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Tilting at Windmills

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December 31, 2007

'ACTS OF GOD'....Obviously, when it comes to religious beliefs, Mike Huckabee is free to think anything he wants. His faith is his business. That said, am I the only one who finds this a little odd?

Five days after the tornado tore through the state, [Arkadelphia, Ark., a] city of 10,000 lay in ruins. The cyclone destroyed an office building, a bank, a pharmacy and 70 other businesses. The electricity was out. The National Guard patrolled the streets. Six people were dead.

In Little Rock, GOP Gov. Mike Huckabee was reviewing a disaster insurance measure that he intended to support when he became troubled: The bill, drawing on centuries-old legal terminology, referred to natural disasters as "acts of God."

In a time of emergency, Huckabee would hold up the measure for more than three weeks to press his personal objection that the Almighty could not be blamed for the region's loss. In the process, he drew damaging headlines and created new strains in his relations with the state's legislature, the General Assembly.

Now, to be fair, it's worth noting that there's no indication that Huckabee's decision to delay the bill adversely affected anyone. But the state legislation in question sought to protect tornado victims from insurance companies that might cancel their policies, and used language -- "acts of God" -- which is standard in the law and in many insurance policies. Nevertheless, Huckabee refused to even consider disaster relief until the bill's wording was changed to meet his worldview.

One state senator noted, "Instead of getting focused on getting aid to the areas, he's in an uproar over words. It was kind of silly."

Huckabee told Tim Russert yesterday that the best way to consider whether he would blend religion and public policy as president is to look at "how I served as a governor." That's hardly reassuring.

Steve Benen 9:02 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (40)

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It's not just idiotic, it's not even theologically correct. Unless Huckabee is a secret Manichean--I thought he was Southern Baptist--the physical world and all its phenomena are the creations of God. Who is responsible for natural phenomena under Huckabee's worldview, if not God?

Posted by: Andrew Wyatt on December 31, 2007 at 9:14 AM | PERMALINK

I am ignoring this person. He too shall pass. And soon. I hope.

Posted by: hollywood on December 31, 2007 at 9:18 AM | PERMALINK

I wouldn't waste one more millimeter of column space on this Southern-fried turd with bad teeth.

Let the GOP run this goober for president - he will lose in a monumental landslide defeat. Maybe people will finally realize that the Republican Party is frozen in the 18th Century and is utterly unqualified to lead this great country into the 21st Century.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on December 31, 2007 at 9:20 AM | PERMALINK

Huckabee isn't even frozen in the 18th century. His position, if it really is his position, is fundamentally flawed in from the points of view of both law and theology.

Huck is a politician first. I wonder who he was trying to benefit by his little tantrum? Insurance companies maybe?

Posted by: corpus juris on December 31, 2007 at 9:57 AM | PERMALINK

I'm with TCD on this, with one caveat: so long as Huckabee isn't actually nominated, the more he helps the eventual Republican nominee.

Pale Rider flat out didn't understand why some weeks back I was happy that Ron Paul was doing so well in the media, cuz I figure the more prominent Paul is, hell if he got the nomination, the more he helps Democrats. That's cuz if he WAS nominated, he'd lose even Republican voters. The longer he goes before he loses, the more libertarian Paulbearers are brought into the process, then bitterly disappointed.

Huckabee's dynamics are different. As he becomes ever more clearly the leader of the evangelicals, he becomes ever more effectively the guy whose endorsement will determine the nominee (so long as it's not him). So unlike Paul, Huckabee will play for major stuff FROM the eventual nominee, to energize and turn out his base voters, who are far more important to Republicans than the Paulbearers.

If he gets past South Carolina, I hope they go all the way and nominate him.

Posted by: theAmericanist on December 31, 2007 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

Steve Benen: "Obviously, when it comes to religious beliefs, Mike Huckabee is free to think anything he wants. His faith is his business."

