Michael Wolraich's picture

    What's the Matter With Mormons?

    Last week, blogger MuddyPolitics wrote a piece that took a swipe at Mitt Romney for his Mormon faith. The article provoked a passionate debate, one that is likely being repeated in various forms across the country this election season.

    The question is this: Should we consider Romney's religious beliefs when assessing his fitness for the presidency?

    It's a thorny question. On one hand, certain kinds of religious beliefs are obviously relevant. A candidate who believes that gays should be stoned or that women should not be permitted to drive is not fit to be president. On the other hand, rejecting candidates because of their faith raises the specter of religious discrimination.

    You may think that the question has an easy answer: Religious faith is only relevant if it is informs a candidate's political agenda. Those who would impose religious doctrine on the country are unfit, but we should not object to those who practice their faith privately.

    This answer works in the simple case of a candidate whose faith is merely "spiritual"--a personal relationship with God that has no practical implications on earth. But for many devout believers, religious faith extends well beyond the spiritual realm, even if they don't translate their beliefs into specific policy proposals.

    We should be concerned about a candidate who believes in certain biblical doctrines, such as creationism or millennialism, even if she does not insist that creationism be taught in schools or that Jews emigrate to Israel to hasten the apocalypse. We should be disturbed by a candidate who does not permit his wife to work or who believes in "curing" homosexuality through prayer, even if he does not advocate policies that would impose these views on the rest of us.

    Religious beliefs, like any deeply held convictions, provide insight into a how a candidate thinks and what he or she values. These matters are indeed relevant to the question of who is most qualified to lead the country.

    So where does that leave Mitt Romney? Those who criticize his Mormon faith suggest that his religious beliefs raise valid concerns about how he thinks and what he values. They point out that he tithes to the Church, refrains from alcohol and caffeine, and has served as a missionary and a lay cleric. They add that Mormonism is a "strange" religion out of sync with mainstream ideas--with the implication that Romney probably holds some very strange ideas.

    Leaving aside the question of whether Mormonism is any stranger than other popular religions, there is another serious flaw in that argument.

    As an atheist and a Jew, I may have slightly different perspective on the connection between practice and belief. Judaism is also a "strange" religion. Like Mormons, observant Jews wear unusual clothing and follow strict dietary regimes. On shabbat, they do not drive or even turn on lights. At synagogue, they read disturbing passages from the Torah (in Hebrew) about how blasphemers and Jews who work on shabbat should be stoned to death.

    But I know many observant Jews who keep kosher, wear kippot on their heads and tzitzit under their clothes, attend synagogue every weekend, and pray three times a day--yet who hold no religious beliefs that would reflect negatively on their values or their way of thinking. Outwardly, they express more devotion than most hard-core members of the Christian right, but they do not believe in creationism, stoning, the Messiah, or the chauvinistic ideas of Jewish fundamentalists.

    If Mitt Romney were a fanatical Mormon with disturbing beliefs, it would be fair enough to criticize him for it. But to my knowledge, he has never espoused "strange" ideas in polygamy, spirit wives in Heaven, American Indians as the lost tribe of Israel, or other exceptional elements of Mormon doctrine. Indeed, Mitt Romney and fellow Mormon Jon Huntsman were the only Republican candidates who made a point of defending the science of evolution, while the "mainstream" Christians clamored to promote intelligent design.

    There may be some who regard Romney's evident religious devotion as sufficient to impute his belief in strict Mormon dogma. They may not be satisfied unless he explicitly renounces the most extreme tenants of Mormon doctrine. But that's an ugly road. To demand that someone renounce elements of his faith in order to serve in office would violate the very foundations of religious tolerance that those of us who do not believe what the majority believes cherish so dearly.

    Mitt Romney has plenty of flaws as presidential material, but his religious beliefs are not among them.


    I like the Senate Majority Leader, so that kind of takes me out of the argument.

    I just finished reading the hubbub about Mormons baptizing dead folks; specifically dead Jewish folks.

    Some Jewish folks are angry about this.

    I mean the Mormon Church has this strange computer set up with every human beings name on it. and they baptize these unseen individuals.

    To me it all amounts to pagan ritual and I have written about this before.

    But no, I could care less if the candidate is a member of some religion; now Santorum scares the hell out of me because he would smother us with his pagan view of humanity.

    As an atheist interested in genealogy, I love the Mormon's database, and I don't care one whit if they "convert" me after I'm dead. wink

    Your comment was well put.  I'd only like to add that did it really matter if Leiberman is Jewish? No.  Did it matter if Huckabee was a minister? I don't think so. As are many other men and women of all different faiths represented in our government.  As for others  that are Mormons you have Harry Read, Orin Hatch, Mike Crapo and several other so that really is not an issue.  Just go out and vote for candidate you feel is the best one that can get out country back on track. I would just like to ask that you consider which one emulates the best character, ethics, and sound judgment.  Which one is a  proven leader?  Then Vote. 

    Seeing the word "renounce" brought back bad memories of 2008, when Obama had to "renounce" the pastor of a church he'd attended and I think Hilary was supposed to renounce something as well.  The political act of renunciation is just so silly.

    There doesn't seem to be much about Mitt Romney's religious beliefs that keep him out of step with the rest of the world.  He's obviously wildly successful.  If he's out of touch with the mainstream it's likely a pure money thing.

    But, I don't really worry too much about "discriminating based on religion," and you shouldn't either.  Atheists are discriminated against all of the time, and declared atheists have a pretty rough go of things in elections.  I'm sure that if an atheist were running credibly for president right now, on either side, that his opponents would declare that their spiritual beliefs are "too far outside the mainstream," to serve in office and nobody would ascribe that to any form of bigotry, even though that's what it is.

    However, two wrongs don't make a right.  So, I'll try to refrain, so long as Mitt doesn't behave badly because of his religion.  Because, what I really hate is people using religion as an excuse for bigotry, as if it's okay to hold offensive views about homosexuals or others if your religion says it's okay.  I might also have a little problem with Mitt, his Dad and their missionaries, putting the hard sell on Mitt's wife's family.  But, hey, they were all adults, it was up to them.

    Converting dead ancestors is standard Mormon practice. They see it as a way to posthumously save the souls of their relatives. I guess they all get to hang out in Heaven that way.

    If I ever have Mormon descendants (oy veh!), it won't phase me to get converted. Because I'll be dead already.

    FYI, to facilitate posthumous soul-saving for future Mormon converts, the LDS has amassed the largest genealogical database in the country. It's open to non-Mormons for research purposes. My mom uses it all the time to research her family tree.

    As for two rights not making a wrong, you've got the wrong idiom. As far as I know, Mitt has never attacked a political candidate for atheism. I think the word you're looking for is hypocrisy.

    My mom too.

    I've used the database, too.  It's an amazing tool for genealogy and it's free.  We had a LDS church near us with a genealogy room attached and I spent many long hours there one year. My only cost was for printing what I found.  I could have ordered materials from Salt Lake City with no cost except for shipping.

    There is nothing weird about it.  They believe LDS member's ancestors can be joined to the church by proxy, but the member has to prove their relationship.  That was how they started the record-keeping and now their records number in the billions.  And lucky us, being able to benefit from all their hard work.

    But to the question:  I agree, Genghis, that it all depends on how the candidate will use their religion.  If it seems obvious that their religious views will color their judgment while in office, we need to know how that's going to work.  I hate all this talk about religion and candidates but lately the candidates themselves have made it an issue.

    I don't understand the emphasis on Romney's Mormonism when Catholicism has rites and rules and rituals that can be odd and outside the norm,too.  But I would worry more about the Religious Right than I do about the more mainstream religions.

    I shouldn't have to worry about religion at all when I select a candidate for office, but it's a new world, isn't it?


    I'm with you that since dead men say no prayers, it doesn't matter.  I can also be convinced that, hey, life is hard and so people do what they have to do emotionally to get by.  If that means "converting" the deceased so you can see them in the after life, it's not such an awful thing.  At least, I understand the emotional need for it.  The impulse to do it.

