But there are some on the right who take Clinton's faith at face value. Richard Land, head of public policy for the Southern Baptist Convention, has met both Clinton and Obama, and concluded that religion is an important part of their lives.
"My impression is that Clinton and Obama both come out of a social gospel kind of background, which is a long-standing tradition in our country, and that it's authentic with both of them," he says.
A link to methodist founder
Clinton traces her Methodist roots back several generations, perhaps even to John Wesley himself, the founder of the Methodist Church in the 18th century. In her memoirs, "Living History," she writes that her father's parents claimed they became Methodists because their great-grandparents were converted by Wesley in the coal-mining villages around Newcastle in northern England and in South Wales.
Clinton's mother, Dorothy Rodham, was not raised in any religion, but she adopted her husband's faith and taught Sunday school at First United Methodist Church in their hometown of Park Ridge, Ill. Clinton's father, Hugh Rodham, did not attend church, but he prayed by his bed every night, Clinton writes.
"Prayer became a source of solace and guidance for me even as a child," she writes.
She attended Bible school, Sunday school, and youth group, and helped prepare the altar for Sunday's services. In the sixth grade, she was confirmed in her church, and by her freshman year in high school in the fall of 1961, was ready for the "University of Life" – the youth fellowship program. All the while, she says, she sought to balance her conservative father's focus on self-reliance with her mother's interest in social justice.