The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

Thou Shalt Not Question

I’ve been meaning to post about Mitt Romney’s speech, but I’ve had other matters to deal with—like trying to get enough sleep to at least give the appearance of something close to human when we venture out as a family. And I still may comment on it, but something else occurred to me as I read about the little fight Romney and Huckabee seem to have picked with one another, over questions about Romney’s faith.

Oddly enough, David Kuo’s post was what got me thinking about it.

I’m sorry but I am really confused about all of this. Since when is asking a question about someone’s religion attacking it?? This is bizarre.

There are a thousand ways to attack someone’s religion – but asking questions about it is not one of them. If it were then every single person who asks questions about Christianity would be a religious bigot.

Kou didn’t mean for that to be funny, I’m sure, but I laughed when I read it. Then it took me a few minutes to figure out why it was so funny to me.

It was funny to me because, this dialogue is taking place during a campaign when practically every candidate wants Jesus for a running mate.

Many right-wing Christians are suspicious of Mormonism, as they are of every religion besides their own, and as a result Mitt Romney was forced to hold a press conference in which he affirmed his belief that Jesus is the “Son of God and Savior of mankind.” The speech won him a fair share of praise, most of it bordering on cynical, since everyone knows what the speech really meant: America has reached the point where a sizable religious faction must be appeased by Republican candidates and feared by Democratic ones. Both sides have become resigned to a situation that flouts the Constitution and seriously undermines democracy itself. No single party is responsible for this distressing state of affairs. It required a gradual shift away from the old custom, by which Presidents went to church but kept details of their faith private, to the new custom, by which candidates openly boast about their personal allegiance to God. A bestselling book of poetry from a few decades ago, “Are You Running With Me, Jesus?”, has acquired a new rancid meaning.

It’s funny because it’s taking place in an atmosphere where almost everyone’s beliefs are called into question, or at least that’s the case for non-Christians as well as Christians who belong to the “wrong” denomination or are otherwise less than orthodox.

It’s funny because there are some people whose beliefs must go unquestioned at all costs.

That, apparently, is beyond the limits of what you can say, at least on CNN or in the media. And I’d submit that the reason why that question doesn’t get asked regarding the “ex-gay” industry is precisely because the entire movement is founded upon particular religious beliefs. To ask the obvious question pointed out above would call those beliefs into question, because it means asking “So, if this is just about what’s right for you and goes with your beliefs, why not just leave everyone else who’s happy with their orientation alone? Why do the political organizations that back your ministries advocate discrimination against people who are happy being gay?”

It would mean asking “Why we should care about what you believe any more than we should care about the Zoroastrians believe, or the newly-revived Zeus worshipers in Greece, or the Scientologists, or FaLonGung, or Heaven’s Gate, or the Larouchies, or the Raelians believe? Or anyone else who’s beliefs have no basis in tangible reality and no evidence to support them? Why should anyone listen to you, let alone base policy on your beliefs any more than they would any of these groups?”

For a while now these have been questions that must not be asked.

Faith really is a conversation-stopper. If somebody says, “It’s my faith that life is sacred and God creates life and man should not meddle in it,” then that really stops the conversation. There’s no – You can’t challenge someone further and treat them as though they’re drawing their ethics out of The Iliad and The Odyssey, which is really what I think we should be able to do. When, when, when the President of the United States says, “I, I plan to appoint common-sense judges who know that our rights are derived from God,” I think someone in the White House Press Corps should be able to stand up and say, “How is that different from thinking you’re going to appoint common-sense judges who think our rights are derived from Zeus?” And that’s clearly an impertinent question, but it’s a totally reasonable question.

These are taboo questions.

And therefore….what? Is there some sort of taboo against telling someone their religious beliefs are wrong? What about people who are motivated by their religious views, particularly by the words of Jesus (“Whatever you do unto the least of these, you do unto me also”), to befriend gays and to protest discrimination against them? Isn’t the TVC telling those people that their religious views are wrong? Wrong views should be called wrong views, whether those views are religious or not. Attaching the word “religious” to an idea doesn’t make that idea immune from criticism.

It’s funny because the same people who put the stopper in the conversation have pulled it out by conversing amongst themselves.

You know what they say about making your bed….

If you’re going to say that religion is important in politics, then be ready for people to talk about that religion.

In other words, if Mike Huckabee can question Mitt Romney’s religion then we can question Mike Huckabee’s religion.

Having made his point in the most weasely possible way — “I’m not saying Mormonism is a Satanic cult, just asking” — Mike Huckabee is now trying to ease away from his “Don’t Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?” remark with an equally weasely apology. His evangelical base got the point, and he’s hoping the rest of America will forget about it.

He’s clearly gambling that people won’t start asking the obvious return question: “Don’t Baptists believe…?”

…Huckabee’s “Don’t Mormon’s believe…” question ratchets up the case for this line of inquiry tenfold. Now we can not only ask about things that Huckabee himself has said, but about any beliefs that Baptists hold, or are supposed to hold. Will the next debate see questions about demonology?

Why shouldn’t it? We’ve already had one debate that included a question about evolution.

And why shouldn’t we? Some people may think that would be the worst possible thing that could happen, but sometimes the only way past the muck is through it. Why not drag each and every belief unsupported by evidence out into the light and give them all the same treatment? Examine them from all sides, and compare them to one another until it’s ultimately determined that maybe they’re all equally based in non-reality, and therefore none deserve to be privileged above the rest, more deference than the rest, or more influence on policy than the rest.

At the very least, Huckbaee and the rest of the 30% that seem to be the cause and/or focus of most of this ridiculousness might get so tired of the conversation once it turns on them—Huckabee is already refusing to release his old sermons, and is facing a growing backlash—that we can go back to the post-Reagan era, when a person’s religious beliefs were their own private business, rather than a campaign issue or a basis for policy.

Or at least it will be more acceptable for the rest of us to ask why it should be.

One Comment

  1. Why not drag each and every belief unsupported by evidence out into the light and give them all the same treatment?

    I’m not sure I necessarily agree with that… Objectively speaking, the idea is sound. Indeed, if the process can be carried out without any bias — it might very well be a good idea. However, the problem is, not all beliefs will be subject to the same treatment — simply because it would be assumed by most due to religious commonalities.

    Another angle to look at this is also the fact that many religious organizations have become power-greedy and money-greedy institutions with a lot of money (still untapped by the federal goverment). The wealth accumulated by these religious organizations combined with huge membership along with totalitarian ideology as well as requirement for loyalty make these religious organizations extremely powerful allies for all sides to be reckoned with. No wonder, the belief in Judeo-Christian religion is almost a requirement for Presidential candidacy. So much for “separation of church and state”.