    But it's still in poor taste. (Gawker has the goods, they did convert Anne's atheist father after he died -- doesn't matter to me, doesn't matter to him, but some people will find it weird and that's their right, too.)

    No I don't consider a candidates religion but it isn't me Romney has to worry about, I am not voting for him anyway.

    Evangelical Republican primary voters care about this issue a whole lot, and they don't like him, they really don't like him.

    I just saw The Book of Mormon on Broadway with visiting family. I'm far from a big Broadway fan, feel there's much better ways to spend an entertainment dollar. But I can't recommend that play enough after seeing it. It does a smashing, delightful and funny job of plumbing the whole cognitive dissonance thing you are addressing about some religions (in your comparison with conservative Judaism) without being inflammatory or offensive, and without making the viewer have to think too hard. (And with some of the more bizarre Mormon beliefs that they fun with, that's quite a task.)

    As a matter of fact, I think some of the more virulent atheist fundies might benefit a great deal from seeing it, might help them up their tolerance levels a bit. I am glad to know that the writers have decided to make a movie version so that more can see it; I think that it could a lot of good on the tolerance and understanding front.

    I'm looking forward to seeing it someday when tickets don't require months of advance planning. Composer Robert Lopez's wife is a friend of mine, but we've lost touch. I don't think it would be very cool to email her after years of silence and beg for a ticket. (But tempting ;)

    (It's worth the begging. Really.)


    Off-topic, on

    when tickets don't require months of advance

    It's in a theater, the O'Neill, that's old-1920's- and looked to me to be half the size of most of 'em, that's clearly part of that problem. (So small that I was surprised it still qualified as "Broadway" theater.) Clearly, they really didn't expect it to be as popular as it became. Seeing that got me thinking that there's an industry where they would all benefit in getting a little more communal--if they could like trade theater spaces/contracts when something like this happens--some shows probably could benefit from a smaller, less expensive space than they planned for.

    The O'Neill, (built in 1925), seats just over 1100, which, although not as massive as the Gershwin (1900+), the Marquis (1600+) or the Winter Garden (1498), is bigger than the Music Box (1000+), the Belasco (1000+)  and the John Golden (800+). But I would bet the choice of the theater had more to do with availability than anything else.  Long-running shows tie up theaters for years and limit the number of new productions that can open.  Some longer running shows, as they get towards the ends of their runs, will change theaters to smaller houses to allow other shows to come in to a preferred theater, while also making their decline in attendance less noticeable while increasing their profit margins.  Show business ... (sigh).

    seeing it someday

    While you're waiting




     more bizarre Mormon beliefs 

    Which belief is more bizarre:

    1. The hat?

    2. The ten lost tribes thing?

    3. The post-mortem conversion?


    The "become a god&rule a planet", is, hands down, the most bizarre belief.



    For me, it's Mormons believe God has a physical body like human males and God had sex with Mary and that is how Jesus was created.  

    Huh.  Didn't  know about that one, that's a contender for sure...

    They're all in there and the planet thing gets a lot of play. Did you see it? That reminds me--frogs are a big part of a "new" Mormon story that one of the main characters invents while desperately trying to proselytize some Ugandans; I'm pretty sure you'll like the frog story.

    Does it involve licking?

    wow, you don't know very much about mormons.  probably get all your information on google.

    Mormons believe in continual progression and continual learning.  Mormons believe that over the course of ETERNITY God can tutor and train and help you progress...that is it.

    Mormons do believe that for some it may be possible to be trained to become "god like" but that information is in the bible in many, many places including the phrase "be ye therefore perfect even as your father in heaven is perfect" and in many other place in the bible where describes us being raised up into immortality and being "like god."

    Mormons do not spend time contemplating whether they will own a planet or not.  They simply believe in eternal progression gaining knowledge, experience, and wisdom from God.

    Do you know what is going to happen in the afterlife?  Have you been there?

    By your statement:

    ...that is it.

    Should this be taken to mean that your post is a full, comprehensive statement about all the Mormon ideology/doctrine/beliefs?



    Nicely done, dealing with such a sensitive topic.  There is one portion, however, that I might split a few hairs with.

    Religious faith is only relevant if it is informs a candidate's political agenda. Those who would impose religious doctrine on the country are unfit, but we should not object to those who practice their faith privately. This answer works in the simple case of a candidate whose faith is merely "spiritual"--a personal relationship with God that has no practical implications on earth.

    This answer works in the simple case of a candidate whose faith is merely "spiritual"--a personal relationship with God that has no practical implications on earth. But for many devout believers, religious faith extends well beyond the spiritual realm, even if they don't translate their beliefs into specific policy proposals.

    I would argue that it is impossible for anyone, politicians included, not to have their religious faith inform their political agenda.  It may be a subtle informing to other people, but one's religious faith is an integral part of one's paradigm. 

    We have a problem with it when the informing results in a political agenda with which strongly disagree or find unacceptable.  It is okay if one imposes one's religious doctrine based on the notion that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, that to secure these rights governments are instituted among men.

    In other words, there is no such thing as a faith that is the merely spiritual.  Whether a Buddhist faith, Atheistic faith, Christian faith, or whatever, that faith will translate how one understands the world, their self, and the relationship between the two.  And if one considers the world as including other human beings, then it leads one to only conclude one's faith is one of many things that helps define one's political agenda.  (it is also works in the other direction, as in complex system, so that the political beliefs informs the faith...around and around we go).

    Another way to understand it: one may have a personal relationship with God, but the personal is political, the political personal.

    I would argue that it is impossible for anyone, politicians included, not to have their religious faith inform their political agenda.

    I was listening to a guest on To the Point from NPR the other day (pretty sure it was To the Point) talking about how for most folks the inverse of your suggestion is true.  That is, their politics informs their religious views.  He further claimed people will shop their church if it moves away from their politics.  And if they can't find a spiritual community that conforms to their politics, they'll invent one.  Considering there are somewhere north of 30,000 Christian denominations, as an example, this makes some sense.

    As i wrote, I think each influence the other. Moreover, both are being influenced by other things, including personal traumas and successes, as well as cultural views on things from gender to competition, economic views, etc. - and both influenced those things, in a massive system of feedback loops that would make it truly impossible to separate it all out - - is the economic views influencing spiritual view through the political view? and so on.  I can say that my father's death when I was young teenager did more to shape my spiritual views than any other experience - which then filtered into political views.  But then was the descent into drugs which changed both.

    But just taking the spiritual-political system of influence and impact, in the spirit of devil's advocate, I would ask for most people growing up in American households, which one of these two are first exposed to?  Are children first told of Democrats and Republicans before they learn of Jesus?


    I would argue that it is impossible for anyone, politicians included, not to have their religious faith inform their political agenda.  It may be a subtle informing to other people, but one's religious faith is an integral part of one's paradigm.

    Well said, Trope. I agree. 

    Romney said as much last night at the Jacksonville debate - (paraphrasing here) that some decisions are too big/important for mortals and he would have to appeal to Providence. That sounds like a man influenced by his faith to me. Not that it makes him any more or less kooky-sounding than any of his fellows on the stage.

    No that's just a huckster influenced by capitalism, who wants to keep the government out of rich people's business, and who is throwing out some phony-baloney theology to help sell his laissez faire doctrine down in Bible country.

    Interesting theory. Why do you suppose he would need to do that? I wonder if the wards he has bishoped over the years thinks he's just phoning it in too.

    No that's just a huckster influenced by capitalism

    While I believe that Romney is someone who priorities in life center around wealth and the perks that come from having a lot of it, I wouldn't go as far as saying he is void of spirituality.  Nor do I believe he is someone who fails to grasp there are some decisions a president has to make that are beyond the scope of economics and rich people.  If one believes there is a God or is spiritual at all, which I believe Romney does, than it would be reasonable to assume he knows giving the orders to do drone attacks that result in the loss of innocent lives is something one must reconcile with one's God, one's spirituality.

