome instead of respected.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    Yes but does anyone remember the recent past, in which there was no public or civil religion on display? It is my theory that in the Jim Crowe South, religous orthodoxy was the last thing on the minds of the governing authorities; the goal in those days was to discourage any kind of public gathering, any kind of mass organizaiton, anything that might even remotely cause dissension and disorder. In such a society with many varied and differing churches, religion was by custom and law, confinde to church.

  • timmy2

    I wonder if Americans would be more upset to find out that Obama is a muslim, or an atheist?

  • edbyronadams

    Tim wrote,”Further to my comment below, just because something is not strictly prohibited by the constitution does not give a green light of endorsement by the founders.”The Tenth Amendment gives all unmentioned powers to the states or the people. There is where any regulation belongs.

  • timmy2

    EdI have no problem with letting the states force public school children to be subjected to prayers to the Christian God. Let them show their true colors I say. Most people in America think that the spirit of the establishment clause supports the idea that it is wrong to hold prayers to the Christian God in public schools. And they would be right in my opinion. Like you though, I wish that the federal government would let the yokel states display their ignorance. Let them teach creationism and not teach evolution. Hell, let them criminalize homosexual activity if they want to. And we know that some of them would still like to. Nothing kills a bad product faster than good advertising. I’m with you. Let the states make their own backward ass decisions if they so choose.

  • farnaz_mansouri2

    If there were a God, He would end this volcanic eruption of commentary on presidential religion. I give Him until the end of twenty-four hours, in a miraculous rebirth of agnosticism.Meanwhile, recommend a film called Soul Kitchen, a German movie made by a very prominent Turkish director.Tennis, anyone?

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    FarnazMaybe we could swerve the comments off into some new direction.Yes I agree, this type of subject does not seem very relevant. This past summer, I attended two family reunions, one for each parent, and most of the people present were more on the conservative side of things. But no one mentioned Glen Beck, Sarah Palin, Barak Obama, the Wars, not even the recession; we just ate, talked, and listened to music.

  • RCofield

    SUSAN JACOBY: “Sam Tanenhaus suggests–and I think he is right about this–that Obama’s Christian beliefs incorporate both a modern version of the Social Gospel (that is what Glenn Beck hates so much) and a more cerebral and conservative religious philosophy that recognizes the limitations of human institutions (including religious ones) to change social conditions.”That one could believe that Obama’s is a “cerebral (LOL!) and conservative religious philosophy that recognizes the limitations of human institutions….to change social conditions” is positively absurd.If Obama possess ANY “philosophy” it is that the expansion of government is the ONLY way to effect social change. How on earth do people not see this?This kind of blind ideological devotion to our president is inherently dangerous.

  • Jihadist

    Good essay by Ms. Jacoby and her link of the New York Times essay by Tennenhaus to be read in tandem. Both essays does clarify a bit for me on why and how some Americans are against Obama, the Democratic Party, how it got America to this stage and state viz seperation of church and state, how it affects the American political landscape. The part about “Social Gospel” interest me. It seems closer to aspects of traditional Islamic ideals and “Liberation Theology” than Evangelical Christian ideals held by Beck’s supporters. No surprise they are livid and rabid about it – saving a soul is more important than saving a life from want among other honourable things they seek to restore.

  • timmy2

    Carstonio,”I’m not prepared to sacrifice the rights of the Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, etc. families in those states to prove a point”According to Ed those people have no rights that are sacrificed by Christian prayers in schools. I’m just talking about a bluff call here. Lets see if they have the nuts to do it. And if they do how long it will last. According to Ed, we have no choice but to let the states make their own call on this one.

  • Carstonio

    Timmy, how about this bluff call – a school district serving a mostly non-Christian area tries to hold mandatory prayers in a religion other than Christianity.

