Too Much Jesus Talk Scares Off Voters

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At least that's what a new study on the Risks of Relgious Rhetoric in Politics by researchers Larry Powell and Eduardo Neiva at the University of Alabama at Birmingham finds. The press release for the study claims:

Politicians engaging in religious rhetoric risk being called hypocrites… The phenomenon is called the Pharisee Effect and is based on biblical references to Jesus' rebuke of religious leaders, known as the Pharisees, for using public prayers to enhance their own image. The theoretical study appears in the latest issue of The Journal of Communication and Religion.

The Pharisees' public piety made them subject to accusations of insincerity and hypocrisy….

When a religious appeal goes too far, audiences' negative reactions can fall into five different categories, say Powell and Neiva. The categories are: self-serving motivations or intentionality; deception or hypocrisy; inappropriateness; fanaticism; and the holier-than-thou attitude. Any of the five evaluations can cause the public to reject the candidate, his or her ideas, or both.

The hypocrites don't much scare me, but the true believers and zealots really give me the willies.

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  1. Praise the Lord and pass the pork.

  2. Jesus’ rebuke of religious leaders, known as the Pharisees, for using public prayers to enhance their own image.

    Pointing out that they were “known as the Pharisees” strikes me as funny in the same way that someone pointing out that Christians know the son of God as “Jesus” would strike me as funny. …but then I have a quirky sense of humor.

    …those religious leaders had a lot to do with politics too. There’s some really, really libertarian stuff in the New Testament. I’ve said it before, and I know many of you don’t believe it, but, especially among the non-Charismatic, there are a lot of fundamentalists out there who are extremely mistrustful of government.

    …anyone who reads the New Testament and thinks that Jesus wants his followers to force God’s will on other people by way of government either doesn’t get it or worse.

  3. And yet any secular candidate doesn’t stand a goddamn chance because the public demands that their leaders be religious, act religious, or at least perform lip service on the virgin (yeah right) Mary.
    This country is a shit-storm of hypocrisy and moral and religious idiocy.

  4. If you know anything of the history of Christianity, particularly in England, you know about the “Geneva Bible”, the original English translation, which was very anti-authoritarian. King James basically copied it, took out the stuff about not following the whims of kings or the state, and took credit for it.

    Talk about your “shitstorm of hypocrisy”…

  5. Some preachers never learn:

    Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson attacked Americans United for Separation of Church and State on the May 11 broadcast of The 700 Club. Robertson claimed the ACLU “pulled a secret takeover” of Americans United. “The goal of the ACLU is to strip all religion from the public square. Why? Because the goal of the Communist Party was to weaken America, and they thought that they could weaken America if they took faith out of our public life. That’s where it all came from, ladies and gentlemen.”

    Robertson also repeated an accusation he has made before: That Barry Lynn, the group’s executive director, opposes providing even the most basic municipal services to religious groups. “Barry Lynn is so extreme, he has said that if a church is burning down, the city shouldn’t bring the fire department and trucks to spray water on the church because that violates separation of church and state,” Robertson said.

    A spokesman for Americans United said “that’s just ridiculous to suggest that government can’t provide that kind of protection without violating the establishment clause — we’ve never said anything like that, Barry’s never said anything like that,” he said.

  6. …anyone who reads the New Testament and thinks that Jesus wants his followers to force God’s will on other people by way of government either doesn’t get it or worse.

    Ken, what about Romans? I recall at least one passage that basically stated that the government you have is the one God wants you to have.

  7. SmokingPenguin,
    If we follow your argument then God doesn’t want the U.S. to spread democracy. Is that what you believe?

  8. And yet any secular candidate doesn’t stand a goddamn chance because the public demands that their leaders be religious, act religious, or at least perform lip service

    Is that really true, or do a lot of candidates simply assume that is true because they are trying to play to the expectations of what is actually a noisy minority?

    I think a lot of Christians get turned off by Jesus-talk from politicians because they have come to suspect the politicos are really just fronting for votes.

    Ken, what about Romans? I recall at least one passage that basically stated that the government you have is the one God wants you to have.

    At a time when early Christians were sometimes suspected of being a subversive cult, the writers of the New Testament sometimes sucked up to the Romans. (That’s why the one Gospel, I forget which one, portrays Pontius Pilate — who was truly a cruel dick — as being oh-so-reluctant to crucify Jesus, basically having to be forced into it by the local religious leaders and their mob.)

