Mitt Romney gave his big religion speech yesterday. It is a standard piece of anti-atheist propaganda. America is a relgious nation, those darn secularists are trying to take God out of the public square, I’m as crazy religious as all those evangelicals I’m pandering to even though they regard my church as a cult, blah blah blah. Here are a few choice nuggets:
Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.
It is really rather annoying that such obnoxious and totally false bromides are left almost entirely unchallenged in modern political life. It is secularism, a strong separation of church and state, that protects religious freedom. Compare any secular democracy on the planet to any theocracy, and tell me which one does a better job of protecting freedom.
Believing that your religion and yours alone holds the key to eternal life does not lend itself to a desire to protect the freedom of those who disagree. Religion, especially of the monothesitic variety. is always and everywhere a threat to personal liberty when backed by the power of the state.
There is one fundamental question about which I often am asked. What do I believe about Jesus Christ? I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind. My church’s beliefs about Christ may not all be the same as those of other faiths. Each religion has its own unique doctrines and history. These are not bases for criticism but rather a test of our tolerance. Religious tolerance would be a shallow principle indeed if it were reserved only for faiths with which we agree.
What matters is that we agree on the important thing: that some sort of irrational belief in a ghostly, celestial father-figure is essential to morality and goodness, and that tolerance most definitely does not extend to those conscienceless, atheist freaks.
Think I’m overreacting? Think the implied venom towards atheists is a figment of my imagination? Consider this:
A spokesman for the Mitt Romney campaign is thus far refusing to say whether Romney sees any positive role in America for atheists and other non-believers, after Election Central inquired about the topic yesterday
It’s a sign that Romney may be seeking to submerge evangelical distaste for Mormonism by uniting the two groups together in a wider culture war.
Back to Romney:
I believe that every faith I have encountered draws its adherents closer to God. And in every faith I have come to know, there are features I wish were in my own: I love the profound ceremony of the Catholic Mass, the approachability of God in the prayers of the Evangelicals, the tenderness of spirit among the Pentecostals, the confident independence of the Lutherans, the ancient traditions of the Jews, unchanged through the ages, and the commitment to frequent prayer of the Muslims. As I travel across the country and see our towns and cities, I am always moved by the many houses of worship with their steeples, all pointing to heaven, reminding us of the source of life’s blessings.
Apparently he’s not impressed by the willingness of atheists to require evidence before buying into religious fairy tales. And apparently the only thing that Judaism has that Romney wants is for his religion to be a bit older.
And then we come to this:
We separate church and state affairs in this country, and for good reason. No religion should dictate to the state nor should the state interfere with the free practice of religion. But in recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America – the religion of secularism. They are wrong.
I guess I’m religious after all!
Seriously, though, the picture of a major presidential candidate taking a position against secularism, and having everyone else understand that that is the politically sensible thing for him to do, really ought to give everyone pause. As things stand today, religion is not a benign force in our society. It is yet another useful reminder that it is Hitchens, Harris and Dawkins who are dealing with religion as it is actually practiced in America, and it is their critics who have their heads in the sand.