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Prominent Republican Believes In Separation of Church and State

December 6th, 2007

But only when it serves him, of course. The Republican, in this case, is Mitt Romney, and he’d rather not people pay attention to how different his religion is. So he’s getting religious about the First Amendment, sounding like a liberal Democrat on the issue:

“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,” he will say, according to excerpts of a speech he is to deliver at the presidential library of former President George H.W. Bush in College Station.

Figures that you’d have to wait for a Republican who would be hurt by the massive religious bigotry in play with every presidential election, to hear a conservative talk like that. And it’ll hurt Romney, partly because of his Mormonism, and partly because so many Republicans want the opposite of separation of church and state.

Of course, one can bet that he believes in separation of church and state only so far as his differences with mainstream Christians. But see what happens if someone asks him if it would be equally good to have a staunch atheist in the White House, and then watch him squirm out of it.

Reportedly, Romney will also say, “If I am fortunate to become your president, I will serve no one religion, no one group, no one cause, and no one interest.” Funny–it brings me back to a scene from “Contact,” when Ellie is being shot down from being the person to travel as a representative of the human race, seeing as how she is an atheist and that “95%” of the people on Earth believe in a god. It always occurred to me that an agnostic (called an “atheist” by some) would be the ideal choice: someone who has not decided on any one belief system, someone unwilling to reject the many possibilities.

You can bet that what Romney means by “separation of church and state” in this context is, essentially, don’t apply your religious bigotry against me.

But I am sure that there are many conservative Christians who will apply the same logic to this as they do to gay marriage: let gays marry, and next a man will be marrying sheep. In this context, let a Mormon be president, and sooner or later a filthy atheist could win an election. And of course we all know that the collapse of civilization would soon follow.

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  1. December 7th, 2007 at 01:15 | #1

    Re “agnostic” versus “atheist,” and my two cents on the distinction:

    Generally, I count as an agnostic, since by definition any omnipotent being could fool me into thinking He/She/It did not exist.

    But specifically, regarding the God of Abraham, the root concept behind Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Mormon and Baha’i, I’m an atheist. Such a critter, as described at length in their literature, does not exist.

  2. December 8th, 2007 at 00:30 | #2

    Agnosticism, huh? Who was it that compared choosing doubt as a philosophy of life to choosing immobility as a means of transportation? ;-)

  3. December 10th, 2007 at 03:27 | #3

    Sako: Somebody who didn’t quite understand the workings of analogies, I guess.

  4. Luis
    December 10th, 2007 at 07:44 | #4

    Yeah, I’ve gotta go along with Just John on this one–doubt is not immobility. In fact, it is just the opposite. Certainty is immobility. If you believe that you’ve reached your destination, you’re not going to go anywhere. Doubt drives us to seek answers, to keep our minds open to all possibilities, and to enjoy wonder at the mysteries of the universe.

    Who was it who said, “the first step on the road to wisdom consists of the statement, ‘I do not know’”?

  5. December 10th, 2007 at 18:15 | #5

    Doubt drives us to seek answers, to keep our minds open to all possibilities, and to enjoy wonder at the mysteries of the universe.

    Is it your contention, then, that believers cannot seek answers, keep their minds open to all possibilities, and enjoy wonder at the mysteries of the universe? If so, it sounds to me like you are guilty of doing exactly what you are decrying, but simply in a different direction: Where believers claim that only the religious can know morality or justice, would you claim that only the non-religious can know open-mindedness and wonder?

    No, of course not.

    Anyway, how great a motivator is doubt really? Are there great wonders of the world out there that I am simply unaware of that were inspired by mankind’s doubt of the existence of something greater? I am skeptical of the value of doubt as a driving force.

    Who was it who said, “the first step on the road to wisdom consists of the statement, ‘I do not know’”?

    And that would be correct. I know only that I don’t know enough, but that neither promotes nor prohibits having faith. It is another matter entirely.

  6. Luis
    December 10th, 2007 at 18:36 | #6

    Perhaps we’re talking past each other here. I do not mean “doubt everything and everything no matter how well-supported,” or “never have any beliefs whatsoever.” I mean to be skeptical–have a high standard of proof for any level of certainty; in all else, believe what you wish but always be aware that you may be wrong. I believe that life exists elsewhere in the universe–but I know that I cannot prove it, so I treat it as an uncertainty. If proof were to come about either way (yes, I know about proving a negative; still–), I would be able to accept it. If I had a way of testing it, I would. Those who are certain without proof will be far less willing to listen to evidence to the contrary.

    For example, if one is 100% certain that god exists and has no doubt, then one has a rather low threshold for belief, as there is zero proof one way or the other. An agnostic often leans one way or the other in terms of what they suspect exists, but always acknowledges that they could very easily be wrong. An agnostic has doubt, and therefore is open to new evidence, ideas, and situations.

    Religious people, on the other hand, dress their certainty without proof in the clothing of “faith,” and are therefore too often incapable of accepting evidence that contradicts their faith. Because they are unwilling to doubt, they cling to ideas such as that which says the world was created about 6000 years ago, when all manner of contradictory evidence shines down on them from the sky, and speaks out from the earth. This inability to shake their unreasoned certainty is one of the reasons scientific progress was halted and held back for centuries.

    Those who doubted the old faiths were the ones who strode forward. They were the ones who questioned what was “established,” who doubted that which they had been told, who wanted to find out for themselves. The ones who didn’t doubt had no reason to test or experiment. In fact, those who were certain that, say, the sun revolved around the earth, had a vested interest in preventing progress from being made, as any evidence to the contrary could make them look wrong, or even foolish.

    Especially if those who were certain about unproved real-world assumptions had tied their certainty to their religious beliefs, their very view of life and death would be threatened by those who doubt, those who experiment to find out, those who look for truth because they do not know and doubt what others say.

    Just out of curiosity, what was your read on the concepts of agnosticism and doubt? What did you understand those concepts to mean?

  7. December 10th, 2007 at 22:05 | #7

    Sako: Rather than giving the serious “You’re confusing position and process” answer, I’ll opt for the short, fun one.

    Do you doubt me?

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