Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 6, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

MITT'S BIG SPEECH....If you're going to give a speech about how people shouldn't reject you for your religious beliefs, it's only natural that most of the speech is going to be about religious beliefs. But when JFK gave his famous speech in 1960 addressing fears that he'd be under the thumb of the Vatican, he at least threw out this bone:

I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end — where all men and all churches are treated as equal — where every man has the same right to attend or not to attend the church of his choice.

Italics mine. Compare this to Mitt Romney's deeply offensive speech this morning addressing fears of his Mormon faith:

Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom....Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.

....Whether it was the cause of abolition, or civil rights, or the right to life itself, no movement of conscience can succeed in America that cannot speak to the convictions of religious people.

....Our greatness would not long endure without judges who respect the foundation of faith upon which our constitution rests.

Etc.

I can't tell you how much this pisses me off. I'm well aware that this is par for the course among Republican politicians these days, and Romney is doing nothing more than engaging in what's become routine conservative disparagement of those of us who aren't religious. But the cowardice and pandering here is just phenomenal. Not only does Romney not have the guts to toss in even a single passing phrase about the nonreligious, as JFK did, he went out of his way to insist that "freedom requires religion," that no movement of conscience is possible without religion, and that judges had better respect our "foundation of faith" lest our country's entire greatness disappear. And that was just the warmup.

I know, I know. He's just doing what he has to do. Evangelical base and all that. But I'm not religious, and yet, mirabile dictu, I still manage to support freedom, have a conscience, and understand the law. I'm tired of people implying otherwise.

Kevin Drum 1:13 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (140)

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Comments

Shorter Kevin: Mitt's trying to win an election and figures he doesn't need my vote.

Posted by: Chocolate Thunder on December 6, 2007 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

It's simple. The only thing keeping Mitt (like Rick Santorum before him) from snorting coke off the naked body of an underage hooker he's just gotten done snuffing for kicks, all while ordering a jackbooted takeover of the body politic, is an old white-bearded dude who will seriously f*ck him up after he's dead.

Me (and Kevin), we just don't do these things no matter what. If your religion is the only thing stopping YOU, fine. Yay, religion.

Just don't make the mistake of assuming it's what stopping ME.

Posted by: Clark on December 6, 2007 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, it's more than that.

It's conservative judge-pandering. Romney's saying he will appoint federal judges who don't set the "wall" of church-state too high. Remember his distinguishing "church-state" and "religion-state."

In other words, it's code-speak for, "See, Mormons ARE like you religious righties."

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on December 6, 2007 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

If you base your thoughts and decisions on evidence rather than the dogma taught to you as a child, you are the enemy.

"Mormonism may seem weird, but free thinkers are the enemy! If you don't vote for me, you are against religious freedom!"

Posted by: Gore/Edwards 08 on December 6, 2007 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks for this Kevin. We're well down the slippery slope in which this level of religious fundamentalism and intolerance is so accepted in our politics that it isn't even commented upon by many journalists and pundits. Keep raising the shrill.

Posted by: Steve W on December 6, 2007 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

Here's another of Mitt's laughers:

"And in every faith I have come to know, there are features I wish were in my own: I love … the commitment to frequent prayer of the Muslims."

Just so long as they're not in his Cabinet.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on December 6, 2007 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

from one agnostic to another,
amen brother, amen brother...

lack of doubt by the devout,
guards their egos, no amount,
of logic or of common reason,
so we join them in their season,

"Merry Christmas" does no harm,
actually a certain charm,
and, if they had consideration,
a truly free and honest nation,

we might have...

Posted by: alapip on December 6, 2007 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

Well said Clark.

I agree with the offensiveness of the religion=freedom, freedom=religion and being about as Orwellian as you can get. The semi-good people at Salon teed off on this bit to. Josh Marshall gave a nod to them about this as well.

My wife's former boss is a Mormon and one of the nicest people I know. However, he's also a Republican (wife's a Dem, snort).

For what it's worth, all one has to do is take a tour of Temple Square to know that Mormonism is not only fairly divorced from Christianity, but to know just how whack it is as a religion. L. Ron Hubbard didn't have anything on Joseph Smith and Brigham Young.

Posted by: JeffII on December 6, 2007 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

While I certainly believe religion (or faith) has been and will continue to be a critical component of American society and the concepts such as freedom that we all cherish, Romney (whom I generally like) was preposterous to suggest that "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." Religion and the principle of freedom to worship were fundamental elements to the creation of America (the point Romney was building from) but the idea that freedom could not survive without religion (as opposed to without freedom to worship or religious liberty) is ridiculous. And, as Matt noted, it is clearly offensive to the non-religious.

Doing a quick google search, I did come across this relevant quote from Bush last year:

"I'd like to say one thing about religion -- religion and politics, if you don't mind. The United States of America must never lose sight of this beautiful principle: You can worship or not worship and you're equally American. You're equally American if you're a Christian, Jew or Muslim, atheist, agnostic. We must never lose sight of that. That's what distinguishes us from the Taliban."

Thought I'd pass that along, since Kevin was so sure that dismissing or insulting atheists is "par for the course among Republican politicians these days."

Posted by: Hacksaw on December 6, 2007 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

I, too, do not adhere to a religion. I found Mitt's speach disturbing and, well, frightening. Perhaps it was an almost messianic fervor and light in his eyes...

Posted by: monzie on December 6, 2007 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

Straight up fascist ideology. Control, we must have control, otherwise 'freedom' disappears. 'Control Makes you Free', a nice slogan for the iron gates of Guantanamo.

Tell me quickly how something good will come of this.

Posted by: anon on December 6, 2007 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

Clark,

C'mon, we all know the only thing stopping you and me from hitting licks off dead hookers is the Swift Sword of American Justice which, as we all know, can only be wielded properly by people who are wholesome and pure of heart (i.e. folks who think torture is okey-dokey as long as its committed by Bible-reading white people on brown people or white people who believe in the sorts of things brown people believe in). I think Real Americans (TM) should all feel comforted by Mitt's speech. He was just assuring them that he has the purity of self that will allow him to protect them from all the perverts, weirdos and terrorists who read this blog...

Posted by: Everett on December 6, 2007 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

It's repellent to suggest otherwise.

Repellent? Let's try "blasphemous". It might get more traction that way.

Posted by: Paul Dirks on December 6, 2007 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

In other words, it's code-speak for, "See, Mormons ARE like you religious righties." Posted by: SocraticGadfly

They are exactly like the "religious" right! Their social conservatism is identical. The only thing that separates them is the weirder aspects of their "religion" - funny underwear, baptism for the dead, Jesus appearing to native Americans after the crucification, the constant consumption of Coke.

Posted by: JeffII on December 6, 2007 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

I sure would like to hear an explanation of why "Freedom requires religion."

I am a Methodist and I don't ever remember hearing anything like that. It makes no sense to me. Maybe it is simply a code-phrase like "state's rights" or something.

Posted by: Tripp on December 6, 2007 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

Not only does Romney not have the guts to toss in even a single passing phrase about the nonreligious, as JFK did, he went out of his way to insist that "freedom requires religion,"

Kevin, and how is what Romney said not completely true? If it wasn't for the religious support for the abolitionists, Lincoln would never have freed the slaves. If it wasn't for the church's support for the civil rights movement, we would still be living in a world of Jim Crow laws. Learning a little American history would teach you Romney was 100% correct.

Posted by: Al on December 6, 2007 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

thank you kevin.

glad to know that on core issues you are pissed off just as easily as many of us here.

Posted by: gregor on December 6, 2007 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

Wow! I was wondering where Amy Sullivan disappeared to after she stopped posting here. She's clearly writing speeches for Mitt Romney. Did Mitt make any ill informed comments about college basketball?

Posted by: Pat on December 6, 2007 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

Ohh, as to the purported "real reason" for the speech?

"Mormon/Mormonism" mentioned only once, and in passing.

JeffII, I grew up in the Four Corners area... I know first-hand plenty about Mormon weirdness. What you mentioned, plus blacks as second-class, proslytizing American Indians, etc.? Not a mention from Mitt.

Oh, BTW, Mormonism has a pretty strong foothold in the government. The FBI does regular recruiting at ngham Young University precisely because of Mormons' straight-arrow rightiness.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on December 6, 2007 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

JeffII,

Coke? I thought Mormons avoided caffeine.

