Religion in the Presidential Debates

How many times did Barack Obama and John McCain use the word “God” in the three Presidential debates?

Zero.

Not a single mention. Not even “God Bless America.”

Just as it should be. We have real problems to solve in our country. That means we need real solutions. Prayer doesn’t cut it. God isn’t going to help.

Massimo Calabresi of Time offers this explanation:

… John McCain believes religion is a private matter. He was raised an Episcopalian but now occasionally attends Baptist churches. Various political consultants, including Karl Rove, have encouraged McCain to wear his religion on his sleeve, but McCain is resolute about not faking it. That goes for his top campaign advisers as well.

Obama has his reasons for not bringing the subject up. If he did, it could remind people of his pastor problem: the fact that he attended for 20 years the church of the firebrand preacher Jeremiah Wright, whom Obama was forced to repudiate last spring after a variety of offensive comments surfaced.

Also, as mentioned in the article, the God topic was probably beaten into the ground during the Saddleback Forum.

Personally, I think this is a strong argument for having a similar forum in four years. It gets all the God out of the way. Then, we can move on to topics that actually matter during the real debates.

And it’s not like religion wasn’t brought up at all in the campaigns…

Andrew Sullivan says this:

… To anyone who takes religious faith seriously, the secular tone of the debates comes as a huge relief. Of course, the power of the Christianist veto in the GOP is demonstrated as much by what hasn’t happened as by what has.

Mitt Romney, despite being willing to sell every last morsel of his soul and mind, couldn’t get past the Mormon issue with the Christianists who run his party; and Joe Lieberman was ruled out as veep because he’s a Jew who believes in social toleration (why else are we stuck with this delusional absurdity as veep?). Obama and McCain have both been forced to prostrate themselves at Rick Warren’s lugubrious electoral altar. McCain was even forced to run an ad based on a religious epiphany he somehow failed to remember for twenty-six years, and have a running mate who would take health benefits away from gay spouses and force the victims of rape and incest to have children under penalty of law.

Apart from that, this is a really secular campaign.


  • Loren Petrich

    And it’s lucky that they didn’t probe further into Obama’s beliefs, because if it turned out that he believes in some liberal theology, the fundies and sort-of-fundies would be livid about it.

    I mean theology like Martin Luther King’s (he doubted or rejected Jesus Christ’s virgin birth). Or John Haught’s (he once claimed that Jesus Christ’s resurrection was too great an event to be captured by something so crass as a camera). Or Paul Tillich’s (God is the Ground of Being, is being-itself, not a being, and God’s existence can neither be meaningfully asserted or denied). Or John Shelby Spong’s (need I say more?).

    Paul Tobin on Liberal-Modernist Theology; he tries to make sense out of Paul Tillich’s views. And John Haught stated his position on JC’s resurrection in his Salon interview.

  • Michael

    Personally, I think this is a strong argument for having a similar forum in four years. It gets all the God out of the way. Then, we can move on to topics that actually matter during the real debates.

    I disagree 100%. The point is that “God” shouldn’t be in the way. Period.

    As you quoted in an earlier post, “the best way to hurt the Republicans was to form a group called Atheists for McCain.”.

    This shouldn’t be the case. But as long as forums like Saddleback are still around, it will be.

  • http://www.heuristicism.ca/ Aditya

    It really is unfortunate how much religion has become a big thing in the US, and how important candidates’ religiosity is. I’m thankful that this hasn’t been an issue in Canada (although the fact that the country seems to be able to be led astray by conservatism is equally annoying) – this is a step in the right direction for the USA, although I must wonder as to how much support McCain would lose if he follows the “religion is a private matter” thing through to its conclusion.

  • Avi Chapman

    Actually, Obama mentioned it at least once. That was during the final debate. He was responding to a question about how well Biden would do as President. He concluded with something to the effect of ‘…he would do quite well if something, God-forbid, happened to me.’