Religion and the Republican Debate


Daniel McCarthy at American Conservative has some interesting thoughts on attitudes about religion shown in last night's GOP debate:

Political Christians today have a hard time understanding the religious configuration of the early United States. The difficulty is that the least conventionally religious Americans of the day were often political allies of people we would now identify as ancestors of the Religious Right. Deists and Baptists alike did not want to be taxed to support established Anglican or Congregationalist churches, and there was a strong strain of anti-clericalism and emphasis on individual judgment among both the philosophers and the extreme Protestants. Total disestablishment and liberty of conscience were policies that appealed to both types; each was absolutely confident that within a generation it would inherit the earth if the marketplace of religious ideas were left free.

Most Americans did not take as hard a line on church-state relations as Jefferson, Madison, and the devout among their allies did; the poles of opinion back then were those who saw establishment in anything less than a "wall of separation" and those who thought that a vague but public Christianity was an indispensable prop to civil order. Even those poles did not always attract the alliances you might expect; a doubting Unitarian like John Adams was quite firmly on the side of a civil — but certainly not established — Christianity.

It's fair to say that Ron Paul is very much in line with Madison and Jefferson. (Indeed, one suspects a President Paul, like Madison, would have reservations even about declaring a day of thanksgiving and prayer — where does the Constitution say the president should do that?) It would be interesting to see a politician who could articulate the civil Christian point of view in anything other than a rote manner. Alas, instead we have Gingrich, Romney, and Santorum.

NEXT: "If the First Amendment means anything, then school officials cannot prohibit students from handing out gifts with Christmas messages due to the religious content of those messages."

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. The War on Religion

    by Rep. Ron Paul, MD
    by Rep. Ron Paul, MD

    As we celebrate another Yuletide season, it’s hard not to notice that Christmas in America simply doesn’t feel the same anymore. Although an overwhelming majority of Americans celebrate Christmas, and those who don’t celebrate it overwhelmingly accept and respect our nation’s Christmas traditions, a certain shared public sentiment slowly has disappeared. The Christmas spirit, marked by a wonderful feeling of goodwill among men, is in danger of being lost in the ongoing war against religion.

    Through perverse court decisions and years of cultural indoctrination, the elitist, secular Left has managed to convince many in our nation that religion must be driven from public view. The justification is always that someone, somewhere, might possibly be offended or feel uncomfortable living in the midst of a largely Christian society, so all must yield to the fragile sensibilities of the few. The ultimate goal of the anti-religious elites is to transform America into a completely secular nation, a nation that is legally and culturally biased against Christianity.

    This growing bias explains why many of our wonderful Christmas traditions have been lost. Christmas pageants and plays, including Handel’s Messiah, have been banned from schools and community halls. Nativity scenes have been ordered removed from town squares, and even criticized as offensive when placed on private church lawns. Office Christmas parties have become taboo, replaced by colorless seasonal parties to ensure no employees feel threatened by a “hostile environment.” Even wholly non-religious decorations featuring Santa Claus, snowmen, and the like have been called into question as Christmas symbols that might cause discomfort. Earlier this month, firemen near Chicago reluctantly removed Christmas decorations from their firehouse after a complaint by some embittered busybody. Most noticeably, however, the once commonplace refrain of “Merry Christmas” has been replaced by the vague, ubiquitous “Happy Holidays.” But what holiday? Is Christmas some kind of secret, a word that cannot be uttered in public? Why have we allowed the secularists to intimidate us into downplaying our most cherished and meaningful Christian celebration?

    The notion of a rigid separation between church and state has no basis in either the text of the Constitution or the writings of our Founding Fathers. On the contrary, our Founders’ political views were strongly informed by their religious beliefs. Certainly the drafters of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, both replete with references to God, would be aghast at the federal government’s hostility to religion. The establishment clause of the First Amendment was simply intended to forbid the creation of an official state church like the Church of England, not to drive religion out of public life.

    The Founding Fathers envisioned a robustly Christian yet religiously tolerant America, with churches serving as vital institutions that would eclipse the state in importance. Throughout our nation’s history, churches have done what no government can ever do, namely teach morality and civility. Moral and civil individuals are largely governed by their own sense of right and wrong, and hence have little need for external government. This is the real reason the collectivist Left hates religion: Churches as institutions compete with the state for the people’s allegiance, and many devout people put their faith in God before their faith in the state. Knowing this, the secularists wage an ongoing war against religion, chipping away bit by bit at our nation’s Christian heritage. Christmas itself may soon be a casualty of that war.

    1. Nope, there’s no war on religion:

      “There they go again?”they” being the anti-religious zealots who are now dominating the Obama administration’s decision making.

