How Conservatives Learned To Discard Their Morality And Love Donald Trump

In the age of Trump, morality is optional for conservatives.

In the Trump Era, Republicans in general and religious conservatives in particular suddenly find that they don’t care so much about the idea of the President as a moral as well as a political leader:

Twenty-two percent of Republicans think Donald Trump provides somewhat or very weak moral leadership as President, according to a Gallup poll released Tuesday. Fifty-nine percent of Americans say the same, with 60% of independents and 91% of Democrats agreeing.

When asked if they think it is important for the President to provide moral leadership for the country, Democrats were the most likely to say it was important (77%). Only 63% of Republicans and 62% of independents agreed.

Those numbers have changed substantially since the Clinton administration.

Between 1994-1999, 86% of Republicans thought it was important for the President to provide moral leadership, with a 23-point decrease to 63% in 2018. Democrats have increased by 13 points, with only 64% agreeing with the significance of moral leadership during the Clinton era versus 77% during Trump’s presidency.

Both President Clinton and President Trump have faced scandals during their tenure, in office and during campaigns, with the partisan switch reflecting that Republicans now view morality as a less important issue. It was Democrats who were more ambivalent during Clinton’s administration.

During the 2000 Republican National Convention, George W. Bush cited the Monica Lewinsky scandal and promised the restoration of honor and dignity to the White House, a rallying message for conservative voters. Now, 77% of Republicans consider the President to be “morally strong.” That is comparable to when Clinton was elected in 1996, with 78% of Democrats saying the same. However, when he was impeached in 1998, the number of Democrats who said Clinton was morally strong dropped 32-points. Despite this drop for Clinton on morality, his overall approval rating held strong among Democrats.

More details from Gallup:

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Republicans are much less likely now than they were during the Bill Clinton years to say it is very important for the president to provide moral leadership for the U.S. Democrats, on the other hand, are more likely to believe moral leadership is important now, with Donald Trump in office, than they were under Clinton.

Across four polls conducted during the Clinton administration, an average of 72% of U.S. adults said it was very important for the president to provide moral leadership for the country. A May 1-10 update of the question finds 66% of Americans holding that view.

The modest change at the national level obscures more significant shifts among partisans — a 23-percentage-point decline among Republicans and a 13-point increase among Democrats.

Both Clinton, a Democrat, and Trump, a Republican, faced substantial controversy during their presidential campaigns, and it followed them after they were elected president. It appears that some partisans may discount the importance of the president providing moral leadership when a sitting president from their own party is under scrutiny. At the same time, some supporters of the opposition party may magnify the importance of moral leadership when this is a weak area for the incumbent.

This turning of the tables is evident in the flip in Republican and Democratic views about the importance of the president providing a good moral role model between the Clinton and Trump eras. Republicans, by 22 points, were much more likely than Democrats to say it was very important for the president to be a moral leader when Clinton was in office. Now with Trump in office, Democrats are more likely than Republicans to hold this view, by 14 points.

Independents are slightly less likely now (62%) than during the Clinton years (69%) to regard presidential leadership on morals as important.

By 59% to 40%, Americans believe Trump provides weak rather than strong moral leadership. Republicans and Democrats diverge greatly on this question, with 77% of Republicans believing Trump provides strong moral leadership and 91% of Democrats saying he provides weak leadership. Seventy-eight percent of Democrats believe his moral leadership is “very weak.” Independents are much more negative than positive about Trump’s leadership on morals.

The data that the poll gathered can be seen first in this chart, which compares the numbers for President Clinton during the height of the Lewinsky scandal to those of President Trump today:

While this chart shows the breakdown of public opinion regarding President Trump today:

The fact that Republicans and Democrats hold strongly different opinions about the President is, of course, not really much of a surprise. That’s generally always the case regardless of who the President happens to be that the members of his own party are strong supporters and most likely to forgive transgressions while those who oppose him are most like to hold those transgressions against him. Outside of the question regarding morals and moral leadership, you can also see it in the fact that Democrats overwhelmingly disapprove of the President’s job performance while Republicans overwhelmingly approve of his job performance. To some degree then, the response to this survey is arguably just another reflection of the partisanship that polling typically reveals with regard to a President during the time they’re in office.

