Monday, August 29, 2011

Asking Presidential Candidates about their Religious Beliefs

Bill Keller, the Executive Editor of The New York Times, has an interesting piece in this Sunday's NYT Magazine. In the essay, Keller suggests that:

"when it comes to the religious beliefs of our would-be presidents, we are a little squeamish about probing too aggressively."

Keller is correct in making his claim about our reluctance to ask the hard questions regarding religion. In the piece, Keller subsequently argues that we need to ask candidates for honest answers about their religious beliefs, their adherence to religious doctrine and deference to biblical authority, and the influence that religious values and convictions play in shaping attitudes toward science and social policy. In other words, understanding what a candidate believes and how they apply these beliefs to political and national life is of paramount importance. As an academic who studies how religious and ideological value predispositions shape public opinion and political participation, I can't agree with Keller more. 

Keller concludes by posting a general set of questions for candidates Perry and Bachmann and some additional concerns for each politician. Here are the main questions:

•Do you agree with those religious leaders who say that America is a “Christian nation” or a “Judeo-Christian nation?” and what does that mean in practice?
•Would you have any hesitation about appointing a Muslim to the federal bench? What about an atheist?
•What is your attitude toward the theory of evolution, and do you believe it should be taught in public schools?
Now, we'll have to wait and see whether Keller and in turn The New York Times actually get some answers.

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