Santorum And The ‘S’ Word

Barack ObamaPresident Obama has told us, and we can scarcely disbelieve him, that he is a Christian. At a recent prayer breakfast, Mr Obama said:

[The prayer breakfast is] a chance to step back for a moment, for us to come together as brothers and sisters and seek God’s face together…We can all benefit from turning to our Creator, listening to Him…

But in my moments of prayer, I’m reminded that faith and values play an enormous role in motivating us to solve some of our most urgent problems, in keeping us going when we suffer setbacks, and opening our minds and our hearts to the needs of others.

We can’t leave our values at the door. If we leave our values at the door, we abandon much of the moral glue that has held our nation together for centuries, and allowed us to become somewhat more perfect a union.

This is no different today for millions of Americans, and it’s certainly not for me.

I wake up each morning and I say a brief prayer, and I spend a little time in scripture and devotion.

He also said, “The Bible teaches us to ‘be doers of the word and not merely hearers.’ We’re required to have a living, breathing, active faith in our own lives.”

In his speech, Mr Obama both acknowledged and quoted from the main historical source of his faith, the Jewish-Christian Bible. This book has, to the modern Enlightened mind anyway, some frankly embarrassing passages.

And the Lord said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. (Job 1:7, KJB throughout)

Now, to those of the Jewish, Christian, and even Muslim faiths, these are sobering, even chilling words. But they are not rare ones. St. Mark tells us that Jesus himself spent forty days in the wilderness “tempted of Satan” (1:13). Luke says that Jesus saw “Satan as lightning fall from heaven” (10:18). Where he fell to is not in doubt.

In Acts we learn that Satan filled the heart of one Ananias, who then cheated a man on a business deal (5:3). Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church (7:5) again mentioned that Satan tempts. Paul warned the Corinthians again in his second letter (2:11), naming Satan as an agent of evil.

And there are many more. However, perhaps the most frightening passage—one which Mr Obama has surely read; it is well known to all Christians—is from another letter of Paul, this to the Ephesian church:

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high [places] (6:12).

The meaning of that is plain, its implications clear, there is no doubt that “powers” and “principalities” refer to Satan and his fallen angels who, as is obvious, are engaged in mortal combat, in constant spiritual warfare with us.

It is not our place to scorn or scoff at Mr Obama for making it his practice to read such material regularly, nor is it wise of us to castigate or ridicule him for believing it. And this is so even if you yourself do not believe it. This is because there is more to the words quoted above than first meet the eye. Indeed, it is from passages like these from which, over two millenia, a deep and careful theodicy (a theology of good and evil) has been built.

How can a God “allow” evil in the world? Well, the world is broken. There is evil because this world is ruled by powers and principalities, that is to say, Satan. The best articulation of this recently, incidentally, can be had in David Bentley Hart’s The Doors of the Sea (extending his essay which first appeared in the Wall Street Journal after the Indonesian tsunami in December, 2004; Hart avoids the “S” word, knowing it is distasteful to modern ears). Or, for “lighter” reading regarding the same subject, try The Brothers Karamazov.

Mr Obama, as all Christians have, has at least considered this theodicy; indeed any reader of the bible cannot avoid speculating on these matters. Even for those who do not believe the theology, at least for any reader of history, it is still an understandable view to say that mankind is “broken.”

President Obama, perhaps it is needless to say, is just another in a long line of American presidents professing belief in God and who were admitted Christians.

Oh, and yesterday we learned that Rick Santorum, in a prayer-breakfast-like speech to the Ave Maria Catholic University in 2008, believes things similar as those which are well familiar to Mr Obama. We can thus be grateful that political unity has been reached on at least one topic.

38 Comments

  1. Nicely said, and an interesting perspective.

    Having used up considerable space on previous threads without stimulating a commensurate amount of discussion, I will only allude to the relationship between issues that you touch in this post (good & evil) and my comments on the nature of morality. (is that self-referential?)

    Many thanks again for your work on this blog, which has quickly found its way into my daily must-read list. Please keep up your fine work!

  2. I doubt very much that President Obama spends time in scripture each morning.

    Socialism is a godless, morally void machine where men have no souls.. just ID numbers. It’s a magical way of life where men are totally subservient to the authority of man, and deaf to the callings of moral authority.

