On a related topic, the presidential candidate for the U.S. presidency, Mitt Romney, gave a fairly good speech last Thursday. It was a good reminder that there should be no religious test for office.First, I disagree with your assessment of Romney’s speech: I would describe it not as “fairly good” but “absolutely horrible.”
For the possible benefit of others, I’ll start with some background. In my view, the Republican candidate for president Mitt Romney (former governor of Massachusetts and a Mormon) felt it necessary to give the speech (the text of which is available online) because he was slipping in the Iowa polls relative to Mike Huckabee (a former governor of Arkansas and Baptist pastor). Therefore, Romney’s political strategy was to give a nationally advertised and televised speech to “defend” his “religious credentials”, under attack by many evangelical Christians, better described as the “Christian Reich.”
Now, look at some of the details in his speech. Early in it, setting its tone, Romney proposed:
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.Really? “Freedom requires religion”? “Religion” meaning in some way to “commune with God”? Because I’ve found no evidence to support the existence of an invisible friend in the sky that Romney calls “God”, then I can’t be free? Romney has an invisible friend in the sky who requires that HE be obeyed, and yet, I’m the one who isn’t free? And exactly what shade of black is Romney’s white?
Then there’s Romney’s: “religion requires freedom.” Really? Aren’t the Iranians, Pakistanis, Saudis, and so on, religious? Are they “free”? Isn’t Romney religious? Is he “free”? Really? Free to think outside his indoctrination? Can he even think for himself?
And look again at: “Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God.” How does Romney “discover” his “beliefs”: by evaluating evidence or by “listening to his heart” – or similar to Bush, by responding to what “his gut” tells him? That’s how Bush got us into the Iraq war; it’s called the “Proof by Pleasure Fallacy”. Rather than “commune with God”, how about communing with relevant data?
And then there’s Romney’s: “Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.” Really? What evidence supports such as stupid statement? How about if his claim was at least stated more clearly: “Freedom and the science of savages called ‘religion’ endure together, or perish alone”? Is Romney a candidate for President of the United States or President of his Church? Did his bachelor’s degree in arts, his master’s in business administration, and his law degree really provide him with appropriate preparation to convey to the American public his scientific model of the universe?
Later in his speech, Romney had special condemnation for “secularists”:
… in recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It’s as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America – the religion of secularism. They are wrong.Look again at Romney’s “the religion of secularism.” No doubt it’s meant to be a damning indictment, but what is its meaning? Secularism means separation of Church and State – and in case Romney doesn’t know, it’s a concept contained in our Constitution.
But if by ‘religion’ is meant “ideas to cling to” or “ideas that hold a group together”, and if Romney meant by ‘secularism’ something similar to “scientific humanism”, then I would agree that there is a “religion of secularism.” It means something similar to: reject the science concocted by savages (i.e., “the God idea”) and replace it with the best ideas that the scientific method has been able to generate ever since the science of savages was found to be stupid. As Mangasarian said: “Religion is the science of children; science is the religion of adults.” From which it follows that Romney has the mental development of a child.
And as if to confirm that idea, Romney added:
We should acknowledge the Creator as did the Founders in ceremony and word. He should remain on our currency, in our pledge, in the teaching of our history, and during the holiday season, nativity scenes and menorahs should be welcome in our public places. Our greatness would not long endure without judges who respect the foundation of faith upon which our constitution rests. I will take care to separate the affairs of government from any religion, but I will not separate us from “the God who gave us liberty… Americans acknowledge that liberty is a gift of God, not an indulgence of government.”
What nonsense! No god gave Americans liberty. I am an American and I do not “acknowledge that liberty is a gift of God.” What liberty we have was paid for by the blood and limbs and lives of those who fought the tyrants who would impose their stupid ideas on us – such as their stupid religious ideas – and just as Romney and Muslim terrorists seek to do.
In sum, Romney’s ideas are more closely allied to those of the Dark Ages than were those of the founders of this country, not only Paine and Jefferson and Madison, but even John Adams, whom Romney quotes:
In John Adam’s words: “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion… Our Constitution,” he said, “was made for a moral and religious people.”
