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December 10, 2007


Mitt Romney flunks Steve Chapman's anti-religious test for office
"Reason" my butt. The supposed "Reason" based magazine has a particularly dishonest and unreasonable syndicated article by Steve Chapman condemning Mitt Romney's big speech on religion in America that he gave last week, 12-6-2007.

If you had seen or read the nicey-nice Romney speech, you'd know that Chapman was whack in the very first paragraph. "He thinks it would be much more in keeping with America's noblest traditions if Mormons and other believers joined together to punish people of no faith." That sentence has nothing to do with what Romney actually said. He just made that up.

Here are the basic statements of Romney on which Chapman bases this nonsense. He quotes a February speech in which Romney said, "We need to have a person of faith lead the country." To which, Chapman replies, "which sounds like a religious test to me." Well, NO, a broad statement that we ought to have a Godly president is not even vaguely a "religious test," particularly not within the constitutional meaning of that phrase. That very generic statement is Chapman's most damning evidence.

Also, he quotes Romney, "Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. . . . Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone." As a skeptic myself, I don't necessarily agree with Romney or most other Americans on this. Yet there is a halfway reasonable point there from Romney. The "freedom requires religion" was specifically an extrapolation from a famous John Adams quote, "Our constitution was made for a moral and religious people." The legitimate point is that a free and open country like we have can only work if the people are mostly upright and moral. For starters, our wonderful and reasonably strict limits on police powers probably couldn't survive long if most Americans only refrained from killing and pillaging for fear of the law. That's fair enough.

The fallacy though comes from the basic assumption that moral standards can come only from religion. We need a fairly moral populace, and most good (and much bad) moral education has come through churches. But not always, and not necessarily always good moral education comes through religion. This will quickly turn into Objectivism 101.

So, it's reasonable to disagree with Romney's idea that religion is a super important requirement for the good of the country. But that's a long way from setting up religious tests for office, or trying to turn a White House bid into a crusade for Christ, as that Christian populist demagogue and re-incarnation of William Jennings Bryan now named Mike Huckabee wants to do.

Looking at Romney's official religious speech, the point that he was rather elegantly making was an answer to Huckabee's surging popularity, which is based in large part on getting Bible thumpers to reject Romney for being a Mormon. It was a call for religious openness, if perhaps not quite as all inclusive as non-believers might like. More importantly, Mitt Romney has no history of religious intolerance or demagoguery. That's just completely not his MO.

But militant non-believers like Chapman in the supposed name of reason and liberty basically want to reject anyone who thinks that religious faith is important, and make them out as religious bigots. It's not enough for the faithful to simply tolerate non-believers, but Chapman would demand that devout religious folk specifically and explicitly list atheism as completely co-equal in preference to any religion. He apparently expects religious folk to proclaim that faith in God is in no way a significant plus in a candidate for POTUS.

In short, this atheistic princess-and-the-pea sensitivity is unbecoming, and not a reflection of "reason."

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posted by Al at 12/10/2007 10:08:00 AM

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