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.
Did anybody ask him in public if he would lavish mormons with fortunes in federal monies the way Bush has been doing for evangelical christians? Would he discriminate against other religions and not just against atheists?
We seem to have ended up with secularism because there was no other fair way of managing equal citizenship in a plural society; no other reasonable way to share a globe overrun with jealous gods. But what a thing to have achieved! A public ethos that embraces all of us in its insistence on fairness and mutual respect here and now on the beautiful, benighted Earth we share, not in the afterlife that we don't.
I noted elsewhere that all his many words could be boiled down to a simple pander to the religious zealots: You can trust me because I'm just like you--and together we can hate The Others.
Secularism isn't religion, or a religion. What is being done here is to diminish rationalism and secularism down to the level of religion.
Ideas and attitudes based on reason are being lowered to a belief system, as religion is.
This attack is the same as Ann, what's her name? The slam that Liberalism is (ONLY) a religion, i.e. is only based upon belief as religions are, rather than a political point of view.
This criticism of atheism, secularism, liberalism, etc. needs to be assiduously countered by pointing out that secularism isn't just belief as religion is.
But can this criticism be heard? Where would it be? At Sunday church services? ON FOX news? At presidential debates? In newspapers? Who's listening to reason?
I think he's taking it way too far. There are a few things that should never be mentioned by the government in any law or common practice: race, religion, gender, and sexual preference. The only mention should be that these things should never be given ANY preference or discrimination and should therefore never have any need to be brought up again in any legal documents.
But that's not going to happen. Still, the separation of church and state is completely reasonable. Atheists are simply asking that the government not appear to endorse, promote, or discriminate any religion or lack thereof. That is not unreasonable. Now, I'm not an Atheist, so I don't go to their secret world domination meetings (I'm obviously kidding)... so I don't know if Atheists really want to remove all mention of religion from public life. If there are any who want to do that, that is wrong. Freedom of speech and freedom of expression comes to mind. However, I do not believe that there are any groups out there that really want that... and if there are, they're wrong and will never succeed.
The religious need to understand that just because the government says that the church and state should remain separate, it does not mean that there should be no religion in anything state run. IE: Prayer in public schools, a figure of the 10 commandments on the desk of a judge, etc...
If an individual wants to pray, they can pray. If they want to show how religious they are, they can do that too. However, they cannot make it seem as if the government is trying to force those beliefs on anyone.
"so I don't know if Atheists really want to remove all mention of religion from public life."
You've fallen victom to a common misconception. There are no "Atheists" in the sense you seem to think there are. It's not a group like a religion or political party (so you don't need to capitalize). There are no tenents of atheism and the only common thread is a lack of belief in one or more deity. It's one of our problems, we have no common cause as such. Some want to destroy religion, some want to just be left alone. Even the groups of atheists like American Atheists and FFRF don't agree on long term goals.
"The religious need to understand that just because the government says that the church and state should remain separate, it does not mean that there should be no religion in anything state run. IE: Prayer in public schools, a figure of the 10 commandments on the desk of a judge, etc..."
What do you mean exactly? What does seperation of church and state mean to you? I'm not trying to attack, I just want to know where you are coming from.
"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..."
Excuse me Mr. Romney, wasn't your church formed because all these others were *apostate* and were not worshipping God correctly? Did Joseph Smith hear wrong?
"Did Joseph Smith hear wrong?"
Heh, that gave me a nice chuckle. Do you know the story about when he was 'translating' the golden plates, the man who was paying for it and helping him wanted some of the transcript to bring home. Joe said ok, but don't show it to anyone. So the guy shows it to his wife who then says "what a scam. lets hide this and see if he translates it again exactly the same, like someone who had god telling him what it says would". When Joe found out he tweeked and then had another 'vision' (he had a lot of those, often when he changed his mind or when his wife was ragging on him [back when he only had one]) that told him that his punishment for showing this work in progress was that he wouldn't be allowed to translate the same thing again. It would be from a differant person, so the basic story would be the same, but it would have differances. Yeah, thats the ticket. I don't remember all the details, I was raised mormon but they told us this story when we were pretty young for some reason. There were a lot of changes when Joe was hammering out the details of his little cult.
"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."
So what about the colourful pantheon of the Hinduists ? The love of nature of the Wiccans ? The mastery of strange languages of the Cthulhu cultists ? The good taste of the Pastafarians ? The purrfect elegance of the worshippers of Bastet ?
That's discrimination, I tell you !