Speak, Romney

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That's all the political world is talking about today: Mitt Romney's ballyhooed (for months and months) Speech on religion. The excerpts released so far are grimly fascinating. Romney's religion problem is often compared to John F. Kennedy's address to the Southern Baptists, of course, and this Big Speech is compared to Kennedy's soaring 1960 speech. But Romney, unlike Kennedy, is trying to play along with the litmus tests of the self-appointed Christian leaders of the GOP. So he doesn't argue, as Kennedy did, that "the separation of church and state is absolute." Quite the opposite.

There are some who may feel that religion is not a matter to be seriously considered in the context of the weighty threats that face us. If so, they are at odds with the nation's founders, for they, when our nation faced its greatest peril, sought the blessings of the Creator. And further, they discovered the essential connection between the survival of a free land and the protection of religious freedom. In John Adam's words: 'We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion… Our constitution was made for a moral and religious people.

Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.

Let's see more of the speech, I guess, but it sure seems like Romney refuses to challenge the premises of political anti-Mormonism. He makes a thin argument that a Mormon can holy-roll just as good as a Methodist like George W. Bush. It's not what he said to, say, gay voters in 1994 and 2002, but he's found his pander and he's stickin to it.

Ross Douthat really nails the politics of this:

Instead of making the conversation about issues where Huckabee is vulnerable and Romney isn't, the Romney campaign has guaranteed that for the next two weeks at least and probably beyond, the media conversation will be about, well, Mormonism. If there were more time before the actual voting begins, that might not be the worst thing in the world; they could get the wave of coverage out of the way, inoculate themselves to some extent, and then shift gears and start hammering Huckabee on taxes and immigration and so forth. But there isn't time: Christmas is coming, there's a very narrow window in which to define Mike Huckabee as a Mexican-loving crypto-liberal, and the Romney campaign has just ensured that everyone will be talking about the Urim and the Thummim instead of the Arkansas gas tax.

I think I know why he's not attacking Huckabee right now, though: A sense of entitlement. From the rollout of the Hugh Hewitt book on, I've got the sense that the citizens of Romneyland think their candidate deserves to president and that the only thing stopping a grateful nation from handing him the keys is the Mormonism. It's presumptuous and it'll probably knock him out of the race in February.

NEXT: Did Ali Reza Asgari's disappearance have anything to do with the NIE's conclusions?

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  1. “Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. ”
    Um.
    NOT.
    (full)

  2. Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom.

    This is one of the sillier things I’ve heard a presidentiall candidate say recently.

  3. Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom.

    Wait, what? What does that even mean?

    Can I safely assume that this will be posted on the Romney campaign website so I don’t have to worry about not having set my DVR to record this?

  4. the above post is not suppposed to be from Fred Thompson, but from me.

  5. “Freedom requires superstition just as superstition requires freedom.”

  6. I think it’s one of the koans used mainly to piss people off like:

    A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.

  7. I think they’re not attacking Huckabee now because few people thought he would be doing this well. Romney’s camp, like the other frontrunners, were probably unprepared. They’re doing research now and will attack once they have the facts and a coherent strategy.

  8. I’ve got the sense that the citizens of Romneyland think their candidate deserves to president and that the only think stopping a grateful nation from handing him the keys is the Mormonism. It’s presumptuous and it’ll probably knock him out of the race in February.

    Good. I want Mr Romney to stay here in Massachusetts and to live through the recession Romney-care is going to cause. If he leaves the state, I want it to be seen as a retreat, not as an advance. I want that no-talent ass-clown to face consequences, dammit!

  9. Ron Paul has secured the Bunny Ranch endorsement. Link. (SFW)

  10. Is the GOP trying to elect a President or a Pope? All this constant yammering about religious bullshit is going to be huge turnoff to a lot of people–and the only people it is bound to rope in are those already likely to vote Republican.

    Note to GOP: shut the fuck up about Jesus, and your magic underwear, or whatever, and talk about IDEAS. Unless you don’t have any, of course.

  11. the above post is not supposed to be from Fred Thompson

    Damn, I thought Fred was having a Sister Souljiah moment. But I should have figured out it wasn’t him with the lack of pick-up truck or hound dog similes.

  12. Yeah, because nobody can possibly find a reason why Romney’s a crappy candidate except for his Mormonism. Do people sit around and say “I know I’d vote for him if it weren’t for his tenacious adherence to the teachings of the angel Moroni”? I know I can find about a dozen reasons of the top of my head that are better disqualifiers than Mormonism.

    And they say Ron Paul supporters are delusional. Sheesh.

