Thursday, December 21, 2006

A Mormon President?

Slate's editor, Jacob Weisberg, has a new column up explaining why he would oppose a Mormon (like the outgoing Republican governor of Massachussetts, Mitt Romney) for President. I find his reasoning extraordinary, and not in a good way.

He begins with the question, "But are you a religious bigot if you wouldn't cast a ballot for a believing Mormon?" Whenever anyone asks a rhetorical question like this, the answer is almost always "yes", yet the person asking it will almost just as surely believe the answer is "no." It's like hearing "I'm not a racist, BUT ..." and you know the odds are extremely high that you're about to hear something that is, in fact, racist. This is just as true for religious discussions as it is for race or sexism or what have you.

And Weisberg doesn't disappoint.

The remaining skepticism on the far right seems to have more to do with doubt about whether Romney has truly and forever ditched his previously expressed moderate views on abortion and gay rights.


Those nutty far righters! Imagine caring about a potential candidate's actual political positions instead of what their stance is on their own religious dogma. The nerve! What's next, looking at how they voted while in office? The horror!

Nor is it chauvinistic to say that certain religious views should be deal breakers in and of themselves. There are millions of religious Americans who would never vote for an atheist for president, because they believe that faith is necessary to lead the country. Others, myself included, would not, under most imaginable circumstances, vote for a fanatic or fundamentalist—a Hassidic Jew who regards Rabbi Menachem Schneerson as the Messiah, a Christian literalist who thinks that the Earth is less than 7,000 years old, or a Scientologist who thinks it is haunted by the souls of space aliens sent by the evil lord Xenu. Such views are disqualifying because they're dogmatic, irrational, and absurd. By holding them, someone indicates a basic failure to think for himself or see the world as it is.


Essentially, Weisberg is saying here that if he thinks your religious beliefs are absurd, you don't deserve to get elected. It doesn't matter what you would do, or how you have voted in the past, or what your positions on actual issues are, the simple fact that you hold beliefs that he considers foolish means you wouldn't get his vote. That's his right, of course, but it strikes me as the very definition of religious bigotry, which we were assured in the beginning is certainly not what the wise Mr. Weisberg is expounding here. I am aglow in the warm embrace of his tolerance.

Not.

One may object that all religious beliefs are irrational—what's the difference between Smith's "seer stone" and the virgin birth or the parting of the Red Sea? But Mormonism is different because it is based on such a transparent and recent fraud. It's Scientology plus 125 years. Perhaps Christianity and Judaism are merely more venerable and poetic versions of the same. But a few eons makes a big difference. The world's greater religions have had time to splinter, moderate, and turn their myths into metaphor. The Church of Latter-day Saints is expanding rapidly and liberalizing in various ways, but it remains fundamentally an orthodox creed with no visible reform wing ... It may be that Mitt Romney doesn't take Mormon theology at face value. His flip-flopping on gay rights and abortion to suit the alternative demands of a Massachusetts gubernatorial election and a Republican presidential primary suggests that he's a man of flexible principles—which in this context might be regarded as encouraging. But Romney has never publicly indicated any distance from church doctrine.


This is the passage that really struck a nerve, that made me want to write this reply. Weisberg's basic position is that unless a believer renounces the basic tenets of his faith, he has no place in public office. That Mitt Romney refuses to agree that the founder of his religion was a con man means he is, in Weisberg's eyes, ineligible to hold public office.

Imagine if JFK had been forced to agree that the Virgin Mary story is just a myth. Imagine a Methodist candidate like George Bush being barred from office unless he stated that the resurrection of Christ is "just a story". Weisberg basically argues that only safe, neutered, agreeable religious positions that do not unduly ruffle his notions of rationality and sensibility can be allowed in a candidate.

The questions Weisberg should be asking about Mitt Romney are about his positions on issues that he will influence should he be elected. What is his philosophy of government? Where does he stand on the separation of church and state? What is his proposal for dealing with terrorism? What kind of Supreme Court justices would he appoint? Does he believe in higher or lower taxes, bigger or smaller government, enumerated or unenumerated rights, the scope of the President's power and how that balances against the other branches of government, on and on and on.

What kind of religious undergarments he wears and what he thinks about the veracity of Joesph Smith's magic eyeglasses and hat are somewhere around dead last on the list of things I need to know before deciding whether or not I'll vote for Mr. Romney.

In other words, I couldn't really care less. Until and unless Mitt Romney shows he is irrational or absurd in how he treats real issues facing our nation today, I'll listen with just as open a mind as I would to any other religious candidate seeking office.

"[A]re you a religious bigot if you wouldn't cast a ballot for a believing Mormon?" The answer is yes, Mr. Weisberg. You are a religious bigot.

3 comments:

myclob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
myclob said...

oops... I meant this...

