The "God Gap"
The theory of the "God gap" suggests that religious Americans are conservative and will vote Republican while non-religious Americans are liberal and will vote Democratic. This theory has been prominent in press reporting and political maneuvering in the 2004 presidential race. At their recent conventions, both parties seemed to grapple with faith dynamics and respond to the perceived God gap in interesting, unexpected ways. For example, the Republicans tried hard to keep faith out of the primetime convention speeches, while the Democrats were determined to give religion its share of the limelight.
Stephen Waldman, a former editor for U.S. News and World Report, and co-founder and CEO of Beliefnet, has followed the election closely and argues that the "God Gap" is a myth. Recent polls have shown that while there is a divide between those who go to church more than once a week and those who don't go at all, the percentage of americans for whom religion, prayer and a relationship with God is important divides between the parties.
All this brings me to an experience I had recently; Janelle and I were visiting Doug and Katrina in DC this weekend and the sunday school teacher, as sunday school teachers are unfortunately wont to do, expressed her political opinion that people should vote according to how "religious" the candidate is. Apart from the fact that being "religious" in the sectarian sense of the term doesn't necessarily make a good leader (Lincon never went to church, but was a very spiritual man), you really can't tell look into someones heart to see how genuinely faithful they are.
I would hope that whoever is in power acknowledge (implicitly) a spiritual aspect to their life, but making overt religosity a part of politics only encourages people to fake it. Is faith important for me? Yes. Do I want a moral president? Yes. Do I want someone who does a great job at pretending to be both religious and moral as president? Of course not. Do I care to know whether as president, a candidate will pray in a certain way, or to a certain God? Not at all.