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Romney gives the faith speech

Many of Mitt Romney’s advisers have been on him for months now to address his religion, but it likely took a new poll out by the Des Moines Register showing him five points behind former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, that has Romney ready to give his John F. Kennedy speech on religion. Ala Kennedy and his Catholicism in 1960, Romney is preparing to talk about his faith - Mormonism - for the first time this Election season.

Despite the endorsements of many prominent Christian conservative s, including Bob Jones, Paul Weyrich, and David Keene, Romney is still perceived as having problems resonating in socially conservative circles, especially among evangelicals . This could be one of the reasons, if not the reason, his support is slipping in places like Iowa, where the Republican caucus is dominated by social conservative s. Seems like most of these folks are jumping ship to Mike Huckabee, 30 days before the caucus. Being the nerd that I am, I watched a town hall on C-SPAN tonight with Romney, and sure enough, three of the questions from caucus-goers referenced Mike Huckabee.

And that’s the story line here. While there’s some historical relevance to Romney, one of the first Mormons to be competitive in a Presidential race, giving a speech about his faith, the talk smacks of inauthentici ty. Romney has been running for President for more than a year now, and he’s resisted talking about his faith at all costs. All of a sudden he finds himself slipping in the polls to Huckabee, and he decides to give a national talk on “Faith in America.”

Romney’s campaign is saying that the address will be a chance for Mitt to “share his views on religious liberty, the grand tradition religious tolerance has played in the progress of our nation and how the governor’s own faith would inform his presidency if he were elected.” But the underlying reason is that Romney’s being schooled by Huckabee in Iowa, and needs to respond.


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Mitt Romney proud of Bob Jones endorsement

Bob Jones University in South Carolina once threatened to arrest its gay alumni, up until the year 2000 banned inter-racial dating on campus, and has previously called Catholicism a cult and the Pope the anti-Christ.   Rumor also has it that the university refuses (or at least refused) to honor Martin Luther King Jr., and that a former Chancellor once called King an “apostate.”

All that said, one has to wonder why Mitt Romney’s campaign was so proud last week to receive the endorsement of Bob Jones III. To quote Romney spokesman William Holley: “We’re proud to have Dr. Jones’ support and look forward to working with him to communicate Governor Romney’s message of conservative change to voters.”

Proud of an endorsement from a school with a track record of racism, sexism, heterosexism  , and vehement hatred of other religions, including Catholicism, Islam, and Romney’s own Mormon faith? (Yes, that’s what might be most odd about this — Bob Jones III is quoted as saying “As a Christian, I am completely opposed to the doctrines of mormonism.” But Bob Jones’ fear of Rudy Giuliani is propelling him to make this endorsement.  )

This may be the biggest sign yet of how much Mitt Romney is willing to sell himself out to become President. Romney’s willing to kiss the fundamentali st ring of a University Chancellor who believes that the former Governor belongs to a cult, that the races were created separately by God for a reason, and that gay people should be arrested just for stepping foot on campus. Yes, for all of that Romney is “proud.”

At this rate, maybe Romney can angle for an endorsement from crazy pastor Rev. Fred Phelps, the uber-right bigot who protests the funerals of fallen soldiers because America tolerates the gays too much. I mean, come on, is it that much of a step from Bob Jones III to Rev. Fred Phelps? It hardly seems so.


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The Pope and Climate Change

It’s still nearly eight months away, but word is that Pope Benedict XVI will use his first visit to the United Nations to urge a commitment to climate change. Courtesy of The Independent, the address to the UN….

“will act as the centrepiece of a US visit scheduled for next April - the first by Benedict XVI, and the first Papal visit since 1999 - and round off an environmenta l blitz at the Vatican, in which the Pope has personally led moves to emphasize green issues based on the belief that climate change is affecting the poorest people on the planet, and the principle that believers have a duty to “protect creation.”

Earlier this month, the Vatican announced that it would become the first fully carbon-neutr al state in the world. Vatican City will offset its carbon footprint by planting a forest in Hungary, and installing solar panels on the roof of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The Pope, meanwhile, will still likely wear his red prada loafers.

This is all well and good, but one can’t help but be suspicious that the Pope is a-comin’ during an Election year. I’m sure the lean, mean religious right machine is salivating at the photo-op possibilitie s here, and God knows that groups like Priests for Life, the Catholic League and the Eagle Forum will be lobbying the Pope hard to speak out on abortion and gay marriage — with the specific intent of influencing next year’s election. Word has it, in fact, that the Pope is planning to also visit Massachusett s as part of the trek, the only state that legally recognizes gay marriage. Think he’ll say something about gay marriage? (Answer: Is the Pope Catholic?!)

I can’t help but be reminded of President Bush’s visit to the Vatican in early 2004, when he awarded Pope John Paul II a freedom medal, a largely ceremonial gesture that many saw as nothing more than trying to shake the Catholics from the voting trees. It made for a nice photo that appeared on the cover of just about every Catholic newspaper in the United States, and furthered the bogus media talking point that Bush was the preferred candidate of practicing Catholics.

Will Republicans pull the same trick during Benedict’s visit in 2008? I’ll bet my life savings on it. But hell, at least the Pope is throwing us progressives a bone on climate change. That’s probably as good as it gets with this Pontiff, who has already shown his penchant for silencing theologians, marginalizin g gays and lesbians from the church, and suggesting that all other Christian churches are inferior to Roman Catholicism.


