And I don't care what it is

"And I don't care what it is" is a phrase attributed to U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower, and often misquoted.[1]: 35–38  For example, one encyclopedia says: "Eisenhower once remarked that 'America makes no sense without a deeply held faith in God—and I don't care what it is.'"[2] Some commentators, such as Will Herberg, argued that Eisenhower favored a generic, watered-down religion, or ridiculed Eisenhower's banality.[1]: 38, 42, 44  What Eisenhower actually said, when he was President-elect, was that the American form of government since 1776 was based on Judeo-Christian moral values. Speaking extemporaneously on December 22, 1952, a month before his inauguration, Eisenhower actually said:

And this is how they [the Founding Fathers in 1776] explained those: "we hold that all men are endowed by their Creator..." not by the accident of their birth, not by the color of their skins or by anything else, but "all men are endowed by their Creator". In other words, our form of government has no sense unless it is founded in a deeply felt religious faith, and I don't care what it is. Of course, it is the Judeo-Christian concept, but it must be a religion with all men being created equal.[1]: 41 [a]

In a 1981 article regarding the quote, Professor Patrick Henry concluded that the line meant that Eisenhower included other religious possibilities, such as a Buddhist democracy.[1]: 41 

Eisenhower at the time was not a church member. Born into a family of Pennsylvania Dutch Mennonites, Eisenhower's decision to pursue a military and then a political career put him at odds with the Mennonites' pacifistic traditions. He became a Presbyterian in 1953, after his first election, and sponsored prayers at cabinet sessions and held prayer breakfasts. When the local minister boasted that Eisenhower was joining his church, the president exploded to his press secretary, "You go and tell that goddamn minister that if he gives out one more story about my religious faith I will not join his goddamn church!"[3]

See also edit

Notes edit

  1. ^ Henry gives the slight variations found in three reports of the speech.

References edit

  1. ^ a b c d Henry, Patrick (March 1981). "'And I Don't Care What It Is: The Tradition-History of a Civil Religion Proof-Text". Journal of the American Academy of Religion. Vol. 49, no. 1. pp. 35–47. JSTOR 1462992.
  2. ^ Paul A. Djupe and Laura R. Olson, Encyclopedia of American Religion and Politics (2003), p. 148.
  3. ^ Whitfield, Stephen J. (1996). The Culture of the Cold War. Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 88. ISBN 9780801851957.

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