Even taking all of that into account, though, the extent to which Republicans in general, and religious conservatives in particular, have been willing to look the other way when it comes to this President’s obvious moral failings, the behavior he engaged in before becoming a candidate, the way he behaved as a candidate, and the way he acted as a candidate. They stayed faithful to him through the Access Hollywood tape and the revelations by nearly two dozen women who say that Trump had sexually harassed or even assaulted them in the past. They stayed faithful when he made despicable comments on the campaign trail about Mexicans and Muslimsdisabled people, women such as Megyn Kelly and Carly Fiorina and when he encouraged his supporters to engage in violence against counter-demonstrators. They remained faithful when he referred to participants in a racist rally in Charlottesville that resulted in the death of a counter-protester as “very fine people.”  And, finally, they remained faithful when it was revealed that Trump had affairs with a Playboy model and a porn star while his wife was pregnant with his fifth son. These are the same people who had condemned Bill Clinton from virtually the day he entered the race for President in 1992, and especially when it was revealed that he had been involved in a consensual relationship with a White House intern while President.

While all of this was going on, leaders of the religious conservative movement have bent over backward to defend Trump and to justify their own seeming hypocrisy with some of the most obsequious comments that ever been uttered about this President.

One prominent example of this can be seen in the person of Franklin Graham, the son of the late Rev. Billy Graham who has largely ignored his father’s practice of refraining from being overtly partisan in either direction who once said that God himself and put Trump in office, Rather than condemning President Trump, Graham has said that his affair with adult film star Stormy Daniels is “nobody’s business.”  This is the same person who questioned former President Obama’s Christianity and in 1998 said that “Clinton’s sins aren’t private.” At that time, Graham wrote “If he will lie to or mislead his wife and daughter, those with whom he is most intimate, what will prevent him from doing the same to the American public?”” Indeed.

Another prominent evangelical supporter of the President is Jerry Falwell, Jr., the son of the founder of the so-called “Moral Majority” who has taken over his father’s role at his church in Lynchburg, Virginia and as the head of Liberty University, the school that the elder Falwell founded in 1971 but which really began talking off in the 1980s as the elder Falwell sought to expand his influence. While Trump was a candidate, Falwell invited Trump to speak to Liberty University students in what was essentially a mandatory must-attend event. Shortly after this Falwell became among the first leaders on the religious right to endorse Trump’s candidacy. During the campaign, he was among one of the President’s most vocal supporters on the religious right, and that has continued throughout Trump’s campaign and his Presidency notwithstanding everything that we’ve learned about him. Like Graham, in the past Falwell Jr. questioned President Obama’s Christianity and joined in the attacks on Bill Clinton. With Trump, though, he sings a far different tune and even defended him in the wake of the President’s remarks after the Charlottesville incident. He’s also said that Trump is “the Churchillian figure we need.”

As a final example. we have Tony Perkins, the head of the Family Research Council. who said that the President should get a “mulligan” for his affair with Stormy Daniels. During President Obama’s time in office, Perkins repeatedly attacked the President not only on policy matters but also in other ways. Like Graham, for example, he openly questioned the former President’s Christianity  and said that the former President “seems to be advancing the idea of the Islamic religion.” Additionally, as with Graham, Perkins was among the harshest critics of Bill Clinton in the 1990s.

