Thursday, December 06, 2007

Romney's Faith In America Address

Should he, or shouldn't he? They said he shouldn't do it, but here it is: Romney's "Faith In America" Address.  Listen to it and judge for yourself. Should he have?

30 comments:

Sirocco said...

X4mr has some comments up here. Mine are here.

AZAce said...

I'm a little disappointed in the responses from you and Matt. I was hoping for a more analytical look at the affect of the speech on voters.

Since you didn't, I'll respond to how you did respond.

Sirocco, I think you missed the historically accepted understanding of the piece in the John Adams treaty to which you referred. This has always been understood to mean the U.S. has not state religion upon which the government is founded. I've never seen anyone interpret that differently, at least not in writings occurring in the first 100 years after.

Here's the crux for secularists: "If I am fortunate to become your President, I will serve no one religion, no one group, no one cause, and no one interest." And this statement: "...we can be deeply thankful that we live in a land where reason and religion are friends and allies in the cause of liberty..." So don't feel left out if you're a secularist.

As for X4mr's interpretation of history, religion, and the constitution, I'll defer to actual historical texts which, if he reads, will provide a very different view of history.

AZAce said...

I changed the link to access the video of the speech instead of the text.

Sirocco said...

Ace,

Well, I don't think any one would argue that, for his intended audience, the speech was a winner.

I agree the intent of that statement (and of our founding fathers in general) is that there is no state religion upon which our government is founded. I also believe there is a minority, yet a vocal, influential minority, of Christians in this country who will pay lip service to that notion, but personally disagree with it.

I believe the speech was, in many ways, aimed at that minority. Since I am not part of the intended target audience, it's hard for me to evaluate it's impact. Feedback in general, though, seems positive. To the extent it might have helped bridge gaps between Mormonism and Catholics/Protestants, I think the ultimate results might be very positive.

For what it's worth, Romney was directly asked if he felt atheists/agnostics were part of "his America" (I am not sure of the exact phrasing, but that was the gist). He declined to comment.

Framer said...

Sirocco and X4mr,

Honestly, you two are better than that. Freedom does require religion, at least on a nation state level, if not on a personal level (that is not the argument here). That is why Freedom of Religion is guaranteed in the bill of rights. Religion will never be driven from the public square, it either exists as a freedom, or it is oppressed. When it is oppressed it is often hidden, but never squashed completely.

I would invite you to show me the case where a lack of religion has led to greater freedom. The opposite is universally the case. The greater the tolerance of religion in particular, the more free the society is in general. Understand that tolerance of freedom precludes the dominance of one religion at the expanse of others, again specifically guaranteed in the bill of rights.

Now if you wish to examine societies and nations that attempted to suppress or negate religion, either by policy or attitude, these countries invariably become less free.

I would submit to you that freedom (on a nation state level) ALWAYS requires an amount of religion. It is not the only requisite ingredient, but it is a rather important one. All evidence in history bears this out. Unless you can show me otherwise. . .

x4mr said...

I will post in more detail later, but for now, I invite you to consider the statement:

Freedom requires religion.

Sure about that? Why?

Are we free to choose or not? The semantics of requires are profound and far reaching.

Framer said...

Yep, I'll stand by that statement if it is used in a nation state context. I would argue it is true personally, at least for me and mine, as well (but that is not what Romney was referring to in this context, nor is it anything that falls under the purview of politics.)

Freedom also requires a free press, the right to assemble, and the right to bear arms. You are free to partake or not partake in these as well, but once any are excluded from a society, freedom falters.

Again, that is why all are included in the bill of rights.

AZAce said...

FWIW, I think asking candidates juvenile questions like "is such and such group part of your America" is insulting. In fact, I would have to say that the questioning of presidential candidates in general has been the worst I have ever seen with a lack of intellectual substance and relevance to voters. If those asking the question had cause to ask it in the first place, they would have asked a question specific to circumstances that made it relevant.

Sirocco said...

Framer,

Would you argue the point we are a far more secular culture than, say, Britain 500 years ago? And are we freer?

There is not a perfect track between more religion and more freedom, or more religion and less freedom. Saudi Arabia is a pretty religious culture ... how free is it?

I'll happily concede there isn't a guarantee of less religion creating more freedom.

However, this lack of connection just proves my point - freedom doesn't require religion to exist.

On the other hand, it seems unarguable that the societies with the greatest capability to accommodate a wide range of differing religious views are also those which have the most freedoms.

After Romney's speech, a part of which (in my eyes, and not just mine) was spent essentially trying to unite all forms of Christians against encroaching secularists, one in which he went out of his way to _not_ include secularists in his vision of America, asking him to explicitly clarify his stance vis-a-vis such a significant minority isn't unreasonable (one can argue the exact phrasing of the question, but the underlying issue remains).