  13. I attempted to post this at the Times, but they apparently decided it was too offensive to put up:

    Mitt is a hypocrite. He has previously stated that an atheist or agnostic should not be President, because the job properly belongs to a “person of faith”. So he’ll use a religious test when it suits him, and object to one when it works against him.

    I also am absolutely, positively sure that if a Scientologist or Hare Krishna or Jain or Wiccan were running, Mitt would not say that the “distinctive doctrines” of those beliefs should not be part of the campaign. Mitt says now that all religions are equal, but put to the test we can be sure that he would decide that some religions were more equal than others.

    And no, those other religions are no more absurd than Mormonism, considering the latter’s historical racism and polygamy, crazy “official” prehistory of the Americas, and magic underwear.

  14. It’s always funny when Christians call Mormanism a cult. Pot, meet your good buddy the kettle.

  15. Mormons have magic underwear?

  16. It really pisses me off when (certain) Republicans blather on about how the Founding Fathers thought God should be an integral part of the governance of this country.

    Hey assholes, limit government’s size and scope to what the Founding Fathers thought it should be if you’re so concerned about their opinion. Then, even assuming the previous notion is correct, it will amount to de facto separation of church and state because there will be so little of the latter.

  17. Much like the belligerent lesbian at work, Romany wants to make it all about his religion. She/he can deflect all criticism as homophobia/religious intolerance. Romany is happy to engage “bigots” on his own terms.

    Also: A man needs a feminist like a fish needs a bicycle.

  18. “And no, those other religions are no more absurd than Mormonism, considering the latter’s historical racism and polygamy, crazy “official” prehistory of the Americas, and magic underwear”

    Also, Mormonism was invented by a con man.

  19. It’s always funny when Christians call Mormanism a cult. Pot, meet your good buddy the kettle.

    1-5 believers = Crazy as a loon.
    6-50 believers = a clan
    51-200 believers = a cult
    200+ believers = a following
    1000+ believers = a sect
    5,000+ believers = a demonination
    10,000+ = a religion
    50,000+ = a mainstream religion.

    You are permitted to disparage and mock up to and including sects. With denominationss and above feigning “respect” is recommended. You wouldn’t want to appear disrespectful or intolerant, would you?

    I can’t distinguish one from the other but by weight of numbers.

  20. It really pisses me off when (certain) Republicans blather on about how the Founding Fathers thought God should be an integral part of the governance of this country.

    It really pisses me off when people speak of the founding fathers as if they were monolithic in their views on religion and its role in relation to the state. One of the big issues of the 1800 election was Adam’s Christian belief vs. Jefferson’s “atheism.”

    Also, Mormonism was invented by a con man.

    That hardly makes it unique.

  21. Weight of numbers is one factor. The other is age.

    “Politicians, ugly buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough.”

    Mr. Huston (or Towne or Polanski) should have tossed in “cults” as well.

  22. Rattlesnake,

    I think it would be fair to say that all religions were created by con men, that is not an exclusively Mormon trait.

    What are the odds that Romney will choose a Wiccan, atheist or Muslim to serve as VP or a member of his cabinet? I think it is slightly less then the possibility that the Pope isn’t Cahtolic.

  23. I can’t distinguish one from the other but by weight of numbers.

    Cults are generally organized around a living person, sects are derivatives of larger religious groups. Methodists, for example, are a Christian sect, although the term is rarely used.

  24. henry –

    Your modification/improvement of my point is accepted with enthusiasm.

  25. As a practicing Mormon, I’ve got to say that his religion isn’t a factor for me at all in not wanting to vote for Romney. He suffers from Massachusetts Syndrome (a particular variety of Politician’s Disease): say whatever it takes to get elected and get caught in contradicting yourself. Like most politicos Romney is a shape shifter in human skin?

    Would I vote for most of my coreligionists? No. Jeff Flake’s about the only one I would vote for. I wouldn’t vote for them for the same reason I wouldn’t vote for Jerry Fallwell or Richard Dawkins: I don’t trust anyone who thinks that they know the Truth about God, the Universe, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the Buddha, the Super Bowl [insert whatever takes the place of deity for you]: such people pretty soon want to force you to do things there way. I’m quite happy with the separation of church and state, thank you very much.

  26. err, their way. At least I caught my “Super Bowel” before posting

  27. Well, a Super Bowel Movement is certainly one I could support.

  28. A fish needs magic underwear like a bicycle needs a Body Thetan.

  29. Fluffy,

    Thank you. I now know more than I ever wanted to about garments and Mormons. This reminds me. Someday I have to finish my side project of reading the Book of Mormon.

