God is My Co-Candidate

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Whatever your personal stance on religion — faithful in any denomination to agnostic to atheist — it likely informs your life in some way. This is obvious if you practice a religion and adhere to its teachings (or try to), but it's true even if you're an agnostic or an atheist... not being religious can be every bit as contentious as being religious. Either way, it's going to come up. More and more, it's coming up on the campaign trails, says our op ed author this week, Jonathan Turley. He credits our current President with getting the ball rolling during the 2000 primary, when he named Christ as his favorite political philospher. Since then, candidates on both sides have consistently claimed personal relationships with God. So what about the other, not-so-shiny parts of their private lives? The parts where, perhaps, they've violated the religious tenets they proclaim to follow? Turley says if they're claiming faith, the "flock" — voters — has a right to "question the shepherd." What do you think?

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As far as I am concerned, religion-based questions are certainly fair game but are completely useless. This topic, by its very existence, and the answers it elicits, expresses far more about the electorate than it ever will about the candidates. It usually points toward one-issue voters who are (and should be) maginalized.

Sent by Kevin S. Gareau | 2:15 PM | 11-19-2007

YES! Having been part of two organizations that have been run by Mormons (one an elite academic institution and the other a very large technology company), as a member of these communities you definitely feel at a definite disadvantage not being Mormon. My experience is that people who are hired and/or get ahead in these organizations are Mormon. If these types of hiring decisions are made based in-part on religion, than those in charge of an organization have absolutely made religion a part of the issue. My understanding with Mitt Romney is that he does surround himself with other Mormons, and as a result he makes his religion a definite factor in his consideration for presidency.

Sent by Reba | 2:46 PM | 11-19-2007

If a surgeon gets some bizarre thrill from putting his hands into the warm insides of a human being that propels him to be a brilliantly skilled medical specialist, I don't care. God in the lives of politicians is not something that interests me. However a strong preoccupation with ancient texts of any kind do worry me.

Sent by John McCadden | 2:48 PM | 11-19-2007

There are few real religious people in the elected positions in local governments, fewer still at the state level and, I'll be willing to bet, absolutely none at the national level -- especially the House, Senate and White House. They may show up at a house of religion on occasion, mumble something and get their "Cloak of Respectability," but all worship mammon, the almighty, though badly inflated sliding down to third-rate, dollar.

Don't complain about this, think about it. When have you seen a politician that was not looking for money?

You get what your voted for!

Sent by Tom Pendleton | 2:51 PM | 11-19-2007

I find this part of a much larger trend in American politics. Candidates do or do not declare a faith publicly because it may effect their elect-ability. What's disturbing is that the American public now seems to be most interested in the candidates' elect-ability, and not the character or platform that these candidates might represent.
Because of the nature of press coverage of elections in the last 10 years, the public is much too focused on the election, and not the candidates!

Sent by David Caudill | 2:51 PM | 11-19-2007

Everything is up for discussion when running for President of the United States. I will say one thing though, I consider myself an agnostic person, and a Democrat, but I respect Giuliani for his position on religion (which I just learned).

Sent by Devon | 2:51 PM | 11-19-2007

I am fed up with all this religious posturing in government. Isn't this America, the country of religious freedom?? It makes me furious, and I don't want a proselytizer in the office of President or his/her cabinet. When they start mouthing religion, I start looking the other direction. I'd like to know what they are actually DOING for human rights, animal rights, and the earth itself.

Sent by Judy | 2:52 PM | 11-19-2007

A question for the guest.... Is is fair game for the audience to hear first the 'Spiritual Status / View' before they can ask a question with the same content for a candidate... Such as I am a secularist with these basic tenets of 'belief' now what are yours?

Sent by Dennis R Olsen | 2:52 PM | 11-19-2007

What ever happened to separation of church and state? I don't care what religious affiliation a candidate has. Actions speak louder than words and forcing a candidate to say one way or the other is disastrous.