Posted by: Tripp on December 6, 2007 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

Coke? I thought Mormons avoided caffeine.

Caffeine-free Coke.

Posted by: DJ on December 6, 2007 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

no movement of conscience can succeed in America that cannot speak to the convictions of religious people

Actually, this is a pretty awkward phrase. Literally, it implies that the convictions of religious people are subordinate to conscience. That is, there exist movements of conscience that are worthwhile but will never succeed because religious convictions are too limiting.

I doubt that's what he meant, however.

Posted by: apm on December 6, 2007 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

The nonreligious make up nearly 1/4 of the country, and still the Republicans think they can ignore them. Does that mean all atheists and agnostics vote democrat? Or do the plutocratic/business-minded GOPers just figure the fundagelical agenda has no chance of getting implemented?

Posted by: IdahoEv on December 6, 2007 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

As I recall, there was a recent (and scary) poll result floating around a short while back... something like 75% of the US population said you shouldn't be allowed to be president if you were an athiest. [Probably should be inferred as 'non-christian'.]

Posted by: Buford on December 6, 2007 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

The nonreligious make up nearly 1/4 of the country, Posted by: IdahoEv

Dude, atheists, agnostics, and people who believe in god (not to be confused with being "religious") easily comprise more than half the country, regardless of what the polls say. The "problem" with this is that we don't vote as a block.

Posted by: JeffII on December 6, 2007 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

You go, KDrum.

And a smile to Tripp for: Coke? I thought Mormons avoided caffeine.

Posted by: shortstop on December 6, 2007 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

His tolerance speech doesn't apply to the non-religious, or to Muslims apparently:

Mitt in speech:

We separate church and state affairs in this country, and for good reason...Religious tolerance would be a shallow principle indeed if it were reserved only for faiths with which we agree...I will take care to separate the affairs of government from any religion..."

Mitt, on whether he would allow a Muslim in his cabinet (as recalled by multiple witnesses):

Probably not...[Muslims are] radical. There's no talking to them. There's no negotiating with them.

http://tpmelectioncentral.com/ 20..._him_racist.php

Posted by: Cheney's Third Nipple on December 6, 2007 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

I can't tell you how much it pisses me off.

100% with you.

Posted by: jharp on December 6, 2007 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

the convictions of religious people
Or at least we can start with some indictments of religious people!

Clark at 1:24 PM said what I was going to say, and said it better. The thought that it takes the fear of a supernatural being to make us behave is primitive and weird.

Posted by: thersites on December 6, 2007 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

I see Willard Romney as the most dangerous man to run for president since, perhaps, David Duke. He is the most slimy panderer in history and would clearly do anything to win power and to consolidate it after he got it. His love of money is all-engulfing and he represents everything that is bad and jaundiced about capitalism.

When I think of Willard the Mormon, I am reminded of Sinclair Lewis' famous observation that "when fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the Bible".

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on December 6, 2007 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

"I do not define my candidacy by my religion. A person should not be elected because of his faith, nor should he be rejected because of his faith," Romney said at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum.......
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I doubt we'll ever hear a candidate (or a sitting president) add the phrase "should not be rejected because of his lack of faith" to any speech. For all the talk of inclusiveness and tolerance and separating religion and politics you'll never see an avowed atheist reach the White House. I can't even see a major politician in a position to ever rise to such heights advocate an atheist should get elected or have the opportunity to be the president.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
When George Bush was campaigning for the presidency [....], one of his stops was in Chicago, Illinois, on August 27, 1987. At O'Hare Airport he held a formal outdoor news conference. There Robert I. Sherman, a reporter for the American Atheist news journal [....] had the following exchange with then-Vice-President Bush:

Sherman: What will you do to win the votes of the Americans who are atheists?
Bush: I guess I'm pretty weak in the atheist community. Faith in God is important to me.
Sherman: Surely you recognize the equal citizenship and patriotism of Americans who are atheists?
Bush: No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.
Sherman (somewhat taken aback): Do you support as a sound constitutional principle the separation of state and church?
Bush: Yes, I support the separation of church and state. I'm just not very high on atheists.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Ain't happening.

Posted by: steve duncan on December 6, 2007 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

For what it's worth, all one has to do is take a tour of Temple Square to know that Mormonism is not only fairly divorced from Christianity, but to know just how whack it is as a religion. L. Ron Hubbard didn't have anything on Joseph Smith and Brigham Young.

The distance between Mormonism & Christianity certainly isn't any greater than the gaping chasm between Christianity & the supposed life/teachings of Christ. And let's not kid ourselves about degrees of whackness when it comes to this stuff. It's all fueled by peyote.

Posted by: junebug on December 6, 2007 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

Al,

You said,

"If it wasn't for the religious support for the abolitionists, Lincoln would never have freed the slaves. If it wasn't for the church's support for the civil rights movement, we would still be living in a world of Jim Crow laws. Learning a little American history would teach you Romney was 100% correct."

What proof do you offer? There were many other religious people who used the Bible to justify slavery and segregation. Did you ever think that people like Martin Luther King might have done what they did even if they weren't religious?

I don't think that in general, people believe what they believe because of religion. I think they usually decide what they're going to believe beforehand, and use their religious faith (or lack thereof) to justify their position.

Posted by: Lee on December 6, 2007 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

Orwell: Freedom is Slavery
Romney: Religion requires Freedom
Thus, Religion requires Slavery!
I new it! Marx was right.

Posted by: Bush Lover on December 6, 2007 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

Buford: More people said they would vote for a gay than an atheist.

JeffII: Sorry, I think the polls have the right percentage. People who truly believe there is no western-style divinity/deity, AND, who believe there is no soul/afterlife, AND no karma/reincarnation (that's you, Sam Harris) ARE that small of a minority.

For that matter, in supposedly "atheistic" western Europe, there's a lot of "new age spirituality" believers floating around there, too.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on December 6, 2007 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

Al, neither Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation nor the 13th Amendment mention religion or a divinity.

Try again.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on December 6, 2007 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, steve duncan, I had forgotten that little gem of an exchange at O'Hare. Smirky McMispronounce's dad was the only person ever to render Rob Sherman speechless.

Posted by: shortstop on December 6, 2007 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

"There is not a single religious authority, teacher of religious authorities, or teacher of those teachers going back seven generations, who has seen God face-to-face. Nor did the ancient visionaries declare 'We know, we see where, how and when God appears.' So these religious authorities versed in tradition are saying 'That path, which we neither know nor have seen, we declare to be the path ... to communion with God' ... this being the case, doesn't the talk of those religious authorities turn out to be ridiculous? ... it is just as if there were a single file of blind men clinging to one another: the first one sees nothing, the middle one sees nothing, and the last one sees nothing. The talk of the religious authorities is similarly nothing but blind talk ... ridiculous, mere words, vacuous and desolate."

-- The Buddha, circa 500 BCE

Posted by: SecularAnimist on December 6, 2007 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

If it wasn't for religion, we might not have needed abolition and civil rights. The Bible was used to justify slavery and segregation, and it's no mistake that The Bible Belt is the place that has historically supported those abominations. If you want to see segregation in modern America, go to a house of worship.

Posted by: reino on December 6, 2007 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

JeffII: Sorry, I think the polls have the right percentage. People who truly believe there is no western-style divinity/deity, AND, who believe there is no soul/afterlife, AND no karma/reincarnation (that's you, Sam Harris) ARE that small of a minority. Posted by: SocraticGadfly

I included the big three, if you will - atheists, agnostics and believers in a god, who I distinguish from the "religious." For example, it is unlikely that Pat Robertson or the Pope believe in god. They are both very religious, however.

Posted by: JeffII on December 6, 2007 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

I sure would like to hear an explanation of why "Freedom requires religion."

IMHO - No you wouldn't, because to hear an accurate description of it would probably rock some of your core beliefs about the wisdom of man left to his individual reasoning.

I believe freedom can only be preserved by adherence to a degree of societal trust, wisdom and morality that guards that trust. This social contract of mores and behaviors needs a vehicle to transmit it from generation to generation. This bank of wisdom, which in the sad state of human relations, is necessary to carry a society successfully onward for multiple generations is labeled "religion". Without this method of carrying forward the glue that binds the social contract together people are "free" to do whatever they wish, without regard to shame. I think the evidence of humanity is that, as a species were just not smart enough to do the right thing based on our own reasoning. But this is just restating what is already stated in the Bible, that mankind is hopelessly reprobate.