    On a related note, Russia has a newish ICBM, the SS-18, that’s been blessed by NATO with the callsign ‘Satan’.

  3. I cannot understand an adult talking about Satan seriously. I could understand using it as a metaphor but I listened to his speech and that was not what he was doing. I have serious doubts about someone who actually believes in the existence of Satan and do not want them as a president. Honestly I would have more respect for someone who believed in witches or little green aliens. I wouldn’t want them to be president either but I don’t consider it quite as pathological. I understand your desire to defend Santorum but I assume you don’t think there is a real Satan in the bowels of the earth (or where ever) either.

  4. GoneWithTheWind,

    Let’s not be too hasty. Why, exactly, do you say that avowed Christians should not believe in a real Satan?

    Plus, I’ll give you two other modern presidents who publicly espoused belief there was a real Satan: Reagan and Carter, which shows you that belief in Satan is perhaps positively correlated with presidential skills.

  5. I actually do not say that anyone should not believe in Satan or the tooth fairy or alien abduction or that we attacked ourselves on 9/11 (actually that last one does piss me off). What I said was I would have serious doubts about their maturity and intelligience. I have not researched Reagan for any comments he might have made about Satan and since he was my favorite politician I hope that any reference he made to Satan was metaphorically.
    I have friends and acquaintences who believe everything is in god’s hands and openly say so. I don’t care, it doesn’t bother me. However if the pilot of the plane I am in believes that or the captain of the cruise ship I am in believes that I have a different opinion. I expect that people who take on major responsibilities are both sane and logical and I would not consider that belief or attitude to be either. I want the pilot to fly the plane knowing it is in HIS hands and I want our president to govern knowing our country is in HIS hands (at least to the extent the constitution gives him the authority). I would rather have Sullenberger at the controls then Santorum. In fact I nominate Sullenberger for president, I like him better then anyone else who is running.

  6. GoneWithTheWind,

    Re: Reagan. Get ready for disappointment.

    Re: Why. You have not yet given a reason, other than say it is not logical or sane, why an avowed Christian should not believe in Satan. I understand you perfectly when you say you would not prefer such a person in positions of responsibility (of a certain kind); however this is not an argument for the proposition. Since a Christian believes in what is in the bible, at least to some extent, and old “S” is in there, we would expect a Christian to profess a belief in Satan. So, why exactly do you say that he should not?

  7. Again, I do not believe a Christian should not believe in Satan. I was brought up in the church. I am old enough that when I was in school they sent us off for a two hour bible study every Monday (I assume public schools don’t get involved in that anymore). I graduated from a religious based college. I attended church until the day I decided I didn’t want to go anymore and I enjoyed church, actually I enjoyed singing and being with a thousand or so other folks while doing it. My brother was an alter boy. I am not anti-religion or even in anyway hostile to religion. But if someone told me they really believed that Lot’s wife turned to salt I would have some doubts about their ability to function in the modern world. No doubt the bible is history and has many truths in it. It also has fabrications created by religious leaders to serve their own purpose. Satan is used to scare us into being good or equally logically to scare us into doing what the religious leaders want us to do. If a belief in Satan makes someone “do good” then that’s a good outcome. I want a little more depth and intelligience from a leader. In fact I think we are in such a mess today that if we don’t get a strong and capable leader we will at the least experience an economic collapse and at worst lose our democratic Republic.

    I absolutely believe in good and evil. I accept that Satan is a suitable metaphor for evil. I embrace the concept of a devil’s advocate. But I don’t for a second believe their is a real Satan or a real underworld or that souls go their for real or imagined sins. And I am troubled that someone might steer our ship of state who does believe in a real and biblically defined Satan. Having said that I do also believe it would be a better choice then our current president. If Santorum were to get the nomination I will vote for him, but I would still have the same opinion.

  8. Gone,
    Just curious (really.) If Satan is a “fabrication created by religious leaders to serve their own purpose,” is not God also?

  9. How dare the Roman Catholic Rick Santorum reference Roman Catholic beliefs whilst addressing a Roman Catholic audience!!!
    “The devil’s greatest accomplishment is convincing the world he does not exist.”

  10. GoneWithTheWind, I think we understand. Your approach is that everything has to be supported by what you can see, and hear, and touch and smell — the basic senses. You feel that those things are supported, or scientific, or rational; anything beyond that is irrational.