    It isn't so much phony-baloney theology as it is exaggerated theology, giving the targeted audience what they want to hear.  That might be splitting hairs, but I don't think it helps if we reduce people (no matter how dangerous the person is) down to their dominant elements. 

    I guess I look at it like this:

    Lots of people are born into a religious tradition and a religious community.  Lots of these people remain with those communities throughout their lives, mainly because they're just get-along kinds of people who put more weight on maintaining unstrained ties with their families and communities than they place on striking out in some defiant intellectual direction that alienates them from their established social ties.  Politicians especially  tend to be get-along kinds of people - that's their skill in life, and that's why they keep getting elected and put in charge of things by other people.

    Lots of people don't really believe the doctrines of their declared religion, or are at least very selective about what they believe.  But they keep their own counsel, don't rock the boat, and therefore stay out of bitter theological arguments with the more zealous among their family members and neighbors.

    We have a polite convention in our society: So long as people don't appear to be fanatically involved in the weirder aspects of their religion, and so long as it appears to be mainly a social thing with them, then we don't humiliate them in public by demanding that they declare themselves on the various contestable points of their community's doctrine so that we can find out where they really stand in their core.  We make do with reading between the lines and then let sleeping dogs lie.

    I guess you could call this convention "hypocrisy."  But it makes the world go around.  Traditionally, the people who rail the most against hypocrisy have been prophets and other religious fanatics.

    The thing that bugs me about Muddy's approach is that he keeps suggesting that it is somehow incumbent on the Romney campaign to address the "Mormon question."

    I wonder how such a conversation with the public inquisitors would go.  If it were based on reality, and not the conventions of politics, I imagine it would go like this:

    Questioner: Mr. Romney, do you really believe all those crazy Mormon doctrines?

    Romney: No, not really.  Do you really believe all of the doctrines of your crazy religion?

    Questioner: No, not really?

    Romney: Well then go fuck yourself.



    Romney: Well then go fuck yourself.

    That's what I call addressing the Mormon issue...if it originates with you, Dan, you need to start writing for Maher.

    blasphemers and Jews who work on shabbat should be stoned to death.


    I'm no shabbat-arbeiter (ed note: why should Saturday be different from all the others?), but....

    Well done, Genghis. And right on the money.

    Romney's beliefs are irrelevant to his campaign because he shows no signs of imposing those beliefs on others through the power of his office. And as Governor of Massachusetts, the only time he's held elective office, he kept his faith and his policies conspicuously separate. Mitt Romney doesn't drink alcohol, because he's a Mormon. But Governor Romney loosened the laws about selling alcohol on Sundays, because it was the best thing to do and because the people who elected him weren't Mormons.

    As for the oddness of his beliefs ... every religion seems odd to believers of other religion. My own teaches many things which are downright peculiar. The question isn't how "weird" the beliefs are; the question is whether or not the politician forces those beliefs upon others. And Romney clearly does not.

    Did you ever consider that in the public eye, during a campaign, knowing the issues some have with his religious affiliation that he is being circumspect?

    I'm not basing my opinion on his campaign behavior, but on the four years he actually spent in high elected office. If he's "circumspect" about his beliefs while in office, that's not a deception. That's how he actually conducts his office.

    Questions back atcha: So you are suspecting that he pulled the wool over the eyes of the descendants of the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay Colony and the Boston Brahmins for 4 long years (not to mention everyone involved with the 2002 Winter Olympics,) just so he could spring some nefarious Mormon influence on the country once installed as President?  Like a bogeyman hiding under a costume? Gee, your question has such a familiar ring to it;  how do we know for sure that the current President isn't a secret Muslim?

    Jumping the shark, aren't ya?  I merely posed the question, not make a declaration of fact.  

    Wanna try again?

    All that's needed is for Romney to sign a Grover Norquist-like pledge that says: "If elected, I promise NEVER to try to convert anyone to my crazy religious beliefs ... Really ... unless 308 million more habitable planets become available for colonization, then ...  we'll see.

    Meanwhile, right now I'm listening to Newt talking about a colony on the moon in a rerun of the debate; he's talking privatize NASA some to do it, but still so USA #1 does it first and not China (I'm expecting him to say maybe McDonald's would be interested)

    Romney in response basically said: you're nuts, if you came to me when I was a businessman with that  idea, requiring spending that kind of money, I'd fire you on the spot

    I wondered if Mitt's avoidance of releasing his tax returns might have had something to do with his church finding out that he tithed much less than ten percent of his many millions, but I don't care if that is the case. I do strongly object to the LDS church pouring money into the fight against the California Proposition 8 election or any other political issue they have a stand on. They paid fines for some infractions and I would bet in a heartbeat that they were caught and convicted in a very small percentage of their violations.
     I would consider it a completely fair question to ask of Romney if he would either publicly support or disavow what his church did in that instance.

    I think that would be a good and fair question. After all, Catholics running for office have to answer questions regarding Roman Catholic Church activism on abortion all the time. It's when a politician's church gets active in politics is when its definitely game. That is why Rev. Wright was so toxic for Obama, too; the controversial stuff was all either verging on political or political?

    Nah, it was all about the outfits...they drove Hannity smooth crazy...

    The vast majority don't have knowledge about the Mormon faith. I am surprised that either one of Santorum's or Newt's evangelical supporters haven't used a PAC to publish some of the more salient facts.  

    1) I don't think a candidate's religious beliefs are important *UNLESS* they impact an important policy area. If someone believes in UFOs or the rapture and they still balance the budget as if we'll be here in 2525, then who cares?

    2) I think Muddy was pointing out that there was a good deal of distrust among the vast majority of GOP who align with Baptist, Catholic and other mainstream Christian denominations - i.e. he wasn't saying being Mormon was bad per se - he was noting Romney has a problem with the GOP voters who by and large don't agree with my stance in #1.

    3) It's hard to say that any of these religions has more bizarre beliefs than another. Once you buy into the official flood story (with or without vapors rising from the earth since rain didn't exist before), the parting of the Red Sea, etc., you've swallowed some big yarns - the rest are just hors d'oeuvres. 


    Regarding Rev. Wright, someone should recognize that Wright was making *political* comments, not religious. And as you're known by the company you keep, just as someone's being a consistent follower of Falwell or Robertson or James Dobson would make me think twice, someone who sits in on Wright's "sermons" for a decade would make me ask a question or two.

    (the "Goddamn America" post-9/11 sermon blames the US for 9/11 because of bombing Hiroshima & Nagasaki, ignoring the cruel & bloody war that the Japanese started through its Asian aggression. And then he blames the US for South African apartheid, even though the US push for divestiture and later mid-80's sanctions helped in a large way push for an end to apartheid, including capital flight that hit South Africa hard in the pocket book. I can be quite critical of US actions around the world, but I try to balance the justified and unjustified remarks)

    Funny enough, Politico has someone describing a recent poll that informs us that 20% of the GOP "wouldn't vote for a mormon", and that increases to 31% from Southern evangelical Republicans.

    Much of this assurance goes away vs. Obama, however, as 50+% of these clever people think Obama's a Muslim, which probably rates below Mormon on their scale (though they may confuse the 2 terms, who knows).

    So indeed, Romney does have a "Muslim problem", not of his own making, but since no one is going to replace Obama on the D- ticket, Romney's "Muslim problem" has been erased.

    And it looks like Newt is self-destructing, so I think we're seeing the final ticket firming up.

    Mormons! I don't know what's wrong with these Mormons today!

    Mormons! Who can trust or believe any thing they say?

    Why can't they be like we are, <jazz hands> save'd in everyway,

    What the matter with Mormons today?

    Great post, Genghis. 

