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This Week in God

As "This Week in God" settles in on Saturday mornings, the God Machine has plenty to offer again this week.

First up is a fascinating report from the non-partisan Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, which found that the conventional wisdom about Americans' appreciation for religion/political rhetoric isn't quite right.

A new survey finds signs of public uneasiness with the mixing of religion and politics. The number of people who say there has been too much religious talk by political leaders stands at an all-time high since the Pew Research Center began asking the question more than a decade ago. And most Americans continue to say that churches and other houses of worship should keep out of politics. Nearly four-in-ten Americans (38%) now say there has been too much expression of religious faith and prayer from political leaders, while 30% say there has been too little. In 2010, more said there was too little than too much religious expression from politicians (37% vs. 29%).

One of the angles that surprised me about this is how the pattern applied across the board, at least with regards to partisanship: self-identified Democrats, Republicans, and independents all agreed that they see too many politicians making too many expressions of religious faith. While the conventional wisdom generally holds that American voters want and expect such talk from candidates, the evidence points in the opposite direction.

Also note, a majority of Americans want churches and other houses of worship to keep out of politics.

As for the political parties themselves, most Americans believe religious conservatives have too much control over the Republican Party, while a plurality of the public believes secular liberals don't have too much influence over the Democratic Party.

Also from the God Machine this week:

* Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich insisted yesterday that it's President Obama's fault that his far-right critics believe he's a secret Muslim, despite all evidence to the contrary. Reflecting on those who continue to accept this nonsense, the former Speaker said, "It's not 'cause they're stupid."

* The "Reason Rally," billed as the "largest secular event in world history" will be held on the National Mall today in Washington, D.C. The atheists and nonbelievers on hand will hear from notable figures including scientist Richard Dawkins and actor Eddie Izzard, and the rally will feature a tribute to the late Christopher Hitchens. [Update: For more on this subject, be sure to tune in to tomorrow's "Up with Chris Hayes," which will explore atheism in considerable depth. I guarantee it'll be an interesting discussion, regardless of your theological perspective.]

* Eighty seven years after the Scopes Monkey Trial, Tennessee is still trying to undermine modern science with tactics intended to advance religion. This week, the Volunteer State's legislature passed a bill to require public schools to teach the "controversy" over evolutionary biology, climate science, and human cloning.

* President Obama this week issued a Nowruz message -- available online in English, Persian, and Arabic -- directed at Iranians.

* And radical TV preacher Pat Robertson is so mad about the Denver Broncos trading away Tim Tebow, he apparently thinks it would serve the Broncos right if Peyton Manning were injured.