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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Wonder Working BS

by digby

I wrote about Mitt's JFK speech dilemma the other day:

Kennedy successfully tempered a long standing anti-catholic bias held by a rather large number in this country by appealing to the fundamental American belief in a separation of church and state and by reassuring them that he would make decisions based on what his conscience tells him is in the national interest "and without regard to outside religious pressures or dictates." Romney will be trying to temper an anti-Mormon bias among a sub-set of the Religious Right by assuring them (through coded conservative Christian language) that he is just as biased against other religions and non-believers as they are and will definitely bow to outside pressures or dictates --- from them.

Looks like that was pretty much what he did. He leaned more heavily on universal loathing of the despised minority of atheists and agnostics than even I predicted, but he did come through with some good code words meant to temper the fact that he couldn't say outright that although he hated the same people the good moralist Christian Right hates, he felt their pain.

"Gain the world" (Mark 8:36), "author of liberty" (Junior Second: Inaugural) and "freedom's early light" which, while it is in that mash up of God Save the King called "My Country 'tis of Thee" is also a favorite phrase of the religious right. I'm surprised he didn't trot out "wonder working power" and Dred Scott.

He doffed his metaphorical hat to other rightwing nutjobs like Bill O'Reilly as well, by proclaiming that there is a "secular religion" out there trying to outlaw Santa Claus and sugar plums out of pure atheistic meanness. Once again we heathens are trying to take this country down.

Kevin Drum says it well:

Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom....Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.

....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.

....Our greatness would not long endure without judges who respect the foundation of faith upon which our constitution rests.

I can't tell you how much this pisses me off. I'm well aware that this is par for the course among Republican politicians these days, and Romney is doing nothing more than engaging in what's become routine conservative disparagement of those of us who aren't religious. But the cowardice and pandering here is just phenomenal. Not only does Romney not have the guts to toss in even a single passing phrase about the nonreligious, as JFK did, he went out of his way to insist that "freedom requires religion," that no movement of conscience is possible without religion, and that judges had better respect our "foundation of faith" lest our country's entire greatness disappear. And that was just the warmup.

And Joan Walsh:

Romney blasted "the new religion of secularism," referring to those who continue to argue for strict separation of church and state, which apparently, like certain of the Geneva Conventions under the Bush administration, is becoming "quaint." I sometimes find the anti-God stridency of Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens grating. Listening to Romney's speech I realized what a necessary corrective it is to corrosive political pandering. Calling secularism "religion" is a cheap shot worthy of Bill O'Reilly, not a major presidential candidate. I can't help hoping Romney's speech fails to soothe religious conservatives, because the sooner the Republican Party faces up to the destructive cost of its electoral dependence on religious extremists, the better off our country will be.


Even theVillage Sunday School teacher and society hostess was appalled:

SALLY QUINN: I have to say that I'm really stunned because I think it was an obliteration of the idea of the separation of church and state. He eliminated anybody who was a doubter, an atheist, an agnostic, a seeker. It's like, if you believe in God or Christ, if not, you're not.

Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814

On Hardball today, Tweety fell in love with handsome Mitt, saying it was the best speech of the campaign and Pat Buchanan, needless to say, is doing back flips for it's political savviness in going after the "militant secularists." The only person on the show who had any reservation is the truly religious, decent human being, David Kuo who rightly pointed out that this whole discussion stokes division among all Americans and that it was wrong for him not to include non-believers among the American family. The other two acted as if he'd just spoken in Swahili. Matthews sort of drunkenly replied that when Mitt mentioned the Creator he was including atheists.

Update II: Here are some very interesting takes on Mitt's speech at BeliefNet.

Steve Waldman:

About three percent of the population are atheists or agnostics, according to a study by the Pew Religious Forum. Another 7.5% are “secularists” who have no religious affiliation and few or no religious beliefs or practices.

That means there are four or five times as many non-believers as there are Mormons.

I can’t quite remember a candidate declaring his distaste for a particular demographic group quite this way. Non-believers and secularists may not be a big voting bloc in the Republican primaries, but 10.5% is roughly 22 million people.