By Becky Little
Famously opaque on the subject of religion, Lincoln’s personal faith was something even his closest friends said they couldn’t figure out. Though he became more interested in religious questions toward the end of his life, “Honest Abe” never directly identified himself as a Christian—even after he realized it could hurt him politically.
“He once spoke of how not having any kind of noticeable religious profile had levied what he called a tax on his popularity with the voters,” says Allen Guelzo, a professor of Civil War-era studies at Gettysburg College and author of Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President. “It was something that he was aware of, something he tried to cope with, and yet he wouldn’t go the distance of trying to pretend that he was something that he wasn’t.”
Lincoln’s religious views shifted throughout his life, as most people’s do. He grew up in a Baptist household but was never baptized as a child or an adult, and in his early 20s he was outspoken about his religious skepticism.
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