In the light of all this, it’s not surprising that religious conservatives have largely remained silent about Trump’s many obvious moral failings and remain strongly supportive of his Presidency despite the fact that we all know they’d be jumping all over these stories if they had been about a Democratic President. Much like that faction of the Republican Party whose only concerns going into the 2016 Presidential campaign were electing a President who would sign whatever legislation a Republican Congress would pass on issues such as health care reform, regulatory reform, and tax reform, they have largely sold their souls and compromised their supposed faith to get what they want. In the case of the so-called religious right, that has taken the form of things such as the changes Trump has made to regulatory policy regarding abortion, the rights of transgender Americans, and, of course, the appointment of Judges to the nations District Courts and Circuit Courts of Appeal and, ultimately, the Supreme Court.

Michael Gerson made an excellent point about all of this back in March:

There is something else at work here than weary realism — something that Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council recently clarified. Conservatives, he said, “were tired of being kicked around by Barack Obama and his leftists. And I think they are finally glad that there’s somebody on the playground that is willing to punch the bully.” In this explanation, Trump’s approach to public discourse is actually the main selling point. His bullying — his cruelty, crudity and personal insults — is admired because it is directed at other bullies.

his is, perhaps, politically and psychologically understandable. But it has absolutely nothing to do with the Sermon on the Mount. Nothing to do with any recognizable version of Christian ethics. The very thing that should repel evangelicals — Trump’s dehumanization of others — is what seems to fascinate and attract some conservative Christians. It is yet another example of discrediting hypocrisy.

The Trump evangelicals are best understood as conservative political operatives, seeking benefits for their interest group from politicians who are most likely to provide them. So how good is the quality of their political advice?

Not particularly good. Identifying evangelicalism with Trump’s ethno-populism may have some short-term benefits. But public influence eventually depends on the persuasiveness of public arguments. And close ties to Trump will eventually be disastrous to causes that evangelicals care about. Pro-life arguments are discredited by an association with misogyny. Arguments for religious liberty are discredited by association with anti-Muslim bias. Arguments for family values are discredited by nativist disdain for migrant families.

None of this is surprising, of course, in fact it’s something that the late Senator Barry Goldwater, who was once labeled “Mr. Conservative” and today would likely be denounced as a ‘Republican In Name Only,’ foresaw some thirty years ago:

“Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them…

There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs. There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls this supreme being. But like any powerful weapon, the use of God’s name on one’s behalf should be used sparingly. The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent. If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both. I’m frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in ‘A,’ ‘B,’ ‘C,’ and ‘D.’ Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me? And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of ‘conservatism.'”

Goldwater, of course, was reacting to what at the time was the rise of the so-called “religious right,” and most prominently took them on when Jerry Falwell Sr. came out against the nomination of Sandra Day O’Connor, saying that Christians should oppose O’Connor. In response, Goldwater was reported as saying “I think every good Christian ought to kick Jerry Falwell in the ass.” His words, of course, were prescient. Since the 1990s, we have seen the consequences of the religious right takeover of the GOP, and those chickens have come home to roost in the form of Donald Trump. That they’ve been willing to sacrifice their supposed morality for political gain should not be surprising. As long as they get what they want, they obviously don’t care what the President does.




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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. pylon says:

    I agree with your post. But I came to comment on the photo. I’ve seen it so many times but this is the first time I’ve noticed that it has to be photo shopped. People are the wrong size, looking the wrong direction in lots of cases, and there are arms and hands coming out of nowhere, and some people have three or four arms, or arms growing from impossible angles.

  2. MarkedMan says:

    Doug, with all due respect, your post is suffering from a fundamental problem. “Conservatives” haven’t really changed. You are confusing actual conservatives with people who call themselves conservative. People call themselves all kind of things, but that doesn’t make it so. Rather than wonder why conservatives became hypocrites I think it is much more useful to identify what group Repubs and Trump-adjacent Dems and Indies fall into. If it is to be useful it must be predictive, i.e. that by looking at the values of this group you can predict how they will react. Here’s what I said in a previous post “

    If instead of “conservatives” you substitute “people who get angry when dark skinned people get above their station”, it makes perfect sense and is logically consistent. If you use this construct it has real predictive value. Sure, these types of people have for the most part decided to call themselves conservatives, but people adapt labels for all kinds of reasons that have nothing to do with reality.

