From ancient byways to modern highways, glimpses of faith are everywhere...

Monday, February 18, 2013

U. S. presidents: Religious types and hypes

Washington (U. S. Capitol)
United States presidents have often been portrayed as being across-the-board mainline Christians.  This has been accentuated by the fact that – to date – none
has been a member of any well-known "minority" groups such as Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, atheists, Hindus or Sikhs.

Wikipedia reports that "a specific affiliation" with "a particular church or religious body" can be "assigned to every president from Garfield on."  Before then, "formal church membership" was often "forestalled" until the president left office.  For example, James Knox Polk's "deathbed conversion" to Methodism is well documented.  Prior to that, he had attended Presbyterian services mainly to please his wife and mother.

Wikipedia also explains that "the inner beliefs of the presidents are much more difficult to establish than church membership."  Because of the highly political nature of the president's role, "patterns of churchgoing" and "religious references" within speeches might not be reliable indicators of true beliefs.  Because some also changed their beliefs within the course of a lifetime, out-of-context religious quotes from different periods of their lives can be misleading.

The Secular Web, which bills itself as "a drop of reason in a pool of confusion," presents a work by
researcher Franklin Steiner titled "The Religious Beliefs Of Our Presidents."  Steiner is described as "a student of the subject for over 40 years" - this work is described as a "thoroughly documented" and "straight-forward trustworthy account…"  In the preface, Steiner himself contends:  History and biography, if written at all, should be written truthfully.  

He also contends that much of what is said about the religious beliefs of U. S. presidents can be attributed to "The Myths of History" – along with stories about "Washington praying in the snow" and "Lincoln and his cabinet on their knees in prayer."


Copyright February 18, 2013 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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