Come again? Why? Why is his faith "his business"? My faith may be my business because I'm not running for freakin' president of the US of A. But what someone who's running for public office, let alone the highest one, believes about the universe, morality, humanity, etc. is of the utmost relevance to all of us. His "faith" is what informs his positions on, well, everything, and it is no longer "his business." It's mine and yours and it is the business of everybody he may rule over.
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Posted by: Aris on December 31, 2007 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

Aris:

I think what a candidate believes on abortion, gays, and so on is definitely relevant. And many times, peoples' positions on those things are based on religion. But that's not the same thing as saying that the religious faith (or lack thereof), in and of itself, is our business. I think it is sufficient to ask candidates what they would do on the issues, such as abortion, that would affect the American public. But asking those questions is different from asking "What are your religious beliefs?"
I don't think that is appropriate.

Posted by: Lee on December 31, 2007 at 10:26 AM | PERMALINK

The problem, as usual, is "Who decides?"

Who decides it was an Act of God? In most cases now, the insurance company decides, and they do so in order to avoid payment.

Laying aside Huckabee's personal beliefs, why is such a decision allowed to be made by the insurance companies? Doesn't that amount to the establishment of religion?

Posted by: MatthewRmarler on December 31, 2007 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

Lee, why isn't is appropriate? I really don't understand this.
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Posted by: Aris on December 31, 2007 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

You know, one question I'm wondering about is just how much of the Republican coalition, in terms of votes, is composed of the religious right, broadly speaking, and how much of the so-called "fiscal-conservatives"?

Does anybody have a sense of the underlying numbers these days?

Posted by: frankly0 on December 31, 2007 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

When I first heard about the "act of God" language in insurance policies, I thought it meant that if you were driving down the road and a divine fist came out of the sky and smashed your car, Mutual of Omaha wouldn't cover it. Mutual of Omaha was the only insurance company I had heard of at that age because of Marlon Perkins and Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom.
I always thought it was neat that MoO sponsored Marlon, but I began to wonder whether MoO insured him -- or his trusty assistant, Jim. Given all the time they spent chasing wild animals, maybe MoO just figured it was cheaper to sponsor than to insure them.

Posted by: CJColucci on December 31, 2007 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

People who only get with god on the warm and fuzzy issues strike me as psychologically blind. If God creates everything and loves everybody, what does that say about Elephant Man's disease, in which the body is genetically changing soft tissue to bone, and which horribly disfigures and slowly kills the individual? What kind of love is that? I'd love to hear Mike Huckabee go on Meet the Press and defend Elephant Man's disease as the product of a loving god who wants the best for the person so afflicted. Whatever the higher or deeper reality is that makes this world and everything in it, it's self-evidently not warm and fuzzy all the time. Hence, the creation of "heaven" as a consolation prize. "Sorry for the rape and the cancer and having your legs chopped off on an amusement park ride -- let Daddy God buy you a Heaven Ice Cream Cone! (TM)".

Sorry, but I get all George Carlin on these god-is-love types.

Posted by: Robustus on December 31, 2007 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, Huck seems to be taking a more enlightened viewpoint here. He's right. Disasters are not "acts of God" and that antiquated language in insurance policies should be dropped. I wish Pat Robertson would start seeing things the same way, since he tends to blame every natuaral disaster on somebody's sin.

Posted by: Virginia on December 31, 2007 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

It doesn't seem like anyone will bother to explain to me why it is inappropriate to ask presidential candidates, "What are your religious beliefs?" Are we to consider that this question is on par with "How many people have you had oral sex with?" I can understand why the latter question has no relevance to governing, and it's a private matter. But what's wrong with asking the former? Is it an embarrassing question? Candidates -- and citizens too -- trip all over themselves to express how pious they are, but it's inappropriate to ask them about the content of their piety? Would someone please explain to me these matters? I'm honestly curious.
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Posted by: Aris on December 31, 2007 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

Aris:

My thinking was that religious beliefs aren't anyone's business as long as they don't impinge on other people. In practical terms, if someone is opposed to abortion on religious grounds, this will come out even if they're just asked specifically about abortion, when they explain their reasoning on this issue.