    I think I’m gonna go worship my daytime tutelary deity now (aka the Bunn-o-matic).

  30. Tacos Mmmm,
    The terms are so interchangable they become meaningless. IMHO, Branch Davidians are still a cult in spite of Koresh’s immolation. Mormons are often called cultists. Are the Jesuits a sect? Depends on who you ask, doesn’t it? I get so confused without a scorecard.

  31. “I think it would be fair to say that all religions were created by con men, that is not an exclusively Mormon trait.”

    You’re probably right, Scott.

  32. “One of the big issues of the 1800 election was Adam’s Christian belief vs. Jefferson’s “atheism.”

    This is true, but even Adams in the Treaty of Tripoli stated “as the US is in no way a Christian nation.”

  33. Christianity is the Cult of Christ. I don’t care how many adherents it has or how long it has been around. The Holy Sacrament is as cultish as it gets (“eat my flesh, drink my blood”). Sheesh. I don’t think even Jim Jones made his puppets do that dance.

  34. I don’t trust anyone who thinks that they know the Truth about God

    TBM — How Mormon are you? Almost all the church-going Mormons I know believe they’re privy to the Truth About God, and give me quizzical looks when I politely disagree.

  35. “I also am absolutely, positively sure that if a Scientologist or Hare Krishna or Jain or Wiccan were running, Mitt would not say that the “distinctive doctrines” of those beliefs should not be part of the campaign. Mitt says now that all religions are equal, but put to the test we can be sure that he would decide that some religions were more equal than others.”

    I can’t wait for a Rastafarrian to run for President, yah mahn, lord have mercy.

  36. “A fish needs magic underwear like a bicycle needs a Body Thetan.”

    de stijl wins the thread!

  37. “Genesis 3:21 states that “unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them.” Mormons believe that such clothing was provided as part of the religious instruction provided to Adam and Eve by God.”

    When are the “undergarments’ going to be made from fur? I could be on board with that.

  38. TBM — How Mormon are you? Almost all the church-going Mormons I know believe they’re privy to the Truth About God, and give me quizzical looks when I politely disagree.

    That’s exactly why I’d not vote for most of my coreligionists.

    Most can’t seem to make the distinction-even though it’s enshrined in one of the Articles of Faith, the closest thing to a catechism you’ll find in Mormonism-between (a) believing (even “knowing”) something is true but allowing others the privilege of the same (even if you think they are wrong) and (b) believing something is true and therefore forcing others to submit to your ideas.

    Of course the same can be said of anyone who is thoroughly convinced of being right and that anyone who disagrees with them is (a) immoral or (b) stupid. Come to think of it though, that describes the attitude most politicians hold. That might be why I don’t like them….

    I know that many people on this list like Dawkins, but does anyone really think he’d be any better than Jerry Falwell if he were put in charge? The specifics would differ, but the tyranny would be the same. Jerry Falwell would make you confess Christ, Dawkins would forbid you from doing so.

  39. I should add that I may think I’ve got knowledge about God, but I always have to admit the possibility that I’m wrong, so even if I try to convince anyone else of my belief (I was an LDS missionary), they have the same right to think I’m wrong and not believe, and I can’t do anything about it. I also, unlike many Mormons, don’t really think most people give two nickels about the church, and not everything’s about it, although I have encountered some really obnoxious bigots about Mormonism in my life. It seems to me that those on the Evangelical side and those on the atheist side somehow seem to meet on the opposite side and sound an awful lot like each other…

  40. Elder TBM:

    When living in Prague, I hung out with a whole group that was there on Mission. Very cool people. Many open, interesting discussions.

    Where did you go? And what were some of your most interesting experiences?

  41. VM,

    I was not so far away: Hungary. Probably the oddest thing was late one night when a group of drunk kids decided to mock the two of us who were riding a bus home together. We ignored them, but when they got off the bus, one of them (a big, scary-looking skinhead) told his friends that he wanted to “talk” to us. The others left laughing and joking about us being in for it, so for the next ten minutes I had to sit there with this fellow staring at me. When we got to our bus stop, he hopped out with us and then proceeded to tell us how glad he was that there people like us in the world and that we should be proud of what we were doing, but that he had done too many bad things for us to do anything for him. He then shook our hands and told us he’d keep an eye out for us to make sure that nothing bad happened to us and then walked off. The whole experience was surreal…

  42. Cool stuff! still – sounds like a rather long ten minutes!

    thanks, Elder TBM!

  43. Most can’t seem to make the distinction-even though it’s enshrined in one of the Articles of Faith, the closest thing to a catechism you’ll find in Mormonism-between (a) believing (even “knowing”) something is true but allowing others the privilege of the same (even if you think they are wrong) and (b) believing something is true and therefore forcing others to submit to your ideas.