  • timmy2

    BTW Carstonio,Is there anything that you believe? Or is belief a bad thing? Based on our previous conversation, you had identified “belief” as being an absolute certainty, unchangeable and stubborn. And since nothing can be proven with absolute certainty, I guess believing anything is a bad idea, which gives the term “belief” a negative connotation in all circumstances. But I find it hard to believe that you “believe” nothing. Can you clarify this for me?

  • timmy2

    Carstonio,I like your bluff idea, but Ed says the states have the final say on such things so you’d have to find a whole state that is down with that, and I doubt such a thing exists. But I do like the example to demonstrate how wrong these people are who think that Christian prayers belong in public schools.

  • timmy2

    Ed,I told you, I have no problem with the tenth. I’m on your side on this one. I want the yokel states to be allowed to show their ignorance.

  • timmy2

    Carstonio,To clarify: You do not “believe” or “know” anything? “My point is that any propositions that one holds should be derived from evidence”But you do not believe this, it is just your point? So “points” are things that can change with evidence but “beliefs” are set in stone? And what bout “know”. Same thing as belief? Synonymous? Or is there a distinction between “know” and “believe”?

  • timmy2

    Carstonio,I often read stories where they say things like, “scientists now believe that humans migrated out of africa.” Does this mean that the scientists being referenced hold this proposition to be true regardless of the evidence? Or has the journalist writing the story misused the word “believe”?

  • Secular

    Very good article by Susan as always. She goes on to say, “In a long essay, Sam Tanenhaus suggests–and I think he is right about this–that Obama’s Christian beliefs incorporate both a modern version of the Social Gospel (that is what Glenn Beck hates so much) and a more cerebral and conservative religious philosophy that recognizes the limitations of human institutions (including religious ones) to change social conditions. He goes on to suggest that the “tension between these two religious ideas–one wedded to progress, the other mindful of the limits of worldly activism–reflects the broader tension in Mr. Obama’s liberalism.”Continued Below:

  • timmy2

    Carstonio,”I wouldn’t choose myself to use that word in that sentence, preferring “hypothesize” instead”But these journalists (professional writers) and scientists use the word “believe” all the time to denote what they currently feel is true based on the evidence at hand. I find it hard to believe that journalists and scientists are all misusing that word. Rather, I think you are misusing it. Just as the word “faith” has a different meaning from “religious faith”, the word “believe” has a different meaning from “religious belief.” “I might use “believe” if I was talking about a subjective question of value, such as declaring a belief that chocolate is the finest of the flavors”According to your logic, your use of the word “believe” above means that this belief is irrespective of the evidence and not subject to change. So if you were to taste something new that you have never tasted before that tastes better to you than chocolate, you would still have to believe that chocolate tastes the best because a belief is something that does not change with new evidence. Do you see how your definition of the word “believe” makes it impossible for you to use that word in any situation except in the case of absolute irrevocable certainty? You have rendered that word irrelevant to the secular world, and yet secular people, including journalists and scientists use that word constantly. “I’m suggesting that when a proposition is reached irrespective of evidence, or through what feels true, it’s much more likely that the proposition will be immune to contrary evidence”So evidence can not lead one to a belief? It can only lead to knowledge. Beliefs are alway irrespective of evidence? No one i know uses that world that way.”I suppose my argument is really about how one derives propositions that deal with matters of objective fact”We don’t disagree on this. Knowledge should be evidence based. But most secular people use the word “believe” to describe what the evidence tells them about a particular proposition. Especially when that evidence is overwhelming. In fact most secular people use the word “believe” to denote a less certain conviction than the word “know.” People say things like, “well I don’t know that it’s true but I believe that it is true based on the evidence that I see.”No where in the dictionary does it say that beliefs are something held irrespective of the evidence. You have invented your own definition of that word. There is no proof that the Christian God is imaginary and not real, but there are mountains and mountains of evidence that this is the case. Overwhelming evidence. As much as there is that unicorns are imaginary, and that evolution occurred. Belief that the Christian God is imaginary is not a belief without evidence. It is a belief with overwhelming evidence.