Sent by DB | 2:53 PM | 11-19-2007

RELIGION BASED QUESTIONS SHOULD BE ASKED. IF YOU ARE RELIGIOUS YOU SHOULD SAY YOU ARE. IF THEY ARE NOT RELIGIOUS, THEN THAT SHOULD BE SAID TOO. TELL THE PEOPLE OF AMERICA WHO YOU ARE.

Sent by Natalie, San Antonio, TX | 2:53 PM | 11-19-2007

In his op-ed, I think that Turley mischaracterizes what Obama said in his speech on faith and politics. In the same speech he also said:

"Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God's will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all."

Note that the abortion example is hypothetical, since it doesn't reflect Obama's record or professed views on the issue. Here's a link to the text of the whole speech: http://obama.senate.gov/speech/060628-call_to_renewal/

As an atheist, I'm not thrilled with Obama's religiosity, but he's spoken repeatedly about the need to base decisions on reason and facts, and he has repeatedly affirmed that he believes that morality and ethics aren't the monopoly of religion.

That said, I agree with much of what Turley has to say.

Sent by janet | 2:54 PM | 11-19-2007

In regards to this question of whether a candidate should express his/her faith: I believe that it is a travesty that in a country where we celebrate freedom of religion, we have made having faith a liability. It is part of our rights as citizens of this country believe in the god of choice we should not take this away from candidates.

Sent by Rita | 2:54 PM | 11-19-2007

It's a sad state of affairs when a candidate fills his/her platform with ambiguous references to a God or faith without any shred of sensitivity to the actual spiritual needs of the individual, simply to avoid having to fulfill the actual responsibility of representing the varying social stances existing among citizens, without regard to faith.

Sent by James Bridge | 2:55 PM | 11-19-2007

I believe that a candidate who expresses religious views should be asked about those views. I do not think this makes me a one-issue voter - rather a voter who wants to know how much a candidate bases his decisions on his particular religious beliefs.

Sent by Kristina Adams | 2:58 PM | 11-19-2007

I find the discussion of religion or religious issues very distasteful in the realm of politics. It always sounds not genuine and pandering.

Sent by John Holland | 2:58 PM | 11-19-2007

Thank you for dedicating today's program to this issue. While being informed about a candidate's religious beliefs is certainly fair game as the previous post indicated, the prominence of the issue in campaigns over the past decade is troubling. While I have no doubt that many politicians have strong religious convictions, these convictions have become less about a candidate's morals and convictions. Instead, a candidate's religion has become a campaign tool to solicit support from Judea-Christian voters who blithely accept a candidate based solely on their faith and not on the candidates positions and temperament.

Sent by Tristen | 2:59 PM | 11-19-2007

I lived in Utah for over 20 years and it was very obvious that Morman politicians do not separate church and state. No important legislation passes unless approved by the church. A vast majority of the legislators are Morman. Since their first allegiance is to the church I could never support a Morman as President of the US.

Sent by Ned Dolan | 2:59 PM | 11-19-2007

What ever happened to the constitution? The bill of rights? Those old stand-by's that have withstood the many trials throughout the existence of the United States. Our political leaders are welcome to base their personal lives on texts like the bible or whatever philosophy they may adhere to. However, they have no right to base any political decisions that affect people of all faiths on such texts.

Sent by Megan Scott | 3:00 PM | 11-19-2007

faith based American colonies had religious laws which included water boarding ie water chairs to gain information on the devil's truth contained within the person's soul.

Sent by Peter Margolis | 3:00 PM | 11-19-2007

I find it interesting that candidates and the news media conduct these discussions using the word "faith," while most of the bloggers use the correct term for what is being discussed--"religion." Most of us have faith in something. Many of us do not have a religion. To talk about the "faith" community presupposes that those not attached to a major religion have no faith--a false and condescending assumption.

Sent by Mark Wilson | 3:03 PM | 11-19-2007

In every other case, Americans, and particularly American politicians, love to tout the Constitution, which as far as I know still ensures separation between religion and state. So why is
this blatant mixing of the two not booed out by the voters and disallowed in the campaigns? Like somebody said on the program, we are no better than the frequently villified Iranians/Talibanis and others...