    But one or two passages don’t necessarily some up the whole spirit of the New Testament. The “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s” (without defining what “Caesar’s” was) was a truly nifty piece of evasion in a tricky situation.

    I think one important way in which the New Testament differs from the Old, in a libertarian way, is that it focused more on individual responsibility (and guilt), without all those group punishments that seemed to pop up in the Old T.

  9. “If we follow your argument then God doesn’t want the U.S. to spread democracy. Is that what you believe?”

    yup. exactly. especially at the point of a gun under misleading circumstances.

    (actually, i have no idea what the imaginary friend wants)

  10. VM,
    I agree, but I get the feeling SmokingPenguin might not.

  11. Is that really true, or do a lot of candidates simply assume that is true because they are trying to play to the expectations of what is actually a noisy minority?

    A great many people in this country thought the world was coming to an end when we elected a Catholic president. What do you think would be the reaction if Candidate Blowhard said, “I don’t believe in God”?

  12. Steve:

    Here’s one survey about religious preference and voters.

    http://www.religioustolerance.org/amer_intol.htm

  13. . What do you think would be the reaction if Candidate Blowhard said, “I don’t believe in God”?

    I think it depends on whether Candidate Blowhard made a big deal of it, paticipated in photo ops showing him carrying copies of atheist books into weekly atheist meetings, etc., like a lot of politicians that have made a show of their religious beliefs, vs. treating it as a private matter.

  14. And yet any secular candidate doesn’t stand a goddamn chance because the public demands that their leaders be religious, act religious, or at least perform lip service

    I was sitting in a luncheon last Wednesday in which a bunch of left-leaners were discussing how to attract Christians to the Democratic party. One participant (who works for a leftish magazine) claimed that only Ku Klux Klanners and Neo-Nazis were hated more than atheists by most Americans. He didn’t cite his source for this claim but a 1999 Gallup poll found that voters would prefer to vote for a homosexual before voting for an atheist (59% v. 49%)for president. But the percent that would vote for an atheist has risen from 22% in 1959.

  15. Give up Ken Shultz. People who don’t know the differences between charismatics and fundies are never going to understand your point. Point for you is that there is a lot of libertarian ammo in the RCC as well. On some issues, like immigration, the RCC is usually libertarian.

  16. I was sitting in a luncheon last Wednesday in which a bunch of left-leaners were discussing how to attract Christians to the Democratic party.

    Ron:

    Per chance, did any of them mention the possibility to rope in Christian voters with what only could be considered a “Religious Left” turn many atheist voters off?

    In other words, if the Democrats start alienating secularists like me in order to score a net gain of votes, where does that leave me?

    I guess it will leave staying at home on election day.

  17. religioustolerance.org is a front for Scientology. In their Scientology page, they claim that there are ten million Scientologists. That estimate is high by about two orders of magnitude (i.e. there are closer to 100,000 Scientologists).

  18. Ken, what about Romans? I recall at least one passage that basically stated that the government you have is the one God wants you to have.

    I don’t think that’s what Romans 13 says exactly, but I never liked that passage much. …guess I’m not much of a fundamentalist. I think he was telling people to be good law abiding citizens, and there’s a difference between telling people to be good, law abiding citizens and telling people to use government to inflict God’s will on society.

    …and if we’re speaking about the New Testament as a whole, I think we have to balance that statement with others. …heavenly (rather than earthly) kingdom, etc.

  19. Give up Ken Shultz.

    Never. …especially when I’m right.

  20. One participant (who works for a leftish magazine) claimed that only Ku Klux Klanners and Neo-Nazis were hated more than atheists by most Americans. He didn’t cite his source for this claim but a 1999 Gallup poll found that voters would prefer to vote for a homosexual before voting for an atheist (59% v. 49%)for president.

    I put a poll up on another site frequented by Hit & Runners the other day, and the overwealming majority thought that in a list including Jack Abramoff, NAMBLA, oil companies and Communists, only one was less appealing to the average American than atheism.

    …Personally, I’d love it if voters completely disassociated atheism from the LP. Surely it would be easier to aclimate atheists to like-minded Christians than to influence culture and policy with that albatross around our necks.

    …and doesn’t the Religious Left still form the foundation of the Democratic Party? Don’t Catholics tend to support the Democratic Party on most issues save abortion? Aren’t black churchgoing people about as close to a sure thing as the Democratic Party has?

