Do You Believe in the One Big Sign?

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Poor Mitt Romney; barely out of the gate and already being heckled for his religion.

About 800 people packed Lake Miona Regional Recreation Center in this retirement community of 65,000. It was standing-room only.

But what got the crowd roaring wasn't a pitch for safe offshore oil drilling or health care. It was his religion. If he were to win the White House, Romney would become America's first Mormon president.

A man stood amid the crowd and called Romney "a pretender" who doesn't know "the Lord."

The crowd booed the man from the room, and Romney responded: "First of all, I believe in God."

You can't possibly run for President unless you believe in God!! When do I get to vote for the atheist candidate? I'm not one, but I would find that a lot easier to swallow, than all the posturing and bickering over doctrine.

Mormonism is a little odd, I'll grant you. But is it any more outrageous to believe that Joseph Smith received the golden plates of Mormon revelation from the angel Moroni, than to believe that God handed Moses the Ten Commandments. Why? Because it happened more recently?

Alright. The bullet-proof underwear is weird as hell... and seems a bit unsanitary. But is it so much stranger than saying a rosary?

Religion by its very nature is irrational, so as long as "faith" is a litmus test in politics we're going to have to accept some wacky ideas in our leaders.

That said, I'm unlikely to ever vote for a Mormon. Not because I think their religion is cuckoo, but because they tend to be extremely conservative. I'll read just about anything by Orson Scott Card, because he's probably one of the greatest writers in the English language, but I want him far, far away from the political arena. Mormon. Great writer. Whack-job. And, yes, I even read "Saints" his historical fiction on the early Mormon Church. God. The man could write about the composition of plywood and create a compelling narrative.

Call me old-fashioned. I still believe in the Jeffersonian wall. But rational discourse is just so 18th Century.


Anonymous said...

There's a theory afoot--not original with me--that it's not religious nuttery but rather secularism that is the aberration in American history and society.

Think about it. We have religious nutjobs running loose, polluting the public discourse with their faith in this or that Invisible Sky Deity--but when haven't we? Yes, the Founders were remarkably free of many of these shackling religious prejudices, but the general population seems to contain rather a large portion of Invisible
Sky Deity followers.

However, even a cursory examination of history will reveal that this has always been so.

Secularism--and secularists--are the exception, rather than the rule. And the brief period of relative freedom from religious influence in public life that the country enjoyed in post-WW II America is evaporating, replaced by voters who see apparitions of Jesus (or is it Elvis?) in jars of peanut butter. The Virgin Mary appears in mold on the side of buildings. (What possible good the Virgin Mary is going to do by appearing in that fashion escapes me--perhaps a warning about the wisdom of buying cheap mildew-proof paint?)

Which all leads to my question: Where is America headed? America will remain what it has always been: a country steeped in primitive religious faith, yet very much dependent on technological and scientific research and advancement for its pre-eminence and prosperity. A nation that has more churches per linear mile than any other "Western" country, yet also one that has some of the world's great universities and year after year produces a bumper crop of Nobel Prize winners in the sciences.

Perhaps it's this creative tension between primitive, child-like religiosity and sophisticated scientific empiricism that has made America the cauldron of ideas, advancement, and innovation. Or maybe America's day is past, since the elite no longer seem all that interested in educating the masses beyond the simple skills needed to work the drive-through window at McDonald's (after all, brains can always be imported from India and the Philippines, can't they?).