      “…HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius last week renewed her declared “war” against the Catholic church in America and against faithful Catholics (as well as against other religious organizations and believers who share the Catholic opposition to contraceptives and/or abortifacients). Specifically, she announced that HHS, in implementing Obamacare, would require most health-insurance plans to include in the preventive services they cover all FDA-approved forms of contraception (including contraceptives that sometimes operate as abortifacients).

      The HHS rule would allow (but not require) the HHS bureaucracy to establish exemptions from this mandate only for an extremely narrow category of “religious employers”…As the head of Catholic Charities USA observed, “the ministry of Jesus Christ himself” would not qualify for the exemption. Nor will Catholic Charities, Catholic Relief Services, Catholic hospitals, food banks, homeless shelters, most Catholic schools, and even many or most diocesan offices, much less Catholic business owners who strive to conduct their businesses in accordance with their religious beliefs.”


    2. My neighbor just met a bisexual man on —datebi*cOMit’s where for men and women looking for bisexual and bi-curious individuals to meet in a friendly and comfortable environment.
      It’s a nice place for the people who have the same sexual orientation.

    3. My neighbor just met a bisexual man on —datebi*cOMit’s where for men and women looking for bisexual and bi-curious individuals to meet in a friendly and comfortable environment.
      It’s a nice place for the people who have the same sexual orientation.

  2. “The political philosophy of America’s Founding Fathers is so thoroughly buried under decades of statist misrepresentations on one side and empty lip-service on the other, that it has to be re-discovered, not ritualistically repeated. It has to be rescued from the shameful barnacles of platitudes now hiding it. It has to be expanded?because it was only a magnificent beginning, not a completed job, it was only a political philosophy without a full philosophical and moral foundation, which the ‘conservatives’ cannot provide.”

    Ayn Rand

  3. Stop treating “holy religion” as something other than a belief system that some people buy into and some do not. There is nothing positive to be gained by apotheosis of philosophy.

    1. Whoa – what?

      Religion is bullshit and God doesn’t exist, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t useful for the species. Look – religion is irrational but it *works*. If it didn’t benefit it’s adherents, they wouldn’t be so numerous. Something about religion makes people propagate – maybe it’s the prohibitions on activities that don’t work towards reproduction, or a common mindset which allows people to form trusting relationships(leading to an economy), maybe it’s because people do better(for whatever physiological reason) when they feel their lives have purpose.. but fer chrissakes religion works.

      One of the big tasks of the next 100 years will be coming up with a philosophy to replace religion. We apparently need what it offers, but it’s going to be increasingly difficult to believe in god in a world of cyborgs, transhumans, artificial life, etc.

      1. Whoa – what?

        Whoa – what?

  4. “Certainly the drafters of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, both replete with references to God, would be aghast at the federal government’s hostility to religion.”–Ron Paul

    Challenge: Find a reference to God in the Constitution.

    1. Challenge: Find a link in a Max post.

  5. Deists and Baptists alike did not want to be taxed to support established Anglican or Congregationalist churches, and there was a strong strain of anti-clericalism and emphasis on individual judgment among both the philosophers and the extreme Protestants.

    I used to consider myself a Deist (more in the fashion of Benjamin Franklin than Madison or Jefferson), but now I’m thinking it would be cool to be an Extreme Protestant. Think of the possibilities.

    1. Their defining characteristic is that they drink Mt. Dew and ride BMX-style bikes.

    2. Foxes book of Martyrs is where You find out how extreme it can get.

    3. When it comes to baptism you can be sprinkled or immersed. But Extreme Protestants go in for the full waterboard!

  6. My *very* Christian friends refused to believe me a few weeks ago when I told them about the Jefferson bible, until they looked it up online, and they still think it’s a hoax.

    Also, apparently there was a “water vapor canopy” over the old Earth that gave humans super-powers of some sort that allowed them to succesfully live side-by-side with dinosaurs.

  7. I meant the challenge about finding a reference to God in the Constitution specifically for you Doherty because you’re such a sharp researcher and you wrote a whole book about Ron Paul, so you must have come across this War on Religion shit during your laborious work.

    1. Find the atheist references in the Declaration of Independence.

      Then look up the references in the Constitution to “Our Lord” and “Sundays.”

      1. You mean as in “The year of our Lord”? You’re grasping at straws.

        1. “The “Common Era” (CE/BCE) notation has been adopted by numerous authors and publishers wishing to be “neutral” or “sensitive to non-Christians” because it does not explicitly make use of religious titles for Jesus, such as “Christ” and Domin- (“Lord”), which are used in the BC/AD notation, nor does it *give implicit expression to the Christian creed* that Jesus was the Christ.” [emphasis added]


          1. You’re a fucking moron.

            1. I defer to your obvious expertise.

            2. I wonder what it’s like to be supremely confident in ones views, yet to always be wrong.

              Since you seem particularly adept at this, can you tell me how it works?

