Reckoned to be about 17 percent of the nation's population, this group gave seven-tenths of its vote to Barack Obama on Election Day last November. This has caused, understandably, considerable consternation for the current GOP.
By early summer of 2012, many of us Faith and Values pundits were nervously asking an important and troubling question: Why were the Obama and Romney campaigns spending so little time and effort discussing God and religion on the campaign trail?
The ideal candidate for this role will already be a national figure, who will not seek elected office again. Somebody anxious to win a place on the pantheon of statesmen. Who needs, perhaps, to do something bold and surprising to prevent their name sliding into the footnotes of history.
If religious folks need a selfish reason to accept their atheist neighbors, consider this: it may not be too long before the shoe is on the other foot and the religious minority will be the ones hoping for a place at the social table.
The 2012 presidential election is more than 15 months away, but Republican presidential hopefuls are already simultaneously burnishing their religious credentials and trying to address potentially problematic religious connections.
In President Obama's announcement of bin Laden's death, he talked passionately of an America that was simultaneously "relentless in defense of our citizens" and "true to the values that make us who we are."