    I would probably add Mooslims and The Poors to that, but I think it holds up pretty well. Bottom line, if you accept Trump supports self identification as conservatives, you will find almost no correlation with actual conservative policies. But if you take the identification as what I outlined above, it is amazingly accurate in predicting how the 46% will react.

  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    It is impossible to discard what one never had. That being said, I will now go read the post.

  4. teve tory says:

    Most of my life has been spent in North Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina, with brief stints in Texas, Indiana, and Washington.

    I never thought conservatives were especially moral, or even fact-based. Liberals have problems too, but conservatives…whoo boy.

    Back in 1988 I had Bush/Quayle bumper stickers. At some point my understanding of science permanently separated me from those idiots. If you’re denying evolution and global warming, you got problems. Global Warming’s only been known for 120 years, and evolution longer than that.

  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I always find discussions about morality to be particularly slippery. 6 people can have a discussion about it and none of them will agree on what it means to be moral. They may agree on certain points but they will never come to an agreement on the totality. Evangelicals by and large consider homosexuality a sin of the gravest sort, I find discrimination based on what one does behind closed doors to be abhorrent. We could probably agree that murder is just plain flat out wrong but probably never agree on what is actual murder.

    Any discussion of morality is really about values and the Christian Right has shown thru their actions since the rise of trump that the only thing they value is power over those they consider “less”, as in less human. Viewed in that light their hypocrisy makes perfect sense.

  6. Kathy says:

    I find it odd how discussions of morality almost always boil down to sexual morality. That’s part of it, but not the whole part and not even the most important part. Far more important are things like integrity, honesty, grit, civility and much more.

    I really don’t care if the Orange Clown had affairs or with whom, or even whether he paid women in exchange for silence. Or whether Clinton had affairs, or Kennedy did, or anyone else, either. It’s distasteful, and it can be very wrong (it varies), but it’s a side issue that doesn’t affect people’s abilities or skills in other matters.

    Speaking of more important aspects of morality, Cheeto Benito is a crook, a liar, and a racist bully with authoritarian tendencies. That’s what I find most troublesome, quite aside from the fact he’s totally unqualified for the job he holds. Additionally he also demeans and abuses women.

    He should be locked up somewhere, or ignored by most people. The fact that he isn’t tells me that his supporters find all these various moral failings to be virtues.

  7. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Conservatism has a lot to offer this nation.
    Republicanism, very little if anything.
    Boehner just this morning:

    “There is no Republican Party. There’s a Trump party. The Republican Party is kinda taking a nap somewhere,”

    Do us all a favor and make it a dirt nap….
    We have not operated under any Conservative values for 3 decades. Reagan blew up the deficit, expanded Government, cut and ran in the face of danger, and sold arms to our enemies. George H. W. tried to right the ship. Then George W. just threw it all away again; squandered a surplus, blew up the deficit, and pursued a war of choice…undoubtedly the biggest foreign policy blunder in our history.
    Obama was the most Conservative President in recent history…yes, more than Reagan or any of them.
    The most appalling thing to me is the way the religious zealots have thrown away every principle they claimed to stand for. I’m an atheist…but it’s still disturbing to see old white guys whore themselves out.

  8. michael reynolds says:

    White evangelicals are exactly what liberals have been claiming they were: nasty hypocrites who use a pretense of morality to bludgeon anyone they don’t like – gays, women, Muslims, black and brown people.

    I have long insisted that very, very few people who claim to believe in God actually do. And virtually no one is remotely interested in following the teachings of Christ. The most moral ‘religious’ group are probably atheists – we behave ourselves without threat of hell or promise of heaven, neither stick nor carrot.

    The one good thing to come out of Trump’s rise is the unmasking of these people. They only needed his ‘permission’ to out themselves and now the fools think they’ve triumphed. In reality what they’ve done is dealt a far heavier blow against Christianity than we godless folk have ever been able to inflict. Their lies are exposed, their moral high horse is dead beneath them, and when Trump falls, so will they.