Jacob Weisberg of Slate says the following: “But if he gets anywhere in the primaries, Romney's religion will become an issue with moderate and secular voters—and rightly so. Objecting to someone because of his religious beliefs is not the same thing as prejudice based on religious heritage, race, or gender.”

http://www.slate.com/id/2155902/

Jacob says that, “Objecting to someone because of his religious beliefs is not the same thing as prejudice based on religious heritage, race, or gender.”

How did Jacob get his Job at slate? Did someone ask him what religion he was, or did someone ask what experience he had? Perhaps someone asked to see his Resume.

Jacob Weisberg said, “Such views are disqualifying because they're dogmatic, irrational, and absurd. By holding them, someone indicates a basic failure to think for himself or see the world as it is.”

So you can pre-judge someone based on their religious beliefs? You don’t need a Resume? You don’t need to look at their IQ, ACT scores, or accomplishments to judge them? All you need to know is what religion they belong to in order to classify them as “dogmatic, irrational, and absurd”. Jacob actually said, “by holding them (these beliefs), someone indicates a basic failure to think for himself or see the world as it is.”

Is that how Jacob Weisberg got a job at slate? They asked him for a Resume, and he said, “don’t worry, I’m an atheist”. And the head-honcho at Slate, said, “Good, I don’t have enough time to look at people’s qualifications. I hate Résumé’s with all those stupid things like, ‘graduated from Harvard Business and Law School Cum Laude. Valedictorian. These don’t really mean anything. All I need to do is hear a profession of faith (testimony), or lack thereof, depending on what is fashionable in this day and time. By proclaiming your religious beliefs or lack there of you have told me everything I need to know about you. Welcome to Slate.”

No, I assume that Jacob had to show some qualifications maybe even a Resume. It would have been against federal law for his Boss to ask him what religion he was, wouldn’t it?

Jacob says, “By the same token, I wouldn't vote for someone who truly believed in the founding whoppers of Mormonism.” Is that so Jacob? If you owned a business would you hire a Mormon? They have obviously proven to you that they are stupid. Do you want stupid people working for you? Do you feel comfortable admitting to the world that you are a bigot? What an ass.

Jacob says that Mitt Romney is an “Elder” in the church. If Jacob would have spent 30 seconds talking to someone from the church, he would have realized that Romney is not an Elder.

I think it is great that Jacob wants America to be more like Northern Ireland and Iran were people are judged based on which religion they belong to.

I’m glad that Jacob can take a short cut to intellectualism. He doesn’t have to debate Mitt Romney, he doesn’t have to read the Old Testament, New Testament, or Book of Mormon. He doesn’t have to do better in school, on the ACT’s, SAT’s or in life than Mitt Romney in order to be smarter than he is. All he has to do is reject Mormonism, and therefore he is smarter than Mitt Romney, and deserves more than Romney does, to be president. Forget that Romney balanced the budget without raising taxes; forget that he came up with a new way corralling people away from the emergency rooms and into insurance plans. None of that Matters. Jacob Weisberg is more qualified to be president, in his view, because he is not a Mormons.

Then Jacob says about the stupidest thing I have ever heard. It is his only argument that he brings to the table besides that Mormons are too stupid to be president. The rest of his article is him parading around in his naked bigotry. But here is the only argument that he bring to the table and it makes me wonder how he got a job working anywhere, let alone at slate magazine.

He says, “Perhaps Christianity and Judaism are merely more venerable and poetic versions of the same [transparent fraud]. But a few eons makes a big difference. The world's greater religions have had time to splinter, moderate, and turn their myths into metaphor.” So every other time their was a religious movement were people left one church and joined another, it was healthy. It was good, because it was a reformation. But when my ancestor, George Laub who was a Baptist preacher left his church to become a Mormon it was not part of this reformation? He does not think that Mormonism had anything to draw my grandparents to it? It was not a healthy splintering, moderation? Why were all the other new religions good, but Mormonism was bad? Jacob does not tell us. He wants us to Judge mitt Romney, without looking at any of the details of his life, and he wants us to agree with him that religious bigotry towards Mormons is good, without giving us any reason to agree with him. No substance. No reasons to come to his conclusion. No logic. No independent way of judging Mitt. No use of a Resume. No looking at his skills or experience. And Jacob gives us no reason to agree with him. We are just supposed to jump to his side without any substance, without any reason besides his self righteous mockery.

I would like to see Jacob Weisberg’s Resume, and I can get Mitt Romney’s resume, and we can see who America thinks is smarter.

Jeff Hebert said...

Wow, nice post Myclob. Thank you. Sorry for the Blogger frustration, they've been wonky all day, they just moved everyone with a Blogger account to the new 2.0 (or whatever it is) version.

For the record, I have no idea what religion (if any) Jacob Weisberg is. But the whole attitude of "As long as they believe something I find foolish, they don't get my vote" is just the rankest religious bigotry. For him to lead the column with that very question was ironic beyond words, and then to follow his expected denial with paragraph after paragraph exposing exactly the very thing he'd denied -- well, it honestly took my breath away.