    I had a Mormon business partner who died on a hand ball court several years back. His behavior was as normal as apple pie and he never eschewed the occasional cocktail. We both agreed that once you accept a notion like a virgin birth, it's all down hill from there. He spent more time than me helping others. I also have a Mormon neighbor who helps me out regularly. At first he introduced religion frequently. I told him I was brought up Baptist and while not a church goer there was one Baptist belief  I always cling to, "Once saved, always saved." End of discussion. 

    I have several times in these pages attempted to satirize some things about the Mormons and while it may not have been good satire, it was plainly satire. Calling the Mormon religion "weird" in a serious cant about the opposition is a different matter. I retain the right to satirize any religion, including the Baptists, or any other religion, with the only proviso that I do it better than in the past. 

    I was tempted to write something moderate about Romney and his religion. In fact, he has made some of the most heartfelt, I think, comments on the subject. I tend to think of him as out of a business mold and suspect he is a moderate. Then last night I was reminded that he is in league with a major component of the Republican party which essentially does not believe in the separation of church and state and continues its efforts to denigrate the gay and lesbian community and deny them rights.

    What is being learned from the tax returns is that the Romneys have contributed to right wing social conservative foundations, one of which has an active "pray away the gay" program, to mention one of their interests. In light of this kind of private support for "fringe" charities---not the Mormon church---I am not at all ready to concede in any way that Romney's religious-related beliefs would not color his actions in the office of the President of the United States---especially in the facilitation of the aims of the Christian religious right.  

    In a sense, Romney being a member of the Mormon church itself is the least of my concerns.   


    laugh Sorry, your statement, "We both agreed that once you accept a notion like a virgin birth, it's all down hill from there." made posting this link irresistable. wink


    'Virgin birth' method promises ethical stem cells - 28 April 2003 - New Scientist

    Thanks Emma, but that sounds downright creepy---parthenogenesis, eh? Sir, would you just step out of your vehicle while I check on this. 

    Sometimes, I think the religious right might have a point. 

    'Parthenogenesis, prehistoric nemesis, everybody's happy till the dead come home....'

    Is that from the Rocky Horror Picture Show? 

    Duplicate. Proves that within the space of five seconds I can dope off, re-awake and hit the save button at least once more.  

    I did a little research in another direction.

    Found Romney gave a "Faith in America" speech the last time around, in Dec 2007 at the G.H.W. Bush Library.

    Here's an article from just before where tells the press that it's not going to be a "JFK speech":

    Speaking with reporters after the event, Romney continued to emphasize how his speech would differ from JFK’s.  "He gave the definitive speech on … discrimination and religion relating to a political campaign," Romney said, "I am gonna be talking about the role of religion, faith in America and in a free society."

    NPR's archive has a transcript and audio of the speech. I read it. I found it a very eloquent defense of the view that the founders intended this to be "one nation under God," without preference for any religion, a view I don't agree with, but it's eloquently presented nonetheless.  Struck me that it presents Bush I's "thousand points of light" gentler kinder theme far better than Bush I ever did. An excerpt to give an idea, where he also addresses his objection to the "explain Mormonism" thing in the first paragraph; I find the second paragraph paragraph exceptionally good and graceful in defusing any problems with his view on that:

    "There are some who would have a presidential candidate describe and explain his church's distinctive doctrines. To do so would enable the very religious test the founders prohibited in the Constitution. No candidate should become the spokesman for his faith. For if he becomes president he will need the prayers of the people of all faiths.

    "I believe that every faith I have encountered draws its adherents closer to God. And in every faith I have come to know, there are features I wish were in my own: I love the profound ceremony of the Catholic Mass, the approachability of God in the prayers of the Evangelicals, the tenderness of spirit among the Pentecostals, the confident independence of the Lutherans, the ancient traditions of the Jews, unchanged through the ages, and the commitment to frequent prayer of the Muslims. As I travel across the country and see our towns and cities, I am always moved by the many houses of worship with their steeples, all pointing to heaven, reminding us of the source of life's blessings.

    "It is important to recognize that while differences in theology exist between the churches in America, we share a common creed of moral convictions. And where the affairs of our nation are concerned, it's usually a sound rule to focus on the latter - on the great moral principles that urge us all on a common course. Whether it was the cause of abolition, or civil rights, or the right to life itself, no movement of conscience can succeed in America that cannot speak to the convictions of religious people.

    "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.

    "The founders proscribed the establishment of a state religion, but they did not countenance the elimination of religion from the public square. We are a nation 'Under God' and in God, we do indeed trust.

    "We should acknowledge the Creator as did the Founders - in ceremony and word. He should remain on our currency, in our pledge, in the teaching of our history, and during the holiday season, nativity scenes and menorahs should be welcome in our public places. Our greatness would not long endure without judges who respect the foundation of faith upon which our constitution rests. I will take care to separate the affairs of government from any religion, but I will not separate us from 'the God who gave us liberty.'

    "Nor would I separate us from our religious heritage. Perhaps the most important question to ask a person of faith who seeks a political office, is this: does he share these American values: the equality of human kind, the obligation to serve one another, and a steadfast commitment to liberty?

    "They are not unique to any one denomination. They belong to the great moral inheritance we hold in common. They are the firm ground on which Americans of different faiths meet and stand as a nation, united.

    Another thought on the above as I posted it. Given that the speech was probably partly designed to allay concerns of Huckabee fans, one can no doubt find dog whistles for Christianists/Dominionists in it, and therefore label him "not a moderate." But I would just remind that Al Gore, a self-professed born-again Christian, and former divinity student, was known to argue that while our country provides for freedom of religion, does not mean freedom from religion. Here is a statement Al Gore gave as a candidate in 2000, from a list of candidates' statements; it's really not so far from Romney's speech:

    Respect For Religion Freedom of religion need not mean freedom from religion.

        "For too long, national leaders have been trapped in a dead end debate. Some on the right have said for too long that a specific set of religious values should be imposed, threatening the founders' precious separation of church and state. In contrast, some on the left have said for too long that religious values should play no role in addressing public needs. These are false choices: hollow secularism or right-wing religion. Both positions are rigid. They are not where the new solutions lie. I believe strongly in the separation of church and state. But freedom of religion need not mean freedom from religion. There is a better way.

        America's national identity is not shaped solely by our diverse faith traditions. But we are a people who believe that these traditions contribute to the formation of values with which we agree to live out our common lives together.

        Our founders believed deeply in faith. They created the Bill of Rights in large measure to protect its free expression. One reason America is the most religious country on earth is precisely because of the church-state divide: people who are free to worship as they wish, worship more freely.

        Our founders also knew history. They could look back on centuries of religious war in Europe that tore nations apart. They resolved that religious war should never tear this nation apart, and the only way to do that was to allow religious freedom.

        The history of the United States has proven our founders’ wisdom. They believed -- and I believe -- that we can protect against the establishment of religion without infringing in any way on its free exercise. That belief is at the very heart of our Constitution. And we must keep on working to make it a reality in our public life."

    I considered the possibility that the Romneys' contributions might simply be markers to increase his bona fides with the "religious right", but in a sense that makes them even worse because you have no idea what this guy will do. I keep thinking of those Supreme Court nominations.

    Oh I have the same qualms there. Just based on instinct but I suspect someone who believes in moderation in governing but also in an extremely conservative judiciary as a backbone keeping the country on a conservative path.

    Thanks, Artsy. It's pretty good language. As I say I was upset by the information of the Romney's "charitable giving" in regard to "pray away the gay" programs in a "socially conservative" foundation they supported. Such programs are repugnant to me, I think they stem from religious beliefs from the right and this behavior from Romney causes me no comfort in his words. Romney has called himself a "cafeteria" Mormon---that in itself gives me pause. What will this man select next, and upon what pretext? 

