Does Donald Trump Believe In God?

Amanda Marcotte thinks Donald Trump is an atheist.

If there were only some way to prove it, I would happily bet everything I own that Donald Trump does not believe in God. Not because he’s carefully engaged the many philosophical proofs for atheism that are out there, of course. He’s simply too much of a sociopathic narcissist to believe in anything higher than himself.

I disagree. Marcotte is a Texan. In her part of the country, religion generally means zealotry. I’m from the urban Northeast, like Trump. Also, I’m much older than Marcotte, though not quite as old as Trump.

Trump and I grew up in an era before the Religious Right existed. We grew up in environments where there were no angry white Evangelicals. There was certainly religious conservatism, but we grew up with what I think of as Bing Crosby religion, where there might be guilt about sin, but much of the God talk referred to him as “the Man Upstairs,” or with some similar epithet that suggested he was a kindly old bearded paterfamilias who wasn’t much of a day-to-day presence, and who just wanted to keep everyone on the straight and narrow, more or less. I don’t imagine Trump ever gives it much thought, but I think he still believes in that God — with some adjustments, because he’s Trump.

He also, as recent court verdicts regarding sexual assault and massive fraud demonstrate, has no moral compass.

Where Trump and I come from, it’s very common for Mob bosses to be big patrons of the Catholic Church. I think few if any of those Mob bosses have been cynical atheists. I think they’ve been believers — and they think the God they believe in regards them as good people. (Look at that beautiful new altar! I paid for that!) I think Trump feels this way, too. I think he believes in a God who admires him and will gladly let him into Heaven.

When he play-acts belief in public, he struggles to hide his scorn, failing to acknowledge basic precepts of Christianity that even most non-believers understand.

I went to Marcotte’s link for the phrase “failing to acknowledge basic precepts of Christianity.” It’s a Washington Post story from the 2016 campaign, and it illustrates what I’m talking about:

For at least the third time since he became a candidate for president, Donald Trump was asked whether he seeks God’s forgiveness. The first two times he said no, but in an interview published Wednesday his answer was a bit vaguer.

Here is the exchange, which ran on the blog of Cal Thomas, a syndicated columnist and conservative Christian leader:

Thomas: “You have said you never felt the need to ask for God’s forgiveness, and yet repentance for one’s sins is a precondition to salvation. I ask you the question Jesus asked of Peter: Who do you say He is?”

Trump: “I will be asking for forgiveness, but hopefully I won’t have to be asking for much forgiveness.”

Thomas: “Who do you say Jesus is?”

Trump: “Jesus to me is somebody I can think about for security and confidence. Somebody I can revere in terms of bravery and in terms of courage and, because I consider the Christian religion so important, somebody I can totally rely on in my own mind.”

There it is: Trump, in his first two responses to a question about God’s forgiveness, said he didn’t need any. God likes me! God thinks I’m a good person! In this interview, he qualified that answer — presumably because advisers had told him it played poorly with Religious Right voters — but he didn’t imagine he’d need “much forgiveness.” As for Jesus, he’s a powerful figure, but Trump feels he can rely on using that power for his own ends (“somebody I can think about for security and confidence … somebody I can totally rely on in my own mind”).

What Trump says about Jesus sounds similar to statements he’s made about Kim Jong Un or Vladimir Putin — which leads us to this from Marcotte:

Much of the press continues to treat it like a mystery as to why Trump and Republicans keep making googly eyes at Russian President Vladimir Putin….

Trump’s Christian nationalism, however, unlocks why this is not a mystery at all. Putin’s Russia is a model of the Christian dictatorship that MAGA Republicans want. Even though he’s a murderous authoritarian, Putin frequently portrays himself as a devoted Christian whose violent and oppressive ways are in service of “protecting” his faith. Like his allies in the U.S., however, Putin’s Christianity is not about love and compassion. He regularly murders his critics, and of course, is currently inflicting mass death on Ukrainians. Putin’s Christianity is defined by who he hates: Feminists, LGBTQ people, Ukrainians, and anyone perceived as liberal or open-minded.

I think Putin’s extremely cynical embrace of Christianity — he’s probably an atheist — helps explain why many other Republicans have warmed to him. But I lean toward the belief that Trump has been working with the Russians since the 1980s. He likes strongmen. He feels stronger when he’s associating with thugs.

In Trump’s mind, I think Jesus is a strongman: “somebody I can think about for security and confidence. Somebody I can revere in terms of bravery and in terms of courage.”

Trump grew up hearing about a God who wasn’t particularly demanding. Some of us who grew up with this God worried that we’d be damned to Hell for some of the things we did (and then some of us got older and stopped believing). Trump, I’m guessing, is one of those people who never thought that God would punish him — he’s a good guy! But he can imagine a God who protects him and punishes his enemies — which is what a real tough guy should do.

Republished with permission from No More Mister Nice Blog.

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