His lack of response seriously concerns me.

Sirocco said...

Follow up,

Nations such as Australia, New Zealand, France, India, Japan, have no official state religion (we don't either of course), and having been to all of them (although no expert on any) while they have differing primary religious backgrounds (Christian, Hindu/Muslim, Shinto), I don't believe any have nearly the level of "religiousness" one finds here.

Yet, somehow, they all manage to maintain a level of freedom comparable to ours.

Turkey is an interesting example - obviously an Islamic country, but no official state religion, and, at least in the past (I haven't been there in 15 years), far more secular than other Islamic countries in the area ... it was also far more free.

Sirocco said...

Follow up II (sorry for the multiple posts, not entirely awake this morning),

As a thought experiment, imagine, for whatever reason, everyone in the country wakes up tomorrow and decides they are an atheist after all. We instantly become a nation without religion. Nothing prevents religion from being practiced, people simply choose not to.

How are we any less free in that situation than we are today?

x4mr said...

Oh, Sirocco!

Your thought experiment beat me to what I held back last night. In a truly free society, people will do what they do. Some will organize around spiritual convictions.

Others will not.

That everyone would choose the same religion is improbable. That everyone would choose no religion is improbable.

Freedom, however, allows for either. The vision of the founding fathers, if one reads their material, clearly intended to keep the state out of it.

Keeping government officially out of the picture, the practical reality is that people socialize and organize and create allegiances. Boston and Maryland split.

Founded by Puritans, the US has had a religious hair up its fanny ever since.

x4mr said...

Oh, I won't quote her, but Maureen Dowd's piece in today's New York Times nails my sentiments precisely and addresses what Ace may have been wanting from Sirocco or myself.

Ace, if you read Maureen, my remarks are "ditto."

Framer said...

Sirocco,

1. I would submit that we are are far more religious society than Great Britain was 500 years ago. There is really no comparison. The difference is that religion of today is more of a personal choice, of course, which makes a tremendous distinction. In sixteenth century England there was either the Catholic Church or no religion. The introduction of Protestantism made things more free incrementally and started a pathway to more individual religiosity.

2. Comparing religion in America to Saudi Arabia is an nonsensical strawman. It would be the same as stating that all atheists are Stalinists (which doesn't preclude the possibility that some are :) .) I would again argue that true religion is more of a factor in the life of the average American than it is anywhere in the Middle East. In America, religion is a function of the people. In Saudi Arabia it is a function of the state.

Remember Sirocco, I lived in Russia for a while. I have seen what a systematic, state sponsored attack on Religion can do to a society. I have spoke with those who haven taken the latest opportunity to reacquaint themselves with religion, and it is my (perhaps personal) observation that these people are Russia's best hope going forward.

Or you could just stick with Putin and see how that works out.

And x4mr, even if I ever found myself agreeing with Maureen Dowd, I would never advertise the fact. And as far as your Puritans nonsense, I will need to get to that later.

(Framer, descendant of Mayflower Pilgrims)

Sirocco said...

Framer,

1. I'm sorry, but religion and religious beliefs were _far_ more central to individuals lives then than now.

If you mean there is more variety in belief now than then, I would agree with you. If you are arguing religion is more influential in day-to-day life now than then ... well ... I think you will have a very difficult time making that case.

2. You are the one who claiming religion requires freedom and vice versa. I put forth Saudi Arabia as an example of a religious society which isn't particularly free. No, as bad as I think some part of our population is, we as a society don't approach the constraints of Saudi Arabia.

x4mr said...

Framer,

Hah! I proudly say that I agree with Maureen Dowd on a somewhat regular basis. Not always, but often.

I can respect your experience in Russia and advocate no more than you a state that suppresses religion.

That's a long way from requiring it, and a very long way from suggesting a lack of religion is problematic. I agree with everything Sirocco has posted at this thread.

Romney's speech has one audience, the conservative Christians, with the motive of appeasing them that he is as Christian as they are. He said nothing about Mormon beliefs and would not address the concerns regarding a profoundly different view of God, humanity, and reality.

Sirocco (and many other evil "secular" folk) accurately interprets the speech as suggesting "secularism" is a foe to be fought.

Framer said...

x4mr,

Except that he would argue that government imposed securlarism, poses equal damage as state imposed religion.

And he would be correct. Secularism as a private choice does not concern most in the least, nor aew you as persecuted as many secularists would like to believe.

On a personal level (nothing to do with politics) I believe that there is no such thing as a pure secularist anyway, just as there are no real nihilists. If you forcibly extract God out of your life, something else will fill that void, and you might substitute the devil with something else like Dick Cheney, or Buffelgrass. . .