  9. Modulo Myself says:

    At its best, Evangelical Christianity was simply small-town common sense c. 1960, before therapy, civil rights, gay rights, and feminism. It wasn’t god or the Bible, just how you managed if you married the first person you slept with because you had to, i.e you had a baby on the way. Basically, a terrible way to live that’s been rolled back and exposed. The best way to have family values is to explore the world, sleep with people, and learn about yourself, and then decide if you want to have a family. It’s not Jesus telling you about the magic of motherhood and how important fathers are.

  10. CSK says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I’v always thought religion was invented as a form of crowd control.

  11. Hal_10000 says:

    This is one of those things that just baffles me. I can understand supporting Trump because you think the Democrats will ruin the country. I can understand supporting him because you hated Obama. I can understand supporting him because of his populist schtick or you think the Iran deal was horrible or whatever.

    But I can not understand how you can say this man is “morally strong”. Of the seven deadly sins, Trump revels in ALL of them. I don’t mean in stories in the “fake news”. I mean he boasts about them. He brags about infidelity, groping women and ripping off contractors. He speaks in nothing but range and envy. He’s one of the most narcissistic people in existence, literally plastering his name on everything he touches. And humility? Trump is mathematically the biggest whiner in human history.

    Boy does politics poison the heart.

  12. An Interested Party says:

    He’s also said that Trump is “the Churchillian figure we need.”

    Wow…Jerry Falwell Jr. really is full of $hit…

    Conservatives, he said, “were tired of being kicked around by Barack Obama and his leftists.”

    Aww…such weak snowflakes…who knew Obama was such a bully…

  13. Steve V says:

    @Hal_10000: Remember when they used to count the number of times Obama said “I” in a speech? We aren’t hearing any complaints about narcissism now. Did any Trump fans even complain about the Memorial Day tweet? That HAD to have bothered someone?

  14. MBunge says:

    Here’s another crazy idea but bear with me. His supporters might care a little bit more about Trump’s morality if, you know, the alternative they had been offered up wasn’t the potentially-rape-and-harassment-enabling Hillary Clinton, who spent a good deal of the 2016 campaign under criminal investigation, and they might take seriously all these appeals to their sense of morality if people hadn’t been wildly cheering when an accused rapist took the stage at the Democratic National Convention. And, of course, if the media hadn’t spent the last 20 years laughing at Trump’s supporters for thinking morality mattered in politics, that might have helped a little.

    I’m sure Trump’s supporters would also have taken his moral shortcomings more seriously if the GOP hadn’t spent the last few decades advancing extreme rhetoric and campaign promises WHICH THEY NEVER INTENDED TO FULFILL.

    Real Clear Politics has Donald Trump’s average approval rating at 44%, which is in the same ballpark as Barack Obama’s average approval rating in 2014 and 2015. They also have Democrats with an average advantage on the generic Congressional ballot of 3.7%, the lowest it’s been since April 2017.

    Whatever it is you think you’re doing, does it seem to be working?


  15. gVOR08 says:

    I see several commenters beat me to this thought, but – Conservatives had morality? Who knew?

    So in response to Trump 23% of Republicans have decided they don’t need moral leadership from the prez after all. Yet 77% of Republicans profess to believe Trump is providing “strong” moral leadership. The workings of the conservative mind are wondrous to behold.

  16. gVOR08 says:

    Tuesday Friedman had a column in NYT Sounding Code Red: Electing the Trump Resistance He concludes that it’s necessary to vote for Dems across the board for the House and Senate.

    Because what we’ve learned since 2016 is that the worst Democrat on the ballot for the House or Senate is preferable to the best Republican, because the best Republicans have consistently refused to take a moral stand against Trump’s undermining of our law enforcement and intelligence agencies, the State Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Civil Service, the basic norms of our public life and the integrity of our elections.

