“That’s about 85 percent of the country he was talking to,” I said. “That should have been President Obama’s constituency but he let Romney have it, as he let Romney have the debate.”
As it turned out, that was true. A poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press came out stating that religious voters, particularly evangelical protestants, were more inclined to vote for Romney after the debate.
Romney didn’t stop there. Citing the Declaration of Independence, Romney said in the debate, “Second is that line that says we are endowed by our Creator with our rights, I believe we must maintain our commitment to religious tolerance and freedom in this country. That statement also says that we are endowed by our Creator with the right to pursue happiness as we choose.”
And that’s where my troubles began.
I wrote, to the dismay of many critics, “This is a religious country. Part of claiming your citizenship is claiming a belief in God, even if you are not Christian. We’ve got the Creator in our Declaration of Independence. We’ve got “In God we Trust on our coins. We’ve got “One nation under God” in our Pledge of Allegiance. And we say prayers in the Senate and the House of Representatives to God.” I ended by saying. “An atheist could never get elected dogcatcher much less President.”
To represent my true beliefs, I should have begun that last paragraph with the word, unfortunately. I do not believe that religion should play any role in politics. But that is not the world we live in.
I thought that by saying that the Republicans were trying to hijack God I made that clear. “The Republicans,” I wrote, “have claimed God as their own in this campaign, each candidate trying to out-Christian the other. Even Obama, though 17 percent of registered voters think he is a Muslim, has talked about being a Christian as often as he can.”
To me, my position was clear.It was obviously not to certain readers.
I believe, sadly, that religion plays a huge roll in political campaigns. Republicans use the dog whistle of God every chance they get. Romney uses it, though he must be careful as a Mormon, because so many evangelicals do not believe Mormons are Christians. But depressing and un-American as it may be, one’s faith continues to make a big difference in how people view candidates.
Obama is a declared Christian and — as I pointed out — he makes it clear as often as he can. He is also a politician who is facing a tight race in which religion could determine who wins.
It would be to his political advantage to mention his faith. He doesn’t have to pander. But he could let those voters, some 85 percent as I have mentioned, know that he shares in their beliefs.
I hope that this will not be as important four years from now. But it is important today .
Reaction to my post was interesting, indeed.
The response I received from atheists, agnostics and humanists rivaled some of the most hateful, vicious and ad hominem mail I receive when Christians are inflamed by my comments. They don’t just say they disagree with me. They say they hope I burn in hell. One of the more imaginative ones said he hoped my car turned over, the gas tank exploded and I would burn up and go to hell.
But atheists! Agnostics! Humanists! Where did all this rage come from? They’ve taken a page from the Christians.
My favorite e-mail after the column about the debate was this: “You disgust me! This is about the most un-American thing I have ever seen written. I hope you burn in the “hell” that you believe in. [Blank] you!”
Not surprisingly I have never received a hate letter from a Muslim, a Jew, a Hindu or a Buddhist. Certainly people have disagreed with what I have written over the six years of “On Faith.” But I’ve never been personally attacked.
The important thing for Obama is to do what he can in good conscience, to win the election. Invoking God works. The polls have spoken.