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    Lincoln Was An Atheist
    By Hank Campbell | May 2nd 2012 05:00 AM | 17 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Hank

    I'm the founder of Science 2.0® and co-author of "Science Left Behind".

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    Unless he gets hit by a bus, Mitt Romney is going to be the Republican nominee and be given the opportunity to lose in the election this fall.

    I am not being a partisan liberal in saying that. He will lose. He has done some things right; announcing he won't take any taxpayer financing was smart. It means he can do what Sen. Barack Obama was able to do in 2008 and raise an unlimited amount of money and spend twice as much money as his opponent, whose name was on the campaign finance reform law and who couldn't very well renege on his own policy.  Unfortunately, he can't also do what Sen. Barack Obama did and sucker the other guy into a commitment before backing out, so that playing field is simply level. Instead of one candidate spending as much as both candidates combined spent in 2004, we'll have two doing that - and then some. We could have our first $2 billion election campaign.

    What Romney has going against him is religion. In March, during the Republican presidential primary, a Langer Research Associates exit poll found that 73 percent of Louisiana Republicans claimed it mattered that a candidate shares their religious beliefs and 41 percent said it matters a lot.  A Pew Research poll had Santorum doing twice as well as Romney among voters who felt religion was important. Obviously, Louisiana is not the entire U.S. but if it's accurate it shows Mitt Romney will likely generate mediocre Bob Dole 1996 levels of support, not enthusiastic George Bush of 2004 ones.  Romney does not share the religious beliefs of most Americans, being a Mormon, so if that really is a barometer, he is in trouble. Maybe Republicans need to lighten up.



    If Romney does win, it won't be the first time a candidate defied cultural mores; the first Republican president, Thomas Jefferson, was branded an atheist by opponents because of his commitment to separation of church and state. The first modern G.O.P. president, Abraham Lincoln, was extraordinarily difficult to pin down on religion, just like Jefferson. He didn't belong to any church yet he got elected just fine.  I certainly can agree those people of 1860 were an exceptional generation of Americans but surely Republicans of 2012 have something going for them also when it comes to changing why presidents are chosen?

    Michael Medved, writing in USA Today, says Lincoln was able to successfully shift the debate away from his religion and toward the merits of a liturgical society and that may be the way to go as a campaign strategy for the Republican nominee now as well. Romney does well there in comparison to Obama.  He worked for two years as a missionary and has enormous credibility  among his own (no skepticism about an abortion-supporting Catholic, a la John Kerry) whereas Obama only seemed to remember to talk religion when election season kicked in, even saying Jesus told him to raise taxes - “I actually think that’s going to make economic sense. But for me as a Christian, it also coincides with Jesus’ teaching that ‘for unto whom much is given, much shall be required”.  Americans are also less concerned about about specific religions today, despite what exit polls show when there are multiple Republicans on the ballot. We got a Catholic president in 1960, John Kennedy, and though it took some cheating to get him there most Americans thought he did a good job once he arrived. Obama barely mentioned religion at all in 2008, the only time it came up was when his church pastor turned out to be a  conspiratorial racist.

    Do you know President Obama's religion?  Offhand, I don't. There's never been a religious test for public office yet.  That doesn't mean one isn't implied.  No successful candidate is going to run claiming to be an atheist and none of them will apologize for pretending to be religious even if they aren't.  Atheists are one of the minorities it is still okay to stereotype so their feelings won't be hurt.

    Comments

    MikeCrow
    While in the primary, this probably mattered to many voters, but now, I think it will matter much, much less. I could see maybe a slight reduction in voter turn out, but I even question that. The right wants Obama to lose, and I think they will turn out to vote, many for anyone else. Independents whom Romney will need a reasonable portion to win, I suspect will care much less what his religion is.

    As for the Presidents religion, I'd say it's Christian, or maybe Muslim :)
    Never is a long time.
    Hank
    It doesn't matter in a direct sense, people will not vote for Obama over it, but they may not be mobilized to get out and vote the way they would if they were enthusiastic.  Pres. Obama has the same issue so he is playing the game; he knows most Republicans will not just vote for him but he hopes they will not vote against him - and he hopes he does enough for his base that they don't stay home.
    MikeCrow
    I think turn out is going to be a big part of who wins, and I think I'd have to give Romney a slight edge, but if I was pushed that slight edge could be paper thin.

