First up from the God Machine this week is a look at the political world’s growing fascination with President Obama’s support from Jewish voters. It seems some reporters, at least lately, talk about little else, and point to the president’s falling poll numbers within the Jewish community as evidence of an important trend. Interest in the subject inly intensified in the wake of the recent special election in New York.

Amy Sullivan noted yesterday that we’ve been hearing about this for quite a while.

Tell me where you’ve heard this before: Jewish voters are unhappy with Barack Obama. He’s seen as insufficiently supportive of Israel. There are questions about whether he can win enough Jewish votes to carry key states.

If you guessed “during the 2008 Democratic primaries,” then ding, ding, ding! A loaf of raisin-studded challah for you! […]

Yet on Election Day 2008, 78% of Jewish voters cast their ballots for Obama, just slightly more than voted for Kerry in 2004 and just slightly less than did the same for Gore in 2000. In fact, you have to go back to 1988 to find a presidential election in which the Democratic candidate captured less than three-quarters of the Jewish vote.

But what about the drop in the president’s poll numbers among Jewish voters? It’s undeniable that his support has dropped, but as Sullivan explained, “[T]he drop has been no steeper or more rapid than the overall decline of Obama’s approval numbers nationally. Jewish Americans continue to hold much more positive opinions of Obama than the average American — 14 points higher over the course of his term.”

And what about going forward? When Marty Peretz is lauding the president for “doing the right thing on Israel,” and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying yesterday that Obama is “definitely a friend of Israel,” I tend to think some reporters’ preoccupation with Jewish support for the president is a little unnecessary.

Also from the God Machine this week:

* A recent Fox News poll found a whopping 77% of Americans “personally believe prayers can literally help someone heal from an injury or illness.” The same poll found the percentage of Americans embracing creationism slipping slightly, from 50% to 45%, though creationists still outnumbered those who accept modern biology by more than a two-to-one margin.

* In southern Alabama, a city judge is allowing those convicted of minor offenses to “work off their sentences in jail and pay a fine; or go to church every Sunday for a year.” Though 56 local churches are participating, the program probably raises some constitutional concerns. (thanks to R.B. for the tip)

* And in Michigan, U.S. Senate candidate Peter Konetchy (R) is arguing the nation should cap the number of Muslims allowed to immigrate to the United States. In case this isn’t obvious, that’s crazy.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.