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Thomas Jefferson, as usual, put it best. Writing about religious liberty in his Notes on the State of Virginia, Jefferson noted: “Reason and free enquiry are the only effectual agents against error.” Sound words—and sound American sentiments. Yet very little feels particularly sound about America, or at least about American politics, in this crazy autumn. From Donald Trump’s Twitter attacks on Miss Universe to questions about his federal tax-paying (or lack thereof), the current presidential campaign seems destined to exacerbate, rather than ameliorate, the gloomy lack of trust in government. According to Gallup, only 19 percent of Americans trust the federal government to do the right thing “just about always or most of the time,” down from a high of 82 percent in the wake of the attacks of September 11. Part of the issue—a large part—is an extraordinary level of partisan polarization. Americans are divided into competing camps with few Republicans willing to see virtues in Democratic arguments or candidates, and vice versa. And rather than contributing to comity, religion in 2016 unfortunately seems just another indicator of secular divisions in the nation. While explicitly religious controversies have failed to drive the conversation this year (one in which the Republican nominee quoted II Corinthians by referring to it as “Two Corinthians”), those with religious affiliations and acknowledged feelings of traditional faith have also failed to bring any kind of order to the chaos of the campaign. The Pew Forum has the most comprehensive relevant data, noting that “fully 78% of white evangelical voters say they would vote for Trump if the election were held today, including about a third who ‘strongly’ back his campaign. Meanwhile, religiously unaffiliated voters – those who describe their religion as ‘atheist,’ ‘agnostic’ or ‘nothing in particular’ – are lining up behind Hillary Clinton over Trump, much as they supported Barack Obama over [Mitt] Romney in 2012.” The survey also points out that “two-thirds of religiously unaffiliated registered voters say they would vote for Clinton if the election were held today, just as two-thirds intended to vote for Obama at a similar point in the 2012 campaign.” The findings, while not especially surprising, are still dispiriting. The figures suggest that self-identified religious believers appear to be suspending their critical faculties—in theological terms, a gift from God—in favor of reflexive partisanship. This is an abdication of one of the most fundamental of human undertakings: the use of reason. Trump’s level of interest in the cares and concerns of the religious is negligible; he sees evangelicals as a favorable demographic, not as a collection of pilgrims struggling to make their souls’ journey through time and chance. The real trouble is that the Republican campaign has done little to signal that it grasps the Jeffersonian tradition of religious liberty—a milieu in which religion, as I’ve written before, is able to shape us without strangling us. Reason is essential—and is in woefully short supply at the moment. Those who vote automatically rather than intelligently are falling short, and into error.

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1 Sarah Mangum = " view full sizeThe American public's trust in the government is at a historic low."
2 Douglas Boin = "Interesting blog post by the historian of U.S. religion, John Fea, who was following the VP Debate very closely for issues of faith and spirituality: Read Prof. Fea's blog."
3 Michael McKissick = ""
4 Shawn Bose = "This is a very interesting point in the sense of trying to understand what responsibility religious groups have in the political process. Clearly religious groups have had tremendous influence in elections from local to national over the years - but should they?  We have had many contributions here OnFaith addressing this, here are a few to ponder:Thinkin PoliticsNationalism and Christianity Evangelical Leaders Question Support of Trump"
5 Shawn Bose = "Here is an interesting chart on how members of different faith traditions identify politically"
6 Douglas Boin = "Add to that some disheartening, recent news -- from TIME.com -- that "one of the largest evangelical organizations on college campuses nationwide has told its 1,300 staff members they will be fired if they personally support gay marriage or otherwise disagree with its newly detailed positions on sexuality starting on Nov. 11." (An interesting story worth following, too, because there's already been some reaction from the group itself that TIME may have gotten the story wrong; see their Facebook post here.)"
7 WHITE WOLF = "BELOW IS A LINK ALL CHRISTIANS SHOULD WATCH.  BLIND BELIEF IS THE PATHWAY THAT LEADS TO THE DARKNESS OF HELL, THE PLACE JESUS SPOKE OF WAS NOT A FIREY PIT, BUT RATHER A PLACE WHERE WE CAN SEE GOD BUT NOT ABLE TO REACH HIM.  WHEN WE BELIEVE THE FIRST THING WE  ARE TAUGHT WE ARE LEARNING WHAT THE WINNERS FROM A  WAR WANTED US TO LEARN. WE NEED TO SEEK, I BELIEVE IS THE WORD JESUS USED, OR ONE LIKE IT.. FOR THE TRUTH..... ASK FOR THE TRUTH, EVEN IF WE HAVE TO GO FROM DOOR TO DOOR TO FIND IT... TO MANY RELIGIONS GO DOOR TO DOOR WITH THEIR TRUTH, NOT TO SAY ITS BAD TRUTH, BUT MAYBE ITS NOT THE WHOLE TRUTH. WATCH THIS 13 MINUTE FILM AND YOU DECIDEhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lc6ZAqeBziA"
8 Douglas Boin = "Did you know that since 2002 the University of Mary Washington has hosted an annual lecture on religious freedom, sponsored by the Classics, Religious Studies, and Philosophy departments? #religiousfreedom"
9 Sarah Mangum = "Read this opinion piece by Becky Garrison, "Religious liberty for me but not for thee""
10 Michael McKissick = "Regardless of which side of the aisle you're looking at, reason and objectivity seem to have been abandoned in favor of fear mongering and partisan tribalism. We, as a nation, have nominated the two most disliked candidates in history. Our nation has polarized itself not because of a reasoned, critical approach to policy, but because of hatred and fear of "the other."Proverbs 23:9 (KJV) says, "Speak not in the ears of a fool: for he will despise the wisdom of thy words," --in other words, you can't reason with a fool. Winston Churchill once said, "the best argument against a democracy is a 5-minute conversation with the average voter." If there's any hope for our nation to prove Churchill wrong, it's by each voter approaching the nomination of a presidential candidate with reason. But it might be too late. "
11 Sam Shryock = "So how do you vote intelligently?  Do vote against someone because they say "Two" instead of the common method of saying "Second"?  Who gets to determine that we must say "Second" anyway?I think this topic is interesting in a religious forum because we have so many religious people that believe that they know the ultimate truth and that those that do not share their views, are wrong and therefore against them.  They then apply that same reasoning to politics creating an "us versus them" environment in politics.  My faith accepts the idea of many truths, and that each truth is a path of discovery for the individual.  Both candidates have good qualities.  Though the voters may not use the same means as I would to chose their candidate, their method is as valid as mine. I too wish they would pick their candidates my way, but that is not how our system works, does it?  Could we be disenfranchised with politics and the political institutions because too many "experts" are pitting us against each other, and too few are looking for consensus?         "