December 6, 2007

"We welcome our nation's symphony of faith."

Mitt Romney gives his religion talk, emphasizing the value of diversity and the general good of religion and putting the discussion of particular religious doctrines off limits.

I think this was all fairly well put, though there is some unfortunate exclusion of people who have no religion:
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.
If he means that to be free we must as a nation accept freedom and diversity of religion, that is fine. But if he means that one must be religious in order to be free, he is quite wrong.

He strongly states that a candidate for office should not have to explain or defend the doctrines of his religion, and he equates such a requirement with violating the constitutional proscription of religious tests. But are we really forbidden to take into account that we think a candidate's religion is too bizarre or too evil for a competent, reliable person to align with? What if the candidate were a Satanist or a Scientologist? Would we just put that to the side lest we violate the ban on religious tests?

It's not as though there is a statute disqualifying a member of a particular sect — which would clearly violate the ban on religious tests. To consider the candidate's religion is to look at the whole person and to try to make a judgment about whether he'd make a good President. Isn't it similar to looking at a candidate's personal life and judging him? Romney wants us to think about his seemingly — presumably — admirable family, even though having a solid family life is not a requirement for the presidency. It says something about his judgment and emotional stability.

But the fact is, we don't think much about the beliefs of the traditional mainstream religions, and there is an issue here as to whether Mormonism will receive the same treatment and not be classified with religions like Satanism and Scientology that the great majority of voters would see as a huge and probably insuperable barrier. Romney expects us to recognize Mormonism as one of the mainstream religions that provide a foundation in life for intelligent, responsible individuals who are worthy of our trust. I think we should do that, but we should also see that he is declining to participate in the debate about why we should. In so declining, he showed good judgment. There is absolutely no reason why he should engage in the obvious problem that I am raising in this paragraph. He'd be an inept candidate if he did.

47 comments:

Joshua said...

I think this was all fairly well put, though there is some unfortunate exclusion of people who have no religion:

He would also be an inept Republican primary candidate if he did not exclude people who have no religion.

christopher said...

If he means that to be free we must as a nation accept freedom and diversity of religion, that is fine. But if he means that one must be religious in order to be free, he is quite wrong.


Poor Ann still hasn't figured out that the Republican party hates non-believers.

It's like poor Palladian, who hasn't figured out that they also hate gays.

Is there an African-American regular here? If so, I hope you've figured out the Republicans also hate you....

christopher said...

And speaking of Mitt and George Herbert Walker Cougar Mellencamp Bush --

Isn't it neat that Bush introduced the Mittwit's speech on religion, considering that the old man once said the following:

"No, I don't know that atheists should be regarded as citizens, nor should they be regarded as patriotic. This is one nation under God."

Gotta love the Republican party....

cold pizza said...

Most militant atheists are already going to be anti-Mitt so there's nothing he could say or do that would please them (short of dropping out of the race completely). His audience was not Doyle or DTL or the progressive party or CAIR or the ACLU. For the target audience of undecided Republican primary voters and the “faith-based” community, Mr Romney presented an excellent CONSERVATIVE speech that is sure to resonate with the rest of the “uneducated superstitious masses in flyover land,” of which I is one (although I once stayed at a Holiday Inn Express).

Now I’m just going to sit back with the popcorn and watch the usual offended parties start the hyperbolic barking.

christopher, wow! Project much? -cp

ricpic said...

Freedom descends directly from religion. The belief that there is one God and the belief that Man is made in the image of God invests the sacred in Man. And from that investment is born, inevitably, the concept of freedom.

Whether one is or is not a believer, the refusal to acknowledge that freedom descends from religion is either perverse, ignorant, or both.

rhhardin said...

Wonkette (October 4) gets points for prediction :

Mitt to Beg Voters to Overlook His Scary and Confusing Religion

Alan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Freder Frederson said...

I think we should do that, but we should also see that he is declining to participate in the debate about why we should.

Why should we Ann? Have you ever read The Book of Mormon? Next time you are in a Marriott, pick one up and page through it. It is blasphemy if you are a Christian. If you are not a Christian, you just amazed that Joseph Smith had access to such good hallucigens in the first half of the nineteenth century. No offense meant to Maxine, but Mormonism deserves the same amount of respect and credence as scientology. That is, precisely none.

peter hoh said...

Yes, I suppose in the minds of most Americans, there is a line drawn between those religions that are considered part of the mainstream and those that are not. Non-belief, for now, is probably lumped in with the "non-mainstream" faiths.

The veil of the mainstream provides some nice cover. No one is going to grill Giuliani about whether or not he accepts the Catholic teaching about the Immaculate Conception, for instance.