  8. “Here I frontside 900. I cannot do otherwise,” said Luther, and nailed it.

    God was stoked, and He gave him props.

  9. I will never “reply to this” again.

  10. So two Catholics and a Mormon show up at a Republican debate.

  11. “Ron Paul can do no wrong.” Thomas Jefferson

  12. Doherty’s research for his book on Ron Paul consisted mostly of licking Paul’s asshole.

    1. You’re a naughty little boy!

  13. Well, I’m not a politician, but I’m probably pretty close to what other Reasonoids would think of as an Evangelical Christian, so I’ll take a shot at the penultimate sentence in that McCarthy quote – and do so as a libertarian argument. And I’m going to be as brief as possible.

    In answer to the question of what’s the great commandment of the law, Christ says in Matthew 22:37-40, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” So he’s really top-lining it. The first part isn’t something that’s in the political sphere, but the second (love your neighbor) is. Another very familiar top-line statement is Matthew 7:12 (the Golden Rule), “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

    There is a positively massive overlap between these statements and the Non-Aggression Principal. Christianity (applied per the above verses – and if it’s not, then it’s not…..) is inherently libertarian.

    Time for dinner.

    1. You’re babbling nonsense. Christianity is all about submission to a higher authority, sharing wealth, and avoiding all sorts of sexual sins. It has nothing to do with the right-wing libertarian worship of free markets, frree sex, and drugs. Idiot.

      1. As a right-winger, I demand my free drugs!

      2. Life is about submission to a higher authority, even in libertarian utopia as most adults readily recognize the need to not do things they want and to do things they’d prefer to not do, based upon this submission to their values.

        Religion is a subset of that, whereby one submits to the specifics of their believed higher authority.

        Your other crap about sexual mores is you adding in your hatred while trying to be witty by sarcastically answering a question.

        And is wrong.

    2. I thought that (paraphrasing from memory…) ‘Pure and undefiled religion is this – visit widows in their affliction and keep oneself unspotted from the world.’

  14. And if I have time later, I’ll come back and explain what’s got Christianity’s relationship to the political sphere so screwed up.

    1. Fucking spare us.

      1. Please consider taking your own advice.

  15. Alright so it’s later. Here’s the short version on why the Evangelical community has a screwed-up political relationship right now. It’s in three parts – two general to everyone, and one specific to them (us).

    1. Everybody loves (and wants to be) a winner. It’s only relatively recently that anybody’s been pandering to ECs as a bloc. As soon as you have politicians trying to align themselves with a certain group (for their own benefit), that group’s gonna want to win. Getting a taste of it (Baby Bush) makes you want more. Reading the Bible ought to indicate to them (us) that we certainly shouldn’t expect earthly powers to be on our side, but between a bunch of wishing and some recent history, that’s where we’re at. Everybody wants to be a winner.

    2. A push will get a push-back. This is probably especially true in religious cases. There’s a whole bunch of aspects of modern life where Christians feel like the government itself is pushing (e.g.: perpetuation of the welfare state, gay marriage, abortion, the “War on Christmas”) on it. So they want to push back. Note that I’m not telling you what YOU think government and sociey are doing, but what THEY(WE) largely think.

    3. Abortion – and the scam the Republican Party has pulled on them. This is the One Ring of issues for most ECs. And on it, they’ve been fooled into thinking that the Rs are on their side. Most people see things dichotomously, and when the Ds are pretty clearly the pro-abortion side, then by default they assume the Rs must be “the other side”. And the Rs have largely played along. This keeps the EC community in thrall to any politician who seems to clearly be pro-life. A close look at the parties’ incentives reveals that NOBODY benefits more from the current status of abortion law than the Republican Party. If RvW were tossed, and abortion legality differed state-by-state, then the most locked-in R constituency (this one) would go away. They’re not stupid enough to let that happen, so the game is to sandbag it, giving the appearance of principles and efforts, while ensuring that no changes are actually made. If neither candidate is credibly pro-life (McCain/Obama or Gingrich/Obama or Romney/Obama), they’re pretty much staying home.

    1. “If RvW were tossed, and abortion legality differed state-by-state, then the most locked-in R constituency (this one) would go away. ” — No, then the pro-life people would have to focus at keeping Republicans in power at the state level. This wouldn’t be bad for the Republican party.

  16. Christianity is a canned philosophy, ready-made for people in a hurry. Just heat and serve. No thinking required.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.