    Has the President given his base enough reasons to turn out to re-elect him, if he can blame the Republicans for blocking all of his promised changes, that will help, if he can't it's going to be an uphill battle.
    Never is a long time.
    Hank
    I used Bob Dole in 1996 as a comparison for a reason. Romney can get 40% of the vote, sure, but if a lot of people stay home Obama still wins easily even if he only gets 44.
    MikeCrow
    I think most of the Republicans will show up, it's (in my mind) more about the Independent and Democratic turn out that will define the election.
    IMO the Independents will show up if they plan on voting for Romney, if they're ambivalent they may or may not  vote.
    What I'm not sure about is are all the liberal who voted Obama last time going to show up or are they disenchanted.
    Never is a long time.
    Gerhard Adam
    I suspect you'll have as many Democrats as Republicans show up, simply because they've all convinced each other that the other side commands Satan's legions, so they'll feel morally obligated to do their part for the battle.

    As for the rest of us ?   I'm inclined to watch DVD episodes of "Lie To Me" to remind me about why I don't care what the politicians say, nor what they supposedly stand for.
    Mundus vult decipi
    MikeCrow
    That was a good show, I liked it. Tim Roth makes it fun to watch. I just looked and apparently it was canceled.
    Never is a long time.
    Gerhard Adam
    Yeah, it was.  I suspect it was because too many people were learning things that the politicians couldn't handle :)
    Mundus vult decipi
    Tony Fleming
    As an Australian, my Prime Minister (Ministress?) is an avowed atheist, Julia Gillard.  

    ''I'm good mates with Barack Obama,'' Ms Gillard was quoted as saying.

    ''I tell him, 'you think it's tough being African-American? Try being me. Try being an atheist, childless, single woman as prime minister'.''


    Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/political-news/pm-v-obama-who-has-it-harder-20120401-1w6qa.html#ixzz1uWuy22Iq

    Tony Fleming Biophotonics Research Institute tfleming@unifiedphysics.com
    Hank
    That's a good quote!
    Tony Fleming
    Thanks, yeah she's got a good sense of humour. She's not travelling too well at the moment but. We have our polls late next year.
    On another issue, why do you say Lincoln was an atheist?

    My brief reading is he was a deeply if very private person of faith, e.g. his wife's writings. The impression I get is that he was a lot like the blacks who learnt a basic but deep Christian faith through their brutal treatment as slaves over the centuries. Wasn't one of his friends one Frederick Douglass, amongst many black friends which to me would explain his lack of overt signs of religion. Just an opinion. Like our current very pluralistic society we all rub shoulders with each other. 

    Tony Fleming Biophotonics Research Institute tfleming@unifiedphysics.com
    Hank
    Like Jefferson, Lincoln can be quotemined for each camp quite easily.  So saying he was an atheist is just laying the foundation that Republicans voted for a guy with no religion at all so they don't need to vote for someone who is 'the same', whatever that even means.
    vongehr
    That he will lose, with "he" standing for somebody who could not conceivably win in any modern civilized society, this I have now heard again and again in different countries that I know something about, say Germany (Intellectuals were 100% sure that Kohl would not be possible even in a freak parallel universe, then he stayed on for what felt like ever). Believe me, one little sex scandal (and sex scandals never need to be based on facts) or suchlike curve ball, and Mitt Romney it will be!
    And you know what? I would welcome that. Obama is even more of a cold blooded lawyer type snake than I already expected; he has cheated on basically all of his promises. I don't know much about Mitt, but say it were Bush against Obama, I'd really rather have an almost honest moron at the helm than a full blown cunning liar.
    MikeCrow
    I don't think Bush was a moron, his IQ is in the same range as Obama, and Clinton's, he was a horrible public speaker, something the two I mentioned are very good at.
    Never is a long time.
    Hank
    Yes, Bush was commonly regarded as both dumb and a poor student so why his political opposition picked a guy with even worse grades in college to run against him in 2004 was a mystery.

    Sascha makes a good point.  Bush always stayed on message; "Mr. President, what time is it?" "It's time to kill the terrorists."   He had no secret agenda to overturn anything and 'build a legacy' in his final term whereas gun sales have spiked, for example, because (a) people assume Obama will win and (b) they think he will try and end run the constitution on something like guns. I don't think he can but people are concerned.
    MikeCrow
    How silly, they just need to buy them from the DOJ.
    Never is a long time.
    Hank
    ha ha ... nice!