Serious religious thinker

As objectionable as Mitt Romney’s “Kennedy” speech was (e.g., “Freedom requires religion“), it couldn’t be worse than David Brooks’ analysis of it:

> He insisted that the faithful should stick stubbornly to their religions, as he himself sticks to the faith of his fathers. He insisted that God-talk should remain a vibrant force in the public square and that judges should be guided by the foundations of their faith. He lamented the faithlessness of Europe and linked the pro-life movement to abolition and [non-gay, non-immigrant, non-muslim, eds.] civil rights, just as evangelicals do.

>It is not always easy to blend an argument for religious liberty with an argument for religious assertiveness, but Romney did it well. Yesterday, I called around to many of America’s serious religious thinkers — including moderates like Richard Bushman of Columbia, and conservatives like Neuhaus and Robert George of Princeton. Everyone I spoke with was enthusiastic about the speech, some of them wildly so.

I wonder what qualifies one as a “serious” religious thinker. In the minds of many serious thinkers I know (but I didn’t call around and ask), no religious person is a serious thinker–they’re either not serious, or they’re not really a thinker, or both. Ok, that was kind of a joke. The more perplexing thing here is what Brooks means by “well.”

To return to the remark I opened with, how could Romney claim with a straight face that “freedom requires religion” constitutes a premise in argument for religious liberty? It’s obviously anything but, since it denies what it’s trying to prove. Any serious thinker on this matter might tell you that, however.

Then of course there’s this:

>We separate church and state affairs in this country, and for good reason. No religion should dictate to the state nor should the state interfere with the free practice of religion. But 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 is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America – the religion of secularism. They are wrong.

If it’s a religion, albeit a new one, then doesn’t it follow that it’s necessary for freedom? I’m confused.

7 thoughts on “Serious religious thinker”

  1. Right. If secularism is a religion, then Romney should have no beef with the movement away from religion in the public sphere. Except, the new movement against religion is itself a religion. The suppressed premise: only some religions count. I doubt Romney would be too excited if public officials followed Shariya Law. Hell, that’s religion in the public domain, founded on a belief and acknowledgment of God.

  2. When Romney said this:

    “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 makes me wonder if he ever read this:
    “The experience of the United States is a happy disproof of the error so long rooted in the unenlightened minds of
    well-meaning Christians, as well as in the corrupt hearts of persecuting usurpers, that without legal incorporation of
    religious and civil polity, neither could be supported. A mutual independence is found most friendly to practical
    Religion, to social harmony, and to political prosperity.”
    -James Madison, Letter to F.L. Schaeffer, Dec. 3, 1821

    Then again, it’s probably too much to ask of a United States Senator and former governor to have read anything the founders of this country ever wrote; it’s much easier to misrepresent out of sublime ignorance, than willful malice.

    Also, here’s a nice breakdown of his speech by Americans United for Separation of Church and State:

  3. What’s also important here is the equivocation on “public.” Public can mean “out in public” like on your porch, and no one is saying NO to putting a cross or an inverted pentagram on your lawn. Then there’s “public official” public, as in the cop who pulls you over for running a stop sign, or the congress person introducing bills who CANNOT stick a cross or inverted pentagram in your face and demand you to obey thereby. When you’re the former, you have full constitutional rights. When you’re the latter, you give up personal rights by representing the greater public (another usage) who do not all hold your opinions. I don’t think it’s a false dichotomy to say that they either know this, and thus are lying, or they don’t and thus they’re incompetent.

  4. I’ve been trying to formulate some kind of Romney Doctrine based on this speech…it’s something like “Christian conservatives and Mormons should join forces against secularism.” The Christian conservatives are supposed to begin setting aside that Mormon theology is a blasphemous perversion. Instead, it has recently become more important that one has faith at all. Maybe this is a better formulation of the Doctrine: Faith in anything, however blasphemous, is now preferable to “secularism”.

  5. Dagon is right on: Romney’s speech is an example of straightforward political logic: unite Mormons and evangelicals against godless secualrism in order to distract the latter from the fact that Mormon theology is thoroughly heterodox from the perspective of mainstream Christianity. The problem, of course, is that this strategy implies a contradiction: if secularism constitutes a religion such that it can serve as a legitimate adversary, then it must be included in an ethic of religious tolerance. Logically you can’t have it both ways.
    Of course, this isn’t going to be an issue in the GOP primary, where Godless secularists are the enemy. His speech could create problems in the general election, however. Having been attacked, secularists would be well within their rights to suspend the principle of tolerance and make Mit’s whacky Mormon beliefs an issue.

  6. J.F. Kennedy started this private/public religious split which is the most ridiculous thing. Any politician that claims that his religious views will not affect his political life is either a liar or a hypocrite. What kind of a believes are those that don’t affect anything?
    I would love if anyone would ask Romney if Jesus is Lucifer’s brother (that’s what Mormons believe).

    Dagon is right. Unity with heretics is as bad or worse than unity with nonbelievers.

    pmayo, I hear you. However, it’s suppose to be freedom for all, not free from all as ACLU might have us believe.

  7. “it’s suppose to be freedom for all, not free from all”

    You can’t have one without the other, Barnes and Noble. If I want to practice one religion, I cannot be coerced by, preached to about, or submit to special treatment for another by the government. The same is true if I practice none. Besides, non-specific “religion” as Mitt (what kind of name is that anyway, is he some kind of glove spokesman?) uses the word just isn’t realistic. You can’t talk about “religion” in government without excluding someone else’s religion and favoring another. Some people trust in one god, some trust in many gods, some don’t trust in any, and what kind of god is he talking about?

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