I don't think religion is "embarrassing," and if candidates voluntarily discuss it, then it's certainly fair to question them about it. But I have a problem with the idea that religion is just something people have a "right to know" about.

Posted by: Lee on December 31, 2007 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

I'm with Aris on this one. Its not just how ones worldview affects his position on wellknown issues, but how it would affect what he would do on an unanticipated but critical issue (quite possibly war and peace) should it arise. The candidates world view is an important quide to their thinking process.

Even his second issue: number of sex partners has some bearing. If the answer was excessive numbers, than clearly that candidate has had issues with risk/reward that could have disturbing implications in a crunch.

If those sorts of loss of privacy issues are unacceptable to you, then you join the vast majority of people who simply don't want to apply for the job.

Posted by: bigTom on December 31, 2007 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

I would greatly respect a candidate who said "shove it" if they were asked about how many sex partners they've had. Doing so would make me much more likely to vote for them. It's what Clinton should have told the Republicans when asked about Monica Lewinsky.

Posted by: Lee on December 31, 2007 at 12:06 PM | PERMALINK

But I have a problem with the idea that religion is just something people have a "right to know" about.

Lee, I'm afraid you are restating your position, but not explaining why the religious beliefs of other people should be considered private and not the subject of public discussion. You say that embarrassment is not the issue. Then what is it? You seem to think that this is somehow self-evident but it really isn't.
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Posted by: Aris on December 31, 2007 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

He didn't want it out that God punished Arkansas for electing him.

Posted by: Luther on December 31, 2007 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

Frankly: white evangelicals and born-again Protestants formed about 24% of the 2006 electorate (total), and voted 70% for Republicans.

Posted by: theAmericanist on December 31, 2007 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, yeah, even though I think the comparison is imbalanced: folks who NEVER go to church are about 15% of the electorate, and roughly two-thirds them voted Democratic in 2006, nationwide.

"Fiscal conservatives" are harder to identify, not simply because there is so much overlap, but because it is a qualitative characterization: Romney is attacking Huckabee as a big spender, but that hardly means Huckabee accepts it.

But it's safe to guess that values voters are a solid third, plus, of Republican primary voters, and tend to be more unified (especially as choices narrow) that pocketbook voters.

Posted by: theAmericanist on December 31, 2007 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

white evangelicals and born-again Protestants formed about 24% of the 2006 electorate (total), and voted 70% for Republicans.

Thanks for the statistic, tA.

I do wonder though if your conclusion that means they are only roughly a third of Republican primary voters is right. 24% times 70% is 1bout 17%, and only about 28% of American voters identify themselves as Republicans nowadays -- obviously 17% is a lot more than half of 28%, though presumably some of those 17% may identify themselves as independents.

Of course, in at least some primaries independents can also vote in the Republican primaries, so that muddies the issue somewhat. But of course those independents too will skew heavily toward right wing evangelicals compared to independents at large.

On balance, I'd put the religious right representation in the Republican bloc effectively as at least 50%, possibly more, given these numbers.

Posted by: frankly0 on December 31, 2007 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

Aris:

I'm sorry, but I don't see how I can rephrase it other than what I have said. I think that if religion becomes a topic of inquiry when it doesn't involve how a candidate would behave regarding any particular issue, that's tatamount to creating a religious test for public office.

Posted by: Lee on December 31, 2007 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

Since nobody seems able or willing to articulate why religious faith should be hidden from scrutiny, here's why I think it's both my business to know other people's religious beliefs (and for other people to know mine) and why this is of paramount relevance to determining if someone is fit to preside over us.

