The Quantum Pontiff

Candidates’ Views on Geometry

For a New York Times article What is it About Mormonism?, the following lines which made me guffaw:

The framers recognized, of course, that a candidate’s religion (or lack thereof) would enter political debate, and they were prohibiting only a formal test for taking office. But they were also giving their imprimatur to Jefferson’s appealing notion that a person’s beliefs about religion were no more relevant to his politics than his beliefs about geometry.

Leaving aside jokes about the candidates debating whether the universe is open, flat, or closed, I’m guessing that the Renaissance man Jefferson would actually have cared quite profoundly about a candidate’s mastery of geometry.

Update: See this is exactly a case of extralusionary intelligence: Wim points out in the comments that the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom included not just a reference not just to religion mattering no more than view on geometry, but also views on physics. Oh Thomas, why have you forsaken me?


  1. #1 J-Dog
    January 7, 2008

    Damn Straight!

    And I think Jefferson would have snickered at Mormons too.

  2. #2 Dave Briggs
    January 7, 2008

    Leaving aside jokes about the candidates debating whether the universe is open, flat, or closed,

    Don’t give up so easily! I heard they are considering adding these questions to the next debate! LOL!
    Dave Briggs :~)

  3. #3 Wim van Dam
    January 7, 2008

    Apparently the original quote does not only mention geometry: “Our civil rights have no dependence upon our religious opinions more than our opinions in physics or geometry.” (Statute for Religious Freedom, 1779. ME 2:301, Papers 2:545)

    It does make you wonder what he meant by “opinions”, but I assume that it is something different than “elementary knowledge”.

  4. #4 JWS
    January 7, 2008

    From the Harvard law professor’s comment in the Mormonism article, “Surely, though, the day will come when we are ready to put prejudice aside and choose a president without regard to what we think of his religion”, he apparently thinks that no matter how irrational or ridiculous a person’s religious belief’s, this shouldn’t bear on the qualifications for presidential office in this country. Observing the present occupant of that office, who apparently converses with the “almighty” on a regular basis, that seems already to be the case.

  5. #5 Anon
    January 7, 2008

    I just heard Mike Gravel (um… he’s running for President), on the news, defending his statements to a NH high school (he told them something like “I’m sure you’ve tried alcohol, but marijuana is much safer”) by telling the news anchor “Man made alcohol; God made marijuana. Who would you trust?”

    Wrong on so many levels, but a bit indicative of his beliefs on both science and religion.

  6. #6 llewelly
    January 7, 2008

    It’s very interesting how consistently that NY Times article sticks to the Mormon version of their history – nearly leaving out the clear evidence that Joeseph Smith was indeed a charlatan, not mentioning the early Mormon church’s habit of burning printing presses which printed unfavorable arcticles about their leaders (including a press which printed articles by Mormons who had discovered Smith’s polygamy, and wished him to abandon that doctrine), and not mentioning their often brutal retaliations.
    Also – though they mention the LDS church did not allow black men to be members of their preisthood until 1978, they say nothing about the role the long-term racism of the church played into their shift in loyalties from primarily Democratic to primarily Republican. Here, NYT does a good job of presenting the illusion of neutrality, while failing to practice it.

  7. #7 Jonathan Vos Post
    January 7, 2008

    Bill Clinton: Triangulation.

New comments have been disabled.