What Romney neglected to mention (amazingly convenient for him) were that the quotation from Adams was contained in a letter to army officers and that the concepts in the letter are wholly consistent with Adams’ application of Seneca the Younger’s principle:
Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful.
Thus, although what Romney quoted shows that President Adams considered religion to be “useful” (especially for manipulating the troops), other quotations from Adams shows that he considered religion to be “false”. Some examples of Adams’ assessment follow:
The divinity of Jesus is made a convenient cover for absurdity.
Indeed, Mr. Jefferson, what could be invented to debase the ancient Christianism which Greeks, Romans, Hebrews and Christian factions, above all the Catholics, have not fraudulently imposed upon the public?
The priesthood have, in all ancient nations, nearly monopolized learning... And, even since the Reformation, when or where has existed a Protestant or dissenting sect who would tolerate A FREE INQUIRY? The blackest billingsgate, the most ungentlemanly insolence, the most yahooish brutality is patiently endured, countenanced, propagated, and applauded. But touch a solemn truth in collision with a dogma of a sect, though capable of the clearest proof, and you will soon find you have disturbed a nest, and the hornets will swarm about your legs and hands, and fly into your face and eyes.
The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. Although the detail of the formation of the American governments is at present little known or regarded either in Europe or in America, it may hereafter become an object of curiosity. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.
The quandary that Adams found himself in, derived from his application of Seneca’s principle, was described well by Cliff Walker, who created “Positive Atheism’s Bill List of Quotations” (from which the above Adams’ quotations were taken). Walker wrote:
Oft-Misquoted Adams Quip
What you see in a great many atheistic quotes lists:
“This would be the best of all possible worlds if there were no religion in it!!!” – John Adams, letter to Thomas Jefferson.
What Adams was saying, in its actual context:
“Twenty times in the course of my late reading have I been on the point of breaking out, ‘This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it!!!’ But in this exclamation I would have been as fanatical as Bryant or Cleverly. Without religion this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in polite company, I mean hell.” – John Adams, quoted from Charles Francis Adams, ed., Works of John Adams (1856), vol. X, p. 254
John Adams is here describing to Thomas Jefferson what he sees as an emotion-based ejaculatory thought that keeps coming to him. This was not his reasoned opinion. Although John Adams often felt an urge to advocate atheism as a popular worldview (because of the sheer abuses perpetrated by religious charlatans), he was of the firm and reasoned opinion (basically undisputed in his day) that religion is essential to the goal of keeping the masses in line.
Knowing what we know today, to say this is pure slander against atheists. And yet it is still quite popular, especially among the uneducated, the widespread acknowledgement of its falsehood notwithstanding.
Thus, Adams was not above presenting such travesties as his National Day of Prayer and Fasting proclamation. These acts reflected his view that the masses needed religion to keep this world from becoming a bedlam. However, Adams, like Washington and Jefferson, did not apply this reasoning to himself – as we can plainly see from the quotations in the main section: religion was good for the masses but not for John Adams (for the most part), who was above all that and needed no piety in order to maintain his own sense of civility.
Meanwhile and in contrast, it’s not clear to me if Romney’s statement, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God and the savior of mankind”, means that he regards such nonsense as “true” or as just “useful”. But even giving Romney the benefit of the doubt that he’s smart enough to manipulate the masses, I’d bet that he “truly believes” that he has an invisible friend with him who wants him to take up residence at the White House – rather than a nut house!
Consequently, Keltoi, I also disagree with your: “It [Romney’s speech] was a good reminder that there should be no religious test for office.” Of course I agree that there should be no religious test for office, but I would maintain that anyone who claims to have an invisible friend in the sky with him is unfit for any political office.
And wilberhum, although I rarely disagree with you, I don’t think that your comment is sufficiently penetrating. You stated
We shouldn't judge anyone based on religion. Each and every religion has good and evil people in them.
I recall the great comment by Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg:
With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.
Yet, I think that Weinberg’s assessment should be generalized – to something of the form:
With or without some ideology driving them, good people would be doing good things and evil people would be doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes some crazy ideology, such as Nazism, Communism, or any of the Abrahamic religions, including Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Mormonism.