    Homosexuality & abortion, they're always the thing, that's why they're called wedge issues, no? (Used to be women's role in society, too, now not as much here, but still the case in other countries) You can listen to people talk about their faith, their religion in general, when you don't know their politics on the liberal to conservative spectrum, and they sound like they pretty much think alike. But just ask them about homosexuality or abortion, and you can more easily make a good guess where they are on the political spectrum.

    As to cafeteria Mormons or the more common cafeteria Catholics, for me this indicates a strong possibility of the person being a moderate. No coincidence: the liberal and conservative blogosphere rants about how much they hate moderates for not believing passionately in anything.

    Dan Kervick's comment upthread got across some good points on the cafeteria thing as far as religious belief is concerned, mho. Especially the part about fanatic believers being the ones most often crying "hypocrisy," they expect passionate belief, and if they don't get it, it angers them, like something fishy must be going on.

    Genghis, this is an excellent post, and I understand that you saw a need to make this latest brouhaha something of a teachable moment.  And you did it well.

    I guess I have a different take, and that is that it disappoints me to my kishkes that there was any need to have this kind of a teachable moment with the kind of audience that frequents this place.  Honestly, I don't understand how anyone with a progressive bone in his or her body doesn't get that that a Mormon--including a guy like Romney with a long and open public record--should not have to bear the burden of proving that he or she will not make policy on the basis of his or her religious beliefs.  That's just nonsense and I have no respect for that argument and I think it's as bigoted as any argument one might hear down at the John Birch clubhouse. 

    And the notion that it's difficult for some folks--at least around here--to understand the difference between political analysis and political dogwhistling, is absolutely unacceptable to me.  At a minimum, bigoted dogwhistling was conflated with political analysis around here, and that's just something that shouldn't be tolerated, period, end of story. 

    But you're more patient then I am Genghis, and that's undoubtedly a good thing, and I do appreciate the post; again I'm just sorry you felt the need to write it.

    Bruce S. Levine

    New York, New York

    P.S.  I understand destor's point about discrimination against atheists.  Such discrimination is entirely unacceptable to me as well.  But it doesn't justify a tit for tat response to people who retain religious beliefs.





    I agree. I remember when Ayatollah Khomenei was broadcasting from Paris on BBC, and haters thought he should be banned because he was a religious Muslim. But if you just listened to his speeches, he sounded quite reasonable - why should religion influence the way he ruled? Why should he have to pass a litmus test to be supreme leader?

    Why should Strom Thurmond being a Southern Baptist have any effect on his politics? People are just being intolerant towards religion.

    And, therefore, because Strom Thurmond was a douchebag, all Americans who happen to be Southern Baptists must answer accordingly should they presume to enter the political realm.

    And, therefore, because the Ayatollah turned out to be a despotic pillar of hate, all Muslims, be they Shia, Sunni or otherwise, must be subjected to similar scrutiny as a condition precedent for participation in the affairs of this great nation!

    Hear ye, Hear ye.  Come hear the condition precedent proviso of the great unverified.  Taste it, savor it, for it is right and just!

    No thanks.



    Well there you go - if I don't want to be prejudiced against a whole religion, I have to pay attention to how a particular candidate as an individual interprets his or her religion to understand and predict his behavior - otherwise I'd just be stereotyping all members and misconstruing the teachings of a religion based on the actions of an individual - as your contention does that personal adherence to religion is always benign and private, and should never be questioned.

    If religion has no effect, why do many think it's the most important influence on their lives? 

    You never did quite say what you think is important for candidates to reveal re: character - if religion is off limits, what else is off limits? Education level? Biography? Personal work ethics? Life achievements? Should we just give them a basic multiple choice test on policies of the day, and leave it at that? Or is the presidency worth a little more scrutiny in understanding the psychology of the next leader?



    The fact that I cannot reference a fixed set of criteria that is kosher (no pun intended) for evaluating a candidate--beyond public record, life experience, education, public and written statements, references prowess at hang-gliding--does not mean that you have established that it's reasonable for you to focus on a candidate's religion at the threshold--unless that's the kind of logic you're comfortable with.  Peracles, as I've written before, whatever rocks your boat.  I call it bigotry, and that's what's rockin' mine.

    Who said "focus"? You said to even consider religion - presumably as one of many aspects of one's character - is bigotry and I think you implied un-American/against our system. Sure, if all one wants to think about is a candidate's religion at the expense of any other issue, that's bigotry - as would be race, class, gender, region, et al. 

    So is a  small calculation of religion to make sure a candidate isn't a hateful religious bigot acceptable?

    For a long time it's been accepted that a ticket should be balanced - say a Pres candidate from the NE, the VP candidate from the South. Clinton-Gore was a major acceptance - but normally we have this major bias towards where a candidate hails from. Hell, even the Constitution says they can't be from the same state - ain't that a bitch.

    I'm really illin over the fact that they won't run Christie---from a nearby state that they have little chance of turning. 

    If religion is not off limits, what else is not off limits? Whether they're a homosexual? Whether they chose to stay married to a philanderer who argues about the meaning of the word "is"?

    Where have you been? Yes, there are even people on this site who still think Clinton's philandering is a negative towards voting for him.

    And obviously being openly homosexual is a heavy hurdle in getting elected anywhere in America. That's the reality train, whatever the rights and wrongs of it are.

    The differences of course is that being homosexual is simply a genetic proclivity. Controlling your willy or other organs or behavior is a matter of discipline. Not that the Victorian standard American view of "unfaithfulness" is the only social norm possible, and not that we don't hypocritically change the standards when we want to forgive and vote for someone in our clan.

    Where have you been? Yes, there are even people on this site who still think Clinton's philandering is a negative towards voting for him.

    Do you know how to admit you've over-simplified things? You never admit you're wrong, do you? Instead, you pretend like you think that I don't know the very thing I'm using as an example actually happens. I know you know that I know that, so the only thing I can conclude is that you recognize my point and have no rejoinder to it, so instead of addressing it, you pretend that I don't know something that I obviously do. Typical diversionary tactic.

    Here's the very specific version: Do you think Hillary Clinton staying with Bill Clinton after his philandering is valid to consider in evaluating whether she's presidential material? If not, why is someone's religion (not their actions, but their faith) valid? If so, did you feel that way in 2008? It certainly didn't seem so…

    Repeat: someone's religion that doesn't affect their actions or policies is irrelevant to a campaign and how I vote. I felt that way in 2008, I'll feel that way in 2118.

    How someone deals with a marriage is intensely personal and complicated and usually has little to do with their performance in office.

    That said, why the fuck would a woman's decision to stay with a man who's strayed be any reflection on her rather than on him? How much hate goes into thinking she should have no choice about whether to trash her marriage or not, or that there aren't a dozen considerations involved that go past whether her husband got a blowjob or not. Why the fuck do we even need to clarify this 15 years later - if a woman has a right to choose in abortion, she certainly has a right to choose in a marriage, whether it involves celibacy, menage-a-trois, midgets, or God forbid, considerations that go past sex? (like being in love even if feeling betrayed? like caring for your child's future?)



    Then we appear to be in complete agreement, except… you still seem to think that religion matters, unless you've changed your mind on that, and kudos to you if you have.

    So, if someone's religion that doesn't affect their actions or policies is irrelevant, then do certain actions and policies only matter for certain religions? If not, then how is religion important at all, other than as a proxy? (If so, wtf, of course.) If only as a proxy, then what value does that proxy serve? Does it cause you to examine certain politicians' actions more than others? If so, do you not see that as a problem?

    Come on, this has just gotten silly.

    Religion makes some people crazy, others not. Keeping on eye on the situation without freaking out is just common sense.

    There aren't as many examples of people drinking kool-aid and committing mass suicide over say their sports interests.

    Since abortion is a hot button for Catholics and Baptists, yes, it's often denomination-related. Did I have to tell you that?




    You're missing the point, possibly deliberately.

    You have two pieces of information: (1) whether someone is religious and what their faith is, and (2) their stance on abortion.

    Yes, those two pieces of information are correlated, but either you have the second piece of information or you don't.