  • WmarkW

    To “believe” means to accept as true, which one might do because evidence compels it.”Faith” is what one is willing to believe without evidence. And “prejudice” can be defined pretty much the same way.The 1980s Religious Right (which is my American paradigm for religion done wrong) was a reaction by Southerners to the societal changes of the 60s and the fact that they weren’t undone in the 70s. Integration, feminism and youth culture violated their fundamental assumptions about how life was supposed to work. Their rhetoric is filled with seemingly contradictory ideas like “abortion is wrong, and so states should be allowed to make their own laws.” (If something is morally wrong, shouldn’t it be illegalized nationally?) But once you understand that their paradigm of how America works is “states rights” (to practice segregation) it starts to make sense.Modern America is busting some paradigms. Some are progress and some are not. Why are 10% unemployed when 6% of the workforce is illegal immigrants? Why isn’t there a factory job to bring me into the middle class, like my parents had?Religion is frequently a reflection of how people view the way society is supposed to work. When the government is led by a President with virtually no history and who seems not to care about what the populace thinks about some important issues (illegal immigration, universal health care, and corporate bailouts) a turn to religion is a natural expression of wanting their expectations back.

  • PSolus

    CARSTONIO,”…instead of investigating whether gods exist and what their likely properties may be.”Exactly how would one go about investigating whether gods exist?What testing or measuring apparatus would one use?Which branch of mathematics would one attempt to apply?What methodology would one use?

  • timmy2

    Carstonio,”I would be interested in the “overwhelming evidence” against the existence of the Christian god specifically, and against the existence of gods in general”There is really only one piece of evidence that gods do not exist. The mountains of evidence that I referred to only speak to the fact that gods are invented by humans. But if you have enough evidence that humans invented (imagined) gods It, would be quite an astronomical fluke if the gods we invented actually existed. The one and only piece of evidence that gods do not exist it the complete lack of credible evidence for their existence. Although this is the only evidence against their existence, it is a quite damning one. Can you think of anything else (besides God) that is so widely accepted as existing, but for which there is no credible evidence of it’s existence? I can think of nothing. The flying spaghetti monster idea is meant to be an awareness raiser of the fact that we have all been indoctrinated by our society to a certain extent to think that we have to disprove this thing for which there is not a scrap of evidence for, and is clearly made up by the imagination of men. The evidence that gods are made up could fill volumes in the fine details of the histories of gods, and their plagiarizing of other gods, and the inconsistencies in their stories, and the logical impossibilities of the conflicting traits given to so many gods etc. When it comes to the Christian God, this kind of evidence is off the charts. Plagiarized, inconsistent, impossible co-existing traits, the problem of infinite regression, and on and on and on. We do not have to be agnostic about unicorns. And the Christian god is far more unlikely than unicorns.

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    Test

  • steinbergc

    Susan Jacoby, GO BACK TO HISTORY SCHOOL before you write more senseless dribble. Talking about a president’s faith IS AN AMERICAN TRADITION dating way back !!!! Did they pay you for this piece ? Thomas Jefferson’s 1800 election where he was called an atheist, a scoundrel, and even worse, yes SUSAN, his private religious views were scrutinized by the electorate, and debated in the press. BACK IN 1800! Check your facts!!!

  • woodstock-41

    Dear SisStar SUSAN J.;Ye art as Cute as yo are Smart!Happy “New Years”, ooopss,Happy Everyday To YOU & Loved Ones. Huggs!

  • woodstock-41

    S T E I N B U R C:Pleazzza, Sit on a RAM’s Horn aye?!

  • mrbradwii

    Inquisition? Hmmm, elevating mere speculation to the hammer of god is a bit of a stretch.I’m not sure how holding a debate in a venue such as the Rick Warren church of self-adulation is much different than, say, sponsorship by the League of Women Voters. Politicians are peddlers. They go where they can sell their goods. If the government were to regulate where they can sell it, say, only at mega-church sponsored events, or regulate who can do the selling, say, only those who believe in a particular god or espouse a particular dogma, then you’d better check to make sure you’re not in Iran… or Vatican City. If you check and find you’re still in America, then perhaps you’ve elected a few too many democrats, a little too often.

