And I don't care what it is

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"And I don't care what it is" is a phrase attributed to U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower, and often misquoted.[1] 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.[3] 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. With us of course it is the Judeo-Christian concept, but it must be a religion with all men are created equal.[4]

Henry concludes that the "I don't care what it is" line meant that Eisenhower was including other religious possibilities, such as a Buddhist democracy.[5]

Eisenhower at the time was not a church member. Born into a family of Pennsylvania Dutch Mennonites who later became Jehovah's Witnesses, Eisenhower's decision to pursue a military and then a political career put him at odds with the Witnesses' pacifistic and apolitical doctrines and despite being religious did not belong to any congregation during his time in the Army; he became a Presbyterian in 1953, after his first election. He sponsored prayers at cabinet sessions and held prayer breakfasts. But when the local minister boasted that Eisenhower was joining his church the president exploded to his press secretary, "You go and tell that goddam minister that if he gives out one more story about my religious faith I will not join his goddam church!"[6]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Henry (1981) p. 35-38.
  2. ^ Paul A. Djupe and Laura R. Olson, Encyclopedia of American religion and politics (2003) p. 148.
  3. ^ Henry (1981) p 38, 42, 44
  4. ^ Henry (1981) p. 41; Henry gives the slight variations found in three reports of the speech.
  5. ^ Henry (1981) p. 41.
  6. ^ Stephen J. Whitfield (1996). The Culture of the Cold War. Johns Hopkins U.P. p. 88. 

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