  21. Xenu: I checked on the poll numbers elsewhere but they were aggregated by religoustolerance.org so I linked to it for convenience.

    I am curious about your claim that religioustolerance.org is a scientology front. I came across an assertion at snopes.com that it was but it didn’t seem very well sourced. The official story is that it was founded by a former Canadian Baptist who is now a Unitarian. I look forward to any better information you might provide.

  22. You know, I can only WISH that we atheists had the power and clout that the Religious Right attributes to us.

  23. Yikes! Those where the Scientologists??? Damn! Talk about the Devil (or in this case Xenu) quoting scripture.

    My apologies.

  24. Ron,
    For what it’s worth, the COS is usually pretty straight forward with its dealings, particularly in the registration of Web Addresses. Religioustolerance.org demonstrates none of the tale-tell signs of the COS. I tend to think that this organization is both legit and not affiliated with the COS. Just my $.02.

    Domain Name:RELIGIOUSTOLERANCE.ORG
    Created On:24-Feb-1997 05:00:00 UTC
    Last Updated On:23-Oct-2004 06:29:01 UTC
    Expiration Date:25-Feb-2008 05:00:00 UTC
    Sponsoring Registrar:Network Solutions LLC (R63-LROR)
    Registrant Name:Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
    Registrant Organization:Ontario Consultants on Religious Toleranc
    Registrant Street1:Box 27026 Frontenac Post Office
    Registrant City:Kingston
    Registrant State/Province:ON
    Registrant Postal Code:K7M 8W5
    Registrant Country:CA
    Registrant Phone:+1.6135476600
    Registrant Phone Ext.:
    Registrant FAX:+1.6135479015

  25. If we follow your argument then God doesn’t want the U.S. to spread democracy.

    I haven’t read the passage in a long time. That would be my interpretation of how I remember the passage.

    Is that what you believe?

    Are you asking if I 1) believe that God does not want the US to spread democracy or 2) I do not want the US to spread democracy? I’m an atheist, so I can’t speak for God. I personally don’t think the US should be spreading democracy at the cost of thousands of US soldiers lives and a trillion bucks.

    My main point in bringing that up was that the bible is many things to many people, and using it to promote a political point of view is a fragile strategy at best.

    I don’t think that’s what Romans 13 says exactly, but I never liked that passage much…I think he was telling people to be good law abiding citizens…

    Okay, we read that differently, and reasonable people (no pun intended) can disagree. I also thought that instead of Romans being a sop to the Romans, as Stevo D implied, that it was written shortly after (Justinian?) the Roman emperor converted Rome to Christianity. As soon as the powers that be went from hostile to friendly, the attitude changed from quiet defiance to complicity.

    in a list including Jack Abramoff, NAMBLA, oil companies and Communists, only one was less appealing to the average American than atheism.

    Considering that Commies are ostensibly athiest in addition to being muderous thugs, they might have thought that through a little better.

    …Personally, I’d love it if voters completely disassociated atheism from the LP. Surely it would be easier to aclimate atheists to like-minded Christians than to influence culture and policy with that albatross around our necks.

    I could care less what a person’s religion (or lack thereof) is, so long as it isn’t being shoved down my throat. This also includes policy pieces that are a result of the religious belief, such as prohibition.

    For the rest of libertarianish humanity, good luck trying to promote that viewpoint. If you succeed, there will be several cat herders wanting to hire you.

    Back to the policy pieces that often come about as a result of religious views. I think that is the reason trying to organize Christians to the libertarian fold will fail. Even if the Christians are very skeptical of the government, the WOD and other laws of public morality are too widely accepted. Too many still do not accept morality – any morality – is a choice, and people must be allowed to ‘fail’.

    I find it funny that Santorum, et al, are claimed as “true believers”. I often think of Christians who demand earthly punishment for consensual crimes as closet non-believers. If they really believed in God, would they dare presume to pass judgment and punish the trespassers?

    One…claimed that only Ku Klux Klanners and Neo-Nazis were hated more than atheists by most Americans…voters would prefer to vote for a homosexual before voting for an atheist (59% v. 49%)for president.

    Ron, what about gay Nazi Ernst Roehm? If he ran with Hillary?

  26. Well, if you look at the Scientology page I linked to above, you’ll see :

    Essay copyright 1997 to 2006 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance

    Latest update: 2006-FEB-19

    Author: B.A. Robinson and Al Buttnor

    And if you go to Scientology’s Canadian Office of Public Affairs and Human Rights page, you’ll see:

    For more information, contact Al Buttnor at publicrelations@scientology-tor.ca or call 416-925-1779.

