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HARRY S. TRUMAN
[Library of Congress]
33rd President (1945-1953), 34th Vice President (1945)
Education: University of Kansas City Law School
Political Affiliation: Democrat
Organizational Affiliation(s): Mason
Religious Affiliation: Baptist
Summary of Religious Views:
Views on Religion & Politics:
"The United States has been a deeply religious Nation from its earliest beginnings. The need which the founders of our country felt--the need to be free to worship God, each man in his own way--was one of the strongest impulses that brought men from Europe to the New World. As the pioneers carved a civilization from the forest, they set a pattern which has lasted to our time. First, they built homes and then, knowing the need for religion in their daily lives, they built churches. When the United States was established, its coins bore witness to the American faith in a benevolent deity. The motto then was "In God We Trust." That is still our motto and we, as a people, still place our firm trust in God.
"Building on this foundation of faith, the United States has grown from a small country in the wilderness to a position of great strength and great responsibility among the family of nations. Other countries look today to the United States for leadership in the ways of peace, and it is our task to meet that challenge.
"I am convinced that we are strong enough to meet the challenge. We are strong enough because we have a profound religious faith. The basic source of our strength as a nation is spiritual. We believe in the dignity of man. We believe that he is created in the image of God, who is the Father of us all.
"It is this faith that makes us determined that every citizen in our own land shall have an equal right and an equal opportunity to grow in wisdom and in stature, and to play his part in the affairs of our Nation.
"It is this faith that makes us respect the right of men everywhere to worship as they please and to live their own lives free from the fear of tyranny and strife.
"It is this faith that inspires us to work for a world in which life will be more worthwhile--a world of tolerance, unselfishness, and brotherhood--a world that lives according to the precepts of the Sermon on the Mount.
"I believe that every problem in the world today could be solved if men would only live by the principles of the ancient prophets and the Sermon on the Mount.
"Each one of us can do his part by a renewed devotion to his religion. If there is any danger to the religious life of our Nation, it lies in our taking our religious heritage too much for granted. Religion is not a static thing. It exists not in buildings, but in the minds and hearts of our people.
"Religion is like freedom. We cannot take it for granted. Man--to be free--must work at it. And man--to be truly religious--must work at that, too. Unless men live by their faith, and practice that faith in their daily lives, religion cannot be a living force in the world today.
"That is why each of us has a duty to participate-actively-in the religious life of his community and to support generously his own religious institutions.
"Just as an active faith sustained and guided the pioneers in conquering the wilderness, so today an active faith will sustain and guide us as we work for a just peace, freedom for all, and a world where human life is truly held sacred.
"Religious faith and religious work must be our reliance as we strive to fulfill our destiny in the world." -- Radio Address as Part of the Program 'Religion in American Life', 30 October 1949
"It is only the people of religious faith throughout the world who have the power to overcome the force of tyranny. It is in their beliefs that the path can be found to justice and freedom. Their religious concepts are the only sure foundation of the democratic ideal." -- Address at a Luncheon of the National Conference of Christians and Jews, 11 November 1949
"You will see, as you make your rounds, that this Nation was established by men who believed in God. You will see that our Founding Fathers believed that God created this Nation. And I believe it, too. They believed that God was our strength in time of peril and the source of all our blessings.
"You will see the evidence of this deep religious faith on every hand.
"If we go back to the Declaration of Independence, we notice that it was drawn up by men who believed that God the Creator had made all men equal and had given them certain rights which no man could take away from them. In beginning their great enterprise, the signers of the Declaration of Independence entrusted themselves to the protection of divine providence.
"To our forefathers it seemed something of a miracle that this Nation was able to go through the agonies of the American Revolution and emerge triumphant. They saw, in our successful struggle for independence, the working of God's hand. In his first inaugural address, George Washington said, "No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the affairs of men, more than the people of the United States."
"Another fact which you will notice in the course of your pilgrimage is that the makers of our Constitution believed in religious toleration. Theirs was the highest type of religion, forbidding the use of coercion or force in matters of mind and spirit. Religious freedom was a part of their religious faith. And they received that from Roger Williams, a Baptist, from William Penn, a Quaker, and from Lord Baltimore, a Catholic. That's the reason for our constitutional approach to religious freedom." -- Address to the Washington Pilgrimage of American Churchmen, 28 September 1951
"We have gone a long way toward civilization and religious tolerance, and we have a good example in this country. Here the many Protestant denominations, the Catholic Church and the Greek Orthodox Church do not seek to destroy one another in physical violence just because they do not interpret every verse of the Bible in exactly the same way. Here we now have the freedom of all religions, and I hope that never again will we have a repetition of religious bigotry, as we have had in certain periods of our own history. There is no room for that kind of foolishness here." -- Mr. Citizen, 1960
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