While official confirmation will be at least several months away, Hillary Clinton made arguably one of the most essential comments for any United States presidential run during an exchange she had with the New York Times Sunday Book Review:
NYT: If you had to name one book that made you who you are today, what would it be?
Clinton: At the risk of appearing predictable, the Bible was and remains the biggest influence on my thinking. I was raised reading it, memorizing passages from it and being guided by it. I still find it a source of wisdom, comfort and encouragement.
In a country where 53% say they would be less likely to vote for an atheist for president, it helps to be religious -- especially Christian -- when one has presidential aspirations. After all, the Bible is America's favorite book. It was also Mitt Romney's favorite book. And George W. Bush's. And every four years, the two main presidential candidates are asked to talk publicly about their alleged faith, which they do.
But is Clinton calling the Bible her most influential book tantamount to a political calculation?
Yes it is.
It would be one thing if Clinton meant that the Bible has been the most influential on her because it's had a profound impact on the course of human history for more than 2,000 years. However, she wasn't talking about the book's cultural and political impact, but rather the influence it's had on her personally as a reader of it.
Because if the book with the biggest influence on Hillary Clinton were truly the Bible, she would never have gotten to where she is. The Bible, however beloved it may be, is not a book conducive to thinking. Rather, the Bible deals in revealed wisdom written by men of antiquity who probably knew less about the natural world than a contemporary American fifth grader. Without question there are passages in the Bible that may very well have given her a modicum of wisdom, comfort, and encouragement, but for every such excerpt there is one or more that couldn't be more disturbing and anathema to what we today call common decency.
There is no time to air all the dirty laundry of the Bible here. Besides, most Americans are familiar with its horrors, yet many seem to accept it as a sort of general guide on how to live by focusing on passages they find agreeable while discarding the rest.
The "rest" would include the multiple instances of mass killing in the Old Testament, including the great flood started by god that wiped out nearly all of humanity. Homosexuals, witches, and Sabbath-breakers are ordered killed. The Ten Commandments say that one must only worship Yahweh, who judges people merely for what they think. Interestingly enough, rape is not mentioned in the commandments.
In the New Testament, we come to learn that those who do not accept that Jesus was brutally tortured and killed for their sins will suffer in hell in anguish for all eternity simply for not believing. This is founding principle of Christianity.
And yet this is the text that Hillary Clinton -- a Yale Law School-educated former U.S. Senator and Secretary of State -- says is the book that's had the biggest impact on her life.
You can believe it if you like. And if you do, there's a bridge near me I'd like to sell you.