    Of course the same can be said of anyone who is thoroughly convinced of being right and that anyone who disagrees with them is (a) immoral or (b) stupid.

    These are absolutely not the same and have nothing to do with each other.

    You are mistaking political pluralism with an intellectual suspense of judgment, and they aren’t the same thing.

    I think that all free men should have the right to say that two plus two equals five. [Political pluralism.]

    But anyone who thinks two plus two equals five is stupid.

    The religious freedom of my fellow citizens is not affected if I don’t think they’re smart.

  44. TBM — I’ve kinda evolved to become more of a cultural Mormon since being baptized several years ago — I’ve quit believing a good chunk of what the Church teaches, but enjoy the company of the people in my ward and stake.

  45. Fluffy,

    I disagree rather strongly with the idea that they have nothing to do with each other. Most of the people I fear are True Believers of whatever stripe who think that they need to save us from ourselves. They tend to think that their opponents are evil or deluded, not just of a different opinion, and that they need to use the power of government to change those they thing are wrong.

    You are right that the two can be separated, but there are many people who do not separate them and then want to act on their convictions to force others to conform.

    The religious freedom of my fellow citizens is not affected if I don’t think they’re smart.

    That is true for you and many others, but for everyone who can allow others to do something that he thinks is stupid, there is another one who is going to save us from being stupid. So while the can be separated, far too often they are not, which is the point I was trying to make, although I did incorrectly and carelessly say “anyone” in the bit you quote, so it is my fault you misunderstood my point.

  46. Fluffy — careful, TBM is teaching you about agency, which is part of the discussions that Mormon missionaries teach.

    We don’t want no Fluffy the Morbot, yeah? 😉

  47. Actually, I have less of a problem with Romney being a Mormon, than Romney’s association with creeps like Mel Sembler, of Straight, Inc.

  48. From Wikipedia;

    “Straight, Inc. was founded on April 22, 1976 by Mel Sembler and started its treatment program on September 1, 1976.

    This program was highly controversial due to the style of therapy it used, called “tough love” that has been likened to brainwashing. Various allegations of abuse and lawsuits led to the end of Straight, Inc. in July 1993.

    Many former patients of Straight have formed ‘survivor groups’ assembling themselves in small numbers seeking a means to understand the trauma suffered and supporting one another in grasping the reality of what happened in their lives.”

    Associations with people like Mel Sembler, makes me believe that Romney is a teatotalling, holier than thou, religious nut involved in a religion he can’t and won’t even try to defend to the electorate, that has no business as the POTUS.

  49. Romney also lacks courage of conviction and that bothers me. Shows he is trying to hide something.

  50. “But Romney’s national finance co-chair, Mel Sembler, remains. While Sembler has not been linked with any abuse personally, the organization he co-founded, Straight Inc., paid out millions of dollars in similar suits during the 1980’s and 1990’s. The abuse included kidnapping, false imprisonment, beatings, sexual humiliation (boys were called “fags,” girls, “whores”), punitive use of isolation and restraint and bizarre incidents like teens being gagged with Kotex and held on the floor for hours until they wet or even soiled themselves. In every state where Straight had a facility, regulators and/or lawsuits eventually documented serious abuse.

    The treatment regime itself is essentially abusive– it was virtually identical to a program in which Sembler was a participant that a Congressional investigation compared to North Korean brainwashing. (That investigation prompted the founding of Straight as the prior group had been so discredited by the report and resulting bad publicity).”

    Link:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/maia-szalavitz/romney-fires-one-teenabu_b_63311.html

  51. It might well be that all religions were started by con artists. But here’s the thing about Mormonism. We know pretty damn well that it was started by a con artist.

    Judaism? We know virtually nothing about the origins of the religion of the ancient Israelites. Christianity? We don’t know that much about the historical Jesus. Islam? We know a decent amount about Muhammad, but it’s not clear whether he was a con artist or sincere or what.

    Mormonism? We know pretty damn well that Joseph Smith was a con artist. It’s a matter of historical record.

  52. Seems you’ve been reading one side of the story. Credible histories by non-Mormons skeptical of Mormonism’s truth claims, not by those who are invested in a theological position, aren’t nearly as clear about the whole con artist bit as you think. It is known that Joseph Smith dug for buried treasure (for pay), but that was pretty common behavior in his area the period. To call him a con artist for that, when both he and his audience believed in the reality of what he was doing, is stretching the meaning a bit and being guilty of what scholars call presentism (using today’s standards to judge the past).