The very fact that someone has any sort of religious faith says something very profound about his or her way of thinking about the world. It informs us as to whether someone perceives the universe and everything it contains as a natural phenomenon or as the artifact of a supernatural entity; it tells us whether one accepts mysticism as a valid source of knowledge; and then there are the specific tenets of someone's particular religion and dogma: Do they believe in a 6,000-year-old world? Is their religious beliefs in conflict with science? Do they believe in demons and witches? In exorcism? In a god or gods who interfere with human affairs? Do they think prayer works? Is morality god-ordained or a subject fit for human analysis?

The answers to these questions, and many more which have to do with religious faith, are the absolutely most revealing as to someone's mentality, sanity, intelligence, temperament, etc. Nothing, absolutely nothing, can tell us more about a person. The fact that religious faith is a deeply personal thing is exactly why it is so important in determining who someone really is.

The irony is that religious people should really, really want to talk about what they believe in. As a thoroughly secular person, I'm proud of my lack of faith and love talking about it and analyzing it for anyone willing to listen. Why is it that religious people seem to want to hide the content of their faith as if it is a dark, painful secret? What are they afraid of?
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Posted by: Aris on December 31, 2007 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

Christ, I didn't know there'd be ALGEBRA. (That IS algebra, isn't it?)

70% of 28% equals 17% of 100%, fair enough.

But that 28% of American voters self-identify as Republicans in 2007 gets into an apples and oranges and aardvarks issue with the demographics of the vote in 2006. So it's not valid to muse that, okay, "Republicans" are a quarter of the electorate now, and values voters are 17% of the total, so that means they're more than half of the Republican base...

I keep urging folks around here to watch what moves voters, e.g., immigration, and WHICH voters it moves. Republican values voters tend to be offended by Bush's support for amnesty, and thus, less likely to self-identify as Republicans these days. But that doesn't mean they can't or won't vote in Republican primaries. (Democratic values voters -- a sadly neglected group -- tend to be FOR amnesty, btw.)

That's why I figured a third, plus. I dunno as they get as high as 50% -- but the difference isn't self-identification as such, it's how they frame the election.

Huckabee wants to MOTIVATE values voters. If he succeeds, that'd likely boost 'em over a third, maybe even over 40%, but the closer he gets to half, the more he's converting pocketbook voters to vote values rather than adding new votes.

I don't see he's got the issues to do that: do you?

I can't imagine that objecting to "acts of God" language is gonna move a lot of votes or motivate a lot of evangelicals. I mean, who the hell is gonna wake up on the Barcalounger after dinner on Caucus Day and think: Damn! I gotta go save the Republic from insurance companies that dissed the Deity in 1911!!!

Posted by: theAmericanist on December 31, 2007 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

Aris, I think you're catching on that Lee is essentially a dogmatist: he believes what he believes cuz he believes it, which he considers evidence of knowledge rather than faith: ignorance is wisdom, in his world.

The real answer to your question isn't so much that it'd be an unConstitutional religious test for public office, as it is a test of character.

You're asking for an argument against interest.

I wrote a character in fiction once who never went to church and only prayed in the bathroom. It was a quirk he picked up as a kid, when the Biblical story where Jesus points to the Pharisees who make a big show of praying in public as hypocrites. His advice is to pray where NOBODY can see you -- but God.

So that's what my character does. You want to open the bathroom door.

Faith, to BE faith, has to be essentially irrational. Twain flippantly said it's believing what you know ain't so, but it's more what a 13th century English mystic described as "the cloud of unknowing". It's a pretty basic element of monotheism that God is WAY beyond our comprehension, so approaching God AS IF you can understand, or prove, or do much more than grok and try to humbly serve, is a mite presumptuous.

But it's NOT shy. One of the most powerful stories ever is Job: who refuses to say that he deserved his misfortunes, and dares to continue that refusal to the Voice from the Whirlwind. (It is a curious fact of the Old Testament that most folks say that the Voice silences Job: "Shut up!," he explained. But in fact, Job silences God, who never speaks afterward in the Old Testament: potent stuff, that.)