    (a) If you have that piece of information, why does it matter if the two pieces tend to be correlated? (Especially since as I've pointed out that is no perfect implication in either direction.)

    (b) If you don't have that piece of information, then you're necessarily discriminating based solely on religious faith and how it's correlated with that information.

    Are you advocating for (b), because as you point out, (a) is just silly.

    Whatever. This conversation is just silly. Why do people form different denominations if they don't think it's important? They fought bloody wars over whether a wafer was really someone's body. They racked people up and burned them at the stake for not believing "the true religion". Forgive me if I don't just ignore it just because we're oh so different here in America and we've forgotten all that primeval behavior because we're post-religious, post-racial, post-everything.

    I think it's that you don't want to force Southern Baptist Jimmy Carter to have to explain Southern Baptist Strom Thurmond before you vote for Carter.  Nor would you ask Keith Ellison to answer for the rhetoric of that Ayatollah guy.

    Or an atheist to answer for Josef Stalin, and so on, precisely--except that you wrote it so much nicer than I did, damn it.

    I agree - so understanding even a teensy bit of Mitt Romney lets you know you're not electing Joseph Smith - whether that's good or bad. (and from the racial tolerance and outspoken support for racial equality of George Romney, you might think being a Mormon a plus, no? besides, Mormons gave up polygamy in 1890 - I can't figure out why that's even brought up any more)

    A slight peruse of Jimmy Carter's view of being a Southern Baptist gives you reassurance that he's not a hateful bigot like Strom Thurmond. But if it's Jesse Helms, you might find their religious and social takes on these matters are very similar. It's not necessarily the religion per se that's a problem (I leave open that certain cannibalistic religions and a few brainwashing cults might be inherently bad) but there is also clump behavior - it's not always just individual interpretation of religion, but shared interpretation across a region or culture or demographic. Santorum has lots of friends. I don't want to vote for any of them.

    So if someone says "Southern Baptist", I want to know if they're from the Helms/Thurmond/Falwell school of racial intolerance, or from the Jimmy Carter "Habitat for Humanity" school. Isn't that part of voter responsibility?

    Absolutely, and if someone is black, I want to know if they're from the Malcom X school of blackness or the Martin Luther King, Jr. school of blackness. There's no dog whistling at all!

    Uh, yes. Would you vote for a Farrakhan? With Malcolm as Muslim, I want to know if he's trying to find the peaceful self-fulfilling side of Islam or the slave-holding, women-repressing side.

    As he wore Islam on his sleeve, why exactly would the topic be off-limits to understanding his character and intents?

    Am I supposed to go out of my way to be a low information voter?

    Any idea how much Khomeinei was praised before he took over Iran? He sounded very educated, persuasive, common sensical. And then once he got into power, he started walking all the unpure off the tops of buildings at gunpoint. Oh, they smashed people's vocal chords first so you couldn't hear them scream. 

    Sometimes religion matters. Sometimes ethnicity matters. If you're voting in a Hutu, you want to know their real attitude towards dealing with Tutsis. If you're voting in an Orangeman, you want to know how committed he or she is to the peace process.

    If you're voting in a Hutu, you want to know their real attitude towards dealing with Tutsis.

    If you're voting in anyone in that region of the world, you want to know their real attitude towards dealing with Tutsis.

    Am I supposed to go out of my way to be a low information voter?

    That's exactly my point. You seem committed to the notion of using a low-information proxy (e.g., religion, ethnicity) instead of what really matters (e.g., someone's real attitude towards dealing with Tutsis).

    Amazing, I've explained over and over on this thread and elsewhere that I consider important the effect of religion on the individual's real relevant attituedes, policies and actions, not the religion itself or irrelevant attitudes.

    And then you act like I'm saying it's fine to just judge someone on their religion, some simplified Catholic okay, Protestant no?

    Try again:

    1) if being Catholic means they want to take away women's abortion rights, then it's relevant to my voting.

    2) If it's about how many angels fit on the head of a pin, I don't give a damn and it's irrelevant.

    3) If they're Catholic, hate abortion, but it doesn't affect their policies in office, then I again am assuaged.

    4) If they're Catholic, will work against abortion rights, but will also get us out of Afghanistan and stop the handouts to Wall Street, I have a quandary and have to figure out which are more likely and balance priorities.

    Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

    OK, you're almost there, but you're ignoring point 5, which should lead to the conclusion that it completely doesn't matter whether they're Catholic.

    5) If they're not Catholic and they want to take away women's abortion rights, then…

    (Compare with your point 1.)

    I.e., you have an ambiguous "it" in "it's relevant to my voting". What's relevant, them being Catholic, or them wanting to take away women's abortion rights. Surely you agree that there are atheists (for example) who want to take away women's abortion rights. Surely that would bother you just as much as if it were a Catholic.

    In the end, the point stands, it's not them being Catholic that matters, even if that's the reason they want to take away women's abortion rights, it's that they want to take away women's abortion rights, isn't it?

    Except the case of #5 where someone wants to take away abortion rights without a religious justification is.... miniscule.

    It's almost always the sanctity of life tied to no sex without procreation, etc., etc.

    My point is, and I'm sure you'd agree, that miniscule or not (and I'd argue not as miniscule as you might think), it's just as onerous whether the motivation is Catholic, Muslim, Protestant, Hindu, or an atheist who values the life of the fetus more than the choice of the mother.

    What if I told you that I was against abortion in all cases, because regardless of the reason the woman got pregnant, I think that in the calculus of life, the life of the fetus outweighs the choices of the mother? Would that be acceptable because I'm an atheist? If not, then remind me again what someone's religion matters, other than as a low-information proxy for those too busy to figure out what really does matter.

    Right, I've seen a lot of atheists committing vandalism and terrorist threats against abortion clinics and murdering abortion doctors.

    Go work on that "everyone does it" theory a bit more. Practice makes perfect.

    Your PredictablePatterns are tiring. If someone has laid the flaws in your argument bare, you pretend they said something they didn't say, or that things are black and white — either only one group does it, or everyone does it, since I'm suggesting that it's not true that only one group does it, you're suggesting that I think that everyone does it. Nowhere did I ever suggest that "everyone does it", in fact, I suggested quite the opposite, that there's no denomination where "everyone does it", so to use someone's denomination as a low-information proxy is just that — using  a low-information proxy.

    Let me lay some logic on you, which I know you're capable of understanding (I know you're smart, but that you only pretend not to get things):

    Question: If having property A does not imply having property B, and having property B does not imply property A (and I think you've conceded both of those where A is any particular religion and B is, for example, a stance on women's reproductive rights), but there's a positive correlation between having property A and having property B, then, if you know that property B exists or does not exist then what informational value is there in property A as it pertains to knowing whether property B exists or does not exist?

    Answer: 0 - since you already know that property B exists or does not exist.

    So, then for property A to have any informational value, we must not know if property B exists. Thus, we're using property A as an imperfect (i.e., low-information) proxy for property B. Is that what you're advocating, or are you going to make some brand new bullshit up now?

    If candidate A identifies with Focus on the Family or the Christian Heritage Foundation, we're in a heap of trouble - reject unless they have a real good reason for following these orgs and why they won't affect his or her policy.

    If candidate B intersects with A, or is a dogmatic anti-abortion / anti-contraception Catholic, we're going to have trouble with Planned Parenthood.


    By the way, I didn't invent the "Moral Majority" or "Religious Right", and it's absurd that I would be expected to ignore the mix of religion and politics that these jerks have fomented.

    50% of white evangelicals think the Tea Party shares their values. I would guess that considerably fewer American Jews or Muslims believe that. As they say, you're known by the company you keep.

    Of course if 40% of white evangelicals reject the Tea Party, and it's likely you can figure out their bent within about 5 minutes, considering the way people rant. So I consider that useful.

    Or of course Southern Baptist Martin Luther King, Jr.