  • woodstock-41

    “WE, The People” on 9.11 Should Put All the 6 Major Religion Founders (Moses, Jesus, MuHAM-MAD, Smith, Vyasa & Gatama on Crosses (just for the heck of it) And then Burn Them All At Once.Now that will be Coooollll! (not Cruel). WHY?Because the Chumash is a SATANIC VersUS, the Bible is a Satanic VersUS, the Mormons is a SATANIC VersUS, the Quram/Koran is a SATANIC VersUS, the Geeta/Gita is a SATANIC VersUS, the Kangyur/Tangyurs is a SATANIC VersUS et al;Not to mention that They ALL Are “Anti-Family, Anti-Humanity and ALL are based Note: OR, orBetter Yet, Lets BURN ALL the “OIC” Flags All at Once, for all the world to see, aka “Organaisation of Ishlami Conference” [54 Ishlami Nations Flags] on 9.11, every Year Forever, if “WE[i] must.PS: General? BETRAY-i-US” ooopps Petraeus should be Thrown in the “Stockade” for the rest of his Natural Life! Better than Burning His Effigy on a Cross next to those 6+ “G-D Player”s mentioned above, aye? O’ Brethren [a Real General] McChrystal! PS: i[WE] went to “General Douglas” Military Academy in Jersey, under Col “HOAR” et al. So as a “Scout” WE[i] Salute Sweet Sweet U.S.A. 1st; NOt the President!So Go Ride a DONKEY boys n Gals! Forget Elephants! O’ “Eucharist” Drunkards/Addicts!

  • spencer1

    As a subset of separation of church and state, let us consider separation of church and court. It is certain that the recent gay marriage decision will be appealed to the Supreme Court, a court of nine justices of which six are catholic. And the catholic church prohibits same-sex marriage. Thus it is completely clear that the six catholic justices must recuse themselves. As difficult and contentious as this will be, the citizens of the US must insist that the constitution be upheld.

  • timmy2

    It is pretty scary that there are Catholic judges. I can not imagine worse judgement than believing that Jesus was born of a virgin and supporting the Catholic church.

  • eezmamata

    CARSTONIO, are you really so sure about that? Do you remember back in 2004 when Kerry was running against Bush … Kerry and other democrat politicians, other liberals or whatever, where denied certain religious rituals by their catholic church because they went against certain of their teachings.

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    Well, Susan, you’ve got a topic. De Gught. Use google to get some background on Belgium.

  • eezmamata

    How many votes did it cost them? These local catholic priests or bishops or whatever they’re called, they are the ones who denied Kerry this ritual, they do jump when the pope says so. How many catholics who might otherwise have voted for Kerry changed their mind because of this?

  • woodstock-41

    Please Forgive Me. Buti just awoke around 45 minutes ago. And i had the most vivid weird dream in a long time. It was so real. i’m not kidding. Please know that i’ve experienced “NDE” twice via Accidents no drugs.i found myself (i’m not imagining this) sitting in a little square room/box or a Capsule or a still moving train cabin, it felt holyi like, calm. I’m sitting on the left side of what seems to be the Directly across & in front of me, 3 or 4 feet away, is what i perceive as a i blurt-out and mention a Man named the figure across me (krishna figure) said, He might be the one, no?..” and the two blurry figures on the Popes side are acknowledging with a “Ommm” like or a “mmmmm” or a “aha” sound. Then i realize that i’m part of this strange conversation. And the pope said, “i have read it…” Then i woke-up,bothered by this dream, which is strange because it is soo clear, but i can remember it and now right about it here.i[WE] believe something GOOD is going to happen in our modern times for modern humanity. Note: There was mention of any Satan/Devil figure anywhere; includes in all our Thoughts. It was evil-free room and mind and heart felt conversation.WE[i] guess Satan has been defeated; as if dead. nowhere to be felt nor heard. Note: it’s now an hour since this awakening or dream or message. So please excuse i. But this is what i know i[WE] dream’t as real. Maybe It is time.?