    He was also taken to court over some claims that could be interpreted as him being a con artist, but the only first-hand accounts from the court trial (he was acquitted, by the way) came from about forty years after the fact, after Smith was famous and those who were involved and still around had incentive to color the story. Believe what you want about Smith, but the evidence isn’t so sure as Dave2 thinks.

    Joseph Smith certainly was a strange individual, I won’t deny that. He wasn’t perfect (he seems to have been the first to admit that as well), and he did some things that we find shocking and bizarre. That could lead one to conclude he was a crook and a fraud, or that he was inspired. Short of some unique insight into his mind, we can’t tell from what evidence we have. One of the problems in the history of Mormonism is that we really know very little about Joseph Smith, so it’s easy to transform him into whatever we want (saint or sinner)…

  53. Fluffy — careful, TBM is teaching you about agency, which is part of the discussions that Mormon missionaries teach.

    No consciously, but I suppose I was, because I take it to be so central to my view of the world. I also find it to be pretty much in line with the central tenant of libertarianism in that it tells me I have to allow others to make choices and I can’t force them to accept my view. LDS teaching on agency? Yes (although most Mormons ignore it when convenient). But it’s also a pretty good summary of why libertarianism appeals to me.

  54. TBM, I also have in mind the golden plates that he would talk about, but not show anyone, but then translate from while hiding them from others. And then how when Lucy Harris ‘borrowed’ some of the translation, Smith was conveniently given a new ‘revelation’ not to re-translate them. (Wow! How not like a con man!) Oh yeah, and how the plates were in ‘Reformed Egyptian’ (conveniently, Egyptian was not yet within the reach of scholars), and then Smith and/or Martin Harris somehow managed to completely misrepresent the negative opinion of Charles Anthon, the scholar who looked at a sheet of characters allegedly taken from the plates.

    The whole thing is completely absurd. You couldn’t come up with a better portrait of a con man if you tried (okay, maybe L. Ron Hubbard). We have nothing like this when it comes to Moses, Jesus, or Muhammad. Mormonism is in a special class of religions plainly and obviously founded by con men.

    Or, as John Stuart Mill put it, it’s the “product of palpable imposture”.

  55. Dave2,

    believe the story or don’t, but it is interesting that those who had the most reason to feel bilked by Smith, who became his mortal enemies in some cases, were among those who had stated that they saw exactly the things you cite as proof of fraud, yet curiously they were the ones who stood by that part of the story. You could argue that they were too invested in it to turn against it, but some of those who said they saw the plates and other things Smith said were there turned against him in almost everything else, but not in that.

    When it comes right down to it, the part of Smith’s story that historians have the hardest time explaining is the origins of Mormonism, because that’s precisely where we know the least.

    You can conclude it’s a con job if you start with that answer already. I’ve got to admit the whole thing sounds crazy, but no more than most of what’s in the Bible (water into wine anyone? or fire destroying a soaking wet altar and the priests of Baal hanging around it?) But if Smith, as improbable as it sounds, were telling the truth, then there is no con. I know 99% of the folks on this list will say it was a con, but the whole point of the story is that it sounds nutso: the only reason to accept it is if you end up with some reason to believe the outcome. Mormonism ain’t a religion of convenience, intellectual or cultural (unless, perhaps, if you’re born into it and never encounter anything else).

    By the way, the whole Charles Anton thing has been pretty thoroughly investigated. It doesn’t look like he was misrepresented intentionally. Imagine you’re a university professor and two yokels show up and show you something you take as a joke. You fob them off with a throw away comment and then realize that these guys are serious and you want nothing to do with their nuttiness, so you invite them back and tear up the little paper you gave them to get them out of your hair. But they take the encounter as confirming what they set out to find out. That, as near as anyone can tell, is what happened there. So did Anton believe any of this? No, not at all. Was the Mormon account more or less accurate? Probably, when you take out the interpretation, and Anton merely got caught in something he didn’t want to be involved with. (That interpretation, by the way, is one that even Mormon historians who believe in Mormonism have accepted as the probable sequence.) Again no fraud, but a lot of misunderstanding.

    Again, it comes down to whether you accept any of this as true. If it’s not, JS was a fraud. If it is, then this is true. I’m sure we can all find our confirmation biases, but to state that he was a con man (in the sense of someone consciously perpetrating a fraud) is a somewhat dubious interpretation. Even if JS made it all up, he sure acted like someone who believed his own story, and if he believed it, then he may have been deluded, but not a “con artist.” Con artists seldom stick around long enough for the lynch mob to get them…

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