Kevin is insulted because he thinks Romney is stating that an individual can not be moral and live in freedom without religion. That is not what is meant by "freedom requires religion".

The sad truth as empirically observed from history seems to be that society will not remain free without religion. This is a much different claim.

Posted by: John Hansen on December 6, 2007 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, Mitt, it's called the Enlightenment, not Christianity.

Sorry Christians, but Jesus didn't invent morality, charity, law, decency or human rights. He was just spoke out in favor of them - things which most of these Republican candidates OPPOSE.

Believe it or not, Christians, but there are more decent, moral, law abiding people who are not Christians (some 4 billion) than there are Christians. And law, morality, decency, and all of the other things that Jesus preached existed for tens of thousands of years before Jesus.

Funny thing, too, about Mitt's comments on Abolition. What religion, exactly, does Mitt suppose the slave owners were? And when did the Catholic Church finally decree that Slavery was immoral? In the 1960s. That's not moral leadership, that's being dragged kicking and screaming against their will to a conclusion that the rest of the Western World had come to on its own.

The separation of church and state isn't just about keeping religion out of politics (the Pilgrims and Founding Fathers had plenty of examples in their own time of state sanctioned persecution, slaughter, religious wars, and civil wars based on religion). The separation of church and state is also about keeping slimy, lying, pandering, power-hungry politicians from polluting and manipulating religion.

It's patently obvious now that the Christian Right doesn't care about Christianity as much as they do power and money. Jesus said it was harder for a rich man to get into the kingdom of heaven than it was for a camel to pass through an eye of a needle. And yet the GOP's first and primary goal is cutting taxes for the ultra-super wealthy. The GOP not only cuts aid/assistance/charity to the poor and outcast members of society, it has a nasty habit of vilifying them.

If you were to judge "Christians" by the Religious Right, you'd think Jesus was in favor of war, torture, helping the rich get richer, cutting off assistance to the poor, marginalizing the weakest and most defenseless members of our society (women, children, minorities), greed, corruption, gambling, capital punishment, the destruction of the environment, and so on.

The GOP is trashing Christianity, dragging it through the sewers with them, and no one seems to care, least of all the "Christians". That should be reason enough for any thinking Christianity of good faith to strengthen the separation of church and state. Oh well.

Posted by: Augustus on December 6, 2007 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

Like many here, I was offended by Romney's failure to toss a bone to the nonbelievers. The speech was carefully crafted, so this omission must have been intentional. Maybe Romney was just trying to suck up to Evangelicals or maybe he thinks less of atheists. Probably both.

Two other complaints are that the speech was perhaps too long used too many big words. Reagan or Bush would have said the same things more simply.

Other than that, I thought it was an excellent speech and very well-delivered. I now think Romney will win Iowa easily and should be ranked as the likely Republican nominee.

In principle I agree with Kevin that a nation without religion ought to be able to be free. However, it hasn't worked that so far. I know of no examples. I don't know whether that's a coincidence or whether there's some conflict between freedom and atheism.

Some on the right claim that nonbelievers make political liberism their religion. There may be something to that. E.g., Kevin certainly supports freedom, yet he also supports switching to a government-run health care -- a system that would reduce people's freedom to select their own health care. In this example, Kevin's desire for a particular liberal policy trumps his support for freedom.

Posted by: ex-liberal on December 6, 2007 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

Agree that Romney's comments on a required religious faith and how judges should act are offensive.

Also, in my opinion, it is unfortunate that we seem to need a religious speech from the Mormon as we did from the Catholic long ago.

And, because the evangelicals have injected faith into our politics and government, Mr. Romney could not give the reassurance of a firewall between the church and the state. President Bush's reliance on "a higher authority" for invading Iraq did not help either.

Some polls have shown that, of a number of candidates with different ethnicity or religious affiliations, an atheist would have the least chance of being elected president. I don't recall whether a Muslim was included in the list.

I wonder about a Christian Scientist. How about a believer in Scientology? Or maybe that becomes a kook factor.

homer www.altara.blogspot.com

Posted by: altara on December 6, 2007 at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK

I found his speech uninspiring.

Posted by: Mina on December 6, 2007 at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK

Clark at 1:24 PM said what I was going to say, and said it better. The thought that it takes the fear of a supernatural being to make us behave is primitive and weird.

the lack of tolerance (not to mention ignorance) displayed by some on this site is mind boggling. just like good little republicans, their tolerance extends only to those who share their views.

oh, and for the record, romney is full of shit.

Posted by: mudwall jackson on December 6, 2007 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

I have to admit that I've uncomfortable in my loathing of Mitt Romney because I know it is due in part to my loathing for the LDS religion in general. I tend to rank religions by the degree to which they proselytize, so Buddhism and the Unitarians tend to get high marks from me, while Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons rank at the bottom of the list, just below Wahhabi Muslims.

Since I personally don't believe in judging a person by his race or religion or any of those characteristics that we deem protected, to the extent that my visceral reaction to Romney was related in some way to his religious beliefs was a bit disturbing to me. But now I can truly hate Romney, with a clear conscience, for the intolerant son-of-a-bitch he is.

Thank you Mitt, I feel much better.

Posted by: majun on December 6, 2007 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry, JeffII. Misread your comments in light of the background of Buford and IdahoEv.

I don't think for sure there's any way of putting a percentage figure on what you're trying to get at.

Everybody's going to define "religious" vs. "believer in god" differently.

As for the political calculus, from what I know from personal experience, many "believers in god" who might not call themselves "religious" look as askance at a true secularist atheist as the "religious" do.

And, that's true in personal life.

A couple of years ago, I started talking to a lady in Yahoo Personals who said she was "atheist." What she meant was she had not been raised religiously. As soon as she got what atheism really was, she stopped talking to me.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on December 6, 2007 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

Augustus: very good observation on abolition.

Al, that lets me write more directly to you.

I quote from Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address:

"Both sides read from the same Bible and prayed to the same god. However, the prayers of neither have been answered fully."

Idiot.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on December 6, 2007 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

More people say they would never vote for an atheist than for a homosexual.

Posted by: anandine on December 6, 2007 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

As far as I'm concerned, the proper wedge point here is that it's perfectly possible to be religious without believing in a personal God. The Buddhists manage it just fine; they worship a spiritual principle rather than a god. And the same thing can be said of all self-proclaimed atheists and agnostics who nevertheless believe strongly in moral duty -- they may claim to be nonreligious, but at least they worship something other than themselves. What is necessary is to break up the belief of most Americans that atheists necessarily believe in moral relativism.

(Of course, this might just persuade the current crop of Republican candidates to support outlawing Buddhism...)

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on December 6, 2007 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

John Hansen wrote: This bank of wisdom, which in the sad state of human relations, is necessary to carry a society successfully onward for multiple generations is labeled "religion".

Religion is neither the sole nor the best repository of "wisdom ... necessary to carry a society successfully onward". We ourselves are the best repository of that wisdom.

Empathy, compassion, and cooperation are inherent natural traits of the human animal. They can be and are cultivated by numerous human beings motivated by natural desire for their own well-being and a natural empathic desire for the well-being of others. They don't need to be imposed on people by the force of organized religion or some mythical almighty supernatural power.

"You should not be convinced by unconfirmed reports, by tradition, by hearsay, by scriptures, by logical reasoning, by inferential reasoning, by reflection on superficial appearances, by delighting in opinions and speculation, by the appearance of plausibility, or because you think 'this person is my teacher.'

"... when you know for yourselves 'these teachings are detrimental, these teachings are faulty, these teachings would be censured by the wise, these teachings when fully taken up lead to harm, to trouble' then you should reject those teachings.

"... when you know for yourselves 'these teachings are beneficial, these teachings are without fault, these teachings would be approved of by the wise, these teachings when fully taken up lead to welfare, to ease' then should live embracing those teachings."

-- The Buddha, circa 500 BCE

Posted by: SecularAnimist on December 6, 2007 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK

No you wouldn't, because to hear an accurate description of it would probably rock some of your core beliefs about the wisdom of man left to his individual reasoning.

