Rhymes With Fuchsia

Monday, July 23, 2007

Holy Politics, Batman!

Before I start today's rant, let me say again: thank you, everyone, for all your good thoughts and prayers for my dad. I am, ahem, slightly behind on my email, and I'll get there, really — but until I do, please be aware that my whole family appreciates you.

I do have a rant today, about religion and politics, yet. You have been warned. I will talk about knitting again soon, really, but not today. By way of loin-girding, here's a nice picture.

OK, ready? Here we go.

Yesterday's New York Times had an article about whether Mitt Romney's Mormonism will make people less likely to vote for him. The answer turns out to be yes, but it could be worse. The article includes a graphic showing the results of a poll asking "would you be more, less, or equally likely to vote for a candidate who was..." Hispanic, female, divorced, etc. On the "less likely" scale, Mormon weighs in at 30 percent, Muslim, homosexual, and no college education all get 46 percent, but the hands-down winner is doesn't believe in God, at 63 percent.
“This is a deeply religious nation by many standards,” said Mark Rozell, a professor of public policy at George Mason University. “They want their leaders to be believers. They want them to believe in something higher, to have a moral framework as they lead the country.”

Now, I want to know: where does this notion come from that atheists have no moral framework? From reason and empathy, duly reinforced by precept and example, any four-year-old can figure out how to behave morally, and why it's a good idea. It all boils down to the Golden Rule, which by the by dates from several centuries BC.

I've seen it said that because atheists have no rule book, whenever they want to do something wrong they can just decide to play by different rules, if they have any at all. Apparently some people picture atheists as perpetual teenagers: "hey, Dad's not home? Party!!!" If you have a raging case of atheism envy, let me assure you that it is not so. Like any Christian or Buddhist or Muslim or Jew, an atheist knows that right from wrong is as plain as the answer to, "how would I feel if someone broke their promises to me or took my stuff or left their mess for me to clean up?" — only without even the consolation that everything will get straightened out in the hereafter.

(I'm not exactly an atheist myself, but I'm very fond of several; I describe myself as a semi-agnostic pagan, and think there's probably Someone(s) or Something(s) out there. I can never decide if I really believe this or just want to. I do believe, and this again may be wishful thinking, that if there's a final judgment it's based much more on actions than on adherence to a specific list of beliefs.)

I would go so far as to say that I might be more likely to vote for an avowed atheist (although in the current political climate I could just as well say that I'd vote for a unicorn), on the ground that they've thought all of this through and don't follow the crowd just because it's easier.

What do you think? (Given that all of my readers seem to be knitters, I probably don't have to ask anyone to be nice, but it is a touchy subject. Also, if your belief system compels the conclusion that I'm hellbound, please note that I already know this.)


  • I feel the need to weigh in here. I am living with an atheist, and I am Catholic. Granted, I am own special type of Catholic ( i live with someone--a big no-no), but I believe in God and I also respect Dan's right to NOT believe in God. OVerall, I have a HUGE problem with Mitt Romney being Mormon and running for president. I had a problem with it when he was the gov here in MA. I think I have a large problem b/c every Mormon I know ( and some are very good friends) cannot separate anything from their beliefs. I am always in fear that a fundamentalist will remove my rights as a woman in this country... the right to treat my body like my body and not some heavenly baby-oven. The right to make decisions that are right for me and only me. Honestly, I don't care what Jane next door does, that's her problem. I don't see atheists as having no moral compass, I too believe that good and bad are something learned --- I just learned them in Church. I'm glad things are looking up for your dad... lighting candles is the best way I know to show the light in my heart for someone else... and i think it goes along with the whole light as healing thing in pagan cultures... ha ha ha. :)

    By Blogger Mini, at 7:31 PM  

  • While you don't exactly say this, the survey smacks of single issue voters. Gawd, I'm sick to death of single issue voters. Those who can't see the forest past the single tree just in front of their noses. Often that single issue is one of the so-called life issues, but the war in Iraq is another. Yeesh. A little vision people. A little in-depth thought, a little empathy that extends beyond your own back yard. The problems this country faces are not singular in nature.. in fact, they are kind of like the roots of Zoyzia grass -- remarkably intertwined and complex.

    So, while my rant is tangential to yours, they turn on the same problem, I think. Single-minded ness. Lack of openness. Lack of empathy.

    Also, though, I think the press claims that they speak for the people, when often they are as insular and single minded as those inside the beltway. Really. I'm waiting until a year before the election to start paying attention. I think that's enough time for me to learn all I need to know about a candidate. And it might save me some time -- time I might otherwise waste learning about someone who doesn't make it that far...