  • woodstock-41

    … There was NO mention of any Satan/Devil figure anywhere; includes in all our Thoughts. It was evil-free room and mind and heart felt conversation.

  • fcs25

    Where exactly in the US Constitution does it state in plain English the separation of church and State? It doesn’t does it.It states that the government can not establish a State religion,that is vastly different then what the media says it states.

  • WmarkW

    Please Forgive Me. Buti just awoke around 45 minutes ago. And i had the most vivid weird dream in a long time.Woodstock, ALL your posts look like you’re in a boat on a river with tangerine trees and marmalade skies.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    … I meant to say “mental gymnastics … “

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    What is the difference between believing something, and knowing something? The answer to this question is an excercise in complicated mental gemynatstics, semantics, and nit-picking logic, which is pretty much unsatisfactory, and unsatisfying. Really, what is the difference? Who can say? No one can say.What is truth? No one can say what it is. Yet, generally, we know what is real and what is not real, what thoughts are valid and which ones are not. Even people who believe with rock solid certainty that Jesus in the redeemer and they communicate with him every day through the Holy Spirit, even they know that is not really happening, not in an ordinary and everyday sense. And even Muslims who belief so fervently in in Mohammed and Allah, know that they are engaged in a sort of religious mania, for the purpose of causing strong belief to be true, mererly by its being strong.What I am saying is that even if people have very, very strong feelings of absolute knowledge about their religous beliefs, they still know that it is speculative, and what they say they know about God, Allah, Jesus, and Mohammed, is not the same as what they know about more ordinary things.Most people know that what they know is just a guess. Assertion of truth and certainty is really more about soothing ones inner anxiety, and creating a sense of structure to life, than it is about truth.If all Christians really knew that they would rise from the dead, meet Jesus in Heaven, and see their beloved departed loved-one again, they would not fear death, and they would not cry at funerals. But they DO fear death, and they DO cry at funerals, because their rock solid beliefs are really hopes, for what might be.

  • ThomasBaum

    DanielintheLionsDen You asked, “What is the difference between believing something, and knowing something?”I think that you know the difference, you just don’t want to believe that someone just might know something.Believing fervently is still just believing.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    ThomasBaumWe have words to describe how the world is or how it appears, and how we feel about the world. We “believe” some things; and we “know” some things. But if you try to define what is belief and what is knowledge, you can’t, and neither can I; no one can. If you don’t believe me, then try it and see if you have any more success than anyone else ever has. Knowing the difference between what is real and what is not real is different than having knowledge of truth, and it is different than believing in what seems true. Animals do not know things or believe things, but they, like us, know what is real and what is not real. They do not think about time, the present, the past, or the future, but they behave in time with a memory of things past, and with actions contingent upon the future.We are animals like they are, and we have a sense of a world, that appears seamless and perfect in the way that we are fitted to dwell in it, and in how it is fitted for our dwelling. All the rest, all the ceaseless arguing about whose religion is right and true and best, is all just a buzz in the background, a rumbling din like the sound of a water fall, in our landscape of personal experience.People do not like the thought that we are animals; it is almost universally acknowledged that we are superior to animals, or at the very least, the top animal. But that, too, is merely an arbitrary assumption. Being conscious of the world does not make us the best, unless it is a contest of intelligence. Everything about the world that has enabled the animals to be, has also enalbed us to be, and without this landscape provided for us, suited for animals, we could not exist. Everthing defines everyting else; every moment in time is equally important in the flow of all moments. Nothing could be as it is, if even one aspect of the world and of existence could be wished away. No religion can be true that overlooks the experience of man as an animal dwelling in a landscape of personal experience, that happens automatically, without knowledge and without belief.Moslems venerate Mohamed instead of Jesus, and they attach religous importance to a building with a mineret and not a steeple, and they call God by a different name, Allah, and they feel pain in their hearts at the desecration of a book called the Koran instead of one called the Bible, and there is a whole host of cultural differences that distinguish Christian and Islamic religious rituals, but, virtially, they are identical and the same, exactly, and in every way.