Joe said...

you don't need hallucinogens to make stuff up. I think the words you're looking for are "con man."

Invisible Man said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chip Ahoy said...

Christopher, you're a liar. A big fat liar.

Mentiroso, mentiroso,
sus pantalones se est├ín al ¡fuego!

Republicans do not hate blacks, you creep. And putting those words into Bush's mouth is despicable. He actually said the exact opposite. Heard him myself. Impressed me, actually, because I thought the same thing he expressed; how is it that faithless people can nonetheless still be good people? It was a mystery to both of us because we both know good and splendid but oddly faithless people. Unlike people such as yourself who seize every opportunity to be ugly and create opportunities when they fail to present themselves. Divisive creep. Now where's my 10 foot stick with the poo on the threatening end?

peter hoh said...

I think a good number of Americans are willing to include Mormonism as one of the mainstream religions. That's not really a theological question, however.

Are Mormons Christians? That's a theological question, and one that Romney widely avoided.

For some Americans, the category of mainstream religions is limited to religions that fall within the Judeo-Christian tradition. These people present a problem for Romney. How big a problem is yet to be determined. Huckabee's rise makes this problem loom larger than if Romney were just facing off with the likes of Giuliani and McCain.

Joshua said...

The belief that there is one God and the belief that Man is made in the image of God invests the sacred in Man. And from that investment is born, inevitably, the concept of freedom.

This doesn't follow at all. It also contradicts the vast empirical evidence suggesting that belief in supernatural beings is the enemy of human freedom.

Joshua said...

No offense meant to Maxine, but Mormonism deserves the same amount of respect and credence as scientology. That is, precisely none.

What about mainstream Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, etc.? I don't see how those creeds are more deserving of respect than Mormonism and scientology.

Freder Frederson said...

What about mainstream Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, etc.?

Well let's say they have a provenance that Mormonism and scientology lacks. Scientology and Mormonism are completely made-up religions, both created out of whole cloth by a single man, one in the twentieth century, one in the nineteenth. Sure, Joseph Smith, unlike Hubbard, tried to give his made-up religion a patina of respectability by piggy-backing it onto Christianity. But it is so far removed from Christianity and its tenets so falsifiable and historically inaccurate that it can be dismissed out of hand as the ravings of a huckster or lunatic.

christopher said...

Chip Ahoy said...
Republicans do not hate blacks, you creep.


Any black Republicans in Congress?

And last time I looked, Bush's approval rating among black people was at three percent -- which given the margin of error means its actually possible that it's really at zero.

So you may be right -- maybe it's black people who hate Republicans, not the other way around.

In any case, there's no question the Republican Party is the official standard bearer for homophobia, theocracy and torture.

Roger said...

I suspect if we looked, or could look at the origins of all the major world's religions, we would probably find them lacking in any sort of scientific rigor. All of them, I think, are based on personal revelation, virgin birth, burning bushes and other forms of allegorical contact with some divinity. Its just that the earlier revelations have had more time to become accepted. Had Joseph Smith discovered the tablets 3000 years ago, perhaps we would all be wearing our temple garmets to service on sundays.

To me, at least as a full time agnostic and part time atheist, the test of one's religion is how the adherents treat the people with whom they come in contact. It is the system of values they demostrate and practice in interpersonal settings. For that reason, I would much rather rely on LDS friends than say Wahabbist Muslims, or even some folks on this blog. But thats just me.

Joshua said...

Wasn't Christianity also essentially made up out of whole cloth by one man? A Jew could easily make the same complaint about Christians piggybacking their religion onto Judaism that you are making about Mormonism and Christianity.

I also don't see much difference in the falsifiability of the tenets of Mormonism as against the tenets of mainstream Christianity. Both faiths seem have rather outlandish and implausible claims as their core beliefs.

Freder Frederson said...

For that reason, I would much rather rely on LDS friends than say Wahabbist Muslims, or even some folks on this blog. But thats just me.

Well, just because Kirstie Allie, John Travolta, and Donny Osmond are nice enough people doesn't mean you want them in charge of the nation's nuclear arsenal. And Tom Cruise and I may be assholes and you may not want to vote for either one of us, but I bet if push came to shove I bet you would find me more logical and level headed.

Balfegor said...

I think this was all fairly well put, though there is some unfortunate exclusion of people who have no religion:

Well, strictly speaking, we're not part of that "symphony of faith," now, are we? Except maybe in an avant-garde John Cage kind of way.

Freder Frederson said...

Had Joseph Smith discovered the tablets 3000 years ago, perhaps we would all be wearing our temple garmets to service on sundays.