Bullshit. Might be "earthshaking" for a weak-minded, maleable shill. But the rest of us? Not so much.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on December 6, 2007 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

alapip: "Merry Christmas" does no harm, actually a certain charm,

I am reminded of a Checkov play in which an old atheist greets people on Easter morning with "Christ is risen." When called on it, he said something like on Easter, Christ is risen is not religion but manners.

Posted by: anandine on December 6, 2007 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

I think the evidence of humanity is that, as a species were just not smart enough to do the right thing based on our own reasoning.

So we can put a satellite in orbit with punchcards and liquid fuel, but we can't be trusted with morality without some fictitious "god" keeping us in line?

If you truly believe this, if fear of a fairy-tale is all that is keeping you from rape, murder, theft and wanton criminal rampage, I hope you never stop believing.

But this is just restating what is already stated in the Bible, that mankind is hopelessly reprobate.

Speak for yourself!

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on December 6, 2007 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

The Conservative Deflator: I see Willard Romney as the most dangerous man to run for president since, perhaps, David Duke.

How soon we forget both GW Bush and Rudy Giuliani.

Posted by: anandine on December 6, 2007 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

I'm leary of accepting what a candidate for election says, for reasons that should be obvious ("compassionate conservative", and all the rest).

I prefer to find out about what someone has DONE as evicence of that they "might do" in future circumstances. In this regard, can anyone shed light on the ways in which Romney's wacky religion (can we stipulate that much?) has affected his governance or his private sector leadership?

I am a "fallen-away-Unitarian", and could care less what version of organized religious mythology prevails in a person's mind or heart. Just do the job.

Posted by: Terry Ott on December 6, 2007 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

In his over-hyped address today on "Faith in America," GOP White House hopeful Mitt Romney sought to disarm evangelicals' fears about the role of his Mormon faith. But while he likely failed in that task, Romney assuredly succeeded in redefining the U.S. Constitution's ban on religious tests for political office. According to Romney's notion of public service, Muslims and atheists need not apply.

For the details, see:
"Mitt Romney Creates His Own Religious Test."

Posted by: Furious on December 6, 2007 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

Bruce Moomaw wrote: "The Buddhists manage it just fine; they worship a spiritual principle rather than a god."

Perhaps it is not quite so simple.

The Buddha himself did not teach his followers to "worship" anything and was critical of the religious authorities of his time and of blind acceptance of religious doctrines. The Buddha -- an ascetic monk and teacher named Siddhartha Gautama who achieved "awakening" and thus was called "Buddha" meaning "one who is awake" -- taught that suffering exists, that suffering has a cause, that suffering can be ended, and that there is a path of ethical behavior, mental development and wisdom that leads to the cessation of suffering. Near the end of his long life the Buddha said "For 45 years I have taught only suffering and the transformation of suffering."

In practice, Buddhists range from sects which do in fact "worship" the Buddha and bodhisattvas much as if they were supernatural deities, to outright atheists who view the Buddha's teachings as purely secular and psychological in nature and set aside as irrelevant the Buddha's references to reincarnation and other concepts that were considered facts of nature according the worldview of ancient India.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on December 6, 2007 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

OK there is something a little funny about SecularAnimist quoting a religious figure to prove that "Religion is neither the sole nor the best repository of wisdom."

Posted by: Hacksaw on December 6, 2007 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

"The sad truth as empirically observed from history seems to be that society will not remain free without religion. This is a much different claim." - John Hansen, 2:52PM...
-----------------
Point taken, John. You may be right, except in the cases where persons have introspected as to personal and societal motives and come to behavioral conclusions based on logic. I would teach the powers of self understanding, along with the knowledge that we 'are all in this together', (golden rule, etc.).

Left to the development of religions, which may be, and are, warped to the fundamentalist conclusions of exclusivity and demonization of the 'other', we are condemned to relive the old conflicts over and over.

Religions are no better than ethnicities in bringing together working societies. Cooperative groups are a necessity. Exclusive groups, based on any of the varied ways humans can be sorted, generally, can be counted on to cause troubles.

Inclusiveness in the larger 'humanity' group is the answer. I would argue, the *only* answer.

My two grown children and I practice these principles. We are citizens of the world. We avoid the group identity. Join us, everyone, in the larger all inclusive group.

We pay our taxes, obey the laws, but we are more than just 'American'. We are Earth-American.

Posted by: alapip on December 6, 2007 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

I assume all biblical literalists (I'm looking at you, Hansen) are fluent in ancient Greek and Hebrew and have pored over the original scrolls?

What? you haven't? Then you need to sit down, shut up and wait for the patient care assistant to bring you a nice bowl of pudding.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on December 6, 2007 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

Well, the objective is to get American Values Voters to forget what pissed them off in 2006.

Unfortunately, Mitt Romney is the last guy on earth who can do that. The man's a windsock, nothing more.
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on December 6, 2007 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

I sure would like to hear an explanation of why "Freedom requires religion."

Mitt already explained that. Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom.

Goo-goo Ka-choob!
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on December 6, 2007 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

Hacksaw wrote: OK there is something a little funny about SecularAnimist quoting a religious figure to prove that "Religion is neither the sole nor the best repository of wisdom."

The Buddha is not a "religious figure" and Buddhism is not a religion, in the sense that it not only doesn't ask for "faith", it explicitly rejects "faith" in untested, unproved doctrines.

The Buddha was an ordinary human being who arrived at a deep understanding of the nature and cause of human suffering, and the possibility of transforming suffering into well-being, and taught a path of ethical behavior, mental development and wisdom that leads to the transformation of suffering into well-being for individuals and for society at large. He claimed no "supernatural" authority and refused to discuss "supernatural" or speculative ideas which he regarded as distractions from the work of transforming suffering into well-being. He was only concerned about the suffering and well-being of actual living beings in the actual world. He repeatedly told listeners not to accept any teachings -- including his own -- "on faith" but to test everything for themselves and determine for themselves what was true, and whether his teachings achieved the results that he claimed.

The Buddha's teachings are deeply empirical and pragmatic and about as far removed from "faith-based" religion as you can get.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on December 6, 2007 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

Admit it. Without religion, traffic laws would never have been invented and mankind would self-destruct in a massive orgy of multi-car pileups caused by red light runners and wrong-way drivers.

Posted by: AJ on December 6, 2007 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

Fundamentalists believe we are god-like creatures with animal tendencies that must be constantly repressed.

Humanists believe we are animals with godly tendencies that must be constantly encouraged.

Posted by: El on December 6, 2007 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

Mitt already explained that. Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom.

Oh, logic!

Thirst requires water just as water requires thirst.

Time flies like an arrow just as fruit flies like a banana.

Would you rather have an orange or by bus?

If you had a friend named 'Cliff' would you jump off him?

If your name was "Willard" wouldn't you rather go by "Mitt?"

Posted by: Tripp on December 6, 2007 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

SecularAnimist -

What you say holds much sense. I may be as much Buddhist as Secular Humanist, but identify as neither. As Buddha has advised, my spirituality is my own personal property, as it is for my kids.

If a person is open enough and thinks long enough in questioning motivations, this should be the result, I think... logically... but am still open to other opinions...

note: I have evangelical, (leaning fundamentalist), siblings. They tried for many decades to get me... hah!

Posted by: alapip on December 6, 2007 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

Humanists believe we are animals with godly tendencies that must be constantly encouraged.

Not bad, but I'd like to put in a good word for some of the animal tendencies, too.

Posted by: shortstop on December 6, 2007 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

The Republican candidates would condemn us to a living hell of competing denominations. Competing for "faith-based" grants from government.

Posted by: Mooser on December 6, 2007 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

"....Whether it was the cause of abolition, or civil rights, or the right to life itself, no movement of conscience can succeed in America that cannot speak to the convictions of religious people."

What I wonder is, is he right? Not in an abstract sense but in a historical sense? Are there movements of conscience in American history that were not driven at least in part by religion/religious people?

If the we ever do give full rights to gays that will be the only one I can think of and we haven't done it yet.

Posted by: MNPundit on December 6, 2007 at 4:23 PM | PERMALINK

If it wasn't for Christian acceptance of slavery going as far back as St. Paul, slavery never would have become part of American culture. If it wasn't for the Christian churchs' passive acceptance of bigotry, Jim Crow laws never would have been passed in America.

