Maybe I am just getting old, but I don’t understand the difference between being “a person of faith” and a “religious person.” Sure, we could come up with definitions to distinguish between these two things, but they’re the same thing. Using HarrisX as their pollster, Deseret News surveyed the nation to find out how people feel about the presidential contenders’ belief systems. And the results are presented in a faith vs. religion way.

For example, more Republicans (64 percent) think Donald Trump is a man of faith than think he is a religious man (47 percent).  Republicans acknowledge that Mike Pence is a more religious (62 percent) than Trump, but they see Pence is less of a man of faith.

It helps a little that HarrisX asks a follow up question about why respondents think various politicians are people of faith/religious. And in that context, it becomes clear that Republicans and Independents agree that Trump “defends people of faith.”

There’s a bipartisan across the board recognition that Trump doesn’t have a strong moral compass and isn’t honest and trustworthy, and only half of Republicans who believe Trump is a person of faith/religious are willing to cite his ethical decision making as proof.

If we try very hard and introduce our own presuppositions, we can begin to tell a coherent story from these survey results. For example, I know Trump doesn’t attend church and isn’t religiously observant in any way. But he has helped push an evangelical Christian political mission to take over the federal courts and overturn Roe v. Wade. So, I can say that he’s not religious but he’s in some way a man of faith.

I would never say that though, because nothing about that makes him a man of faith. At best, he’s an agent or representative of other people who are driven by their faith. An attorney who represents Satanists in court doesn’t thereby become a Satanist. And the same is true of an atheist who does the bidding of religious believers in return for cash, votes, or other considerations.

All the available evidence suggests that Trump is too consumed with himself to have any time or space for God. But his religious supporters either don’t see this or they accept it because Trump is defending them and supporting policies they care about.

And that makes a certain amount of sense.

What stands out for me in this poll isn’t what I can twist and contort into coherence but new depressing evidence that Biden is doing horribly at the most important job he has as a candidate, which is to be better than the other guy on the “cares about people like me” question.

Admittedly, these numbers don’t show what they purport to show. Among Democrats who say Biden is a person of faith/religious, only 39 percent say “cares about people like me” is the reason why. The Democrats are less interested in the religious beliefs of their leaders, which is why they look for behavior.  Democrats think Biden proves his faith and religiosity through honest and ethical decisions informed by a strong moral compass. This is different from thinking he’s making decisions to pander to “people like me.”

But I don’t like seeing Independents giving more credit to Trump than Biden on the question. It suggests that one of Biden’s greatest political skills, which is identifying with normal American voters, isn’t working at the high level needed to win reelection.

But then I haven’t seen a poll on Biden that doesn’t look like an autopsy report. I can’t explain it, but the man just can’t get a positive response on any survey.

And now the Israel/Gaza issue has completely wrecked the cohesion of his political bloc. I don’t know that Humpty Dumpty can recover.

In any case, I don’t think this approach to polling about religion makes sense. Joe Biden is a churchgoing normal average Catholic guy and Donald Trump is a opportunistic nihilist. Biden shouldn’t be losing to this guy, but he is.

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