Sucks to be him (or one of his followers), doesn't it.

Roger said...

Freder: actually you have a very mistaken impression of yourself and your abilities. To be perfectly honest, I would not want you in a foxhole with me, or covering my flank or rear in a combat situation. Nor would I want you as a next door neighbor. Nor would I want you in any position where you could exercise any kind of authority over elements of coercion. You impress me as pathologically hostile to authority, irrational and completely unbalanced. But that's just me.

Lefty John said...

"In any case, there's no question the Republican Party is the official standard bearer for homophobia, theocracy and torture."

Just as there's no question the Democratic Party is the official standard bearer for infanticide, godless nihilism, and statism. Choose your poison.

If God does not exist, then everything is permitted, and there's no moral reason to respect anyone's freedom.

christopher said...

If God does not exist, then everything is permitted, and there's no moral reason to respect anyone's freedom.


That's nice, Lefty. I'll leave you to do bong hits in your community college dorm room now....

Freder Frederson said...

To be perfectly honest, I would not want you in a foxhole with me

I'm truly hurt Roger! I guess I'll have to share a foxhole with my best bud Cedarford. He can tell me all about the international Jewish Communist Gay Conspiracy.

jimbino said...

Most militant atheists are already going to be anti-Mitt so there's nothing he could say or do that would please them (short of dropping out of the race completely).

Dawkins is right when he claims that the term "atheist" confuses the issue.
For want of a better term, folks like scientists, humanists and general non-believers are lumped together under the rubric "atheism."
This is unfortunate, because the truth is that we scientists are non-believers in anything, including all the hocus-pocus of mainstream religion, of Mormonism and of Communism and Nazism. And our posture is anti- with regard to Buddhists and Animists and other non-theists to the extent that they make similar assertions of fact based on mere fantasy.

So it's really not true that we rationalists, humanists, scientists and atheists are "against Mitt" any more than we are against any of those genuflecting presidential candidates. Indeed, there's many an atheist who will vote for Mitt when he considers alternatives like Hillary.

Balfegor said...

we scientists are non-believers in anything

I . . . I had never understood that scientists were universally atheist. Or agnostic non-believers in everything, if you prefer. I don't go around asking every scientist I meet whether they believe in gods, but in at least some cases, there have been pretty strong hints that they do.

Joshua said...

If God does not exist, then everything is permitted

The conclusion does not follow from the premise.

Bruce Hayden said...

Not surprising the usual BDS. etc. coming from the same culprits.

That said, I want to point out that Mormons do come from the Judeo-Christian tradition. They accept the Old Testament as do Jews and (non-LDS) Christians, and they accept the New Testament, as do (non-LDS) Christian. The problem is that they have accepted essentially a third set of scriptures, the Book of Mormon, which allegedly describes what happened after the New Testament.

Indeed, one of the things that was quite notable to me when living in and visiting SLC was that Christmas carols were ubiquitous during the pre-Christmas season. Not just the neutral ones, but esp. the full-blown religious ones.

I can understand how some Christians (notably apparently the Roman Catholic church) do not accept LDS Mormons as true Christians. But it is also quite clear that the religion came out of mainstream Christianity of the early to mid 19th Century, and thus is part of the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Final note though, non-Mormons are considered/called "Gentiles". A friend in college from Utah was always amused by this, since he was Jewish, but was considered a Gentile by a majority of those living in Utah.

JackDRipper said...

Freder Frederson said...

I guess I'll have to share a foxhole with my best bud Cedarford. He can tell me all about the international Jewish Communist Gay Conspiracy.


Why? you're probably already in on it.

C. Schweitzer said...

If he means that to be free we must as a nation accept freedom and diversity of religion, that is fine. But if he means that one must be religious in order to be free, he is quite wrong.

I disagree. Ans so did George Washington, in his farewell address to the nation:

"Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice ? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle."

Cedarford said...

ricpic - Whether one is or is not a believer, the refusal to acknowledge that freedom descends from religion is either perverse, ignorant, or both.

Great observation, worth repeating again and again. While other religions have elements that hinder freedom - notably Islam - the idea of natural law and natural rights given to man is a Christian concept. Modern, flourishing Asian democracies that aren't Christian openly acknowledge this, and say that while they know freedom has alien roots, pragmatically they choose to accept those natural laws and rights because they happen to work so well in meeting their own peoples aspirations and values.

Freder Frederson said...

I guess I'll have to share a foxhole with my best bud Cedarford. He can tell me all about the international Jewish Communist Gay Conspiracy.