There Al, fixed it for you.

Posted by: cowalker on December 6, 2007 at 4:25 PM | PERMALINK

MNPundit -

Due to the domination of our society by the "religious", we cannot get much of anything of societal benefit accomplished unless we get many of them on board... then they take the credit.

If they were truly living up to their "Christ like" teachings would they need so much persuading?

just asking...

Posted by: alapip on December 6, 2007 at 4:30 PM | PERMALINK

As for the political calculus, from what I know from personal experience, many "believers in god" who might not call themselves "religious" look as askance at a true secularist atheist as the "religious" do.

That's because atheists are the turd in the existential punch bowl, reminding people that they must after all die, and that there's no reason to believe that anything but eternal non-existence follows.

Which in turn is why it's understandable for the non-observant to like a little hit of religion every Christmas or so. Religion truly is an opiate like alcohol. But as with the temperance/Prohibition movement, the important distinction isn't between wets and drys. It's between drunks and everyone else.

Nothing wrong with a little ceremonial religion to get you through the night. The important thing is not to partake in excess.

Posted by: kth on December 6, 2007 at 4:36 PM | PERMALINK

SecularAnimist,

To be sure Buddhism is completely different from the three big monotheistic religions in terms of most of its practices and many of its principles. But I think you take the point too far when you state that "The Buddha is not a "religious figure" and Buddhism is not a religion."

I do understand where you are coming from and understand that Buddhism is not a "faith-based" religion in the sense that Judeo-Christian/Muslim faiths are. But in terms of personal belief systems (not to mention the role of sanctuaries, rotes, and practices) it's pretty clear that Buddhism is a religion (in a small "r" sense if you will).

Posted by: Hacksaw on December 6, 2007 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK

Not bad, but I'd like to put in a good word for some of the animal tendencies, too. Posted by: shortstop

Of course you would.

Posted by: JeffII on December 6, 2007 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

What conservatives mean by "freedom" is different than its more liberal meaning.

To them it means something like "grateful subservience". As long as you are not a direct slave you are free but you have obligations to happily obey your betters.

Posted by: MonkeyBoy on December 6, 2007 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

As soon as she got what atheism really was, she stopped talking to me. Posted by: SocraticGadfly

Of course she did, you godless heathen you!

(Yahoo personals? TMI?)

Posted by: JeffII on December 6, 2007 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK

What a person believes in is really only important to that particular individual.

Therefore, I call a moratorium on all matters of religious persuasion for the duration of the presidential quest.

It means nothing to me what YOU believe in. Nor can anybody persuade me to believe in a particular deity.

What does matter to me is a rampant trend in our country towards pseudo-science. As if science itself is a type of religion; you either believe in it or not.

Science is not static, it is a part of the human spirit. Science evolves, religion hardens hearts and often cons folks into believing that death is preferable to life.


Posted by: Tom Nicholson on December 6, 2007 at 4:51 PM | PERMALINK

This bank of wisdom, which in the sad state of human relations, is necessary to carry a society successfully onward for multiple generations is labeled "religion".

Yeah, look how well it worked during the Dark Ages. Oh, wait...

And kudos to "ex-liberal" for hitting some kind of triple axel of bullshit neocon talking points. I know you like to post here in bad faith, but that one must have given you a special sick thrill.

Posted by: Gregory on December 6, 2007 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK
....You're equally American if you're a Christian, Jew or Muslim, atheist, agnostic..... Hacksaw at 1:34 PM
Talk is cheap. Bush can read a speech, but his policies pander to christo-fundamentalists despite Constitutional bans.
....it was an excellent speech and very well-delivered... ex-lax at 2:58 PM
Some are impressed by inexplicable pauses and breaks. Religion has nothing to do with freedom The Divine Right of Kings was a religious percept that our Deist founders rejected .

[Your comments about healthcare are off topic and stupid. Christian Scientists would still be free not to use medial facilities and every single player plan permits others to select their own doctors as HMOs do not.]

....This social contract of mores and behaviors needs a vehicle to transmit it from generation to generation..... society will not remain free without religion.... John Hansen at 2:52 PM

More have been slaughtered and enslaved by 'religious' societies than have been saved from or by them.
Authoritarians know how useful religion is to a totalitarian state .

Posted by: Mike on December 6, 2007 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

And another thing: Besides the freedom equals religion or else business, I resent his remark about the great movements for freedom in our history - abolition of slavery, civil rights, the "right to life itself". That comment conveniently omits the movement for women's equality. From the first women's suffrage convention in 1848 to the first national election in 1920 when women in all States could vote - that's 72 years of struggle - what religious body made more than a passing gesture favoring women's rights? Individual clergy supported women's rights, but in the 1960's whole denominations made civil rights the center of Christianity's social ministry, as well they should have. But, except for the Quakers some of the time, there was no similar support from organized religion to get women the vote. And, although I don't feel a need to engage with Mormonism theologically (in the sense of discussing gold plates or which moon of Uranus God lives on, or if Catholic and Protestant churches are the Great Apostacies), I have to note that Romney's church is one of the most militant denominations in squeezing women into the traditional boots of childbearing and homemaking. So it does not matter to me if his omission of the vote for women as a great movement for freedom is intentional or unconscious. Either way, he shows his true colors.

Posted by: Brownell on December 6, 2007 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

kth wrote: "... reminding people that they must after all die, and that there's no reason to believe that anything but eternal non-existence follows."

Actually there is considerable evidence that living human beings have experiences which they subjectively experience as receiving communications from deceased persons, seeing apparations of deceased persons, or "remembering" experiences of deceased persons as though they were a "previous life", where the content of the experience includes information that does correspond to the knowledge or experience of the deceased person, which the experiencer could not have acquired through any known means.

This evidence could be taken to support the hypothesis that some information, some elements of human personality, persists after death in some manner not presently understood by science, such that living human beings can access that information and experience it in these ways.

And there is evidence that non-human animals respond to some of the same experiences (eg. visual apparitions and sounds) that humans experience, so the phenomenon, whatever it is, seems to transcend the human species and involve other sentient animals as well.

But if this is so, then it is simply a fact of nature which is not yet understood by science. It is not "supernatural" or "religious".

Unfortunately, much of the scientific community has refused to consider or investigate such phenomena, because they are categorized as "spiritual" or "supernatural" or "religious" and therefore regarded as outside of, or even unworthy of, proper scientific study.

So, ironically, questions about the possible persistence of what we think of as "mind" after the death of what we think of as "the body" have been left to religion by default.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on December 6, 2007 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

Mike,

If talk is cheap, why is everyone so exercised about this speech?

I'd also note that Bush was the first president to host an iftar dinner (Muslims breaking the fast during Ramadan). Not exactly a page out of the "christo-fundamentalist" play book.

Posted by: Hacksaw on December 6, 2007 at 5:15 PM | PERMALINK

Excellent thread. Thanks for the insightful words, posters.

Posted by: jharp on December 6, 2007 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks, Kevin, for your remarks; I have steamed all day about this, especially since it was clearly a political speech and not about religion at all, except insofar as religion can be used to exclude and bludgeon people designated as the other.

What a cynical smuck he is.

Posted by: lee on December 6, 2007 at 5:28 PM | PERMALINK

Oh come on Lee,

There were a lot of things wrong with the speech but it is unreasonable to describe the speech's bottom line as arguing that "religion can be used to exclude and bludgeon people designated as the other."

Posted by: Hacksaw on December 6, 2007 at 5:34 PM | PERMALINK

Romney's speech was a disgusting perversion of American thought, and won't help him a bit.
If you want to compare his speech to JFK's, JFK had a straightforward task. He had to make it clear to everyone who was considering voting for him that he would respect the separation of church and state, which they were assume to agree with.

Romney is trying to convince a subset of the electorate who do NOT believe in separation of church and state, and believe Romney to be a heretic, that some fuzzy generic religious sentiment is necessary for public office and he has that. Well, they don't believe that, at all, so this is useless.

Besides, as an atheist, I thought that was the most shameless, dangerous pandering yet. If you stuck a poll in front of his face where 51% of a key demographic approved of disemboweling orphans on the National Mall, he'd be sharpening his knives and calling the press.

We're erasing the wall between church and state, but we sure seem to be raising up the wall between morality and religion.

