Religion in Politics

An excellent and timely article from Boston University’s magazine ( tells a little-mentioned story about Hillary Clinton that I found interesting.

Clinton, unlike other recent presidential candidates such as Mitt Romney, Michelle Bachman and Rick Santorum, is not known for being religious or using religion as a way to attract voters despite her methodist heritage. But while stopping at a South Carolina bakery May 2015, Clinton struck up a conversation about the bible with a local patron, and won his support through religious discussion.

I admittedly didn’t read the rest of the article because I didn’t want it to influence or overtake the ideas I had for this post. But in short, it argues that Religion, despite not being as visible as it was at one time in America, is still a dominant and persuasive force in American politics, and every major politicians–especially those running for president–need to express some sort of faith in order to convince candidates of their legitimacy.

I agree. Although the culture of America has been increasingly secular as the years roll by, I think religion still plays a large roll in our government. An examination of recent campaign strategies, political candidates and voter demographics prove that this is the case.

The most recent and powerful religiously-related political act to take place in America’s governmental agenda was Donald Trump’s travel ban on several majority-islam countries in the middle east. Although the ban wasn’t specifically labelled as a ban on muslims, the media branded it as such because it was enacted in an effort to prevent extremist terrorist attacks committed by citizens of the nations in question. The ban caused a massive pushback and protests erupted across the nation.

But a certain group of American citizens, I’m sure, were celebrating. Trump’s list of campaign promises included a proposal to extensively screen all muslims entering the country and, in some cases, muslims that have lived in the U.S. for years. Trump instilled a fear of Islam in voters, and then catered to that fear by promising to eliminate it. Many of those who voted for him were driven to do so by this fear.

In this way, a fear of terrorism grew until it encompassed an entire religion. And this difference/fear between religious groups gave trump extra momentum in pursuit of the presidency.

On the other hand, if you take a look at the republican party’s roster of candidates from the past year, you’ll find several religious men who are vocal about their faith.

Ted Cruz, Ben Carson and, a little further back, Mitt Romney all mentioned faith in their campaign speeches and used it to appeal to crowds on the campaign trail.


Here’s Ted talking about atheists and why they shouldn’t be president:

These candidates used religion to garner support of other religious people, indicating that there is a smaller but politically important demographic of religious (christian) voters in America.

Religion is not as prevalent in political policy and campaigning in the same way as it used to be, but it is still influential nonetheless. Candidates use it to create an emotional appeal–be it one of fear (Trump’s campaign promises) or support and comfort (Ted Cruz’s christian identification)

These campaign strategies appeal to a certain type of voter. Despite their decline among the general population and headlines like this one: ( White, evangelical christians still represent an important voting demographic and hold a large stake in the American political scene. They’re consistently among the most courted groups on the campaign trail, and they voted in record numbers for Donald Trump in last fall’s election (81% of them voted for him, a record  majority among their demographic according to this article: Trump and other candidates often spoke at churches during every stage of the campaign.

This is only one example of religious appeals in political strategy. But the fact that this specific religious demographic was singled out by campaign managers and played such a crucial role in the election shows that religion still guides many people’s decisions and is taken into consideration/used by the political elite.

Politics focuses on persuasion, and persuasion works best when conducted between two people that trust each other. By identifying and appealing to religion in their campaign speeches and policy, Candidates build trust and establish command ground with voters. As is indicated by the prevalence and one-sidedness of one religious demographic in America, these appeals can be effective. Overall, religion continues to play an important, albeit smaller role in the political influence and trends in America.

America and the Second Rennaissance

Ancient Renaissance scholar Petrarch of Italy.

One of the oldest, most divided and captivating human phenomena is religion. For many, it’s a way of justifying existence and inspiring creation. Religion drove the ancient civilizations of Greece and Rome, plunged Europe into the middle ages, spurred the colonization of the new world and caused countless wars that drew the boundary lines of the world as we know them.

Religion has always been present in the conscience of America. A historically Christian country that revered church on Sunday, uses the word “God” in legal proceedings and swears its president into office with one hand on the Bible, America’s traditions and decision making have always included religion.

But recently, America has drifted away from its hyper-Christian roots. Recent supreme court decisions such as 2015’s ruling on gay marriage and Roe vs. Wade from the 1970s as well as broad pop-culture trends suggest that Americans are personally becoming less religious and that religion is not as involved as it used to be in making major governmental decisions.

My purpose in writing this blog is to explore religion/spirituality in America by examining its history, charting its decline, researching its influence and, most importantly and extensively, finding out what it means to the modern American or why it is relevant in our country today. Religious issues are more prevalent in national politics and daily life than ever, and I believe it’s time to focus specifically on the role religion plays in our daily life.

But first, I’d like to use my first post to describe a fairly controversial theory. I believe that America is in the midst of a second Renaissance, and that its movement away from religion in favor of secularism indicates that this is true.

The first, world-changing Renaissance occurred primarily between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries. Ancient scholars such as Italy’s Petrarch rediscovered and translated classical texts from ancient Greece and Rome, providing a ‘rebirth of classical learning’ and exploration and breaking the feudal, progressive-stalling traditions of the middle ages. These findings and the subsequent scientific and academic advancement they inspired led to an increased awareness of the self and secular human individuality known as Humanism.

Humanism and religion didn’t mix well, and as the Catholic church lost power, secular pursuits such as art and science flourished. Brilliant minds such as Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci worked in the same epoch as world shakers like Galileo and Copernicus. Knowledge was accumulated gradually, the quality of life improved, and massive scientific advancements were made in medicine, astronomy, physics, biology and other fields. Martin Luther and his followers created an entirely new religion via the protestant reformation in the early 1500’s. And as peasants were released from their feudal bonds, new political systems emerged. More Renaissance info can be found here: ( )

But this progress would’ve been unattainable if the religious establishment that controlled Europe throughout the middle ages hadn’t been toppled through skepticism and the formation of new ideas. When religious influence declined, progress in the sciences and arts skyrocketed. Freedom from religious binding allowed the Renaissance to happen.

Theoretically, America now sits in a similar position to late-middle-ages Europe. We are in the process of political upheaval, religion is declining in importance for most Americans and the technological revolution is in full swing. Companies and brands like Google, Apple, Twitter and Amazon are changing our daily lives almost as drastically as the scholars and scientists of the Renaissance. Connectivity is constant and life is incredibly convenient.

The convenience-concerned aspects of these companies—two-day shipping, faster smartphones—have created a new sort of selfish Humanism. We are more focused on our own comfort and individuality than ever, and depend on technology more than any other society in history.

What allows us to do this? A shift in spirituality. These studies conducted by the Pew Research Center ( )

( ) indicate that though a feeling of “spiritual peace” and universal curiosity is on the rise among Americans, traditional religious practice and adherence is declining. Theories abound as to why this is the case, from the selfishness of the modern youth to a larger demographic that considers themselves spiritual but not specifically religious.

What the decline in traditional religion may indicate is that our country is currently or about to undergo massive change through technological and cultural advancements, much like ancient Europe during the first Renaissance. If history is any indication, the decline in religious strictness indicates a period of growth.