Given Freder's usual sympathies for the enemy and his hatred of US Forces and leadership, I think the debate on any foxhole he would be in would be whether to shoot him or not as a threat to other soldiers.

EnigmatiCore said...

'Cause it's a bittersweet symphony, this life, trying to make ends meet, trying to find some money then you die.

I'll take you down the only road I've ever been down. You know the one that takes you to the places where all the veins meet.

Cedarford said...

Adding, on the speech, I agree with Ann Althouse that the big piece missing in Romney's speech was the role he saw in America of OUR atheists, agnoistics, and "light believers" advancing our values, our interests. A very substantial part of our population - outnumbering all other minority groups.

People where the prominence of religion in lives ranges from "I believe, sort of...go to religious things now and then, to good folks that contribute much who don't believe in god at all.

By omitting them, Romney, in crediting religion as the fount of democracy and freedom, appears to cast them into a non-supporting role. I think that is an oversight, and 'Ol Mitt will surely be asked that as people follow up on his speech. It's not just the 40% of Americans who aren't "deeply religious" or not religious at all - it is Romney being obligated to be explaining how he wll deal the rest of the non-Islamic world that have great old or new traditions of freedom and democracy = but that have only 20% down to a few percent at most who are religiously observent.

And I agree with Ann that Romney and the rest of the candidates other than Huckabee in both Parties are largely done with the issue of the nuances of their faiths. The media and candidates have spent too long on it already.

JackDRipper said...

"We welcome our nation's symphony of faith."

Who goes to the symphony any more in America?

Our nation is less like a symphony than a cacophonous mix of watered down Country, pathologically obnoxious rap, American Idol pablum, commercial jingles, Latino rhythmic noise and whatever you call that Britany Spears stuff.

peter hoh said...

Bruce Hayden wrote: I can understand how some Christians (notably apparently the Roman Catholic church) do not accept LDS Mormons as true Christians. But it is also quite clear that the religion came out of mainstream Christianity of the early to mid 19th Century, and thus is part of the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Why single out the Roman Catholic Church in this? I don't think any mainstream Christian denomination considers that LDS Mormons are true Christians.

Coming out of a tradition is not the same as being part of it. Christianity arose out of the Jewish tradition, but that doesn't mean that Christians are Jews.

Pal2Pal said...

I don't get the complaint that Romney left out the people of no religion. This speech was about FAITH, so why would he mention those of no faith. I think it is a given that you either have faith in something greater than yourself or you don't. If you only believe in yourself, why would you care what anyone else has faith in besides themselves? I would think you would be happy not to be included.

EnigmatiCore said...

If one is going to give a speech about tea, one would by necessity have to speak about the benefits of no tea.

It just stands to reason.

Of course, if one has no use for tea, they probably aren't going to watch the speech, even if they do not crave no tea.

PatCA said...

I think it was a very good speech. He didn't talk about atheists except to say that the basis of our inalienable rights rests on their being bestowed upon us by a creator, not a government. A secular basis should never replace that because if a secular governmental power held that power, the rights of people like Newdow, or any of us, would be in a precarious position. He also touched upon the dangers of religion-based government, like jihad.

So I think he hit all the notes he needed to. Our rights come from God, but our personal relationship with God should remain private. He didn't talk about his own faith, because that is private, but explained at least to my satisfaction that it acknowledges that we should render to Caesar that which is Caesar's.

Very good speech. A welcome relief from the idiotic CNN gasbaggery.

Pal2Pal said...

Red herring anyway, since Romney did include everyone when he said:

"“As governor, I tried to do the right as best I knew it, serving the law and answering to the Constitution. I did not confuse the particular teachings of my church with the obligations of the office and of the
Constitution - and of course, I would not do so as President. I will put no doctrine of any church above the plain duties of the office and the sovereign authority of the law."

On a blog run by a Constitutional law prof, I would think most who come here, of religious faith or not, would feel included in that statement.

rishigajria said...

The Best Religion is Rock'n'Roll

peter hoh said...

I should rephrase what I wrote above. I wrote: Why single out the Roman Catholic Church in this? I don't think any mainstream Christian denomination considers that LDS Mormons are true Christians.

I would like to put it this way: I would be surprised if any Christian denomination has a statement on its website (or somewhere in print) which clearly states that it has taken the position that the LDS is another Christian denomination or that Mormons are Christians.

While I understand that the LDS states that it regards itself as Christian, there are limits to self-definition. Christians, for instance, cannot credibly claim to be Jewish, even if they were to learn Hebrew and keep kosher.

An interesting article about self-definition and the Mormon/Christian question can be found here.

former law student said...

