Darn it, there's too much prayer in politics

Huckabee is an extreme case within his party, but the Republican courtship of the religious right and its fear of giving offense to Christian fundamentalists are pervasive. Republican presidential candidates, even relatively moderate ones, run from the subject of evolution as if it were a ticking bomb. And they routinely polish their religious bona fides.

But we should be wary of politicians who are too eager to talk of religion, which is an easy rallying cry and, frequently, a diversion or even a disguise. It can cover up private misdeeds.

It can put a rosy glow on political calculations. Obama, for example, framed his past opposition to gay marriage as a deeply personal matter of faith. But as David Axelrod’s new book, “Believer,” makes clear, it was a deeply expedient matter of evading some voters’ wrath. He more or less supported gay marriage, at least when he was away from the podium, all along.

We should be even warier of politicians and other leaders who wrap policy in dogma, claiming holy guidance. That’s a dangerous road to take. At the far, bitter end of it lie theocracies and brutal extremists.