Friday, December 7, 2007

Religion & Morality

As anyone who watches the news knows, Mitt Romney (R-MA) gave a speech yesterday regarding his Mormon faith and how it would effect a Romney administration. In one of my previous entries, I mentioned how it was right for Romney to address this issue, not because of any religious test for office (specifically prohibited by the Constitution, by the way), but rather because his religion was publicly a racist organization until 1978. Further, Romney was a Mormon bishop, so this case differs slightly from Kennedy's lax Catholicism.

Americans rightly asked questions of Robert Byrd's (D-WV) affiliation with the Ku Klux Klan decades ago. It is absolutely right to give Gov. Romney a chance to say whether or not he agrees with the racist dogma of an organization he was affiliated with while it was officially racist.

So yesterday he did it, and he said something that bothered me at the time. And the more I think about it, the more it bothers me. He said:

"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."

I'm sorry, but that's just wrong. Not only is it wrong, it is diametrically opposed to the intention of the founders, a great number of whom were deists. But let's break this down for a minute...

Freedom Requires Religion

The Spanish Inquisition* (persecution of Jews by Catholics)
Divine Right of Kings (Do what the kings says because GOD HIMSELF put him in charge)
The Troubles (Protestants and Christians killing each other over the Six Counties)
The Crusades (Catholics and Muslims killing each other over Jerusalem)
The Israeli/Palestinian conflict (Jews and Muslims fighting over land promised by God)
The "War on Terror" (Fundamentalist Muslims goading Fundamentalist Christians into a "New Crusade")
Stem Cell Research (Christianity imposing itself on scientific research)
Slavery (Justified in the South by using the Bible)
Terri Schiavo, et. al. (Religion invading personal freedoms)
Intelligent Design (Fundamentalist Christianity imposing itself on science and free thought)

Freedom requires religion? Good job, guys. Seriously, keep up the good work. If we didn't have religion, we'd be screwed! I mean, Christ Almighty!

When you actually look at it, removing God from morality forces you to set up a free society. You can advocate for other forms of government, and perhaps on small scales they would work, but human society moves naturally toward freedom. You could argue that it's a side effect of our curious, inductive natures. We want to know the truth. And the truth, as they say, shall set you free. For a great explanation of why this is, see Rawls' A Theory of Justice. I'm sure I'll blog about it sometime, the Original Position is my favorite philosophical idea.

Our Founding Fathers Believed Freedom Required Religion

Nope. They certainly believed that everyone has the right to believe what they want, but most of the founders believed that God created the universe and then walked away, having nothing to do with us. No Abrahimic revelations. No Jesus. No Muhammad. So if God had nothing to do with us, how could our freedom require religion?

Still not convinced? Read Jefferson's letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut;** Washington's letter to the Jews of Newport, Rhode Island; any Thomas Paine; any Ben Franklin; or documents connected with the Barbary Coast War (which is immortalized in the Marine Corps Hymn - "To the shores of Tripoli...").

America has religious plurality because of freedom, not freedom because of religion. The idea, as advanced by Justice Antonin Scalia, that justice is derived from the ten commandments is a joke. What it says is that the Jews were wandering in the desert, and Moses came down with ten things you're not supposed to do, and all of this was supposed to be news to the Israelites. Oh, we can't kill now? No Graven Images? Somebody hide the calf! I don't know how your wife got into my bed...

I don't know about you, but I have a somewhat higher opinion of human intelligence than that.


*You may not have expected it, but there it is, along with its chief weapons of fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency, and and almost fanatical devotion to the pope. Oh, and the COMFY CHAIR!!
** And who were the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut worried about being persecuted by? The (wait for it... wait for it...) CONGREGATIONALISTS of Danbury, Connecticut. They weren't even worried about non-Christians trying to keep them down. And they were worried enough to write the President about it!

1 comment:

Dan said...

Excellent post, Jake. I think Romney is out in left field and has no idea what he's talking about. It makes me laugh how Christians are saying, "Hmmm, this Mormonism seems strange." They need to take a long look in the mirror.

Keep up the great posts!

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