There are any # of utterly absurd things that people of faith may believe, irrationally, but it's not necessarily cuz THEY are irrational: the unreasonableness of their beliefs is covered by the 'cloud of unknowing'.

That kind of faith is necessarily private. That doesn't make anybody who talks about faith a hypocrite -- like you say, it's interesting stuff. But it DOES mean that the more public you are about it, the harder it necessarily is to stay right about it in private. It poses a moral hazard, where you benefit from what harms you and are harmed by your reward.

That's why you're looking for an argument against interest. When the bishop tried to trap Joan of Arc, he asked if she considered herself to be in a state of grace. If she'd said no, that was a confession; if yes, that'd have been blasphemy. Her answer resolved it "If I'm not, may God bring me there; if I am, may he keep me there," but they still burned her at the stake. (She also begged the bishop to say the Lord's Prayer with her, which should have freed her on the spot.)

A politician asked about his religion is put into a position where his or her PRIVATE salvation is to be weighed for their PUBLIC benefit. It was lawful for a bishop to ask Joan, because he was concerned with her soul. It is NOT legit to ask a candidate for public office in the US, because we're concerned with their election not their salvation.

You're asking for a Pharisee who prays (and argues about faith) in PUBLIC, but the foundation of most faith is that it is essentially a private matter and none of your biz. Even on your own terms, the best answer is to refuse to answer -- so why insist?

Posted by: theAmericanist on December 31, 2007 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

Americanist:

Don't religious people "believe what they believe" without any evidence?

Posted by: Lee on December 31, 2007 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

Lee, yer gonna have to work on literacy: "Writing maketh an exact man," as Bacon put it.

Most religious people consider the WORLD to be evidence, so it is not accurate to say they 'believe without evidence'.

What I noted about YOU, is that you're a dogmatist. (Many people of faith are dogmatic, but not all; while many folks who consider themselves to be without faith, turn out to be faithful dogmatists: like you.)

One of the marks of a dogmatic is that contrary evidence becomes, through a kind of narcissist alchemy, into PROOF that the dogmatic's prejudices are supported by "evidence".

Thus, you couldn't say why you consider questions about a particular candidate's religious faith to be illegit, except insofar as their faith would drive their official decisions: that's part of your dogma, that no good, progressive American would EVER oppose someone for public office cuz they practiced any particular religion -- after all, as you say, "they're all bullshit".

When someone like Aris points out that this isn't actually an answer, you explained that you couldn't put it more clearly: it's just DOGMA, for you. You believe what you believe cuz you believe it, and when challenged, you can't go any deeper or further.

I did this with you over what Christians believe about redemption, which you said you didn't understand -- cuz you got it wrong. Rather than take that as a gift, furthering your understanding, you objected as a dogmatic: you regarded an actual fact as an AFFRONT.

It's the nature of dogma to explain everything, resolve all contradictions and leave no loose ends -- so dogmatics aren't real open to learning anything. It all has to reinforce the original explanation -- in your case, that "it's all bullshit," even when it's not.

That's you.

Posted by: theAmericanist on December 31, 2007 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

I think that if religion becomes a topic of inquiry when it doesn't involve how a candidate would behave regarding any particular issue, that's tatamount to creating a religious test for public office.

In a democracy there isn't, and there should never be, a formal religious test for public office. However, voters already take into account one's religion in making voting decisions, and that is proper -- even if I consider the propensity to opt for religious candidates idiotic.

To put it in another way, there shouldn't be a formal IQ test for public office. However, I sort of think that it would be a good idea for voters to consider a candidate's intelligence before voting. Don't you?
___________________________


Posted by: Aris on December 31, 2007 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

the foundation of most faith is that it is essentially a private matter and none of your biz. Even on your own terms, the best answer is to refuse to answer -- so why insist?

