Friday, December 07, 2007

There shall be no test...

The news has been abuzz with discussions of Mitt Romney's speech this week. Given that Mitt is Mormon, and therefore suspect to a large portion of American Evangelicals, he attempted to make his religious beliefs more palatable to the foundation voting block of the GOP. He wants the nomination. Since many evangelical christians do not consider Mormons christian (in fact, many consider them a bona-fide cult), even if he is a fabulous candidate, he has a lot of ground to cover to 'win them over'.

It's not "courageous" to discuss his religion -- it would be courageous not to. Standing up and bluntly stating that your religious beliefs are personal and wholly irrelevant to your ability to do the job, that would be something newsworthy. In this campaign season, every single candidate, right or left, is trying desperately to cloak themselves in the Holy Aura of Religiosity in an attempt to garner votes. It's quite sickening, to be honest, and I would hope insulting to those people who really do believe, to have someone mouth platitudes about how they are so righteous and so an attempt to win votes.

I'm fairly horrified by this, actually. While I do understand that people want to elect a president who shares their ideas and is "like" them, this test for religious belief is certainly anathema to the founding father's ideas. We are not a theocracy. The religious beliefs of our leaders -- as long as they perform their duties well -- is irrelevant.

Well, perhaps that's not true if you believe as many evangelicals do, that morality can only come from god. And not just any god, mind you -- their specific idea of god. If you believe in a different one, or have a different collection of religious dogma and ritual, well, then you can't possibly be a good person. I really don't understand that particular piece of logic; especially since I am a staunch atheist and consider myself to be a moral and ethical person. Not sure how that fits into the idea that only religion can imbue people with morals....but I digress.

The fact that the media and the watching public seem to believe that questions such as "do you believe in The Book? Do you believe in the literal truth of the bible" and "how does your faith instruct your decisions" are valid questions in the political arena is boggling to me. I try to base my voting on whether the person in question has the same views on issues as I do, whetherthey have voted the way I want them to, and whether they have a track history of following the same issues as I do. To think that you can determine all of that just by whether someone says that they are religious, to think that you can "know everything you need ot know" based on their answer of whether they accept Jesus...well, that bespeaks a non-critical, non-thinking, non-rational mode of decision-making that I can't get my head around.

I know people who proclaim themselves to be christian who are good, honest, moral, and caring people. I also know people who proclaim themselves to be christian who are among the worst, most venal, least ethical people I know. Both would give the same answers to those questions. They'd say the same thing. If that's my only standard of measurement, then those two people would be equally acceptable candidates if I didn't look any further. And a lot of people don't seem to want to look any further than that.

Now, I would hope that most people are not using that as a single yardstick. I'm sure most people are not. I truly hope most people are not. But to make anyone's religion an issue in a political election flies in the face of our very constitution, and smacks rational, reasonable discourse about political issues a good one right on the nose. No one religious group has dibs on "the truth", no matter what they claim. I find this phony "I'm more religious-er than you!" mudslinging in each debate to be distasteful. I'm sure a lot of people do.

For once, the NYT seems to have gotten it right:
Still, there was no escaping the reality of the moment. Mr. Romney was not there to defend freedom of religion, or to champion the indisputable notion that belief in God and religious observance are longstanding parts of American life. He was trying to persuade Christian fundamentalists in the Republican Party, who do want to impose their faith on the Oval Office, that he is sufficiently Christian for them to support his bid for the Republican nomination. No matter how dignified he looked, and how many times he quoted the founding fathers, he could not disguise that sad fact.
He even trotted out that old chestnut that the founding fathers really did! Really! design us a "christian nation" and really did promote the primacy of the protestant version of christianity as the basis for our country, and god (remember, the protestant christian god, not necessarily the Roman Catholic one) had a hand in shaping America through the revolution and establishment of our government. Mitt has spent a lot of time denying that he really does believe in the basis of his own faith -- Mormonism -- because so much of it is considered so "weird" by mainstream Christians. How can that be seen as honest?

When an obviously intelligent and qualified presidential candidate has to abase himself to win the support of religious fanatics in order to be considered for nomination, we've got trouble with a capital-T, if you ask me.

It might seem that I'm picking on Mitt Romney, it's not personal (although I'm not going to vote for him, I already know that) -- but his proclamations and statements about faith have been in the forefront lately. When candidates annouce that they will let God guide their decisions, that doesn't make me feel comforted. That makes me feel very, very nervous. It should make everyone feel nervous -- it's false, it's pandering, and it's politics as usual.

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