    But of course good and evil can’t be understood just on the basis of the basic senses. These are not easy questions, I don’t mean to imply that they are. But the simplistic (yes, it is simplistic) approach of expressing doubt about everything that I cannot experientially confirm through my five senses is no more of an answer than any other creed.

    Incidentally, Briggs quotes the age-old question about how “God could allow evil in the world.” This question can be understood primarily as a theological and philosophical one, not a practical one, and can perhaps begin to be answered under traditional theology. Those who deny anything beyond the material nature have an answer as well, but in stark terms it isn’t very satisfying, expressed variously as: dumb luck, chaos, random forces of nature, survival of the fittest, the universe is a cold and unfeeling place, etc.

    Benjamin Wiker’s essay is not a definitive answer by any means, but is well worth reading for those who sincerely are interested in the question of why evil would be allowed in the world (seen from a position of theodicy):

    http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=5782

    No, I don’t want to get into a discussion of evolution and intelligent design on this thread, so don’t get hung up on that. The essay uses that only as introductory background to go on and make some very salient points about the age old question.

  11. @Nomen

    Joseph Heller, Catch-22:

    “What the hell are you getting so upset about?” he asked her bewilderedly in a tone of contrite amusement. “I thought you didn’t believe in God.”

    “I don’t,” she sobbed, bursting violently into tears. “But the God I don’t believe in is a good God, a just God, a merciful God. He’s not the mean and stupid God you make Him out to be.”

    —-

    Anonymous:

    “God created man in his image. Then man promptly returned the favor.”

    —-

    I’ll let those roll around in your mind while I make this point: We cannot possibly fathom the Absolute, nor even the Infinite or the Eternal. Our understanding of the Creator must always stop short of what He[1] really is. As we stand on the shoulders of the thinkers who have gone before us, I believe we owe it to them to be accepting of their limitations and not reject in its entirety the scaffolding they have erected for the simple reason that it does not extend high enough. Any intellectual conception we have of the nature of that level of reality, the personal phase of which we designate “God”, is bound to be partial and thus erroneous, but that does not make it worthless.

    35 or so years ago, I was fortunate enough to open my rather tiny mind just enough to start to get the picture that, in rejecting God because of various intellectual sophistries constructed in rebuttal to anachronistic concepts, I was failing at the real task of refining my understanding of the universe and our place in it, and was being dragged into an absurd and self-deluding intellectual hell. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the very kind soul who clued me into what the first (19, at least) verses of Genesis were actually talking about at a time when I was willing to suspend my knee-jerk attitude of disbelief and actually listen.

    —–

    [1] And I’m trusting that your perspective is broad enough to understand that the conventional designation is not representative of any belief that God is *actually* either male or female. I use a personal pronoun because there is a distinction between the personal phase of the Infinite and the more “mechanical” phase of the Infinite.

  12. Nomen: Yes.

    Mariano: Of course he can say what he wants. I applaud that. But I take him at his word and he makes himself a fool.

    Eric: What could be more “simplistic” then to believe what you are told with no proof but on faith, even if it contradicts common sense and science?

    But you miss the point. If Santorum wishes to stand by his belief in Satan then let him elaborate. Give us 15 minutes on his belief of the existence of a real sentient Satan who can use evil powers and cause man to do evil things. I dare him!! He won’t of course. Somewhere his handlers are banging their heads against the wall yelling at him to shut up about Satan because to 60% of the voters it makes you look certifiably crazy. He cannot win if he runs as the exorcist candidate. But he has already said what he said and he can’t unsay it. What he will have to do is to claim he was using a rhetorical Satan meaning “evil” not a real living breathing Satan with horns and arrow tail living in a real place in the bowels of the earth called hell. In other words if he is a true believer as you say he will have to disavow his beliefs to get elected.

  13. I have to laugh about one thing. I’m reminded of a funny U.S. court case from years gone by. The case was to the effect, if memory serves, that the individual complained the devil had made him do the dastardly deed and wanted the devil hauled before the court to answer for his improper influence. The court noted that while they couldn’t definitively rule out the possibility that the devil was in fact responsible, the court demurred and ruled that they couldn’t haul him before the court because they did not have any ‘personal jurisdiction’ over the alleged adversary.

    /Back to the serious discussion . . .