  • kert1

    I think the reason for the interest in Obama’s religion, stems from the fact we just don’t understand it. Most presidents have been somewhat open about it when they were asked. From Obama, all we know is Jeremiah Wright, which isn’t very encouraging. Now we are told it’s a private issue and we have no real evidence that there is any real conviction.The media has played up the fact America’s opinion on Obama’s faith. I think this stems from the confusion on what he believes and what he practices, especially as head of state. We are not used to Presidents being less supportive of their own faith (Christianity) and more supportive of other religions (names Islam). This is especially evident given the current tension and atrocities being done in Muslim countries. If one were to review Obama’s speeches, I believe you could mistake a preference to Muslim faith. He seems, in many speeches, to be more in favor of Islam than of Christianity, with hardly a critical word.American’s believe that one should practice their faith, and in order to do this one must understand their faith. We know these things are important, since at its core, religion is the heart of our beliefs. We know that we can better understand a president by seeing his religious and personal beliefs. With a lack of clarity here, it seems more likely that most of these beliefs are political in nature than true beliefs of the heart.Overall this article is generally about the secularization of America. She largely mischaracterizes religious people and the religious right. Again, the confusing point the difference between government policy and personal beliefs and decisions. American’s are a very religious people and many people practice their beliefs in all areas. This is normal and appropriate. People are free to make their decisions based on the beliefs and convictions (aka religion). It is altogether appropriate for candidates to debate free about religious issues and in religious locations.I frequently wonder why people want to remove our greatest convictions from our life and tell us we can’t practice them in a public setting. What would happen to this nation if we lose our convictions and simply let wise individuals guide us with only “logic” and “reason”? It’s scary what this kind of indoctrination could do to us.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    Carstonio (if you are still there)Having knowledge of truth or believing in what seems true is a technical excercise, based on some sort of logic, or other less valid mental gymnastics, which our intelligence allows, but which animals do not experience. The fact of our intelligence, that we are aware of the world and of ourselves, and seek to make sense of it, is what gives rise to a sense of knowing truth or believing what seems true.Knowing what is real and what is not real is non-technical; it is sensual experience, and it just happens, automatically, without any need or search for knowledge or truth; it is the exerience of being an animal alive, in a landscape that matches us, and that we are matched to. It happens without conscious effort.

  • mrbradwii

    [...]I don’t know how to respond with this. Convictions that are not compatible with logic and reason? What can they be? And how is this indoctrination?”We hold these truths to be self-evident…”What does that statement mean to you? Citizenship isn’t an exclusive club. It’s a place where we all dwell. We don’t have to agree on everything and every idea doesn’t have to be enumerated as — or proscribed from — the “law of the land” .Wise individuals come in all shapes and forms: those that exposit logic and reason and those that expound on tradition and faith. How scary is it to accept reality as it really is? How scary is it to decide that you believe something that is not evident? There is nothing to fear here. These are human traits. I can’t explain in words. “it is what it is; it’s not something else”. This is the nature of reality. What it is, our metaphysics, our perceptions, our physics, and our common sense can only tell. Our convictions are subject to our interpretation of the veracity of our beliefs. Our beliefs cannot contradict the truthfulness of self-evident observation.This is the struggle. Misplaced conviction is simply error in judgment. But no harm, no foul, because we all make errors, we either accept false propositions or pursue faulty logic. It’s human nature.

  • Carstonio

    DITLD, how are you defining “truth” and “reality”? It sounds as if you define “real” as sensory experience and “truth” as human-created conclusions from that experience.