Free to be a Monotheist

It’s weird to be sitting here, a girl who’s only ever left the country twice and both times just to go to Canada, a girl who didn’t even have a passport until this year, a girl who loves traipsing all over the countryside looking at historical sites and digging into our country’s history, it’s weird to be sitting here feeling like an American, feeling like a girl who loves her country, and realizing that one of the front-runners for President can give a speech in this day and age that suggests that only monotheists can be real Americans and people think he gave a great speech.

Shall I quote?

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.

I believe that every faith I have encountered draws its adherents closer to God.

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.’

Americans acknowledge that liberty is a gift of God, not an indulgence of government.

Any believer in religious freedom, any person who has knelt in prayer to the Almighty, has a friend and ally in me.

Well, there you go.

The atheists are all over it, and rightly so.  Allow me to be one of the first polytheists to chime in with a “boy does that suck.”

You can be an American without believing in God.  You can be an American if you aren’t sure there’s a god.  You can be an American if you don’t give a shit if there’s a god.

Romney speaks out of both sides of his mouth.  He wants to shield himself from having to address some tough questions about Mormonism by hiding behind how he shouldn’t be subjected to a religious test, while at the same time he’s saying that one must believe in God to be a good American.  If there’s a question of how you’re only an American by virtue of your proper religious belief, that is a religious test.

And, sure, right now it’s all about including all of the monotheists, but what about the Buddhists and the Hindu and the Pagan and the religions of the African diaspora and the indigenous beliefs of the people who were here first?

I mean, seriously.

He wants to be the President of all of us and he doesn’t think we can be good Americans?

Yes, I get that he’s trying to signal to evangelical Christians that they can feel that he’s almost one of them and feel okay with voting for him without having to talk too specifically about what he does believe because he knows most of the Christians he wants to vote for him would not consider him Christian if they had any familiarity with Mormonism.

I, on the other hand, don’t give a shit who or what he worships.

For me, his faith raises one set of questions I believe all Americans deserve an answer to–does he himself believe that black people are black as a punishment from God?  If not, how does he justify that he, as an adult, was a Mormon at a time when they believed that?

And his speech raises another set–Is he aware that there are many non-monotheists in this country?  Does he really believe that they aren’t real Americans?  Is he aware of the terrible legacy we have in this country of governmental infliction of monotheism on non-monotheistic groups?  If not, why not?  If so, why would he align himself with those forces?

I don’t hear good answers to those and I don’t even hear anyone with a platform to be heard raising them.

14 thoughts on “Free to be a Monotheist

  1. Pingback: Volunteer Voters » Polytheist Accuses Romney Of Being Multifacial

  2. I think the oddest thing about the Romney situation is that, really, his Mormonism could give him the chance to gave a really powerful “my people know what it is to be harried out of our homes and forced to migrate just to be free to do what we think God wants; I would never enact that sort of cruelty on anyone else.” But, of course, the people who kicked the Mormons out of their states were by and large those people who he now wants to woo, and by and large those people still kinda think that they were justified.

    As a Liberty grad, I still occasionally blunder across Liberty student discussions, on facebook or whatever, and I was amused but not surprised by a post some kid made on the issue:

    “Hillary is not the worst candidate. If Romney wins the Rep. nomination, I will (gasp), be voting for Hillary and encouraging everyone I know to do the same.
    It is not because I think Romney will allow the Mormon church to influence his politics (and I’m not sure that would be a bad thing, anyway). I don’t even think Romney is a very committed Mormon, from what I’ve seen. But I do seriously believe people will go to Hell if he is elected because of the legitimization he will give to his cult during the four years he is guaranteed to be on the news every night. People who would otherwise never have checked out a Mormon church will do so and be lost. I don’t think we’ve ever faced something like this before in a candidate for President. So I’m an “anybody but Romney” person, hah.”

    Since Falwell claimed full credit for the Bush reelection, politicians have been lining up to court the Liberty kind of people (McCain came and spoke at my graduation; Huckabee and Thompson have both been by). I think this kid’s attitude is not an aberration, and it’s so interesting to think about: Hillary, in theory, represents everything that Liberty people hate: Women in power, killing of the baybeez, social programs, Hillary Clinton.

    Yet this kid is so fixated on the distinctions between Liberty’s religious beliefs and Mormonism that he would throw everything (including the baybeez!) under the bus to block Mitt from power. In some way, I guess, the religious issues feel more real to him than the abstract Bad of Hillary’s social politics.

    It’s possible to kind of feel sorry for Mitt. He’s clearly the kind of political creature who has picked what seemed to be the best way to the top (though the influence of the values voters has been sort of disproven by midterms and general turn of opinion) and just didn’t realize that there is still a virulence that runs really deep. He can’t overcome it, in my opinion.

    And I suspect that those conservative atheist/agnostics (like lots of libertarians) will be repulsed by this attempt to play to a crowd that won’t have him, to the exclusion of them.

    It’s gross that someone could think this was a good strategy, yeah. But I am really hoping that in retrospect, when the Dems sweep because the conservative “base” is so sharply divided, mainstream candidates will stop perceiving religion as an acid test, and all this rhetoric will retreat to the Ron Paul camp where it belongs.

