Thursday, December 6, 2007

Freedom Requires Religion

Mitt Romney, A.K.A., "THE MORMON," is running for President. Do I care that he's a Mormon, no. I think all belief in the supernatural is silly, and fortunately many people will prefer the findings of science to literal interpretation of scripture, which at least helps in making policy decisions more rational and based on our material world, without consequence to what may or may not exist in a supernatural world. If you want to have your faith, fine, as long as it doesn't affect me negatively, great. I do remember one atheist being concerned about Romney, because he would create this authoritarian regime as some sort of Mormon theocracy where Starbucks would go out of business and Mormons would procreate at an alarming level, take up all the land, and use up all of the fresh water. I can't think of anything particular which would be "Mormonish" that he would put forward as a policy.

Anyway, to settle the debate about him being Mormon, and concerns that missionaries would now be government workers, Mitt came out and said what everyone expected. In referring to John F. Kennedy's speech about his Catholicism, "Like him, I am an American running for president. I do not define my candidacy by my religion. A person should not be elected because of his faith nor should he be rejected because of his faith." I would have added that it should not matter whether he or she had any faith at all, or a religion. Mitt wouldn't. He warns of people who wish to remove the acknowledgment of God from the public arena as an over interpretation of the Constitution, and helps create a new religion of Secularism. He also 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."

This sentiment was echoed once by a Mormon who can come from the local ward to witness to Jeannette and I, along with two missionaries. He mentioned that he thinks that a people's religion determines their successfulness. He talked about the third world, take somewhere in Africa, where there is famine and disease, and the only means of survival is appealing to humanitarian aid groups to provide a meager existence of just basic survivability. Now, if you just took families of Mormons to the same area, in a number of years there would be a thriving civilization. Perhaps that is overly optimistic, but it is a generalization that Mormons are hard working, and who knows? It could be possible. While the words from Mitt are watered down a bit, the same kind of sentiment is still there, although not as specific as prescribing Mormonism to the third world to end poverty, but that freedom itself is dependent on religion.

I would say that religion sets up barriers to freedom, in the same sense that laws set up barriers, there are just more of them, and would be different depending on which dogma you chose to follow. In that sense, true freedom is an illusion. What appears to work best, at least from my limited perspective, is to maximize freedoms without impacting the freedoms of others. Now, this concept isn't reliant on religion at all. Perhaps the freedom Romney is talking about is mental freedom, the ability to cognate possibilities, or examine personal beliefs, and through this process, "commune with God?" Of course, religion doesn't always set up hard barriers to freedom, and each individual is just that, individual, and the application of dogma can be strikingly different, even within rigid religions. But, perhaps this flexibility could be compared to the flexibility people have with laws, some choose to risk being caught, others are flagrant, despite the risks. Violation of the law in a jurisdiction may result in a negative consequence, as carried out by those authorized by society to do so. Violations of religious dogma, by those who consider themselves devout, don't imagine a different scenario. There are consequences, either in this material lifetime, or consequences in the immaterial, or supernatural realm which will be handled by the Creator.

So, I think the case that freedom requires religion is false, and that religion requires freedom is also false. Many major religions do have a good element which usually says something to the effect of, "You can not be forced to believe." Which is good. This implies choice, or freedom, in your decision making process. In the Abrahamic tradition, free will is what Adam and Eve get from God, and they don't know of their ability to choose until they get kicked out of Eden. This can mimic the free will choice that major religions will present to potential followers. Ignorant immortality, or knowledge, suffering, and death are your choices. It's this free will choice which is given to potential converts as well, except in this case, you have the choice to follow God, and follow the rules in this book, or by what the prophet tells you, and as a reward you get eternal life in bliss, or you get death, suffering, and separation from God for all eternity. This is a false choice. Who would willingly choose the latter? I have, but I don't see the choice as an either or choice.

So, is Romney going to be that bad of a president? No, I think he's been successful as a businessman, which I don't think is easy to do. I don't know his family background, so I can't tell whether he's earned all he's done, but you can learn from business, like how to effectively work with different groups of people, and how to appeal to a wide majority. That's on a technical side. He did say he wants to double Gitmo, good for him, but I don't think that would fly, even if he were president. I'm not afraid of labels, like Mormon, or even Republican. I want someone who is skilled at manipulating people well enough to get things done and solve problems. I just get to sit alone in my tower and judge whether those problems which are being solved are being done correctly, or are worthwhile. And, I will, no matter who gets elected/selected/appointed.


Chris Schommer said...

I came to your blog hoping to see you write about his speech, but I thought you would write about his atheist bashing. This seems to be his way to gain the christian fundies and I think he is sadly right. The jist is, 'we are all Americans who love Jesus and are united under the fact that atheists suck.'


"But in recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It's as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America - the religion of secularism. They are wrong."

"Americans tire of those who would jettison their beliefs, even to gain the world."

I stand by my characterization of Mit as the big daddy phony of the race. Not that there aren't other phonys but he is the big cheese of them all.

Bjorn said...

Oh, the atheist bashing is good, you see, that's what unites, that's the common ground. Mitt a phoney? A republican governor from Massachusetts? He didn't bend over backwards at all to gain appeal. No, not at all.

Bjorn said...

And, other will be able to rip apart his atheist bashing with greater care then I can. I'd rather just pretend like he's a character in a story, and that he isn't real.

PaulK said...

I find the notion that freedom requires religion completely absurd. There is too much false about this statement to even know where to start.

Ask the British teacher who was nearly killed over a teddy bear what she thinks about religion underpinning freedom.

No greater injustices arise than when the words religious and court are combined.

Basically, Romney's as nuts as the rest of them.