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The role of religion in the US Presidential election

It should be no secret, even to those outside of the U.S., that the Republican Party is deeply entrenched in religious belief.  While its presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, has not been strident about his own religious beliefs, his speeches and voiced policies have consistently reflected an adherence to his party’s rather dogmatic Christian point of view.  His support of the Hyde Amendment, which would ban abortions funded by tax payers, his views opposing same-sex marriages as well as civil unions, and his support of displaying religious symbols in public areas by governmental agencies and schools are all obvious leanings toward his Christian supporters.

However, the Governor’s own religious view has been a topic that has been avoided by his campaign. Specifically, the differences between Christianity and the Governor’s own Church of Latter-day Saints have not been much of a talking point since his winning of the Republican nomination. Prior to the other Republicans dropping out of the race it was mentioned by a few news stations, but no in-depth details given. It would also seem that the Romney campaign itself wishes to turn a blind eye to these differences and allow their constituency to focus on their opponent’s imagined religious views, that he is a Muslim in disguise, God forbid. More on that later.

Do American Christians of the Republican party, who believe in a talking snake, a divine virgin birth, and body spontaneously turning into a pillar of salt, know that they are backing an individual whose faith believes in magical underwear and that their prophet translated sacred text while planting his face in a hat, but does not believe that Jesus was born of a virgin?  No wonder the Grand Old Party does not wish anyone to delve too deeply into Mormonism, their beliefs are as crazy as….oh well, never mind.

However, let us not forget that the Democratic Party is in no way innocent of foisting religion upon its members. Those who watched the recent Democratic National Convention know exactly what I mean. The original party platform, actually well written by my humble opinion, tried to be as inclusive as it could in opposition to the Republican demonstrated exclusivity. But, after receiving criticism for not including any deity (I’m sure they meant the Christian God, but I will not limit them) from Republican mouth-pieces, they did not stand by their own platform and declare their intent to include any and all people.  Rather, the leaders of the party backed down and first attempted to add God to their platform via vote then eventually forced the issue, without full consent even of those present. [1]

As for the current President, there is hope that his reasoning outweighs any religious influence.  I was uplifted when I read the following from his book The Audacity of Hope:

I was not raised in a religious household. For my mother, organized religion too often dressed up closed-mindedness in the garb of piety, cruelty and oppression in the cloak of righteousness. However, in her mind, a working knowledge of the world's great religions was a necessary part of any well-rounded education. In our household the Bible, the Koran, and the Bhagavad Gita sat on the shelf alongside books of Greek and Norse and African mythology. 

On Easter or Christmas Day my mother might drag me to church, just as she dragged me to the Buddhist temple, the Chinese New Year celebration, the Shinto shrine, and ancient Hawaiian burial sites. In sum, my mother viewed religion through the eyes of the anthropologist; it was a phenomenon to be treated with a suitable respect, but with a suitable detachment as well. 

On the flip side, his interview with Cathedral Age magazine portrayed a distinctly different mindset, commenting on how faith has influenced his decisions, that he, quoting President Lincoln, has been driven to his knees by the burden of office and even commenting that faith provides a moral framework for the actions of his office. An atheist might hope these are more metaphorical statements or possibly politically driven given the influence of the faithful across the country, but I wouldn’t wager much on that Hope. As for President Obama being a follower of Islam, well that is simply too much of a conspiracy theory to even take seriously. If he were a Muslim, he is extremely bad at it. 

Of course, the problem with religion inside politics is that the premise upon which the believer bases their world view is not only unjustified, but has a retarding effect on their ethical thinking.  Ancient prejudices can be raised to become unquestionable moral truths.  This prevents the evolution of society’s morality despite any good intent.

Altogether, it clearly appears that Christians and their organizations still have a stranglehold on the politics in America, although their grip seems to be weakening ever slightly. As we approach the possibly world affecting election date of 6 November we can still have hope that whomever wins will put aside his religious background, funding, and lobbying, and do what is right for the people, all the people, not just the ones who belief match their own.

[1] http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/ticket/democrats-reinstate-god-jerusalem-israel-capital-party-platform-223437220--election.html

Atheist Alliance International does not endorse any candidate in the US Presidential election.  Atheist Alliance International is concerned about the extent to which any candidate seeks to impose their personal religious views on others.