Posted by: ericblair on December 6, 2007 at 5:35 PM | PERMALINK

Voltaire sat bolt upright in his grave at that freedom requires religion line. Actually he bumped his head, then threw up and cried out "This immoral slut makes Turd Blossom look naive and chaste."
"Ni Dieu, Ni Maitre!"

Posted by: cognitorex on December 6, 2007 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK

Great points, SecularAnimist.

Posted by: Hacksaw on December 6, 2007 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK

Excellent point, lee - but I believe the word you are looking for is schmuck.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on December 6, 2007 at 5:37 PM | PERMALINK

Why do you suppose God is so quiet about all this?

A little direction, or even a vague hint would help.

Posted by: Rula Lenska on December 6, 2007 at 5:45 PM | PERMALINK

Not only do I agree with you, and I AM a religious person, but I absolutely loved reading "mirabile dictu" which is one of my favorite Latin phrases EVER!

Posted by: Catherine on December 6, 2007 at 5:46 PM | PERMALINK

Rula Lenska: Why do you suppose God is so quiet about all this?

He only talks to President Bush.

Posted by: thersites on December 6, 2007 at 6:02 PM | PERMALINK

What you should be, I think, pointing out is why Romney is following the primarily atheist Hitchens and his eternal war ilk.

Posted by: Ya Know.... on December 6, 2007 at 6:16 PM | PERMALINK

MNPundit,

I can't speak to its leaders' religious views, but one civil rights movement, which everyone seems to forget in this discussion, ran counter to pretty much all religions and yet was fairly successful:

Women's Lib.

Posted by: Boronx on December 6, 2007 at 6:20 PM | PERMALINK

MNPundit, let's also not leave out one of the greatest movements in the history of freedom, the founding of the Good ol' USA which was very carefully non-religious and was guided by men who didn't think much of religion though they did believe in God.

Posted by: Boronx on December 6, 2007 at 6:23 PM | PERMALINK

Coke? I thought Mormons avoided caffeine.

Mormons didn't drink any colas. Then in the late 60's or early 70's the church bought a big hunk of Coca Cola stock. Shortly after that, the President of the Church had a "revelation" that Coke was ok. But not Pepsi.

I lived in Utah for a year in 1973-74. Ain't ever going to vote for a Mormon.

Posted by: tomeck on December 6, 2007 at 6:35 PM | PERMALINK

I believe the Church owns Pepsi, not Coke.

Posted by: Boronx on December 6, 2007 at 6:46 PM | PERMALINK

Al (of course) wrote: "If it wasn't for the religious support for the abolitionists, Lincoln would never have freed the slaves. If it wasn't for the church's support for the civil rights movement, we would still be living in a world of Jim Crow laws. Learning a little American history would teach you Romney was 100% correct."

Well, on slavery, those abolitionists who were Christians really didn't have a leg to stand on theologically. The slave-owners really did have the Bible in their corner on that one. Conservative Christians fought the civil rights movement tooth and nail. In both instances, the "Christians" that Al and Mitt Romney now claim were in their corner were in fact progressive, liberal Christians who helped move our civilization forward by arguing against fundamentalism and scriptural literalism and for equal rights guaranteed by the Constitution, not religious dogma. As for the pro-lifers, yeah the Religious Right has been on the forefront of that battle, but keep in mind it's actually pro (fetal) life. Other forms of post-partum life, particularly if it's poor, brown-skinned, or non-Christian, can go to hell.

Posted by: jonas on December 6, 2007 at 6:53 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not religious either, but I don't think it's necessary to impugn his integrity on this. Many Americans seem to believe that the U.S. is founded on religion. These Americans are mostly conservative. Romney is a conservative American. Why should he feel any differently?

Posted by: catherineD on December 6, 2007 at 6:59 PM | PERMALINK

Not only does Romney not have the guts to toss in even a single passing phrase about the nonreligious, as JFK did, he went out of his way to insist that "freedom requires religion," that no movement of conscience is possible without religion, and that judges had better respect our "foundation of faith" lest our country's entire greatness disappear.

The fundies peaked out in 2004. Teri Schiavo in 2005 was the beginning of the end of their big influence in politics IMO. It is going to do nothing but go down from here for some time (at least two generations hopefully). Many churches are fractured because a good portion of congregations are getting tired of the meddling in politics and WANT to keep church and state separate. It was interesting reading George Will's column a few months ago about "values voters". He doesn't care for this crowd one whit. If the GOP goes on to stage more FreakShows like we saw last week their party is going to be even more split.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on December 6, 2007 at 7:08 PM | PERMALINK

Hey Secular Animist -- Evidence of ghosts, huh? You should go take your paranormal sightings and win James Randi's $1,000,000 bet. http://www.randi.org/research/index.html

(to paraphrase another) Or... is it more likely that an event would happen which violates all the known laws of physics, or that a man would tell a lie...

Man, I think true atheists (those who don't believe in ghosts) are really outnumbered. Even the buddhists think we are nuts :)

Posted by: xmd on December 6, 2007 at 7:10 PM | PERMALINK

It doesn't matter what you believe. What matters is how you publicly identify yourself, what you endorse, what you associate with, what you allow to speak and act in your name.

If today you call yourself a person of faith, then you are, at the very least, allowing a campaign of incitement to genocide to speak and act in your name, because that is what religion has been reduced to. What greater potential it may once have had, or may someday recover, is not at issue: that is what it is today.

Repeat after me: Not In My Name. Not In My Name.

Posted by: Frank Wilhoit on December 6, 2007 at 7:22 PM | PERMALINK

Alicublog sums up Romney's speech best: Catholic, Protestant, Mormon -- it's all "different shit, same Deity." Let's fight the real enemy -- godlessness!

And roy ends with this: We'd see lots of Mormon Christmas specials on TV, like "Santa's Magic Underwear" and "The Mormon Tabernacle Choir Meets the Phantom of the Park."

Posted by: TJM on December 6, 2007 at 7:23 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not religious either, but I don't think it's necessary to impugn his integrity on this. Many Americans seem to believe that the U.S. is founded on religion.

As the saying goes, people are entitled to their own opinions but not their own facts. Under such circumstances, people holding these kinds of beliefs need to be disabused of them.

These Americans are mostly conservative. Romney is a conservative American. Why should he feel any differently? Posted by: catherineD

How about because we really need leaders who are the smartest guys and gals in the room? Anyone who holds the kinds of religious beliefs held by Huckabee and Romney are not often the smartest guys in the room.

Posted by: JeffII on December 6, 2007 at 7:28 PM | PERMALINK

Mormons didn't drink any colas. Then in the late 60's or early 70's the church bought a big hunk of Coca Cola stock. Shortly after that, the President of the Church had a "revelation" that Coke was ok. But not Pepsi.

Horseshit. Christ almighty. Mitt Romney's speech today may have been an affront to democracy and American values, and the man himself a slimeball, but some of the most ridiculous myths about Mormonism and wildest distortions of Mormon beliefs have emerged from the blogosphere in the last few days.


I have to note that Romney's church is one of the most militant denominations in squeezing women into the traditional boots of childbearing and homemaking. So it does not matter to me if his omission of the vote for women as a great movement for freedom is intentional or unconscious.

That may be true, but it's worth noting that Utah was actually the second place in the United States to grant women the vote, sometime in the 1870s (Wyoming was first). Granted, this was less about feminism and more about adding to Mormon political power: politics in Utah in those days was strictly on Mormon-vs.-"Gentile" lines, and among non-Mormons the male-female ratio in the Utah Territory was about 10:1. Most non-Mormon settlers of Utah in those days were gold/silver prospectors and railroad construction workers, two groups not exactly known for being heavily female. Still, it's worth noting that the 1882 Edmunds Act, which made polygamy a federal offense and vacated all offices held by polygamist Mormons, also abolished women's suffrage in the territory; the federal government also demanded that Utah not bring back women's suffrage as a condition of statehood in 1896, even though polygamy had been banned.