The rule of thumb is that any religious nonsense at least a century old is respectable. Today, a Christian Scientist (disease is illusion!) could run for the Presidency without incident. Scientology is just too new. Tell me which faith seems less mainstream:
Mormonism: founded by upstate New York farmboy, angel of the lord, disappearing gold plates, men become priests become gods of their own universes, baptism of the dead, polygamy, funny underwear.
Scientology: founded by pulp fiction writer, alien invasion, engrams, operating thetans, E-meters.

Blue Moon said...

Watching this speech, I felt like rising to my feet and shouting "Objection, non-responsive." It was a good speech, but I do not think that it answered the question that most of his intended audience wanted answered? -- "Tell me why I shouldn't be freaked out by Mormonism?" For some, that is an actual question, for others, it is rhetorical. I think he needed to either go all of the way ("Mormons believe x,y,z, which while different from a baptist or presbyterian isn't something you need to worry about because I am running for president, not head to the Church of America) or not give the speech. Let's face it, he gave the speech because Huck is in his rear-view mirror and he was trying to channel JFK. The difference b/w him and JFK is that the was a worry for some that JFK would be following the Pope's dictates. No one is worried about Mitt being dictated to by the LDS hierarchy, many just think Mormonism is weird. If this is all a symphony of faith yada yada yada, then why do you need to tell me about Jesus being the savior? If it doesn't matter (as long as you have SOME faith), then it doesn't matter. If it does, then tell me what makes you (Mormon) different than me (raised baptist, attend non-denominational, bible is the word of God church).

Of all the republican candidates, I have a greater objection to Mitt's faith than the faith's of any of the other candidates, and yet he would be my 3rd choice behind Huck and McCain. See, Mitt, I am being fair -- I don't hold your religion against you -- it's the plasticity and flip-flopping I can't stand (of course I'm a dem, so...)

Henry said...

Growing up among Mormons I heard many times the argument that Mormonism was more rational than other religions. The Catholics believed in a trinity that was both one and three. That's not rational.

Eventually I realized that the mystery was the point. If you are drawn to be a religious person, it is to embrace the unknowable.

Arguing that one unknowable thing has more provenance than another, as Freder does, is self refuting. Like adding infinities, the answer is always infinity, whether you're talking about the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin or the number of spirit children waiting to be born.

As for the argument that religions is the foundation of morality, that only works if you have a homeopathic definition of religion -- one so dilute as to look like tap water.

There's a field called Anthropology and a data set called World History that must be accounted for.

Michael McNeil said...

I’m not a follower or particular fan of Mitt Romney, nor am I nor is my side of the family Mormon (though as a Westerner [Montanan] it’s not unusual that many of my relatives are), but I think much of the ongoing theological Christian debate (it isn’t just evangelists, as sometimes stated) over whether the LDS faith is “Nicaean Christian” or not (it isn’t), is misguided — particularly in the context of politics in 21st century United States of America.

While excitable debate over this kind of altercation can appeal to theologians, it reminds one all too much of the arcane disputes which led to huge acrimony and disunion during the Medieval epoch — very arguably opening up places centuries Christian like Egypt, Syria, Armenia, and north Africa (and that’s just the start) to the Muslim conquest.

And it’s all oh-so significant.  Because, don’t we all consider it of monumental importance today that the so-called monophysite churches of the East believed (and still believe today) that Christ has a singular nature — wholly divine — rather than both human and divine as churches respecting the decrees of the Council of Chalcedon (AD 451) all agree?  Wasn’t that worth a Muslim conquest?

If we’re referencing religion for guidance, instead of “angels on a pin” type theological disputations, that have caused so much harm, I’d much rather point to the words of Jesus himself in this regard (Matthew 7:15-20):

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you dressed up as sheep while underneath they are savage wolves.  You will recognize them by their fruit.  Can grapes be picked from briars, or figs from thistles?

“A good tree always yields sound fruit, and a poor tree bad fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, or a poor tree sound fruit.  A tree that does not yield sound fruit is cut down and thrown on the fire.  That is why I say you will recognize them by their fruit.”

And to recognize what’s (sound) “fruit” and what’s not, as an episode of South Park perceptively put it with regard to Mormon faith (as opposed to certain other religions one might name):

“Look, maybe us Mormons do believe in crazy stories that make absolutely no sense, and maybe Joseph Smith did make it all up.  But I have a great life, and a great family, and I have the Book of Mormon to thank for that.  The truth is, I don’t care if Joseph Smith made it all up, because what the church teaches now is loving your family, being nice and helping people.”

Certainly, from my experience of my Mormon relatives vis-a-vis their church, that would appear to be totally correct.