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The Big Picture

'Have you ever heard of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates? Morons.' -- Vizzini from "The Princess Bride"

Friday, December 07, 2007

Politics, Religion and Mitt Romney

By now I am sure you've read something about Mitt Romney's big speech on his religion, and religious views. There have been many commentaries on it; e.g. The Rude Pundit's take (warning, he uses profanity), and Kevin Drum's thoughts. Even David Brooks has something to say in his NYT column. Most of the discussion leans towards what Romney said versus what JFK said in his religion speech. Everyone, though, was bothered by the fact that Romney basically threw anyone who was nonreligious under the bus, saying:

Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom....Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.
....Whether it was the cause of abolition, or civil rights, or the right to life itself, no movement of conscience can succeed in America that cannot speak to the convictions of religious people.
....Our greatness would not long endure without judges who respect the foundation of faith upon which our constitution rests. [Thanks to Kevin Drum for this quote]

And this Mitt Romney jewel:
It’s as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America - the religion of secularism. They are wrong.

Secularism can in no way be called a religion; it is exactly the freedom of religion. That is each and every individual is free to practice their own religion, but no governing body (be it the American government or the Vatican, or the U.N.) can force one set of religious beliefs onto an individual. How that can be considered in and of itself a religion is beyond me. But I have to give Mitt a pass here, he is not thinking on his own, he is parroting the false views and assertions of such Christian organizations as James Dobson's Focus on the Family, Tony Perkins and the American Family Association, and "traditional" religious establishments such as Coral Ridge Ministries.

So much has already been written about secularism, and how the conservative Christians use it as a dirty word that I really need not go into it here. Simply pointing out how absurd it is serves my purpose nicely. But it is important to point out because of what I do want to focus on in regards to Romney's speech; and that is the idea of freedom and religion being not just related, but intertwined: Without one you cannot have the other, says Romney.

I guess being the atheist, makes me the only one capable of actually reading and knowing the bible, as it is clear that being Christian, especially a conservative Christian prevents one from actually knowing anything about the bible. Unless, of course, it is reinterpreted (in a literal way naturally) by a minister and re-explained to the sheep, er.. flock, in mystical terms. "God is love", "For Jesus so loved the world..", "I am the light, the truth.." etc. All this love and hope and beauty explaining all the horror and blood and gore and murder found in the actual pages of the bible, once read for oneself. So let us look at Mitt Romney's ministerial sermon on religion and compare it to the bible.

Mitt claims religion and freedom are virtually synomynous. He says, "Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom....Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone." Let us see what the Bible has to say.
4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, 6 and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled. [2 Corinthians 10:4-6 NKJV]

Hmm.... That deos not sound too much like freedom to me. And how can one like Romney allow for the freedom of other religions or those of the nonreligious if he is duty-bound to bring into captivity his every thought to God? I mean isn't it the mission of Christians to go out and convert nations to Jesus??
15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. [Mark 16:15-16 NKJV]

Does this sound like freedom to you? I cannot think of anything more antithical to freedom than making it your mission in life to convert those of other religions to yours.

But irony lives on, and the Christians out there who buy into this notion of freedom and religion being even compatible, let alone synomynous will read what Jesus and Paul say and still think that is freedom. Freedom to them is accepting God and capitulating to "His" every whim. They do it freely, and thus that is what freedom means. They do not see freedom to mean anything else. There is no freedom in being allowed to reject Christianity. And those that do are not free. I am not making this up. This is what they believe. Its root is found within the pages of the Bible. The only way to be free is to be a slave of God.

But it goes even further. Mitt claimed that, "Whether it was the cause of abolition, or civil rights, or the right to life itself, no movement of conscience can succeed in America that cannot speak to the convictions of religious people." He may be right about this, for it was Christians who fought against freeing the slaves, it was the same Christians who fought against civil rights and it was the Christians who now say that a woman no longer has the freedom to determine the status and condition of her own body, rather (conservative) Christianity has that right to her body. If it had not been for Christians wanting and fighting to prevent all those freedoms, then they would have never been earned, they simply would have existed. So in that sense, Mitt is correct, those freedoms would not have come into being, if it had not been for religion fighting against them.

But what really strikes me is that in spite of everything, Mitt is just flat out wrong. He seems to think that secularism is a new religion that is taking over America. But the reality is that it is Christianity that is the "new religion".. The natives to this land we all now live on are the keepers of the "old religion", theirs was one of nature and respect for nature. The European interlopers came over, killed them by the thousands, and forced Christianity upon them. Christianity is the only real new religion which is a pox upon society and humanity. (In this part of the world at least; I would claim the exact same for Islam in the middle east as well.)

But freedom (and liberty, for that matter) mean different things to Christians and the nonreligious. Just look at Jesus' words in the Gospel of John:
Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed [John 8:36 NKJV]

Here we have come full circle. Freedom is what you have in Jesus, and freedom is defined by Paul as bringing every thought into captivity for God. So I guess the apt analogy would be that animals caged in a zoo are actually free, but their brothers and sisters out in the wild are not free.

At least this is what Romney is selling you.

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