It's also worth noting that "plural wives," portrayed as "harem slaves" in sensationalistic Eastern newspapers, actually enjoyed more freedom in many ways than "free" women in monogamous marriages back East. Even if each wife maintained a separate household (Big Love-style), the amount of time that any one woman had to spend on household duties was far less than that required of a typical middle-class woman in late-19th-century America. Because men granted the privilege of practicing polygamy by the church (always a small minority, a fact at the center of Zane Grey's Riders of the Purple Sage) would have their plural wives taken away from them and reassigned to other men if they could not keep their families out of poverty, polygamous men actually had an incentive to keep the number of children down. (Brigham Young himself had fewer than two children per wife.) This meant that plural wives had an enormous amount of time on their hands once the children had reached school age, so they became heavily involved in what Robert "Bowling Alone" Putnam would call "civil society."

Posted by: Linus on December 6, 2007 at 7:54 PM | PERMALINK

How about because we really need leaders who are the smartest guys and gals in the room? Anyone who holds the kinds of religious beliefs held by Huckabee and Romney are not often the smartest guys in the room.

...except that evangelicals and Mormons are both more likely than the nation as a whole to hold bachelor's and master's degrees--the latter much more so. The nation's top schools of law, business, and medicine are filled with Mormons far in excess of their proportion of the American population, even when you control for 80-90% of American Mormons being white.

Either the NYT or the WaPo observed last year that the brains behind movement conservatism in the past ~30 years have belonged to Mormons, Catholics, and Jews.

Also, the smartest people in the room are usually agnostics. Having spent a few years in academia on both coasts, I've found that self-proclaimed atheists are able to display as much dogmatism as fundamentalists of any religion.

Posted by: Linus on December 6, 2007 at 8:03 PM | PERMALINK

Neo-fascists really do tear up the constitution.

Where is the 4th estate? Oh, that's right Mr. Hyatt, you are part of the Neo-fascist elite. You're doing a heck of a job.

Jefferson and Adams would be so disgusted. Jefferson predicted this and expected intervening coups and revolutions to purge the rotten power structure.

Posted by: larry on December 6, 2007 at 8:13 PM | PERMALINK

MonkeyBoy: What conservatives mean by "freedom" is different than its more liberal meaning.

Conservatives don't all agree. Libertarian-leaning conservatives follow the Founders and believe that "freedom" means "freedom from government restraint."

Most liberals I know believe in both freedom and big government -- a contradiction from the liberian POV.

Mike wrote: every single player plan permits others to select their own doctors

Yes and no. Under a single payer plan, one can only select a doctor from people who have chosen to become doctors. However, if the single-payer reimbursement is lower than current, then people who otherwise would have become doctors may choose some more lucrative profession. (I'm assuming that the Plan wouldn't allow doctors to charge more than the reimbursed amount, as is done in Medicare.)

Posted by: ex-liberal on December 6, 2007 at 8:17 PM | PERMALINK

Linus: self-proclaimed atheists are able to display as much dogmatism as fundamentalists of any religion

Well, except for the worshipers of the Messiah Ron Paul.

Posted by: alex on December 6, 2007 at 8:23 PM | PERMALINK

"It's also worth noting that "plural wives," portrayed as "harem slaves" in sensationalistic Eastern newspapers, actually enjoyed more freedom in many ways than "free" women in monogamous marriages back East."

Your comment about plural marriage may be valid for many families, past and present, Linus, and I am not opposed in principle to polygamy. BUT you did not get to the sticky parts - of 13, 14, 15-year old girls being "given" to men as wives, and being threatened with hell fire if they protest. And even your point about wives being "reassigned" to other men if a husband incurred the wrath of elders reveals a sickening sexism. Is there any part of your picture that shows women as autonomous human beings? If so, I missed it. Having time on our hands for "civil society" when the children are old enough just makes us handmaidens for someone else's agenda.

But, back to Romney, his "religion is freedom" statement and his nerve in comparing his concept of "freedom" to our historical movements for freedom is more odious than the particulars of Mormon history and theology. Romney's freedom and his religion don't include me, so I'll just find my own freedom and my own religion - and keep both of them as far as I can from his kind of government.

Posted by: Brownell on December 6, 2007 at 10:09 PM | PERMALINK

ex-'liberal': "Most liberals I know believe in both freedom and big government -- a contradiction from the liberian POV.

Oh crap, I just snorted Constant Comment tea out through my nose.

re: freedom requires religion - many of the comments are spot on (including, solely as a description of what some people believe, Hansen's). See also Lakoff's On Freedom, which has a little section on just this idea. Only by following God's Law and disciplining one's desires can one be actually free, etc., etc.

"IMHO - No you wouldn't, because to hear an accurate description of it would probably rock some of your core beliefs about the wisdom of man left to his individual reasoning."

Actually, when I first read this, I assumed it was a claim about how stupid people can be, as demonstrated by the absurd reasoning behind the idea that "freedom requires religion". In fact, I was mentally frowning a bit and finding this a bit harsh - after all, it's not stupid, exactly, but rather suited for those who are afraid of life, and doubt their own capacity for judgment, maturity, reasoned self-governance, etc. rightly or wrongly,

But really, it ended up convincing me - albeit not in the way it was intended. And seriously, John, how absolutely unexamined do you think our ideas are? It's like some odd version of 'the only reason they haven't converted is that they don't know anything about what Christianity really says . . .'

"Without this method of carrying forward the glue that binds the social contract together people are "free" to do whatever they wish, without regard to shame."

As SA mentions, this seems extremely unlikely. It seems likely, on the other hand, that some level of morality and sociality is part of our basic, presumably ultimately genetic, makeup. (see for example Nicholas Wade's Before the Dawn for a popular account re: sociality (among other things), and for morality -well geez, you can hardly turn around lately without bumping into some book or article about morality and the brain, or the evolution of same.) Now, this shouldn't be taken for some romantic nonsense about how Man in his natural state is fundamentally good blah blah, but that this deliciously savored fantasy about our hopelessly reprobate bestial nature, helplessly prone to no limit of exciting depravities - the mention of shame is quite telling - is just that, a fantasy. People aren't, as a rule, going to wander about having sex in public (with individual exceptions) or start eating their children or randomly attack their neighbors or suchlike. They are pretty likely to try to kill the people in the next valley over, and perhaps the greatest ethical advance of the last few millennia - often, it's true, but not always, carried by religion - is the insistence that all people are part of your group. In practice, this too often ends up as: everyone is part of our group, except those bastards the next valley over who don't share our religion: let's go exterminate them! . . . but it's a start . . .

"This bank of wisdom, which in the sad state of human relations, is necessary to carry a society successfully onward for multiple generations is labeled "religion"."

No, that's "tradition."

Posted by: Dan S. on December 6, 2007 at 10:44 PM | PERMALINK

Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey and A Study in Scarlet by Conan Doyle are great for learning about Mormonism.

Posted by: Luther on December 6, 2007 at 10:46 PM | PERMALINK

Under the banner of Heaven is another good book about fundamentalist Mormonism.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on December 6, 2007 at 10:55 PM | PERMALINK

"This bank of wisdom, which in the sad state of human relations, is necessary to carry a society successfully onward for multiple generations is labeled "religion"....No, that's "tradition."

Way up thread, I was going to say "Actually, what you are describing there, Hansen, is what sociologists and anthropologists refer to as "culture."

(But somehow the comment window ended up shrunk and in my system tray...)

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on December 6, 2007 at 10:59 PM | PERMALINK

I've read about half the comments. Forgive me if these points have been raised before.

a) How does Romney merit such airtime?

b) Norway and Sweden are among the least churchy nations on earth. Are they not free?

c) According to the patriarchal monotheisms, God is omniscient, i.e., He knows what you will do before it is done. Ergo, there is no free will.

d) I'd love to see, the next time some dunderhead asks a politician for his favorite Bible quote:
"There shall be no religious test for public office."
"That's not from the Bible."
"It's the only Bible of the United States. Read it sometime."

Posted by: cavjam on December 6, 2007 at 11:22 PM | PERMALINK

Romney is like the popular guy playing to the crowd who makes an ass of himself by pandering to the prejudice they all share with just a little too much gusto. It embarrasses everyone but the true dimwits to see that their small-mindedness has become that obvious. First he gave us Double Guantanamo and now he comes up with “freedom requires religion”. Top that, Rudy!

Posted by: jedermann on December 6, 2007 at 11:39 PM | PERMALINK

Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey and A Study in Scarlet by Conan Doyle are great for learning about Mormonism.

