This election has brought the rhetoric of public religiosity to the fore, and with a vengeance. Sadly, socially if at least not legally, our candidates seem to be subjected to a religious litmus test by newspapers as well as voters. I'm fine with voters asking these questions in a public forum: you are bound by conscience to vote with your values, and although I feel that religion is only one of many sources of personal morality, if a voter puts a question to a candidate - as happened recently in a forum at Catholic University of America (but more on that later) - concerning the ways in which he reconciles his policy beliefs with his faith, that is not only his perogative, but also an interesting way to understand the thought processes of the candidate.
This post will come in several parts. Part I, this present post, is an introduction to the issues I plan to address. Public religious rhetoric is a broad topic, and in our society, it is a tangled, often contradictory web. Part II will discuss the interesting implications raised by the aforementioned public meeting at CUA. Part III will analyze the deeper rhetorical devices seen in public discussions of morality, as well as the complicated role of religion in electoral politics.