    I hear you, Bruce.  I don't think any individual should have to answer for their entire religion, in any event.  Everybody's relationship to their religion or their atheism, is personal and nuanced.  We should judge character.

    But, then, I guess we should extend that to everything else as well.  For example, a person's membership in a union or a political party (even the "other" party!)  This should also extend to "fringe" religions, too.  We should be comfortable electing a Scientologist of good character, or a Wiccan.

    The dog whistling problem here was largely caused by an organized political wing of Christians, who use a definition of Christianity that most devout Christians I know don't share.  But, it is a problem and it has infected many churches and groups.

    Tit for tat is no answer.  But the standard has to be that everybody's beliefs are up for criticism.  Religious beliefs don't get special protection, it's just that every individual should answer for what they choose to believe in.


    We can certainly agree that there is no constituency better at dog whistlin' then those folks on the fundamentalist religious right.  Ain't no doubt about that.


    Bruce, there are dozens of dog whistling groups from special interests, whether ethnic, religious, political, sexual, etc. AIPAC is as successful at dog whistling as the religious right - there's no use even thinking about whether a candidate is Jewish because there's no difference on stance towards Israel between Hillary Clinton, Joe Lieberman, George Bush or  Alan Grayson. Netanyahu gets feted across the political spectrum like a national hero in a speech before Congress, something that would never happen to Jerry Falwell or Strom Thurmond. I wish you would look at these issues more objectively.

    I believe I am as objective as they come.  I see no daylight between folks who argue that it's OK to look at the color of someone's skin and folks who argue that it's OK to look at where someone prays or doesn't pray.  And my objectivity is supported by about 5,000 years of history.  It's always something Peracles.

    Skin color is nice to look at. God or Buddha or Darwin made us mostly non-color blind so we could appreciate the delights of different color skin.

    If there wasn't joy in variations of religion or non-religion, where and how people pray as one part, that would be a pretty depleted humanity. Though I agree a bit with Ron Paul in that the freedom to excel also includes the freedom to fail - some efforts at religion are excrutiatingly awful.

    Must I pluck my eyes out like Oedipus for my unwitting sins?

    Romney money funds 'pray away the gay' group - 


    Thanks for highlighting this issue, Genghis.

    A couple things.

    1. I disagree with your premise. In a perfect world, people would vote for candidates based on their own socio-economic interests. In reality, they don't. With regard to religion, it would be nice if people didn't care about a person's faith. But like a person's skin color, unfortunately it does matter. Acting like it doesn't is ignorant.

    2. Romney's church plays a big part in his life. Personally, I would not support someone who tithes millions of dollars to the church only to see those funds used for less than "godlike" initiatives. "Pray the gay away" is one example, as kudra mentions. Prop eight is another.

    3. 35 words of my post were devoted to Mormonism. 900 words were ignored. For clarity's sake, let's be clear that "Romney's not a witch" was not about Mormon-bashing or Mormon-baiting. It was about Romney being unlikable and unelectable.


    35 words, a prior blog with a picture of Romney with MORMON stamped on his head, and lots of dog-whistlin' drivel to go with it, and dual presumptions that what you've written before is immaterial and, incredibly, that you understand truisms about what is nasty in the world that other folks around here just don't grasp.  At least my man Peracles, who is starting to grow on me again, that bastard, is honest.  

    This answer works in the simple case of a candidate whose faith is merely "spiritual"--a personal relationship with God that has no practical implications on earth.

    But to my knowledge, he has never espoused "strange" ideas in polygamy, spirit wives in Heaven, American Indians as the lost tribe of Israel, or other exceptional elements of Mormon doctrine.

    Romney is a fucking bishop in the Mormon church.

    Polygamy isn't sanctioned by the church, on earth, but the spirit wives thing is part of the church's eschatology. You think he just doesn't "espouse" to certain "strange" beliefs?

    Try walking up to your priest and saying, "Hey Father, you don't really believe all that crazy shit you preach, do you?" You'd get bitch-slapped. 

    He's a high-ranking member who tithes $2 million a year, on average. Is he not responsible for what the church does with his leadership, with his money?

    I believe your blog still hasn't addressed the "hack" issue.  It's not that I have anything against hacks, but millions of people in this country do.  And until you address the issue, your blog will be dogged by question.

    "Try walking up to your priest and saying, "Hey Father, you don't really believe all that crazy shit you preach, do you?"

    I know at least one priest who would double over with laughter in response to that question. At which point we'd all open a bottle of wine and talk about it.

    (The Mormons, maybe not as much fun as the Catholics about this stuff.)

    Answer to Muddy - yes, Romney is in part responsible for the behavior and attitudes of his church - within limits of what any reasonable person would do to influence as well as accept an organization they believe in.

    And if I paid $2 million in taxes each year, I'd be that much responsible for my government's actions. I'm even responsible by how I vote and the cheerleading for and against particular candidates.

    No, Romney is not required to denounce the church and point out all flaws, just like Al Gore is not required to stop flying in jets just because he's working against global warming and jets emit CO2.

    And no, I don't see the Mormon church acting despicable, and whether they have crazier ideas than any other church, I don't care as long as it doesn't start us on another war or wipe out Social Security or treat people like dirt. The can believe in vestal virgins or celestial wives or a pony in the afterlife and it's all the same to me.

    I'm hoping for an iPhone 17s myself - just have to find the right religion that'll give it to me.

    Better hurry up and pre-order that Romney bumper sticker.  He does seem to be the candidate for you.  Good luck and God Bless.

    Really? Name a single Romney policy I'd support? 

    In fact I haven't even heard any Romney policies (except he seems to have tilted knee-jerk anti-Hispanic to raise support)

    People don't actually talk about Romney's policies here. They just try to apply one type of wingnut label or another. Oh, he's wealthy, that's bad - he closed down businesses, that's bad. People deserve to work, unemployment is bad.

    The level of analysis is quite poor. Of course there are issues about *HOW* Romney shut down businesses, and it's not just that he fired people. But we don't discuss that here. 

    First, I'll deliver the mea culpa for the snark remark last night.  My only excuse (which doesn't excuse) is I was tired and being silly.

    Now, as to your statement:

    People don't actually talk about Romney's policies here. They just try to apply one type of wingnut label or another. Oh, he's wealthy, that's bad - he closed down businesses, that's bad. People deserve to work, unemployment is bad.

    The level of analysis is quite poor. Of course there are issues about *HOW* Romney shut down businesses, and it's not just that he fired people. But we don't discuss that here.

    I am in agreement that the discussion you reference is needed. I urge you to do a blog post with this info.  I, for one, would greatly appreciate.




    I can cop to being one of the folk who use labeling--I like to mess around with words and slogans. I find that a soundbite gives people a way in to further discussion, or at least helps folks keep straight who is who and who said what in any given discussion. The slogans aren't meant to be a substitute for analysis, only a way to help keep it all straight, perhaps rally around a few concepts, and then people can use the soundbites as a way to help others think through the concepts as well. (And sometimes I like to use them to vent my frustrations and share how crazy I think the world is. So, sue me.)

    I can recall several discussions of *HOW* Romney shut down businesses. They seemed like pretty lively, high level discussions to me. But if they didn't meet your standards, then, like Aunt Sam, I invite you to provide your analysis, and perhaps even link to your sources so we can all learn from you and also from those who helped you become so well-informed.

    For example, I posted questions about the implications of closing the "Cayman Capitalist" loophole. Presumably Romney thinks this policy should remain in force, since it allows him and people in his income bracket to pay less in taxes. I would be interested to hear your thoughts.

    I'd also like to hear more about this concept of "releasing equity" from property, and understand its implications. Maybe in another post.

    But on the other hand, if you're just gonna go over there and insult me, maybe don't bother, ok?