Sent by Asa Stephens | 3:06 PM | 11-19-2007

The politicalization of religion is NOT helping to create either COMMON GOOD politics or SINCERE religious faith. I REFUSE to answer poll questions about what religion I am---and I DON'T think politicians should be asked their religous beliefs. We are NOT electing priests or pastors! While religious belief can shape one's position on political issues, I AGREE with the person here who posted thta MOST politicians WORSHIP MONEY AS THEIR HIGHEST GOD...as do all too many "relgious leaders" who are trying to turn the US into a theocracy. We NEED to UPHOLD a separation of Church & State now moe than ever.

Sent by Lydia Howell, Minneapolis,MN | 3:09 PM | 11-19-2007

My prof. of a Comparative Religion class is an expert on Buddhism, which she says has no deity. I don't believe in any deity either; why can't I be viewed as religious as well as Buddhists? Instead, I'm called irreligious (an atheist).

Sent by Merick Chaffee | 3:13 PM | 11-19-2007

Senator Obama's mention of "God's kingdom on Earth" did NOT signify what NPR translated...it was clearly understood by Evangelicals and Consevatives that he was refering to the distrusted and basically (by the Right)despised "Social Gospel" !!!! He was actually taking a stand AGAINST the current kind of "Christianity" as seen flashed around and proclaimed by many politicians..(this administration for example)..and taking up the call for caring for PEOPLE rather than doctrine..for PRACTICING what
Jesus taught rather than waging unjust war, NOT feeding the poor, NOT caring for the sick,etc. I am quite surprised that NPR is faith-illiterate and secular to the degree that NO ONE on this BIG story knew the language!! It was instantly ! grasped and understood by millions of Americans who call themselves "Christian"..it was seen by some as proof of Obama's "left" leaning..by others as a MUCH NEEDED gust of fresh,unpolluted air!

Sent by Linda Price, Manteca CA | 3:20 PM | 11-19-2007

I think any question is fair game. The bigger issue is whether the question lends clarity to the quality of the candidate or if the question obfuscates the candidate by playing to the fears and biases of others.

Unfortunately when we speak of the relevance of religion among the candidates running for president, the real underlying objective of most is to stereotype, not to understand.

Sent by Branden | 3:20 PM | 11-19-2007

When will the American people begin to make rational choices in the voting booth, based upon a candidate's commitment to the constitution and ability to lead us as a productive, peaceful nation in solving both local and global problems? What he or she believes or doesn't believe in their most private personal thoughts is so irrelevant, but we seem as a people to have become increasingly obsessed with this subject. I am a person of faith, but I don't believe faith in God is a requirement for public office; in fact, I believe we have elected too many people in recent years because of their 'faith', and have suffered as a result.

Sent by Judy Reed | 3:40 PM | 11-19-2007

Coincidentally enough, the reading in church this Sunday was from Luke where Christ was warning against false prophets. The spin our priest put on it in is sermon was that there are people who will exploit religion to their own ends and make victims out of those who them.

It leaves a bad taste in my mouth when politicians fall over each other to prove who is more pious.

On the other hand if it is truly a part of their character I have no problem with them saying so and with the press calling them on it.

Sent by Steve Andersen | 3:49 PM | 11-19-2007

The Master said render unto Cesar that which is Cesar's and to God that which is God's. Religion focuses on matters of spirit, each must voluntarily choose their own persona path and in these things only God is qualified to judge one success or failure. In matters of politics it is quite the opposite, as God has allowed that such things belong to the people to decide. We are all obligated to become qualified to judge and in fact encouraged to vote that judgment on Election Day.

While it may be of interest as to a candidate's religious view, such info is of little value when determining a candidate's ability to lead our diversely populated country. Action and experience count and the ability to do that which one promises has important value in the real world of day to day trials and tribulations. How a candidate is or is not progressing in their private spiritual life is not my responsibility to judge. However I can judge their ability to bring together diverse points of views from a citizenry holding broad spectrum's of beliefs. I can judge if they are able to find a commonly shared solution for direction and action that will lead our government progressively forward. Questions of leadership I will accept responsibility to judge, question of religion I will leave for God to judge.