  3. As a libertarian I cannot stomach the thought of a president who believes in forced conversion. Georgia’s right–this libertarian iss repulsed.

    I know that’s not what the Mormons think the doctrine of Proxy Baptism is per se, but that’s an awful lot like what it looks like to me.

    The Romney speech sounds like a lot of political religion, which as a monotheist makes me cringe. Speeches like this are about the most offensive thing to me because they serve to pervert religion into a shadow of itself designed to please the masses.

    So those who aren’t in the masses are offended because it doesn’t recognise their differing beliefs and those who are ostensibly in the masses to which it should appeal are left thinking “yeah. Right. Whatever.”

  4. “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

    — Stephen F Roberts

  5. Georgia, good points. You’re exactly right that he could have framed this in a way that would have made him more appealing to a lot more people and i think you’re right about the strategy he should have used.

    What I think is such a strange blindspot is that he wants to prove to the very people most likely to vote against him and think less of him because of his religion that he shares their worldview. Doesn’t that make Mormons nervous?

    And it doesn’t get around the problem that a lot of monotheistic sects (for lack of a better term) don’t share his “we all worship the same god in different, but okay, ways.”

    To me, it’s almost as if the speech was designed to sound to moderates like he was appealing to Christian conservatives. But he couldn’t have actually given a speech that would appeal to the Christian conservatives he wants to appeal to because such a speech would have had to contain stronger Christian–not just monotheistic–overtones.

    Coble, I don’t think I’m bothered by that in as straight-forward a way as you are. I mean, a lot of people practice religions and do some mental gymnastics to be okay with things that they’re taught, even if they seem ridiculous.

    But I do think that it’s fair to ask questions that get at whether he’s made those mental leaps. I mean, does he think black people are black as a punishment from God? Does he think that, by baptizing dead people, you can convert them to your religion?

    Or has he done like most other people do and thought that some parts of his belief system were silly or stupid but not worth his public refutiation?j

    And, yeah, Lindsey, anyone who thought that was a great speech must have read it instead of seen it.

  6. When i was younger, (you know, a long long long time ago) i did a lot of reading about the Mormons. I don’t know why, except that i was drawn to a book that claimed that the Church actually had “hit squads” to reign in vocal and public ex-Mormons. Also, I lived in Utah, and found them to be overly clannish and that bothers me. So, I read and i read, and I still don’t “get it.” I never thought I’d be uncomfortable with any religion a President might have, but I’m not so sure now.

    LOVED THE Stephen F Roberts QUOTE, btw.

  7. Having been involved with a lovely group of LDS kids in Iowa City who were training for their mission service and left their training manuals around…it sounds to me that he’s using the fellowshipping technique of suggesting that Mormons believe pretty much what all Christians believe (broad shared patriotic values, monotheism, etc) as the initial step of easing conversations about what they differ on. In theory, the idea is to maximize the common religious and social ground so that the differences can be discussed only after it’s accepted that “we’re all pretty much on the same page.”

    What the missionary — or indeed, any active Saint who is living out his or her witness — wants to do is to first connect socially, establish the warm fuzzies of a group of people who really sincerely care about one another, get outsiders involved in the daily social life of the faith, and then after you like them personally, present the potentially jarring beliefs that do not accord with mainstream Protestant Christianity. Since that’s a technique suggested for reaching out to new potential converts, I would guess he’s merely trying it out on a mass audience.

    Since Romney is a consecrated member of the priesthood of Melchizedek (like all adult male Mormons, he’s a priest of Aaron and probably holds some of the higher offices as well — you can Google this for the details of what his priestly duties entail), I am not sure how he’s going to finesse the issue of church/state separation. We’ve never had a priest of anything as a President before.

  8. When I was a stay-at-home mom, I had some Mormon missionaries come to my house once a week and we studied the Book of Mormon…because I was curious about it. I even went to a Christmas party at the meeting hall in Smyrna. They were some of the kindest, most wonderful people, while they were courting me. I weighed all of what they showed me and what I read, and I just couldn’t reconcile it with any sort of logic whatsoever. (I believe that the God I worship is a god of order and logic, which is why I am totally down with reconciling science and my faith.) So anyway, once I came to that conclusion, I never heard from them again… I have a major problem with folks who pretend to care about you only if you believe what they believe or only if you are going to church regularly…that is not sincere caring, and is bullshit.

    I loved that quote, too!

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  10. Ah, Bridgett, I hadn’t thought of it in terms of being just a broader application of an established religious strategy. But yeah.

    And I guess that’s the other thing that I find a little frustrating. I don’t expect Romney to exactly justify his religious beliefs to me, but I do expect him to understand that most people aren’t familiar with Mormonism (even if they should be) and that people are going to have questions, just the same as they would if he practiced another religion most folks didn’t encounter every day.

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  12. I think it’s sad that we even have to have this conversation.

    And I think it’s pathetic that my decisionmaking process for the primaries is becoming more of a weighing process for teh Evil and teh Stoopid and not being able to trust the media or the candidates or the campaigns to be straight with us about anything. Although of all the campaigns so far, IMO Obama’s appears to have the lowest reading on the Ickometer.

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