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Freedom and Religion

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Mitt Romney gave a speech yesterday on religion and government. The first part of the speech was quite reassuring, though he didn't say anything surprising. He said that he wouldn't let his religion interfere with the obligations of office, and explained how he viewed them as separate. He talked about how he still took his religion seriously, illustrated how that didn't interfere with respect for other religions, and noted that "[r]eligious tolerance would be a shallow principle indeed if it were reserved only for faiths with which we agree." He even acknowledged that religion can on occasion be a negative force, as in cases of "conversion by conquest".

His assertions that American traditions of liberty are grounded in religion gave me pause, however. Contrary to his statement that our constitution rests on a "foundation of faith", our constitution explicitly states that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." It was our enemies at the time who believed that secular power was related to "divine right"; our founders rejected that premise. Our American traditions of liberty are based not on religious morality - not on doing what is right because otherwise God will send us to hell - but on secular political philosophy, on respecting the liberty of others as we would like our own liberty respected.

Perhaps more disturbing is his confident assumption that God is masculine and singular for all Americans. Amazingly for someone who was governor of Massachusetts, Romney seems to be unaware that there are Americans who are Hindu or Wiccan, who subscribe to nonreligious philosophies such as Confucianism, who are agnostic or atheist. He doesn't seem to understand just how religiously intolerant America can seem to a patriotic young atheist who is forced to append "under God" to the pledge of allegiance in school, or who is prohibited from participating in a class recitation of that pledge because of refusal to append those words, as I once was.

To those who think like Romney, I have this to say. I personally do not believe in any god, but I'm more than happy to respect and include those that do in my America. Are you as willing to include me in yours?
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On December 7th, 2007 11:07 pm (UTC), kirisutogomen commented:
I don't think saying that the constitution rests on a "foundation of faith" necessarily contradicts the "no religious test" clause. The American experiment was founded on notions of natural rights inherent to everyone, directly opposed to the notion of divine right of kings, but many Enlightenment thinkers considered the natural rights of man to be bestowed by God, and several Founding Fathers did so as well. To that extent, the debate was not about whether questions of religion influenced questions of politics, but how.

I think the more important point is in your next-to-last paragraph, but I have nothing to add to that other than "Hear, hear."
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On December 7th, 2007 11:37 pm (UTC), enugent replied:
I think the more important point is in your next-to-last paragraph, but I have nothing to add to that other than "Hear, hear."

I think the most important point of all is in your last two sentences. I wish I believed that any of the candidates would actually understand them.
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On December 11th, 2007 05:46 pm (UTC), psychohist replied:
I agree. I don't mean to pick on Romney; he just happens to have been the guy who gave a speech on this.

I don't even mean to pick on religious candidates. There are plenty of nonreligious people who ignore, stereotype, or are intolerant of the religious, too.
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