  14. Gone,

    Do you have the same distain for those who have a litteral interpretation of God? Some of us who believe in God, see god as a white haired man who lives among the clouds, while others have a more abstract notion.

    If I were to guess, you might describe the most litteral interpretation of God as simplistic or perhaps childish, but you would not go so far as to say that someone who held that veiw is incabable of leading the country.

    Why would you change your tune for Satan?

    Some see Satan quite litterally. Others see Satan as that voice in your ear that tries to pursuade you to lie, steal, or take the easy way out. But the message is the same. Sometimes it is hard to do the right thing. And, just as people can be corrupted, institutions can be corrupted, too.

  15. I think it is useful to be raised in a religious environment. I think as adults we each have to and get to choose what we believe and what we want to do with our lives. I don’t think staying within a religion as an adult is a bad choice conversely neither is choosing not to follow a religion. I know a lot of people who attend church regularly and many self proclaimed religious people, in general they all believe different things although most (not all) believe in god. I don’t actually know of any who truely believe in Satan but I admit I haven’t asked them all. I do know that many religious people think the concept of Satan is outmoded, was never true, and/or is simply one of those many old fasioned religious concepts that staid religious leaders cannot bring themselves to disavow. I assume most religious leaders do not still believe the earth revolves around the sun but at one time disagreement with this belief could have got you killed by the church. Religious leaders beliefs change but very slowly. But the common man is more likely to disagree with or outright reject traditional religious beliefs. That is why most catholics practice birth control and have no conflict with taking communion. Most religious people today pick and choose what they believe. If you think you are defending ALL religious people when you stand up for some specific religious belief you will be suprised to discover how many religious people have moved past that specific belief. I have a very good friend who goes to church every Sunday and prays and participates and he is neither religious nor believes in god. But he grew up and lives in the South and church is a big part of his life. We are so lucky to have this freedom. You can believe in what you want to express those beliefs and for the most part no one will punish you or kill you because you don’t agree with them. I for one embrace that freedom and would never consider telling you what to believe.

  16. Other people’s religious beliefs are none of my business. But I try my best to avoid people who say “God told me so.”

  17. Gone-

    You religiously hold to the belief that their is no Satan, I religiously hold to the belief that there is a Satan. Who is right and who gets to judge? I consider my self a rational human being, a PhD geneticist and a research scientist by trade.

    You seem to have a tolerant view of religion as long as a person doesn’t really believe the plain simple words of the Bible text. You have no tolerance for that. Similar to liberal friends of mine who claim that anyone with a strong personal moral code is unfit for elected office, e.g. Santorum. Even if that person has no intention of codifying their morals in US law. But a liberal with strong morals should of course impose their morals on the US citizenry because their morals are enlightened.

  18. Martin: Do you believe the sun revolves around the earth? I assume you do not but the same religious leaders who have taught you that a real fire breathing Satan “lives” also believed that the sun revolved around the earth. They changed their mind a few years back. ” Who is right and who gets to judge?” Were they right then or are they right now? When they change their minds next time will they be right? Will you change your mind with them? How does this work for you? I truely don’t understand. Here is how it works for me. I decide what is right and true for me. If religious leaders at some point change to agree with me I’m happy but otherwise unconcerned. If they do not agree with me I am not unhappy and still otherwise unconcerned.

    I neither have a tolerant nor an intolerant view of religion any more then I am tolerent or intolerent of gravity. It just is I am merely a fellow traveller with the people and the things that exist. I neither have a tolerant nor an intolerant view of the bible. I have read it and studied it by choice. I am not a liberal, at least not by today’s standards. I am a fiscal conservative and a social moderate.

    Maybe you don’t agree with my point. Let me repeat it since it got lost in the weeds. Santorums declaration that he believes in Satan has probably destroyed his bid for the presidency. That’s it. You may not agree. I can tell you that it was a red flag for the 60% or so of voters who do not believe in Satan (even if they believe in god and the bible) and it is scary to them that this this guy is that far out there. That’s it. No hate or disrespect or anti-anything.

    Let me say this; I don’t see anyway you or anyone could convince me that there IS a Satan. But I am open to anything you wish to say about the subject. I do believe there is evil. I do believe there are real temptations that can make otherwise good people commit evil. I don’t have a problem about using Satan as a metaphor for these things. And, yes, I find it disconserting to that someone who believes in Satan would be president.

