From Spielberg’s Lincoln to Fox News to Stephen Mansfield’s book Lincoln’s Battle with God, our 16th president is stirring up more conversation on atheism than when he was considered to be the village atheist.
Fox News of course has jumped on the angle from atheism to faith, as always catering to their base. They interviewed Stephen Mansfield and I’m surprised there wasn’t a comments section below which is disappointing. In contrast, The Huffington Post ran an entire article by Mansfield on Lincoln’s atheism and beliefs in god during the civil war and they allowed for comments. What you get below the article is a nice back and forth debate by readers.
I don’t think anyone is disputing that Lincoln believed in god or invoked god during his presidency. The question is more what kind of god we are talking about? Mansfield does say after wrestling with his faith over the course of many years Lincoln did embrace Christianity. Lincoln is quoted about visiting the Holy Land and plans to go abroad to “…see those places hallowed by the footsteps of the Savior.” The key word being savior which would be more telling than just “Jesus” or “Christ.” “Savior” is a recognition of Christ as one who brings salvation.
Others have suggested that Lincoln embraced the Christian faith for political reasons in order to rally the denominations of The North. After all, most abolitionists tied their anti-slavery beliefs with their religous beliefs. Faith or Politics? It may be a bit of both–honest faith and the need for expediency in war–but it does seem evident that Lincoln had a mental or spiritual (if you like) journey from disbelief to belief and turned to Christianity after the pain of losing his son Eddie.
What I find surprising, though, in the comments is that both Christians and atheists think that conversion one way or another has any bearing on actual truth. Yes, numerous Christians were atheists once and, yes, numerous atheists were Christians once. We all seem to like our testimonies (myself included as I was once a Christian). But truth itself is found in the debate, not in the conversion. People can convert to a host of different beliefs and even nonbelief for the wrong reasons, be it emotional or be it because of a logical argument that turns up to be fallicious.
I like seeing the debate though. The more conversation the better.