    At least that’s what you’ll get right now.

    Now it could indeed be that they’re not a front and that they’re just exceedingly gullible. Some people are. Either way, they provide stats that are off by two orders of magnitude. That alone is sufficient for me to avoid linking to them for anything.

  27. speaking of that Catholic President (kennedy of course), as has been mentioned elsewhere – he mentioned God more often than bush does. check out his inaugural address.

  28. BTW,

    Here’s another domain associated with tolerance:

    Domain Name:HUMANRIGHTSANDTOLERANCE.ORG
    Created On:29-Mar-2002 22:05:44 UTC
    Last Updated On:20-Mar-2006 20:27:31 UTC
    Expiration Date:29-Mar-2007 22:05:44 UTC
    Sponsoring Registrar:Register.com Inc. (R71-LROR)
    Status:OK
    Registrant ID:82869595E5146DC0
    Registrant Name:Host Master
    Registrant Organization:Earthlink, Inc.
    Registrant Street1:1430 W. Peachtree St. NW
    Registrant Street2:Suite 400
    Registrant Street3:
    Registrant City:Atlanta
    Registrant State/Province:
    Registrant Postal Code:30309
    Registrant Country:US
    Registrant Phone:+1.114048150770
    Registrant Phone Ext.:
    Registrant FAX:
    Registrant FAX Ext.:

    It belongs to The International Foundation for Human Rights and Tolerance. I don’t think Kwix is correct. Scientology often uses front organizations. Looking at whois information is certainly not sufficient to tell.

    Granted, the Wikipedia article may be wrong, but if you use web.archive.org you can check out http://www.humanrightsandtolerance.org‘s earliest pages and then Google each of the three executive officers and draw your own conclusions.

  29. Ken, being right doesn’t mean you can win an argument.

  30. Smoking P,

    I’m a believer and can’t speak for God either.

  31. I hope all libertarians are familiar with 1 Samuel 8?

    Short version: The people of Israel say “We want a king so we can be cool like other people!” Samuel says to God, “They want a king; what should I do?” God says, “Tell ’em they don’t want a king.” Samuel tells the people “God says you don’t really want that”; the people say, “Foo on you! We still want a king!” Samuel says, “God, they’re not giving up on this king idea.” God says, “Fine, screw ’em. Give ’em a king. Don’t say I didn’t tell you what the deal was.”

  32. JD: ah, yes! the readers’ digest home pocket bible and receipe book version! awesome!

    Then we could have SL Jackson’s character from Pulp Fiction (Jules) read it………

  33. Ken, being right doesn’t mean you can win an argument.

    No, it just means I still don’t understand why I’m wrong. …so there’s no reason to stop arguing.

  34. I hope all libertarians are familiar with 1 Samuel 8?

    Oh, yeah, I forgot about that. Cool passage. I was thinking it was from one of the books of Judges, but I’m not too Biblically literate.

    I remember that Rose Wilder Lane quoted this in The Discovery of Freedom. From the heyday of anarcho-Judaism, or kritarchy, or whatever the hell it was:

    10 Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16 Your menservants and maidservants and the best of your cattle [b] and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the LORD will not answer you in that day.”

    19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. 20 Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.”

    In other words, “We’re sick of freedom — please make us safe! Give us national security!”

    And the LORD sayeth unto them: “Don’t say I didn’t warn you, dumbasses.”

    PS: Note that a 10% tax rate was considered unendurable tyranny in this society.

  35. Considering that Commies are ostensibly athiest in addition to being muderous thugs, they might have thought that through a little better.

    Actually that was part of the poll. The question went something like, “How many of the following are less appealing than atheism to the average American?” and one of the poll answers went something like “Three of the items, but then the average American associates Communism with atheism.” 11 percent of respondants picked that answer.

    I think that is the reason trying to organize Christians to the libertarian fold will fail. Even if the Christians are very skeptical of the government, the WOD and other laws of public morality are too widely accepted. Too many still do not accept morality – any morality – is a choice, and people must be allowed to ‘fail’.

    I haven’t always known everything I know now. Embracing my inner Libertarian was a gradual process–it started with my belief in captialism. Surely we can make common cause with those who support tax cuts, free trade, cutting the budget, school choice, cutting the welfare state, etc.

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