    Government bailout of Bain:

    "Romney's Skeletons: His Bain Capital Received Millions in Bailouts"

    Search for Reuters about looting a Kansas City steel mill's pension fund and dumping it on the government:


    "Romney, Bain and the $44 million bailout" (pdf)
    With Kevin Drum's thoughts at: 

    Mitt Romney, Vulture Capitalism, and GS Technologies

    (sorry, can't link URLs without moderation at this point)


    To be fair, GE's famed super-CEO Jack Welch created much of his success on underfunding GE's pension, not improving their performance. But few aside from MBA students recall this.

    bslev, please remind me what the caption said under the picture of Romney with Mormon stamped on his head. I recall it summing up the point of the post, but I can't remember now--not with all of your incoherent run-on sentencizationing.

    No thank you MP.  I'm sorry I don't write to your standards but it matters not.  I've written what I've wanted to write to you already and if  you think I'm an asshole or whatever it doesn't affect me in the least.  Honestly, I don't respect you, I don't think  you're entitled to beginner's fuck-up insurance, and if other people think I'm being unreasonable it will not have been the first time I have been thought of in that way.

    "In a perfect world, people would vote for candidates based on their own socio-economic interests."

    Most people think that this is what they do.  It's very hard to tell them otherwise.  But people largely think they are being rational, pretty much all of the time.

    And this sort of underscores the point about religious beliefs being informative. For example, why would I vote for the guy or gall who wants to pray away the gays and legislate my uterus in the name of "God", if I don't agree that gays need praying away and I'm a little territorial about my lady bits? Or *gasp* maybe I don't agree that my candidate should be pandering to an invisible patriarch for guidance about...oh you know, stuff like the Keystone Pipeline or global warming or the Supreme Court. It matters. If it didn't matter, wouldn't we Liberal, free-thinking, chance-for-all peeps have been totally down with Michele Bachman? Is it too late for her to get back in? I liked her. She was so...sane. So...rational.    

    No, there's lots of evidence (even just on this thread) that general religious beliefs are a pretty poor indicator for you to judge that type of thing.

    See Lulu's question upthread and my reply for related.

    Jimmy Carter & Al Gore were self-identified born-again Christians Did you fear them legislating your uterus?

    You have to ask on the issues, not go on presumptions about their religions, or you're only hurting yourself.

    Going on presumptions on their religions is guessing JFK is going to take instructions from the Vatican, worrying that Barack Obama is going to be giving speeches saying "god damn America!" and that Jimmy Carter is going to force bible study in the public schools.

    Well, I'm on your side here.  I guess the real question is, would you vote for somebody who worships a mythical sky god that tells them to leave homosexuals and your uterus the heck alone?  What if somebody would give you your political heart's desire, but for reasons that you think are downright nutty?

    1. Obviously, many people vote for candidates for all sorts of idiotic reasons. This piece is not about the reasons people do vote for a given candidate but why they should (or should not).

    2. Clearly, Romney's church plays a big part in his life. It does not follow from this fact that he believes in spirit wives or whatever other bit of Mormon dogma you would like to tar him with.

    3. This post was inspired by your post and particularly the discussion that followed. It wasn't meant to be a rebuttal. I realize that your comment about Romney's Mormon beliefs was just an aside and did not mean to impute any more than that.

    "It does not follow from this fact that he believes in spirit wives or whatever other bit of Mormon dogma you would like to tar him with."

    Genghis, I am pretty sure you have identified yourself as an atheist. 

      I know that the statement I quoted is not technically wrong.

      I think almost all atheists have to think that deists of any kind believe some pretty silly... stuff. What else could they think? But, shouldn't we suspect that the silly stuff they believe might be the the teachings of their church.
     I have come to believe that atheists way underestimate the percentage of people, among those who claim to be religious, who really do believe some silly,...stuff.  [Its probably about the same percentage as among atheists] And, there is no way in hell to know, for sure, which silly...stuff they actually believe.  But, I think it is fair to take a shot at knowing. I think that there can be many appropriate questions. But what the hell, I'm agnostic.

    Lulu, I've read and trust the polls about how many Americans believe silly stuff, but I've never read anything that correlates people who practice their faith to people who believe silly stuff.

    It seems like such an obvious correlation, no? Who would bother to prove it? And yet, I've known plenty of religious people, including ministers and rabbis, who don't believe the silly stuff (other than God, which I as an atheist still consider a bit silly). I've also known plenty of non-religious people who believe lots of silly stuff, like a cosmic connection between the movement of stars and human personality.

    If I were to hazard a guess, I would imagine that education level and intelligence are as good or better indicators of silly belief than the religious observance.

    But even if that's true, I still don't assume that just because someone is uneducated, he must believe in horoscopes or the virgin birth. And I don't assume that just because someone is Mormon, he must believe in spirit wives.


    Why do we believe what we believe? 

    It just comes down to what one believes is a legitimate source of knowledge.  Is only the five senses a legitimate source? Or is there a sixth sense?  Can the truth be revealed?  Can someone write the Word of God if so inspired?  Are the elders always correct?  The authorities?  Does the world wide web ever lie?

    I was just talking with someone last night who knows this fellow with a handful of PhDs in science, but who will also show you, if one is so inclined, the evidence the earth was created in six 24-hour days.

    While I agree with much in your post, I think a couple of your points undermine it.

    If someone believes in creationism but it doesn't affect their policies, why should I care? I have enough loony thoughts that don't affect the actual product of my work. (of course my loony thoughts are right, everyone else's are wrong, but that's another issue)

    If someone wants their wife not to work, but doesn't believe it should be encoded or enforced on others, it's just a personal preference - and if there's a compatible woman who agrees, it's all fine.

    Some people like living in the woods, some people like wearing a yamulke as a sign of faith, some people like a gluten-free diet, some people like home schooling. All of this is variety. It's only when it has a significant impact on others that it requires any consideration in the political process.


    Unlike someone who wears a yamulke (in the woods or anywhere else), forbidding one's wife to work reflects a particular view of gender relations, and believing in creationism reflects a particular view of scientific practice--neither of which are good qualities in a president.

    Everyone has a "particular view of gender relations". Some like open marriages, some like threesomes, some like faithfulness, some like no sex except for procreation. Some see it as a team with different tasks, some see it as 2 bread winners sharing all other tasks, some just wing it. As long as they end up in a compatible relationship, who cares? For a candidate, as long as they're not pushing their preferred method on everyone else, who cares? Some women think wearing a burqa is fine - if a man wants that kind of woman for his mate, God speed. Same with a traditional marriage role guy - doesn't threaten me unless he tries to codify it in law.

    Some see home schooling as a way to get a better education, some see it as a way to instill religious values at the same time - but some see it as a wedge to destroy public schooling. I don't care about any of the reasons until it affects the last - how we educate our general populace. If a religious home schooling candidate comes up, I want to make that point clear.

    It would be much more interesting to speculate on electing a president despite his or her lack of belief in the supernatural as in atheist. 

    Religious people arguing with people of different religions is kind of like two kids arguing about whether Santa or the Easter Bunny would win in a cage match.


    I know for a fact the Easter Bunny can take Santa any day he wants to.

    I really liked this piece Genghis.  Ultimately, I disagree with the conclusion.  I do think Romney's strange religion is relevant when deciding whether to support him.  I just think it's less relevant than just about everything else.  So, if I had to vote for either Romney or a non-Mormon Romney clone, i.e., one whose preferred policies were identical to Romney's but who was neither a Mormon nor a member of an equally ridiculous religion quasi-cult, I'd vote for the clone.  Of course, that's assuming the alternative to voting was a slow painful death.  Otherwise, I'd flee the country.

    I think this comment illustrates religious bigotry perfectly.

    I know exactly what you mean, Hal.  I feel the same way about Jews.  I'd flee the country long before I'd cast a vote for one of them, too.

    Thanks, Hal. Personally, I would prefer an atheist, but I'm hesitant to use anyone's religion against them without a strong rationale.

    Hesitant?  Try "unwilling to," and work your way up from there.  


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