Everybody has some type of religion.

As far as Maureen Dowd, my favorite quote about her is when she was compared to Paul Krugman by Jonah Goldberg:

"As we all know, one's a whining self-parody of a hysterical liberal who lets feminine emotion and fear defeat reason and fact in almost every column. The other used to date Michael Douglas."

Framer said...

And Sirocco,

If you believe that religion was the more central to the average person's life in 1500 England, then we may just have a disconnect about what religion is. The American and even colonial definition of religion is vastly different from that, or what is happening in Saudi Arabia.

In 1500's England the average person was doing well just to survive. Precepts of religion were little different that human law for these people. I would guarantee that there was little to no religious introspection among the "common folk."

American tradition is vastly different, and was founded in large part as a reaction to the 1500's religious standard you refer to. The American standard of religion has always implicitly included an amount of diversity.

Sirocco said...

Framer,

In the 1500's the local community priest had far more influence in life than he does today, serving a variety of roles. Nearly every person in the country believed in witches and demons. Heaven and hell were places very near them.

I think we are having a slight disconnect on the meaning of religiousness. I don't argue at all there is more religious diversity today. I won't even argue there is more time for religious introspection, for those of us so inclined.

However, in terms of religion being ingrained into the central beliefs of every person's life, that was far more the case in 1500's Britain than America today. That's what I mean by Britain being a "more religious" society. Finding a true atheist or agnostic back then would have been extremely difficult .. and if there was one, they had best not admit in public.

Framer said...

There are vast differences between being ruled over by religious figures and incorporating religion into your personal life.

Calvin and Luther would argue that many in those church positions back then were pretty close to atheists or agnostics, wheras the word of God was not used for the betterment of man, but for personal enrichment. If that definition of religion were sufficient, there would never have been a need for the Reformation, or Pilgrims, or the United States for that matter.

The true definition of Religion is that belief which is owned by the people. 1500's England and Saudi Arabia do not fit this paradigm.

Sirocco said...

If you get to define terms like religion in a manner you prefer you can support any point you like.

I accept there is a difference between religion in Britain 500 years ago and in the US today. Of course religion had more of an authoritarian role in Britain 500 years ago (or in Saudi Arabia now) than it does in the US now.

That doesn't change the fact religion was a much more integral part of the life of most individuals lives there and then than they are here, now. Our society is far more secular now than Britain was in the 1500's ... and our freedoms haven't suffered for it.

Framer said...

My definition of religion is just as valid as yours. The influence of religion in the everyday life of the average American is far more than it was for the 1500's grub farmer, many of which possibly lived their lives without coming into contact with "the church" at all.

And anyway, Romney never made the association that religion was the ONLY qualifier for freedom. That was the huff that yourself, x4mr, and Maureen Dowd placed there for him.

All historical evidence supports Romney's take.

I do agree, however, that the Russian Revolution is a far more apt example than the French Revolution. I'm not sure that the French revolution is an apt example for anything useful.

Sirocco said...

Framer,

I believe you badly underestimate how much the beliefs of the average grub farmer were influenced by religion. I'll leave it at that.

Now, there are other nations which have (roughly) the same freedoms we have - Western Europe, Japan, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, etc., and are more free than they were centuries in the past. Are you going to argue all those nations are _also_ more religious than they were 500 years ago?

If not, then the claim that lessoning of religious influence invariably leads to less freedom falls apart.

Further, aren't religious proponents trying to have it both ways? Isn't one of the commonly expressed concerns that we, as a nation, becoming _too_ secular, thereby implying we are _less_ religious as a whole? Yet, somehow our freedoms remain. Yet now you argue we are actually _more_ religious than in the past?

It doesn't add up.

The difference between, say, the Bolsheviks attempting to decree removal of religion and our current society is that the Bolsheviks attempted to force people to change their views, and do it immediately. It's like bringing a car from 100 mph to 0 mph in a millisecond, of course everything breaks. Further, the Bolsheviks were an authoritarian regime - their restriction of individual freedoms wasn't limited to simply religion.

Using them as an example, I could as easily clam "Freedom requires a free press, and a free press requires Freedom" ... and frankly, I'd have a hell of a lot better case.

The difference now is we seem to be trending toward a more secular society in a gradual way, as individuals make individual decisions about their views on faith, rather than have views of others forced on them (i.e., the Bolshevik approach). There is no reason whatsoever to think the cases are analogous, or that the trend will lead to less freedom for individuals.

Sirocco said...

Framer,

By the way, all your definition of true religion illustrates is that religion, or, at least, the free exercise of religion, requires Freedom. No one is arguing that.

It does nothing, however, to illustrate Freedom requires religion.

The Puritans came here because they needed freedom to exercise their religion, NOT because their exercise of religion would generate freedom.