  19. “And, yes, I find it disconserting that someone who believes in Satan would be president.”

    Well, hell. 🙂

    —–

    Incidentally, the Russians regularly invoke the devil. You know the old saying in English that is intended to be a good omen, but doesn’t sound like it: “Break a leg”. I guess the theory was that wishing someone good luck before a performance would jinx the performance, so they wished bad luck in the hopes that positive energy would instead ensue. Anyway, the Russians weren’t content with breaking legs and decided go one better. When wishing a performer well, they say “Go to hell” (literally, “To the Devil”). Gotta love it! 🙂

  20. Self-described Christians who do not believe in Satan, holy ghosts, demonic possession, witches, creationism, the miracles of Jesus, inescapable divine surveillance, the infinitely good rewards of faith, the infinitely bad costs of doubt etc. are not following the bible but are instead changing the bible, and god, to fit with their contemporary secular morals and understanding. This is a perversion of the faith.

    If someone claims to be Christian then it is more consistent if they believe the content of the bible. If they do not then perhaps they should describe themselves as vaguely superstitious and prevent any confusion.

  21. Gone-

    My intent is not to convince you of Satan, but rather to let you know that it is not irrational to believe in Satan.

    Regarding the sun rotating around the earth, that is not taught in Scripture. Humans who preach and teach in the church can and do err. Since you define truth for yourself, have you ever had to change your mind? I hold the Scriptures to be the inspired Word of God and they have not changed over time.

    And, I agree with the point regarding Santorum to an extent. I want church and state separate, I would prefer to not have a president who hears God talking or thinks we are a Christian nation, etc. As Luther once quipped, I’d rather be governed by a smart Turk than a stupid Christian. But on the other hand, I prefer a Christian president, to a democrat who worships the environment or wants to foist their secular morals on all.

  22. Reading all this, I still think religion is like sex: it should be done behind closed doors (or amongst close friends!). All else is exibitionism. Those who believe in Satan don’t know they’ll get a reaction from people around them? Come on.

  23. REGARDING: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high [places]” (6:12).

    “The meaning of that is plain, its implications clear, there is no doubt that “powers” and “principalities” refer to Satan and his fallen angels who, as is obvious, are engaged in mortal combat, in constant spiritual warfare with us.”

    THE MEANING OF THAT, JUST TO PICK ONE, IS NEIGHER “PLAIN” NOR ITS “IMPLICATIONS CLEAR.”

    NOR, IS THE MEANING OF “CHRISTIAN” A MEANINGFUL TERM ANYMORE.

    Relative to public policy (the one clear link/relationship in this blog):

    Some “Christians” (whatever that means) see the ‘inspired word of god’ (the Bible/New Testament) sort of general guidelines and allegorical stories presented symbolically to make a main point. From this vantage point/value system they see little or no harm in such things as teaching biological evolution, astronomy (including the “Big Bang”), geologic processes like plate tectonics, etc. in science classes. This group includes the vast majority of Roman Catholics, for example, and the group: http://www.reasons.org/about/our-mission that believes modern science in all its disciplines validate the clear teachings of the Bible that the Earth, etc. is billions of years old.

    Other “Christians” (again, whatever that means) see the ‘inspired word of god’ (the Bible/New Testament) as literal — the story of Genesis happened exactly as it is presented and that the Earth is only some 6000 to 10,000 years old…that biological evolution, plate techtonics, etc. don’t exist or didn’t happen over time, that much of science is wrong/corrupted (e.g. that carbon dating is corrupt they way its done) etc. This group includes most Evangelical forms of “Christianity” and its views are generally described by: http://www.answersingenesis.org that assures us that when properly done science does validate the clear teachings of the Bible that Earth, etc. is only some 10,000 years old or so.

    Clearly, these two diametrically opposed but nevertheless purely “Christian” viewpoints, both developed by excrutiatingly careful analysis & interpretation of Divinely Inspired Teachings each have profound implications for how schools teach, or don’t (depending on one’s views), how the government allocates funds for productive, or corrupting (depending on one’s views) research, etc.

    That’s just the superficial “tip of the iceberg” on major topics of public policy import stemming from “Christian” values that are not neither plain or clear…but in fact are 180 degrees apart. There are many many other similarly diverse views held by different factions of “Christians.” The Episcopal version is now split into two [at least] distinct versions over homosexuality & what those very same seemingly clear, or not (again, depending on which version one hones to) biblical clauses really say & mean.

