It amazes me that we have heard or seen so much bull about pastors and churches and religion in this year's races for president.
We've had a so-called and self-proclaimed religious man in the White House for eight years and look where that's taken us.
Ideally, candidates' religious beliefs or lack thereof should have little or no bearing on how their credentials as a presidential contender are evaluated. In the real world, however, that's not the case.
And it seems we've sunken to new lows this year, in part because our obsession with information has overtaken our insistence on relevance and factuality.
While the Internet has opened new worlds to millions of people, far too many are not skeptical enough about the validity of the information they encounter there.
Hardly a day passes without e-mails circulating about bloggers or websites that question whether Barack Obama is really a Christian and hint that he was raised as a Muslim. And, naturally, they gleefully warn that his middle name is Hussein.
Controversial statements by Obama's former longtime pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, led Obama to resign his membership at Trinity United Church of Christ. Now a priest guest-speaking at the same church has been relieved of his duties for criticizing Hillary Clinton.
How did people learn of Wright's remarks after 9/11? They saw it on a video-posting website, YouTube.com, and before long knowledge of it was all over the country. Who cares what somebody's pastor said more than six years ago?
Besides, saying that with 9/11 America's chickens had come home to roost is no different than positing that our foreign policy and interventions in the Middle East were factors in the attacks.
John McCain, figuring he needed the fundamentalist backing that carried Bush to victory four years ago, signed on last winter for endorsements from a couple of evangelical pastors. Then, out of nowhere, sermons from years ago surfaced that showed the Rev. John Hagee and the Rev. Rod Parsley to be racist and sicko ministers who disgraced Christianity.
They were shown to be as strange as Wright, and McCain had to bail on their endorsements.
I don't recall a candidate's religion or church connections carrying so much weight in previous elections. It was taken for granted that candidates were Christian because that's been our culture, but did it matter what church Woodrow Wilson, FDR or Dwight Eisenhower attended _ or did not attend?
In 1960, JFK being a Catholic became an issue because we had never had one in the White House. Presumably, some people were actually concerned that church or papal doctrine would carry more weight than our national interests.
What denomination was Richard Nixon? Obviously, it wasn't a factor, and we would have been better off if he had taken his Christian ethics more seriously.
In 1976, Jimmy Carter being a Southern Baptist may have helped him get elected, but it was not an issue during the campaign. His faith might have affected his presidency, since he was considered too Christ-like in his relations with the Soviets and Iran.
In 2004, however, it was clear that support from conservative Christians put Bush over the top, though such help four years earlier did not.
Obama is convinced he must take the power of the Christian conservatives seriously. Apparently, his campaign has decided it must respond to such comments as those from Rush Limbaugh and Internet evangelist Bill Keller, who have questioned whether the candidate's really a Christian.
Why? Because Obama has the intelligence and enlightened vision to state that there are "many paths to God." How heretical is that?
And now, paranoid as it may seem, Obama operatives have been caught forcing Muslim women out of campaign camera shots.
Overreacting or not, with the thumpers out on the electron trail spreading so many rumors and falsehoods, the campaign has thought it necessary to put up a website, Fight the Smears, just to quash the lies and attacks not only on Barack but also on his wife, Michelle.
Fight the Smears believes it must state, contrary to lies spread on Internet and radio, that Obama is not a Muslim but a ``committed Christian.''
With so many people now getting information and news from the Internet, it is hopeful that 60 percent of users supposedly recognize that misinformation and propaganda are widespread online and that too many voters might be trusting that information.
Remember, anybody can put anything online. Check multiple, credible sources before deciding what is true and what is not.
Religion may be a matter of faith, but it is risky to put too much of it in information gleaned from the Internet.
Cary Brunswick is managing editor of The Daily Star. He can be reached at (607) 432-1000, ext. 217, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.