The simple answer is that when politicians talk publicly -- and some incessantly -- about how pious they are, then the content of their piety cannot be a private matter. If they don't want the particulars of their religion examined, then they should refrain from reminding everyone how religious they are. I'm not making faith a public matter, it's the faithful who do. And they can't have it both ways, asserting their moral superiority for being faithful, but refusing to address the content of their faith that supposedly makes them so much better than secular folks.

The less simple answer, is that even when politicians do not make their faith a public issue, I still want to know what they really believe because it's important to know if one has irrational beliefs, even in private. Irrationality, in private or public, is equally relevant to knowing someone.
___________________________

Posted by: Aris on December 31, 2007 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

(wicked smile) Then GO with it, already: you want folks who will lie to you, so you can evaluate how effectively they can practice deception.

I don't think it's exactly true, btw, that candidates 'assert their moral superiority' when they explain that they go to this or that church. IIRC, virtually all of 'em explain it in terms of what sinners they are.

Got a bit of inferiority complex there, Aris?

You're also misusing the word "secular", when what you apparentl mean is "atheist" or, if you want to be broader and less definite, "unchurched".

But you definitely aren't using the word "secular" properly as the opposite of "faithful" -- for Catholics, at least, secular refers to folks who aren't priests and includes a whole lot of the faithful.

Posted by: theAmericanist on December 31, 2007 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

Americanist:

Let's cut out the bullshit. You just hate it when anyone disagrees with you. Well, that's tough.

Posted by: Lee on December 31, 2007 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

Regarding acts of God and insurance: it is a popular myth that insurance does not cover "acts of God." Pull out your homeowners policy and read it: you won't find a reference to acts of God. Characterization of an event as an "act of God" has no relevance to whether the event is covered by an insurance policy. In fact, insurance does cover many events (such as tornados) that would be considered acts of God.

Posted by: Brad Hudson on December 31, 2007 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

Kook-I-bee!

Posted by: Neil B. on December 31, 2007 at 3:23 PM | PERMALINK

Got a bit of inferiority complex there, Aris?

Actually, no. It may seem arrogant but I consider my lack of faith in unseen things as rational and therefore I consider myself intellectually superior to the religious who believe in irrational things that go bump in their heads day and night. It is the religious who seem to feel they are inferior since they are so terrified of talking about their faith.

In any case, with any discussion, I know it's time to end it when one of the participants is revealed as a pedant and pretends to tell me what words mean, but is not capable of actually coming up with correct dictionary definitions. "Secular," of course, means "not religious" and that's how I meant it. "Atheist" has a far more specific meaning and it is the opposite of "theist." And while an atheist is not religious, agnostics are not atheists but are also not religious, and one can be merely indifferent to religion and therefore not religious, while having no determined position on theism. "Secular" is the proper umbrella term that encompasses all the non-religious.
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Posted by: Aris on December 31, 2007 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK

(snicker) On the contrary, I love arguments. You should offer some.

Cuz I DO hate ignorance, Lee.

Aris -- you don't quite get the purpose of language, which is (or ought to be) to clarify rather than obscure. When you're using a term to AVOID a distinction that makes a difference, it's generally cuz you're, um, avoiding something. Didn't notice?

Atheists don't believe in God, but that doesn't necessarily make 'em irreligious, particularly in a theological sense -- in fact, you made yourself a pretty fair example when you claim that you consider yourself superior to people of faith cuz (you figure) you are rational and they're not.

Way to pat yourself on the back for bigotry.

"Secular" is used in many contexts to make a distinction between those who are formally part of the institution of a religion, e.g., priests, ministers, nuns, etc., and those who are not. Since those who are not include most of the faithful, the way you used the term is not accurate -- or, if ya wanna see REAL pedantry, it is accurate (if you're shallow), just not very useful.

