By naming devout, conservative Catholic U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan to be his running mate, former Gov. Mitt Romney, once a Mormon bishop, did more than ensure the U.S. will have a Catholic vice president in 2013.
He established the first Republican ticket without a Protestant since 1860, when Abraham Lincoln, who belonged to no church, chose Maine Sen. Hannibal Hamlin, a Unitarian, as his running mate, said Mark Silk, professor of religion and public life at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn.
Some Wisconsin Catholics are praying both Catholic vice presidential candidates will have a religious epiphany. They want GOP Rep. Paul Ryan to change his mind and heart about his deep-cuts budget, and Vice President Biden to turn against abortion rights.
Two Franciscans, Rhett Engelking, a layman, and the Rev. Michael Crosby, have launched a website Pray for Paul's Change of Heart with a special rosary prayer to St. Paul -- the most famous of converts who once condemned Christ until he saw the light on the road to Damascus.
While praising the congressman's sincere faith, they say they want Ryan to "reconnect with the compassion for the poor and vulnerable that is rooted in our consciences and articulated by the Catholic Church."
Their press release highlights the U.S. Catholic bishops' stance that the deep budget slashes fail to meet Catholic moral criteria to protect the poor and promote common good.
Unbelief is on the uptick. People who check "None" for their religious affiliation are now nearly one in five Americans (19 percent), the highest ever documented, according to the Pew Center for the People and the Press.
The rapid rise of Nones -- including atheists, agnostics and those who say they believe "nothing in particular" -- defies the usually glacial rate of change in spiritual identity.
Barry Kosmin, co-author of three American Religious Identification Surveys, theorizes why None has become the "default category." He says, "Young people are resistant to the authority of institutional religion, older people are turned off by the politicization of religion, and people are simply less into theology than ever before."
Kosmin's surveys were the first to brand the Nones in 1990 when they were 6 percent of U.S. adults. By the 2008 survey, Nones were up to 15 percent. By 2010, another survey, the biannual General Social Survey, bumped the number to 18 percent.
Bruce Boling was set to celebrate Easter Sunday among Southern Baptists, just as he did when he prayed at a tiny Kentucky church where his family filled half the pews.
After decades away from faith, "I slowly began to see what I was missing was the relationship with God that I could find in my church," said Boling, 45, who has settled in with a little Baptist congregation in Hendersonville, Tenn.