The former, maybe. The latter, definitely not--its portrayal of Mormons was based on fanciful British newspaper accounts. Arthur Conan Doyle later met a number of Mormons in England, learned about the religion first-hand, and wrote a number of considerably more sympathetic Mormon characters into later stories essentially as a way of apologizing for the hatchet job done on the religion in A Study in Scarlet.

Posted by: Linus on December 7, 2007 at 12:01 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe Amy Sullivan wrote that speech.

Posted by: sherifffruitfly on December 7, 2007 at 12:26 AM | PERMALINK

That guy is one cynical SOB.

Posted by: Kenji on December 7, 2007 at 12:55 AM | PERMALINK

I'm Pepsi, you're Coke ... let all patriotic cola drinkers stand fast against the Pellegrino crowd.

Imbiber beware.

Posted by: Chino Blanco on December 7, 2007 at 2:36 AM | PERMALINK

BGRS,

"ancient" Greek ain't gonna be of much help reading the original texts of the Bible. You're thinking of koine or "common" Greek (????? ????????) which was the lingua Franca of the eastern Mediterranean for centuries after Alexander's conquests, in the lands of the Seleucid, Ptolemaic, and Antoginid empires. In fact, the Greek of the Biblical texts is much closer to modern Greek than it is to the Greek of Thucydides or the Greek of Homer.

I assume all biblical literalists (I'm looking at you, Hansen) are fluent in ancient Greek and Hebrew and have pored over the original scrolls?
Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on December 6, 2007 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

Posted by: keith on December 7, 2007 at 4:51 AM | PERMALINK

/pedantry

Posted by: keith on December 7, 2007 at 4:53 AM | PERMALINK

" Norway and Sweden are among the least churchy nations on earth."

IIRC, the Lutheran Church is actually a government department in Norway. And yet Americans are far more 'churched' than Norwegians; we are more regular attendees at services, etc.

Posted by: theAmericanist on December 7, 2007 at 8:22 AM | PERMALINK

[Romney] went out of his way to insist that "freedom requires religion," ... But I'm not religious, and yet, mirabile dictu, I still manage to support freedom, have a conscience, and understand the law.

—Kevin Drum

These two statements are not necessarily inconsistent. Empirically, over time, at the national level, including all religions not just one, Romney may be right. If he is, that is precisely what may account for and allow your freedom and beliefs.

Posted by: Econobuzz on December 7, 2007 at 8:37 AM | PERMALINK

I couldn't get through all the posts; and, perhaps, someone else has already said this, but I would be considered "religious" (weekly church attendance and belief in Jesus Christ) and I was appalled at Mr. Romney's ideas. I am not interested in, and frankly I am sick and tired of hearing about, politician's views on the Bible, Christ or Yahweh. I believe in and support the separation of Church and State.
What seems to be masquerading as Christianity with many of these people is a religion which says not that one must be Christ-like; but one must be successful (powerful) to be seen as "religious."
I am, however, getting more than a little tired of the equation of faith with moron on these blogs. I am not a moron. I am a liberal democrat (stretching all the way back to McGovern)
whose faith is Roman Catholic. Said faith, at its best, challenges the materialistic/individualistic nature of contemporary American society. Do we always live up to this challenge? No. Very few people, including ethical and moral atheists, always live up to the challenge of their ethics.
Less judgment, more empathy would seem to be the order of the day.

Posted by: Edna on December 7, 2007 at 8:57 AM | PERMALINK

A point in the speech's favor is that it had a genuine quality. Nobody seems to question whether Romney wrote it himself. In reality, he may have had considerable help from speechwriters. But, even critics of the speech assume it represented Romney talking directly to them. For better or for worse, listeners believe they were hearing the real person.

Posted by: ex-liberal on December 7, 2007 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin -

I am a religious person myself, at least reasonably so, but I was offended by his speech for many of the same reasons. An interesting thing about these right-wing evangelicals is they are actually hurting religious belief and practices in America and turning many of us away from religion because of the arrogant, self-centered, hypocritical, and intolerant characteristics of their pseudo-Christian crapola.

Note these characteristics are also considered sinful by all major religions and prophets. It's really all about $$ and power...

Posted by: Brian on December 7, 2007 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

Romney's religion should be a non-issue. Why should I be any more alarmed by a Mormon president than by one who believes in the Judeo-Christian Bible, the Torah, the Koran, or the Vedas? All are equally capable of replacing rational thought with superstition if we let them.

The point of our system of government was that it was premised on the Age of Reason, not on historical affinities of absolute rulers and their versions of God, which are often seriously compromised by self-interest (i.e., present day Iran or Medieval Europe). Nor by affinities between cultist governments and their God(s) (i.e., Puritanism in the Massachussetts Bay Colony). One can, in America, (at least in theory) believe in whatever God(s) or Goddess(s) he or she wants or none at all, and must phrase government policy and law in secular terms, not depending on divine intervention as the basis for government action.

I have enough reasons to doubt that I would vote for Mitt Romney, but his choice of spirituality is not one of them. I respect his religious belief as much as I do everyone elses, but one's choice (or lack) of religious faith should not be a prerequisite for being elected. Nor do I want such onerous religious IOU's sitting in the White House. Present day example of the hazards is exemplary.

Posted by: Khalil Spencer on December 7, 2007 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK
....For better or for worse, listeners believe they were hearing the real personex-lax at 11:02 AM
I have never heard. Such stilted. Delivery. From a real person. Nor have I. Any faith in someone. Who only quotes. Among the founders. Adams. The author of the Alien and Sedition Act. Nor in anyone. Who so demands a religious. Test for judges.

This is simply pandering to the Republican christo-crowd. While the guy is even better coiffed than Edwards, he has all the humanity of a Savile Row tailor's dummy.

...Under a single payer plan, one can only select a doctor from people who have chosen to become doctors.....ex-lax at 8:17 PM

Putting aside the tautological stupidity of your remark, one could utilize traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture, Chiropractice and presumably other sources of medial care and attention.

Posted by: Mike on December 7, 2007 at 12:12 PM | PERMALINK

there is a very interesting commentary on romney's speech that you can easily get to via google:

type: daily kos calipygian romney kennedy
into the google search box, hit search and it's
hit one on page one

Posted by: wschneid25 on December 7, 2007 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

ex-liberal wrote: "A point in the speech's favor is that it had a genuine quality."

That's a funny comment, coming from someone whose every single post stinks of phoniness.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on December 7, 2007 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

If asked, Guiliani would undoubtedly name 2 Kings 2:23-24 as his fav

Posted by: genome on December 7, 2007 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

Groveling in front of the religious right is unbecoming. This will deflate his poll numbers. It won't appease the religious right and everyone else will dis Mitt for his weakness.

Posted by: bakho on December 7, 2007 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

Even George W Bush believes people should be free to worship or not worship as they so choose.

"Remember, even George W. Bush has been surprisingly tolerant of non-believers. His father was pathetic on the issue H.W. Bush once publicly declared that atheists are not patriotic and should not be regarded as citizens but the current president, in one of the few nice things I can say about him, has actually been quite charitable towards those who choose no spiritual path."

http://www.thecarpetbaggerreport.com/archives/13840.html

Posted by: Political Voyeur on December 7, 2007 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

there is a long,very detailed,very well thought out editorial in the new york times on romney's speech.

to get to this editorial, type into the google search box: "new york times" editorial "crises
of faith". after you hit search, it's hit one on page one.

since the editorial is unsigned it is probably the work of three or four people. the times got themselves three or four real good people and these three or four real good people did a real good job.

Posted by: wschneid25 on December 8, 2007 at 2:55 AM | PERMALINK

Another column of possible interest:

Romney's Un-American Double Standard

‘Freedom requires religion, just as religion requires freedom”

Whose quote is that? If you guessed Osama Bin Laden you are wrong, though it sounds like something only a theocratic leader might say.
In fact, it was Mitt Romney in his speech defending his faith last Thursday. What was so astounding about what he said was the tortured logic in which he defended his own right to believe in his faith, by completely excluding anyone of no faith. “Freedom and religion endure together or perish alone,” he continued.
It was as if he were in a bubble, completely disenfranchising million and millions of decent moral patriotic American citizens who were doubters, agnostics, freethinkers or atheists....

Posted by: Mike on December 9, 2007 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

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