    So, to indicate so tritely that “Christianity” is something that can, in today’s society be assessed relative to another’s espoused values, such as Obama’s, such that one can determine if s/he is truly a “Christian” or even a “good” one is a pointless exercise — so many different variants exist that anyone can find just the variant to suit them. At best, one can argue if this or that version is the version of another…but first one must define which version of “Christianity” one has.

    Until then, “Christianity” is a meaningless term.

  24. genemachine: I like that! “vaguely superstitious” as opposed to blindly superstitious. But you jest, right? You cannot possibly be saying that unless a person believes everything the bible says they aren’t “good Christians”. Sounds very intolerent. Who’s to say who is right?

    Martin: It is irrational. I’m sorry, not trying to offend. You perhaps haven’t discussed this particular issue enough to understand how irrational it sounds. I brought up the example of the sun revolving around the earth as an example of irrational thought in religion. This happens exactly because we are forced to believe that the bible is the inspired word of god. Can’t question it, can’t apply modern thinking and discoveries to it, can’t disagree, very intolerent don’t you think? Recently in the state I live in two faith healers, husband and wife, went to jail for letting their son die without medical care. In their mind they were following the bible and I suppose they even believe the devil did it. Rational?

    Yes I have been wrong. I prefer a science based exploration of facts to determine truth. It is not a perfect system. It is just the best system. I believe what I believe until I see evidence that contradicts what I believe. I am ready and willing to change my mind on anything and everything. As a scientist you probably have a similar belief at least as it relates to science. I hold that belief system on everything in life, I have no beliefs that cannot be changed by facts.

  25. Gone –

    No offense taken, I understand that “the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him;” And I have no intention, nor could I convince you of the truth of Scriptures. I just ask for freedom in this society to pursue religion. By the way, no one is forcing me to believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. I could choose to join any church I desire. So your point about intolerance is lacking. The church is a free association of believers, there is nothing coercive about it.

    cheers.

  26. People in charge of religious organizations are aware of the respect and authority granted the Bible by many people. They wish to co-opt that respect and authority for their organization and so declare that their teachings are ‘based’ on it. They then have to deal with the passages that are clearly mediaeval superstition or just ignorance. The passages on ‘proof of virginity’ are among those that are particularly embarrassing.

    The simple answer is to not join a religious organization but we’re such social animals it can be hard. The hard answer is tortuous mental gymnastics.

  27. GoneWithTheWind,

    I’m was trying to be intolerant, I was just making the distinction.

    I left my own position ambiguous and should say that I am an atheist and I think it is lamentable that American politicians look to iron age holy books for their moral guidance, history, and world view.

    I can only hope that this might help them find common ground, or at least have greater understanding of, the salafists and other Muslims who get their morals and worldview in much the same manner. Same process, just born in a different place and raised with a different book. I’ve heard it said, by Muslims, that the reason god created their faith was because people were not accurately following Moses and Jesus’ instructions. I think that there are ahadith where Mohammed scolds Jews for not stoning enough violators of god’s laws and, bizarrely, helps some monkeys stone a female monkey to death in god’s name.

  28. Martin: My statement about intolerence was simply reflecting the fact that a person cannot be a good (catholic, Christian, Baptist, etc.) unless they adhere to and believe in the bible and some things in particular. Not intended as a comment about you or any other individual.

    Genemachine: This is where I can praise religion. Our morals shouldn’t change. It should still be immoral to steal or murder or even commit adultry. I can honestly say that most if not all the religious people I know are good people who I would trust. Many religious people work everyday to do good things and their religion motivates them and supports them in this. I am aware, of course, that there are people who have claimed to be religious or were in fact religious who have done bad things, I just do not know any of them personally. I am not trying to say all religious people are good but most are and certainly most or all of the ones I know are. I believe in the ten commandments and much of the advice given in the bible.

  29. “President Obama has told us, and we can scarcely disbelieve him, that he is a Christian.”

    Who’s this ‘we’, kemo sabe?

  30. GoneWithTheWind,

    I think most people are good and they would agree that it would be immoral to steal, murder or commit adultery. I suppose religions makes this explicit and help set moral standards, some obligatory and some aspirational. They can and do inspire people good works.

