Monday, September 10, 2012

Romney's So-Called Religious Freedom

Mitt Romney said, “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…

“We are a nation under God, and in God we do indeed trust. We should acknowledge the Creator, as sis the founders, in ceremony and word. He should remain on our currency, in the Pledge, and in the teaching of our history.” He delivered this speech at the George Herbert Walker Bush Presidential Library, in Texas.

I wonder what the nonreligious nations of Europe would have to say about this. Especially since those nations with the less religious affiliation and influence are also happier according to their gross national happiness index. And why is it that the more religious nations tend to be less free and are less happy?

Are non-Mormons, non-Christians and non-theists still Americans under the vision Mitt Romney has for America? And what kind of America is Mitt Romney envisioning? What kind of freedom does his religion create and allow? He speaks of freedom and religious liberty, of family values and moral vision. Yet he would cut all funding for Planned Parenthood because a fraction of their public health services include providing abortions, and even when they use no public funding for those abortions. He wants to enact a federal law that would ban gay marriage. Yet this is in no way attached to his Mormon beliefs right? He speaks of “moral pollution.” He says he is “concerned with the drug culture, the pornography, the violence, sex and perversion.” He says every computer sold in the future should block all pornography. He says he wants to enforce obscenity laws. This is ironic considering that multiple studies have shown that “conservative religious type, especially Mormons, are more likely to use porn.” – Adam Greenwood (March 2, 2009).

Mitt Romney lives in his religious bubble. He will make public policy decisions based on his limited and exclusivist idea of morality and social order. It was not long ago that George Bush Sr. said, “I don’t know that atheists should be regarded as citizens, or should they be regarded as patriotic. This is one nation under God.” Those with no religious affiliation, whether atheist, non-theist or agnostic, represent 19% of the American population.  It’s time to get religion out of politics. Its time to take religion completely out of the public sphere. It’s time for nonbelievers to come out of the closet! It’s time to acknowledge and celebrate our secular heritage, our pluralistic heritage. It’s time for those with so called religious values to stop pushing their views onto other people. It’s time for a secular ethics that encourages dialog and conversation to take the place of misguided and outdated moral certainty.


  1. What we are dealing with is a nation that claims it is "one nation, under g-d," but has also given its citizens freedom of religion. We want our political candidates and eventually leaders to practice righteous ethics and a high standard of morals, but if this means that person is bound by religion, then this becomes wrong! So where can we source our moral beliefs if not from religion? What divides a moral belief from an impingement on our freedom? How can we validate that a candidate has these upstanding morals while still respecting our freedom?

  2. Sam, non-theists don't necessarily think a person's morals being rooted in religion is wrong, they just have issue with the idea that religion is the only source of morality. Religion has certainly been a part of the evolution of morality, and I think most non-theists would agree with as much. But just like any other group of well-meaning people, there is always room for learning from trial and error, and religion is no exception.

    When you hear non-theists criticizing believers for saying their morality is rooted in faith, in my opinion what they are challenging is the idea that faith somehow automatically grants the believer the moral high ground and a moral 'trump card'. By that I mean that a person identifying as a Christian is (in this country) automatically perceived as more moral than an Atheist.

    This can be very frustrating to non-theists because if faith and religion really were the sole prerequisite for morality, any immoral behavior that comes out of religion-specific arenas, like the ongoing Catholic sex abuse scandal, or the horrible treatment of women in many fundamentalist Muslim countries, should automatically cancel out the moral credibility that is automatically granted to those of faith. To look at it another way, when it is just as easy to find biblical justification for being a moral person as it is to find biblical justification for genocide, those outside the faith community expect a moral foundation that is not as subject to interpretation.

    To address the other part of your question, there are all sorts of things that religions say constitute immoral behavior, like theft and murder. These things fit into a secular legal system also, because they transcend the line between what affects private citizens versus the public at large. On the flip side, while most people would say infidelity is immoral, it doesn't exactly pass the litmus test for what should be translated into the legal system. Even though religious and secular people would agree it is morally wrong, everyone also more or less agrees that the state should not be dictating the behavior of people in areas that don't affect the public at large. Eating pork & shellfish, wearing blended cloth and working on the sabbath are all defined as being as immoral as homosexuality. Given that there is no push to ban any of those other things I mentioned, gay marriage specifically feels like an intrusion on the part of religion into the common ground between religious and secular morality.