The way you DEFEND it lumps you in with Lee: you're far more "religious" than you think you are, you've just substituted a shallower set of beliefs for faith in God, and you resent it when somebody takes you deeper cuz you're over your head and can't swim.

Put it this way: 'spose there was a candidate for a national leadership position who was raised in a religion founded by a child molester, that changes its basic principles(say, toward women and blacks) according to its political goals, and which succeeded politically and economically by, oh, let's say they took over an undefended, largely unpopulated territory, turned it into a state, and hit the jackpot when, hmmm, how about it turns out that this state contained an absolutely vital seaport or road connection or something.

Would it be legit to demand that the guy talk about his faith, if he understands and defends its history? I don't think so -- but you do.

Suppose there was another candidate for national office whose faith teaches precisely the opposite of a whole series of his public positions, on abortion, gay rights, etc. Would it be legit to demand that candidate explain how she can call herself a member of X faith, and yet vote the way she does?

I don't think so -- but you do.

It isn't that folks like you, Aris, are 15% of the electorate that bugs me. It's that you so blithely consider yourself superior to the other 85%.

You exemplify what you claim to oppose.

Posted by: theAmericanist on December 31, 2007 at 4:33 PM | PERMALINK

It isn't that folks like you, Aris, are 15% of the electorate that bugs me. It's that you so blithely consider yourself superior to the other 85%.

Yes, I do consider myself intellectually superior, but I don't do it blithely, I'm willing, able and anxious to talk and defend my lack of faith in the supernatural. I welcome anybody and everybody to ask me why I don't believe and I'd be happy to explain. My lack of faith is the result of reflection and as that is can be defended and it is therefore not dogmatic. Conversely, the religious will not defend their faith, but I'm supposed to respect their reticence and make no judgments about the content of their intellect or character based on the fact that they have irrational beliefs which they don't want anyone to mention.

I find this little game the religious play, where lack of faith is supposed to be as dogmatic and arbitrary as faith itself, so transparently illogical that I'm surprised anyone bothers to use it any longer as a putdown. It's just more evidence of how insecure the religious are.
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Posted by: Aris on December 31, 2007 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK

"It isn't that folks like you, Aris, are 15% of the electorate that bugs me. It's that you so blithely consider yourself superior to the other 85%.

You exemplify what you claim to oppose."

No, Americanist. Both religious people and atheists feel superior to each other. The big difference is that atheists, in my experience at least, do not try to convince the religious to convert to a position of atheism. They have a respect and an understanding of the value of religion to those who practice it. In fact many atheists start their spiritual journey (and I believe it is a spiritual quest) from the position of being brought up as children in a particular religion. Conversely, the religious, again in my experience, almost always try to persuade the atheist to adopt their religious beliefs. The techniques used are too numerous to list. Coming back to the topic at hand, religious political candidates present a danger to the electorate at large that they will govern in an 'extreme' manner, not only domestically, but also in the area of foreign policy. Bush came dangerously close to this sort of 'hallucinatory' war on evil (unless that was only lie #11 concerning Iraq, Iran and North Korea). So it's not so much that I need to know what the candidates 'believe' in a religious way as what they believe their limits are as the president of a multi-religion and non-religious electorate and commander-in-chief of an arsenal of weaponry capable of detroying the world many times over. This issue, more than any other, requires a firm grip on the 'rational.'


Posted by: nepeta on December 31, 2007 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, this is just toooo cute, like a four year old's fastball: "I do consider myself intellectually superior, but I don't do it blithely..."

You want to have an ARGUMENT about matters of faith, Aris. This is like dancing to architecture, eating poetry, taking shelter in a metaphor.

If you can't figure THAT much out (hint: I quoted an English mystic on the point upthread), you're not intellectually superior to a doorknob.

Nepeta: that's a putdown. A doorknob is NOT smart. Neither are folks who disrespect 85% of the electorate.

Posted by: theAmericanist on December 31, 2007 at 8:13 PM | PERMALINK

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