    The morals you mentioned – not stealing, not murdering, and not committing adultery – are actually part of fundamentalist Islam too. I think they can be justified logically and will appeal to the human nature of almost everyone, including the non-religious.

  31. I find it interesting that a large and apparently growing subset of our society feels much like GoneWithTheWind, that being a BELIEVING Christian is a prima facie disqualification for holding public office. It seems that going to church, accepting some restricted, personally selected, currently fashionable subset of Christian morality and beliefs et al are OK, even to some degree laudable, but to actually BELIEVE the tenants of the faith that one professes is evidence of a mental aberration that would be dangerous in a public servant.

    Faking religious belief is good; sincerely believing in a religion, Christianity in particular, is bad.

    It reminds me of the comment made by one of Mitt Romney’s former political advisors, Mike Murphy, in response to questions about Mr. Romney’s sincerity as a self identified pro-lifer when he was a gung ho pro-choicer as governor of MA and enthusiastic supporter of outspoken advocate of worldwide, mandatory population control, Paul Tsongas . Murphy said that “he’s always been pro-life. He just faked being pro-choice once he was in Massachusetts.”

    Maybe the GWTW’s of the world are right. Maybe the ability and willingness to PRETEND to hold any position (like Mr. Obama pretending to be a Christian while waging an all out war against Christianity) that is perceived to be expedient in achieving power IS a desirable trait in a politician and maybe a majority of our fellow citizens agrees.

    Sad.

  32. Bob: If that is what your determined from reading my comments then you seriously need a reading comprehension course. First of all I think every president we have had in my life has been a believing Christian.

    My point was so simple, but let me repeat differently so perhaps you will understand what I am saying: When Santorum in his speech stated he believes in the devil he made 60% of the voters throw up in their throat. Not the best way to get elected. Does he believe in Santa Claus, the Easter bunny and the tooth fariy too? To actually believe in the devil living deep in the earth in a smouldering hell thinking of new ways to bring evil to the world is bizarre. BIZARRE!!! How many people do NOT believe the devil really exists? Most adults understand the “devil” is a rhetorical technique of making a point about evil. It is NOT real!! Most religious people do NOT believe there is a devil with horns and a pointy tail waiting to tempt them. This is a bizarre extension of religious belief it is childish, ignorant, naive. And people who really believe in the devil are suspect and shouldn’t be in charge of anything, maybe even including themselves.

  33. I’m sorry for my analogy above, that being a believer was akin to being part of violent fundamenalist muslim sect. Of course, most religion, including most variants of islam, do not have such dire consequences. I love muslims too and where applicable I hope that preparations of the return of the Mahdi are going well.

    It is hard enough to find agreeable politicians without ruling anyone out on religious grounds.

  34. @GWTW

    Actually I DID understand what you said. I did not challenge your opinion that believers in satan were mentally incapacitated OR your opinion as to how Santorum’s belief would impact his election chances.

    You made a bit of a stretch in assuming that people who in fact believed in satan were also confident in his physical description, but I understood your point, which is equally valid for belief in God.

    My point, without making an argument either for or against the literal existence of satan (Maybe we both need to either read better, write better, or both.) was not to argue with your perception that believers in satan are close enough to psychotic as to be hazards to themselves and the public or against your premise that Santorum’s professed belief in satan would immediately lose him 60% of the vote (100% of the rational vote, from your point of view) but to point out that our current politics REQUIRE that politicians be religious frauds (see Obama).

    Which poses another interesting question. Postulating that Santorum’s expressed belief in satan instantly cost him 60% of the vote, do you think he would have improved his chances had he answered, “Of course I don’t believe in satan, and anyone who does is as psychotic as someone who literally believes in the Easter Bunny and that Santa really DOES visit everyone’s house on Christmas eve to deliver toys to all good little boys and girls. Believing such tripe borders on self-endangerment and people who do so should never be allowed near to a position of public authority, such as the one I am seeking.”?

    But times change. Sixty-seventy years ago it was just assumed that politicians (at least at the national level) were Christian, with all the baggage, positive or negative depending on your opinion of such things, that implies, and anyone who suggested otherwise would have been accused of making a vicious personal attack. So no one did. Now, politicians must profess Christianity, vaguely, but are apparently disqualified by believing in any of its specific tenants. (Incidentally, Republicans and conservatives are always challenged on the SPECIFIC details of their religious beliefs in MSM interviews (Santorum most recently) by people who obviously share your opinion; Democrats and liberals who profess to be Christian, never. Go figure.). Soon, barring a change in societal course, even professing Christianity will be disqualifying. Maybe it already is.