    By Blogger Annie, at 9:54 PM  

  • I'm with you on the Golden Rule, Lucia; that's really the foundation of morality, isn't it? I like what Annie had to say about the single-issue issue - she's right on. And also, why is it that those who speak the loudest about minimizing the role of government are usually the same ones who favor laws that control our every move? (Whew! I'm usually just a lurker - I came to see how your dad was doing - glad things are better :)

    By Blogger Jennifer, at 11:02 PM  

  • Well. I'm a Christian, as I think you know. But I'm not a Christian who believes that only I am right and only I know the right way to live. I've never thought of atheists as having no moral compass because I'm not sure my moral compass has anything to do with believing in God but has to do with being a good person in general.

    By Blogger Carole Knits, at 7:36 AM  

  • I am Mormon, and I won't vote for Romney. He's a flip-flopper and there's no way I could pull the lever for a Republican.

    Mini, you are right that most Mormons can't separate politics and beliefs, but some can. My personal beliefs are my own and not to be forced on anyone else, especially not a diverse country of over 300 million people.

    By Anonymous E.D., at 8:28 AM  

  • I'm a 'golden rule' gal. I see religon as a guide, not an absolute - and with that in mind have had several converstions with a frustrated mormon friend of mine on this very topic. He feels that the mormon church has let him down in many ways with their hard line stands on many issues (for him, mostly divorce).

    I feel STRONGLY that the government should stay out of things like marriage, our bodies, and other stuff that pisses me off : )

    I have NO idea who I am voting for this time around. Sigh.

    By Blogger Cece, at 9:08 AM  

  • Atheists are people. Some are moral (according to my definition of morality) and some are not. Same goes for Mormons, homosexuals, etc. Frankly, I would vote for anyone who will accomplish the things I think should get done, regardless of his or her perceived morals, preconceptions, contraceptions, or professed religious beliefs.

    By Blogger Roxie, at 10:27 AM  

  • Yeah, mini gets to the point, separation of church and state...whatever happened to that?? I'm a christian (and there's an odd story about why, but another time), but so far out on that limb that I'll surely be condemned with all those who will be condemned (and who are they? depends who you ask I guess!). And just because you are 'religious' has nothing to do with being moral. Often there is way WAY too much hypocrisy, and that relly makes me NUTS. I am so not religious...even gave up church (which I only did for a couple years recently). Christ had a basic rule (love one another) which is the same as the Golden Rule which is what those 10 commandments sort of get at. I'm sure Islam has some rules that are similar, Buddhism, etc etc. So how come it is mostly the Christians who we see not getting it? Is it because there are more of them here? Or is it because we're really just a bunch of capitolists who revere money over all??

    By Blogger knitnzu, at 10:42 AM  

  • I would be MUCH more likely to vote for someone who wasn't afraid to stand up and say "Religion is bunk!" than for someone who makes a lot of pandering, mealy-mouthed statements about faith.

    Sadly, I don't think we're likely to see such a candidate any time soon.

    By Anonymous Beth S., at 1:14 PM  

  • wxvIt took a Roman Catholic priest to help my father understand that I could still be a good person even though I'm an athiest. One of the many things that turned me off religion is the number of wars fought (both past and present) over religions. Believing in god(s/dess/desses) doesn't make one a good (or bad) person either. In fact, I'm more hesitant about someone who is part of an organized religion, because they tend to have a more closed mind, and are less accepting of people who are different. Personally, I don't mind if other people believe in god as long as they don't try to force their beliefs on me... which a number of religions actually try to promote. :P

    By Blogger noricum, at 1:56 PM  

  • Would that all voters were thoughtful like you and everyone who has commented - there are lots of ways to be "moral" without being "religious" and I think those who (mostly with good intentions) are for "religious" really mean "moral." Great post!

    By Blogger Kim, at 6:57 PM  

  • You just need reading material don't you? heh-I believe as you, I'd like to think there is a higher authority that we all will answer to, however, I firmly believe that we need to LIVE each day trying to be the best we can be (not THE best) for competitive sake. Many who supposedly live by their "faith" are the 1st to break the rules. This only by personal experience, not judging anyone by who or how they believe. But, if you say "I'm a (whatever faith you are), then act like it! Don't judge me because I don't worship your way, (humans are not supposed to be self righteous) don't hate me because I am close with someone who is gay, or doesn't attend church, or lives out of wedlock. I am a big girl, I can decide for myself how I need to regard others and if I make a mistake, it's solely up to me to right it and move on. That said, I just try to live daily in respect of others realizing I am but a spec of sand sharing a piece of the planet with others, I'm trying to make it count. Going to church every Sunday does not make me any more of a Christian than sitting in my carport makes me a car. I may agree with other's belief systems, but respect their ability and willingness to exercise them unconditionally. Happy you asked?

    By Blogger Carol, at 11:51 AM  

  • My issue isn't with any particular religion - my issue it with religous zealotry and fundamentalism that is so prevalent today that says "my way is the only way" and if you don't do what I do then you are evil, unpatriotic, stupid, whatever.