If you define the influence of religion to only mean diversity, or solely to take into account one's ability to reflect on religion, then no, your definition isn't equally valid, because it ignores some other important influences of religion.

If people are being ruled by religion, that's inarguably an influence (a different influence, but still an influence). The fact the Puritans felt the need to leave England, or the comparative lack of (or tolerance for) diversity of religious views in the era, simply emphasize the sheer influence the leading religions had in that time, on everyone.

Those Puritans _were_ the "average grub farmers" of their time, and clearly the felt overwhelming religious influence in their day-to-day lives, to the extent they felt the need to tear up their roots and make a perilous trans-oceanic journey to get away from that influence.

I don't see anything in the US today that compares.

Framer said...

Sirocco,

The average Pilgrim was certainly not a grub farmer. They were merchants and more of the times equivalent of the middle class. They were those who had the extra status and income to actually practice religion. Additionally, England was Protestant at this time when they were Catholic in 1500. The advent of protestantism brought more people into the realm of religion on a personal level (they held service in English for one).

It was because the state was trying to have an influence in their religious lives that they left for Holland originally. As England reached out to touch them even there, they went to America. They never wished, at any point, to renounce their English Heritage, they just wanted to be left alone. Keep in mind that the Pilgrims were not separatists, they agreed with most of the precepts of the state church. They just wanted the state out of it.

Again, true religion is not a stolid standard that is meant to oppress you and your friends. True religion is a change agent, and in many cases the only true motivator for selfless, irrational service and ideas. Religion is often what gets those who would challenge and suffer through those points when most would fail.

I will admit that religion is not always perfect, in fact, it is almost never so, but it is hardly the boogeyman that some make it out to be. Indeed, a free press and freedom of assembly are also important, but to date no one has separated freedom from religion, and I doubt that it will ever happen.

However, until you truly understand religion, the statement that freedom requires religion will probably never mean anything to you.

We'll work on that :).

Framer said...

On an unrelated note, had the Pilgrims brought along a good supply of grub farmers, they would have been much better off.

Sirocco said...

Framer,

I agree religion, in it's pure, idealistic sense, might match what you describe ... but lets be honest, the influences of religion through history have gone far beyond just what you call "true religion". By trying to limit it to such, you cut out a wide and pervasive range of other influences, both good and bad.

Taken in it's entirety, I would still confidently assert, for the same reasons already noted, the influence of religion on our society as a whole today is far, far less than the overall influence of 500 years ago.

As for the Puritans, of course they weren't all 'grub farmers', but they weren't all merchants and shopkeepers either. Some were wealthy, more were not. They were a diverse group who, taken together, would have included a range of backgrounds.

Now, it's fair to argue they weren't representative of all the "average joes" of Britain at the time, as they were clearly a very religious group ... but the point still remains, they obviously felt religion had a great influence on their life, both personally and externally.

Framer said...

Sirocco,

Your assertion is the religion = church. I would assert that it can, but not in the American sense, and clearly not in the eyes of mast who founded the nation. When they meant church, they said "church." Religion was a catch-all for a set of diverse sects.

The Puritans were mostly urbanites, and mainly literate which was an entire class better than the average peasant. You are correct in that they were no means wealthy, however.

And the Pilgrims were the forefathers of what was to become the most free nation to ever exist. Not bad for a bunch of religionists.

roger said...

There is a big difference between being sure that religion exists and can be discussed and debated in the public square and what the Christian Coalition (and who Romney was speaking to) want.

What is clear since the 1980s is that religious conservatives were far more concerned with entering the public square and legislating morality...their interpretation of the bible...or simply their interest in religion...to be placed into law.

A HUGE difference from allowing religious practice and freedom to worship...HUGE difference.

Example. Attempts to legislate the ability to obtain an abortion, based on one or two religion's interpretations of when life begins.

Gay marriage...the argument always always turns first to tradition, morals of society...both of which interpreted from religious texts and some indication of what some define "sin" when other do not see it that way.

Freedom does not require religion per se...it requires that we are able to freely practice our religion and at the same time allow others to practice ours. Freedom is retraining from enacting your religious beliefs into law when they contradict others religious beliefs. Hence the concern by the framers about Free Exercise of religion and at the same time the concern about government becoming too intimate with religion.

The best of example of this in our world today is what happens with religion in Iraq and other parts of the middle east. The crux of the problem is that Shias don't want to live under the religious based law of Sunnis and vice versa.

Sirocco said...

Framer,

Not quite correct ... my assertion is, when one discusses the influences of religion in past society as compared to the influence of religion today, you have to includes all aspects of it - good, bad, indifferent.

This includes (but is by no means limited to) the role the capital-C Church has played.