Sent by Lenny Cowles | 4:57 PM | 11-19-2007

My,my. I think questions concerning whether or not a person's faith may influence or interfere with how they uphold the Constitution of this country is valid. All others in my opinion are not.

Sent by Linda Kutzer | 5:58 PM | 11-19-2007

Separation of church and state!!!! Religion may have some affect on a politicians policy; but the policy, not it's source should be our concern as voters.

Sent by Jessi | 7:15 PM | 11-19-2007

I have been an NPR listener for 15 years or more and I was quite perplexed by Professor Turley's remarks. I agree that President Bush has been very agressive in promoting his faith based agenda. On the other hand I have never heard Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton or John Edwards indicate that they would in any way follow George Bush's model. I happen to be a member of the United Church of Christ, the denomination to which Senator Obama belongs that has its origins from the Pilgrims/Congregationalists. It is a denomination that certainly cannot be characterized as right wing having been the first denomination to oppose slavery, ordain women clergy, welcome gays 30 years ago, etc. etc. I was appalled at the mischaracterization of Senator Obama's words. He is one of the few candidates who has a published description of his understanding of his faith. He clearly separates church and state at all times. Please remember that he is a constitutional lawyer and scholar among his many accomplishments. I did not think this interview was up to NPR's usual standard in any way, and causes me to wonder if I will continue to be a supporter of NPR.

Sent by SFT, Elgin, IL | 11:59 PM | 11-19-2007

As a practicing Christian I do not much care if a candidate is religious or not; their policies interest me. However, if a candidate claims to be religious, I would like to know how that influences their proposed policies. A self- professed Christian, for example, should be asked to quote the teachings of Jesus that support each policy -- not the entire Bible, but only the gospels, for it is the gospels alone that define the Christian. You will find there is really not a single Christian among the whole lot of them.

Take our President, for example. Which of Christ's teachings can account for enriching the rich at the expense of the working poor? And then there is the right to life of the unborn, but seemingly those already alive have no right to stay alive. Has Bush lost a single night's sleep over the Iraqi dead? Or our own soldiers? Bush would have us believe he converses with Jesus. That is usually the sign of a saint or a madman. He is neither. Could he possibly be a hypocrite? And exactly what is one to think of the people who are taken in by this kind of thing, e.g. the Christian Right? The very phrase is a contradiction. The earliest Christian communities, very close to Jesus and his teachings one must suppose, were organized along rather communist lines, as Acts clearly demonstrates. The Christian Left makes sense in terms of the gospels, but the Christian Right does not.

Nor do I understand why religious voters should shy away from the good polices of candidates who happen to be atheists or agnostics. The two most moral people I know are agnostics, who are good in the way one wishes Christians might be.

Sent by Christopher Coleman | 2:00 AM | 11-20-2007

For the president of a modern and powerful country to proclaim belief in the supernatural propels us spectacularly and embarrassingly backward into the Bronze Age. We must stop America from regressing now.

Sent by Amanda | 11:35 AM | 11-20-2007

This line of discussion has proven to be a strong example of the cross section that is American Politics today. I believe many candidates understand that voters are unsure as a nation where politics stand in the shadow of religion. Do we follow our own personal opinions or objectify our beliefs so we may find common ground with others?

The real duty of a politician is at the root of this question. A man like Barak Obama may have a strong personal faith in Jesus or God or Alah or whatever he chooses, but he has shown more impressively that it is his reason with others that he utilizes in order to converse on issues. A true sign of a stable man/politician/person.

Voters have every right in America to question a politician's religious stance, but it is the right of a candidate to decide on issues for the voter without the influence of religion in order to best represent our nation. I dare say, it is their duty to not let their own personal beliefs, rooted in faith, to subjegate those who do not belong or believe in the same.

Sent by Joseph Harris | 1:44 PM | 11-21-2007

Politics and faith are two separate entities. It is important to remember the plethora of different religious preferences that people of the US hold. It is bias to allow any certain religion, even if it is that of the president, to be considered in political decision making. Keep religious based questions out of the game...I would rather hear views on more important issues like THE WAR!

Sent by Mallory B. | 12:05 PM | 12-21-2007