    In light of full disclosure I am a Witch, and practicing pagan so I don't indentify at all with patriachal religions.

    I also do not believe in sin, evil, Satan, the golden rule or forcing my belief system on anybody.

    Atheism doesn't preclude spirituality, at least not in my world.

    By Anonymous Lynne, at 5:32 PM  

  • I once saw this great quote: it's never a question of faith or no faith, but of in what or whom do you place your faith.

    I think too many people get confused that atheists don't believe in anything. They don't believe in GOD, but that doesn't mean they don't have beliefs. I was raised by two lovely atheists with a very firm belief system (Golden Rule again) and a well-developed morality. Now that I think of it, I was raised in a country of atheists - there's a "state religion" of sorts (Lutheran), most are members of the Danish church, but hardly anyone are religious. Church is more for special occasions and connecting with your roots and history than actual belief. Which means it wasn't until I came to North America that I was exposed to religion worn on your sleeve - very strange, as where I came from, faith (if there is any) is a private thing. It wasn't until I read a study a few years ago that mentioned 70% of American college students pray daily that I truly understood how large a role god plays in the US.

    I've also in the past wondered about the contrast in voter turn-out in Denmark (very high) and North America (not so much) and wonder whether the lack of participation in politics means that labels are more necessary? If you are not involved politically and not aware of a politician's platform, knowing s/he is religious is a shortcut to assuming you know where s/he stands on various issues. Just thinking out loud here - could be I'm making no sense entirely...

    By Blogger Lene Andersen, at 7:11 PM  

  • You certainly sparked a discussion, Lucia. As a Unitarian Universalist humanist - pantheist- pagan All I can say is that we should all, indeed, love one another and treat all as we would wish to be treated. I, too, have problems with those who wish to force me into their mold and take my rights away. I am very fearful for this country both morally and politically.

    So many people forget that the Pilgrims came here for freedom to worship as they wished. Yes, they felt everyone should worship as they did, but they had the initial part of the equation (freedom to worship) right. Annie is right about the single-issue voters and Knitzu makes some really good points. In fact, it seems everybody has good points (not just on their needles either).

    Thanks for the great discussion and thinking points.

    By Blogger Leslie, at 6:21 AM  

  • Furthermore, atheists don't typically force their beliefs down your throat, or judge you for not believing the same way they do. Nor do they kill in the name of atheism or invade other countries because they aren't atheists.

    By Blogger My Alterknit Identity, at 8:40 AM  

  • All religion aside, if Mitt Romney and the Devil were the two choices I had for President I'd have to think long and hard over my vote...I believe the man has no conscience - otherwise he would not have used the backs of the citizens of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as a stepping-stone to reach his goal.

    Glad your Dad is doing better :o)

    By Anonymous JessaLu, at 10:12 AM  

  • Sigh. I don't know who I'll vote for, either - quite sure it won't be a Republican, but other than that, I'm stuck. And I don't see any reason to be in a tizzy over it when the election is over a year away. And I'm heartily sick of the apparent requirement now that candidates must claim to be religious Christians to get anywhere.


    Glad your dad is better. Cardiac catherterization can be a good thing.

    By Blogger Liz, at 3:04 PM  

  • So ask your dh about this one... I am amused that the root words for fundamentalists and radicals basically mean the same thing, at least botanically, so I have to assume other ways as well. Fundament=basis=root=radical. And I read this recently in something like Development of English Language... that 'bhudh' is Sanskrit for (I don't have it handy) fundament (or something like that). Which kind of cracks me right up.

    By Blogger knitnzu, at 5:25 PM  

  • Great topic and comments! First, my political belief. Coming from a state (Pennsylvania) founded to allow people to practice their faith without persecution, a politician should respect the diversity of practices including "none of the above." As for the morality of religion, "Be Kind" sums it up for me. The expression of worship and rituals are all rather arbitrary. I doubt any Higher Spirit worth honoring is THAT petty to care one way or another. My daughter came out with a great comment. "Did the Big Bang make all this? Smart Bang." (And I'd vote for a smart, kind politican over an overtly religious one, any day!)

    By Anonymous Ulster Lynn, at 11:44 AM  

  • I've been having this discussion lately about the right to choose what happens to your body.

    Many in the anti-abortion camp prefer to think that if you are PRO-choice, that means you are PRO-abortion. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    Just because I believe that a person has the right to choose what they can and can't do with their body and subsequently their life and the lives of other doesn't mean that I am pro abortion.

    I think the same idea is present with those that believe atheism=ANTI-MORALITY.

    My husband and I were raised in different religious environments, but one of the things I always felt very strongly was that our ethics and morals were completely in line. Regardless of the god we may or may not believe in.

    Glad your father is doing better.

    By Anonymous Cara, at 9:38 AM  

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