    These Republicans have made the craven choice to stand with Trump as long as he delivers the policies they like on tax cuts, gun control, fossil fuels, abortion and immigration, even though many privately detest him.

    Nice to have him on board, But while the mustache may understand, it seems more than a little slow. Trump’s been in office for almost three Friedman Units, seems like he should have been able to reach this conclusion a little sooner.

    Edit: Dang, still in the habit of adding links in Preview.

  17. george says:


    One point in favor of your interpretation is that conservative means something very different in America than in the rest of the world. For instance, in Canada most conservatives are happy with public health care (they’ve had many chances to get rid of it over the last fifty years and refuse to even consider doing so), won’t bring up abortion when in power, even if the leader is personally against it (they separate religious feelings from gov’t), are big on limiting spending on the military, and almost all of them believe in evolution (and most in climate change, though there are some who argue that while its happening, its not completely driven by anthropogenic sources).

    And look at the rest of the world. Merkel is a German conservative, and well to the left of most of the Democratic party in America (in fact she’s a Christian Democrat – interesting comparison with American conservative Christians). The same can be done with conservative parties in Japan, Australia, and most of Europe.

    In America the GOP took on the label of being conservative, but they’re nothing like most conservatives in western nations. From there its pretty easy to argue that whatever they are, its not conservative. Perhaps reactionaries is a better term? Its certainly confusing to go between reading about American conservatives and Canadian or European conservatives – the same word is applied to very different political beliefs. You always have to remember to do the context switch.

  18. gVOR08 says:

    @michael reynolds:

    The most moral ‘religious’ group are probably atheists – we behave ourselves without threat of hell or promise of heaven, neither stick nor carrot.

    I’ve long said, “How can you trust a man who won’t behave decently without the threat of eternal hellfire?”

  19. CSK says:

    @Steve V:

    As far as I can tell, all the Trump fans thought his Memorial Day tweet was just swell. MAGA!

  20. Elliott says:

    Why don’t you just go ahead and join the democrat party and come out of the closet?

  21. grumpy realist says:

    @CSK: Religion is a way of fleecing money and power from The People while keeping them from rebelling.

    I suspect that “God’s Authority” is nothing more than a common conspiracy invented by the priests to keep the hoi polloi from realizing we don’t have to listen to them.

    (Then there’s my set of deities…..praying is the last thing I would do—don’t want to attract their attention. At all.)

  22. grumpy realist says:

    @MBunge: So you’re willing to support a rapist while you sneer at a woman who hasn’t raped anyone but who has kept her marriage vows and stayed married to someone who has been accused of rape.

    Yeah, that’s your level of ethical calculation.

  23. Charon says:


    I’v always thought religion was invented as a form of crowd control.

    Which is exactly what you see from the history of how many religions developed. Religious doctrine was often tinkered with in accordance with the goals of the ruler or PTB.

  24. KM says:


    been offered up wasn’t the potentially-rape-and-harassment-enabling Hillary Clinton

    Didn’t bother reading past this. So your solution to someone that you believe has these horrid qualities is to elect someone who didn’t “enable” but actually DID the things your think were horrid? That’s like saying So-n-so’s an attempted murderer so let’s elect the serial killer instead!

    Bull. Shit. Trump has never hidden who he was and perversion was something he bragged about for decades. There’s no damn way you can justify ignoring “an enabler” in favor of the actual guilty party and call it good. That’s not how it works in any moral or legal system on Earth. You can’t admit you simply identify more with the scumbag and need to pretend he was somehow more moral then “that nasty woman.”

    Besides, shouldn’t you be hating on Melenia for the same reasons as you hate Hillary? We know for a fact her husband was out perving and harassing so why aren’t you castigating her enabling self? Funny how one First Lady gets a pass for something you hold against another decades later…..

  25. Kathy says:

    Religion goes back to our pre-human ancestors (let’s blame them!)