    Empirically, a large and growing subset of our citizenry think that is a GOOD thing. See your commentary on Santorum and commentary by others on this thread. I guess that my kids (40’s) and grandkids (teens) will find out, but it will probably be past my ‘USE BY’ date.

  35. When I was about 6 or 7 years old I can remember quite well singing in church, watching what was going on and understanding it. I did not believe in god it made no sense. What made sense was that people wanted to believe in something wanted to be there like me singing and watching the “show” (sorry my church was quite traditional and everything seemed quite dramatic, like a show). In my opinion while growing up very few people in church believed everything in the bible. Maybe the priest did but when I was older I understood it was political and about the power and probably they didn’t believe what was in the bible either. Perhaps a few of the really old ladies who would stay in their pews after the service and pray or contemplate believed but even with them I thought it was their age and awareness of impending death that was coloring their thoughts. I would kneel and pray along with everyone else but I was mostly looking around wondering how many others were “religious frauds”. But I didn’t think of them or myself in that way. It was a harmless and even useful fantasy we were all enjoying. Good company in a beautiful old building that looked like something out of a history book and of course the singing. I liked everything about it including polishing my one pair of shoes every Saturday night. There was no “fraud”, in my opinion we were all there for the same thing, the pagentry, the camaraderie, actors in a real life play. I learned how to tie a tie on those Sunday mornings, I learned a little history in the bible study classes, I learned that the little girl who sat next to me had a crush on me. I never believed in god or satan or that Lot’s wife actually turned into salt. I assumed all the adults pretty much believed as I did. I have never changed my mind. I think most religious leaders are in it for the power and politics and most church goers are in it for the comfort of doing something they know and enjoy. I really only gave up going to church because I loved the outdoors and if I didn’t have to spend 4 hours in church I could spend it “playing”. I still feel that way. I could start going to church tomorrow and feel quite comfortable playing my role in a larger play along with all the other “religious frauds”. I knew it wasn’t all true and I assumed everyone else knew it as well and I also assumed they were comfortable playing their part as well.

    Whatever you think the devil is or looks like or lives like, I don’t think you “really” believe in him/it. It is one of the more bizarre actors in this great play we all participate in and as an adult I cannot with a straight face “act” as though I believe in it/him. Now I don’t expect or want all the other “religious frauds” who go to church every Sunday to publicly say/admit they don’t believe in god, after all why are we all there if there is no actual god? The play must go on, all the actors know their parts and enjoy the fantasy. The priest will say the words and even seem sincere. We will all sing and pray and enjoy the spectacle. We/I will say or pretend we believe in god. But for crying out loud don’t stretch credulity by requiring that we profess publicly we actually believe in the devil.

    So I can’t and won’t try to speak for you or anyone who comments in disagreement with me. But here is the nugget. I think there is a good chance you have been fooled. If your church had 1000 or so people in it on any given Sunday morning I bet about 950 of them didn’t really believe in everything in the bible and most of them didn’t believe in god either. They may have once, they may never have. But they still enjoy church and the pagentry and the comfort it gives them. I think most people who profess to be religious are “religious frauds”. Not saying this to offend, it is my absolute true belief. Not saying this to argue, if anyone wants to get angry and argue I will refuse to participate.

  36. @ GWTW

    Last go on this subject, as the ‘Statistician to the Stars’ has moved on.

    I never said, or implied, that I disagreed with you. What’s to disagree with? You were simply stating your opinion of people who believed in satan and I would feel a bit silly telling you that you didn’t actually hold it. I was only commenting on the political reality as I saw it. Your post of 25 Feb, 10:30 seems to be VERY accurate incidentally.

    By the way, you never answered my question as to which answer would have hurt Santorum more.

  37. I think the correct answer for Santorum was to simply say in a very offhand manner “Of course I was referring to Satan in a rhetorical way” and nothing more. Santorum’s problem is he is too talkative and too unscripted. Frankly I prefer honest politicians who speak their mind but if they say stupid, embarassing or strange things it hurts them.

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