Friday, December 07, 2007

Against freedom of religion 

I don't know if I really mean that, but Mitt "Shit" Romney's speech and the attending hub-bub pretty obviously raise certain thorny questions.

The main idea of his speech is that he "has" a "faith" that is more or less like other "faiths," and that people of "faith" should all come together against people without "faith."

Of course the essence of this version of "faith" is that it is private and utterly distinct from knowledge and objective reality, so coming together as people of "faith" means coming together under that essentially empty signifier, which is worn as a badge of identity that distinguishes all of the "faithful" from all of the bad, subversive "unfaithful." Functionally, having "faith" comes to mean being clean, relatively wealthy, and ultimately supporting "conservative values"--another vague signifier that stands for general assent to the established order.

All of this follows from the refusal to define "faith" and the reduction of "faith" to something invisible and unworldly and private (apart from one's declaration that one "has" it).

The way to deal with this truckload of horseshit is precisely not to do what liberals want and to declare religion "off-limits" or something that is "not political."

NOTE: Romney's absurd speech follows DIRECTLY from this liberal shibboleth. If religion is "off-limits" then we should indeed respect Romney's so-called "faith."

The way to deal with this discourse is to insist that religion does in fact REALLY matter. If you are a declared member of a religious group, your beliefs should be discussed in the political arena. Why should they not be? A religion always involves a mythos, a narrative about the whole of reality and where it is going; a logos, a vision of the way reality is organized and holds together; and an ethos, a way of acting that is either implicitly or explicitly enjoined.

So if you are religious, how could all of these deeply held beliefs not have an effect on your ideas about government, social order, and the future of mankind (which is certainly at stake in this and every U.S. election)?

All of the candidates claim to be religious. So either they ARE religious, in which case it is IMPERATIVE to discuss their beliefs about the nature of reality; or they are saying they are religious but don't mean it, in which case they are hypocrites; or worst of all, they haven't even thought about the ideas they claim to believe, in which case they are fools. (Obviously the last is the most widely applicable.)

In any case, simply marking theology off-limits (as the supposed "Christian minister" Mike Huckabee wants to do) is illogical and impossible. If you are an atheist, well, then it is fair to ask you questions about that also. Atheism is a religion, meaning that it is a way of thinking about certain unavoidable ultimate questions.

(And let me be clear about this: though I am not an atheist, I can easily imagine an atheist presidential candidate explaining the relation of his policies to his religious beliefs in a way that I would find persuasive and attractive--at least much more attractive than the nonsense spewed on these issues by all of our current "religious" candidates.)

In any case, as for Romney, such questions as the following are quite relevant: "Do you believe that the man Jesus of Nazareth has ever set foot in the United States?"; "Do you believe that Jesus renounced his earlier teachings and fought physically against Indians?"; "Do you believe that Jesus had sexual intercourse with a woman and fathered several children?"

If the answer to these questions is yes, then we have reason to question Romney's judgment. If the answer to these questions is no, then we have reason to question Romney's integrity.

In related news, I must say that I am glad to see Germany directly facing up to this kind of issue--which is not going away and is probably going to get much more difficult very soon--by outlawing the Scientologists.


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