    Sticking to historical sources with some written records, though, and limiting ourselves to the Mediterranean region (the cradle of Western civilization), it’s plain to see religion has changed a hell of a lot from its origins.

    In essence the ancient pagan religions, including the big three of Egypt, Greece and Rome, were the means by which people secured the favor of the gods, largely through offerings and sacrifices.

    The sacrifices, where practiced, involved killing and cooking an animal. The meat was shared among various participants (the poor probably ate meat mostly at temples and religious festivals).

    Offerings is where it gets more familiar. In Rome and Greece these consisted mostly of gold, silver and jewels given to the temple of a god. In Egypt it was more complicated, as offerings included mummified animals (which were not cooked), usually the animal associated to a particular god (cats for Bastet, falcons for Horus, etc.), but also treasure and, crucially, land. At one point, the god Amun Ra owned most of the land in Egypt, meaning the priests of Amun controlled the vast tracts (speaking here of the good, agricultural lands along the Nile, not the desert).

    Religion could be associated with government rather strongly, too. In Egypt the pharaoh was divine, and the head of all priests. Rome had the figure of head priest, too, though he was an elected official called Pontifex Maximus. In time the office was absorbed by the emperor, becoming one of their many titles.

    But what did the priests deliver?

    It’s hard to say, as thanking this or that god for this or that victory, good harvest, good hunt, election, marriage, etc. was a convention, whether it was believed or not. But religious feelings ran quite high.

    When Hadrian put down a rebellion in Judea, he expelled the Hebrews from Jerusalem and changed the city’s name to Aelia Capitolina. This wasn’t, as it might seem, antisemitism, but rather the proof offered by Hadrian to the Hebrews that their god had abandoned them, ergo he allowed Hadrian to show them such disfavor.

    But the ancients were far more tolerant, too. It was tacitly accepted that different people had different gods, or that the gods were portrayed differently by others (names, shapes, species, etc). So it was common for travelers to worship the gods of the places they traveled to, for example. But also to bring their gods along with them. Rome wound up adopting a host of “foreign” gods to their pantheon.

    There wasn’t a religious ideology, in other words, even though religion was a powerful political force. There wasn’t much of a religious morality, either. Some things offended the gods, but mostly these were acts against the gods, like desecrating a temple. The supremacy of religious morality and ideology, along with the use and abuse of power, had to wait for Christianity to become dominant.

  26. gVOR08 says:

    Man needed religion. If your kid asked, “Why does it rain?” you had no answer except, “God makes it rain.” Once you could explain, “Well water evaporates…” you no longer needed god as much. Hence Nietzsche’s “God is dead.” and concern about where morality would come from without god. But they still couldn’t answer Bill Cosby’s question, “Why is there air?” Now we can, “This is going to take awhile, but long ago and far away a star exploded and…” As Steven Hawking said “One can’t prove that God doesn’t exist. But science makes God unnecessary. … The laws of physics can explain the universe without the need for a creator.” We’d best be learning how to live without god.

  27. TM01 says:

    Shorter: Everyone who disagrees with me is RAAAACIST!

    You are one reason Why Trump.

    People are sick of your insulting, condescending bull crap.

    You leftist fsckers hated Condi Rice. Still hate Clarence Thomas for moving up above his “station.”

    You and your projection can FRAK off.

  28. An Interested Party says:

    Still hate Clarence Thomas for moving up above his “station.”

    Actually Clarence Thomas is repulsive because he probably sexually harassed Anita Hill among who knows how many other woman and he, much like evangelicals who support the Orange Blob, is a raging hypocrite, having benefited from programs that he later wanted to destroy…

  29. Sleeping Dog says:

    @michael reynolds:

    …very few people who claim to believe in God actually do.

    They’re just hedging their bets.

  30. Mike Schilling says:

    “I think every good Christian ought to kick Jerry Falwell in the ass.”

    That was true then and even truer now.