Gingrich: You Cannot Trust Politicians Who Do Not Pray

Recently, I wrote a column in the Washington Post about the increasing use of faith as an issue in the 2012 presidential campaign. In the Western Republican Presidential Debate, the candidates appeared to double down on the use of politicized piety. Rick Santorum reaffirmed that a candidate’s faith was essential to his qualifications. Newt Gingrich, however, used the opportunity to again attack agnostics, atheists, and secularists – saying that you cannot trust any leader who does not pray.

Gingrich demonstrated vividly how leaders in this country and other countries have portrayed secularists and atheists as the new scourge and threat to world stability. Gingrich has just defended Romney and said that we should not attack people for how they pray or who they pray to. He then quickly took that uplifting message and turned it around to attack those who do not pray – or use religion to guide their policies. It was the perfect “don’t attack Mormons . . . attack secularists” moment.

In the debate (look around the 72 minute marker), Gingrich said religion was a “central part” of a candidate’s qualifications and then asked “how can you have judgment if you don’t have faith and how can I trust you with power if you don’t pray?”

The audience responded with rapturous applause to the attack.

In a speech in March, he promised to protect America from atheists, secularists and, incongruously, Muslims: “I am convinced that if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America, [my grandchildren] will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American.”

Of course, terrorists pray. They just pray for the wrong thing and then kill people. Nevertheless, people like Tony Blair think that atheists may be a bigger threat than terrorists to the future of the world. Religious and political leaders around the world also opened up attacks on secularists as a growing evil.

It has become not just politically correct but politically popular to hate secularists, atheists, and agnostics. It reflects a deep insecurity among political leaders that faith-based politics could be challenged if people begin to evaluate their candidates solely on their performance and their credentials. For Gingrich, this means a type of prayer test — proof that you pray to God and will be guided by religious values in carrying out public duties. “Non-believers” have become the Willie Hortons of the 2012 presidential campaign and the implications of this new theme among the candidates is a dangerous form of demagoguery in a country dedicated to separation principles.

47 thoughts on “Gingrich: You Cannot Trust Politicians Who Do Not Pray”

  1. “What is the joke about atheists in foxholes?”

    A combat veteran survived many near misses. As a souvenir, he kept one bullet from his last clip.

    The veteran came home and always carried his bullet in his shirt pocket. One day, the veteran walked past a church, where the minister was preparing his sermon in his second floor office. As the veteran passed under the minister’s office, a Bible fell from the minister’s office window, knocking the veteran to the sidewalk. As pedestrians helped him to his feet, he exclaimed:
    “If it weren’t for the bullet in my pocket,
    that Bible would have killed me!”

  2. Of course to whom is always the next step. Seems that those excoriating theocracies like Iran, Iraq, etc are often the ones leading the charge to make this a theocracy, or whoops, a “Christian nation.” (After all
    G-d, it was said as Reagen sat next to the speaker, does not hear the prayers of Jews.”)
    And of course, anyone can say they pray. What is the joke about atheists in foxholes? Before the bullet comes they say “Oh My G-d!”

  3. So which of the translations of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves is most authoritative?
    I regard this question as more relevant than worrying about the translations of that other book with which you’re so concerned. Snow White is far more credible, has fewer contradictions, and comes to a satisfying, believable conclusion.

  4. Oh, by the way, just a page or two before the bit in that calls for stoning to death any man who lays with another man as if with a woman, the same death penalty is called for in the case of adultery (and in the case of a son who speaks disrespectfully to his father, for that matter). If anybody believes that morality comes from the bible, then they are not free to pick and choose which parts they will obey and which they won’t. As soon as you begin to apply your own moral code to the bible, you have admitted that morality exists irrespective of what any of the many versions of the old and new testaments assert, and the bible is just being used as an excuse to support and justify your own oral beliefs. Perhaps the only people who don’t practice some form of moral relativism are the sort of fundamentalist religious fanatics who can justify flying planes into buildings in defense of their particular holy book’s urgings.

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