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What If God Is Sick & Tired Of Our Arrogance?

Do you ever see a headline in a newspaper or at a site online which catches your attention, but for some reason you just can’t convince yourself to read the content? I saw one of those headlines yesterday and while I didn’t succumb to reading the article at that moment, I broke down and read it today.

As to why, well, initially I wasn’t completely sure…perhaps curiosity…ma ybe boredom with the lack of other eye catching news…but then I took the time to explore what the headline said that turned me off…as well as led me back to the article. Following the title and some relevant excerpts below, I’ll attempt an explanation.

Dutch Bishop: Call God ‘Allah’ To Ease Relations

AMSTERDAM - A Roman Catholic Bishop in the Netherlands has proposed people of all faiths refer to God as Allah to foster understandin g, stoking an already heated debate on religious tolerance in a country with one million Muslims.

Bishop Tiny Muskens, from the southern diocese of Breda, told Dutch television on Monday that God did not mind what he was named and that in Indonesia, where Muskens spent eight years, priests used the word “Allah” while celebrating Mass.

“Allah is a very beautiful word for God. Shouldn’t we all say that from now on we will name God Allah? … What does God care what we call him? It is our problem.”

A survey in the Netherlands’ biggest-sell ing newspaper De Telegraaf on Wednesday found 92 percent of the more than 4,000 people polled disagreed with the bishop’s view, which also drew ridicule.

First, a bit of background. The climate in the Netherlands has been rather volatile since the death of filmmaker Theo Van Gogh. Van Gogh’s work was critical of Islam and his murder, viewed to be an act of retaliation, increased tensions with the immigrant Islamic community.

The comments of the Bishop were intended to be a conciliatory gesture to the Islamic community and I don’t doubt his sincerity. Unfortunatel y, the irrationalit y which permeates the circumstance s leading to the Bishop’s remarks comprise the basis of the angst I experienced when first reading the headline.

With nary a thought, I knew if I read the article it would not only lead to frustration, it would serve to remind me why I find religion to be such a baffling exercise in contradictio n as well as a perpetual source of human conflict. Having now read the article, I can attest to the fact that it easily met my stated expectations .

Here’s my dilemma…and perhaps someone will be able to offer the insight necessary to unburden me. Let’s assume that the Bishop’s followers…no  , let’s go so far as to say that all those in the Netherlands who currently use the term god…suddenly acquiesce to the use of the term allah. With that assumption, would those who believe in the tenets of Islam suddenly shed their animosity towards other religious persuasions?

Conversely, if all those who profess an allegiance to Islam in the Netherlands suddenly conceded to use the tern god instead of allah, would the anger directed at those who embrace Islam suddenly evaporate?

I’ll answer my own questions. In both cases, I would respond “of course not”. In providing this answer, I point to the utter insanity that exists with regards to religious beliefs. Here’s the point…on some hypothetical level, most people would assert and agree that there is only one god or one allah. At the same time, the actions of the majority of religious people suggests that there must either be numerous gods or allahs, or that a majority of the world’s population undoubtedly believes in false gods or allahs.

Even more perplexing, each religious group is certain of the infallible nature of their belief in their god or their allah…which also means they are certain of the invalidity of the beliefs held by the remaining majority of human beings. In holding this view, the world therefore has numerous minority populations who are convinced that they are justified in condemning all others, justified in their efforts to impose those laws that support their beliefs and nullify the beliefs of their adversaries, and justified in pursuing and prosecuting plans to prevail.

So in the end, while I commend the effort of the Bishop to be magnanimous, I wouldn’t hesitate to bet the farm on the following. If you put the Bishop in a room with a Mullah to discuss religion and tell them they may not leave the room until such time as they agree on one god or one allah…and of course that also means they must agree that there can only be one set of values or mores for living a proper life…the two of them will never emerge from that room. Further, if the door to that room does open, it will likely mean that only one of the two men remains alive and able to emerge…and he will do so while espousing that the one true god or allah had granted him the strength to prevail.

As such, I don’t know how to conclude anything other than the fact that civilization has and will always be on the verge of utter chaos and constant conflict. When I acknowledge that thought, I find myself more convinced that god or allah are nothing more than creations of the human mind designed to enable one man to negate another.

Lastly, as a person fond of logic, reason, and rationality… I find myself imagining what a god or an allah might be thinking…wer e he or she to actually exist…as he or she watched us humans interact. In that exercise, one would be hard pressed to reach any plausible conclusions.

Let’s start with the assumption that god or allah has a sick sense of humor and we’re simply here for amusement. That would mean that he or she has devised a world such that his or her existence will remain unproven to us humans because he or she has chosen as much. In this model, the amusement would arise when he or she whispers clues into enough ears to pit us all against each other. The amusement would presumably emanate from us remaining in conflict on a perpetual basis. Unfortunatel y, as an all knowing being, we wouldn’t actually be amusing because god or allah would already know what we were going to do. Therefore amusement fails as an explanation.

Two, if we believe that god or allah created humans…then he or she would have done so with the full intent that we be imperfect since he or she, in his or her perfection, could have made us perfect. Therefore, if one were god or allah…meanin g one is all knowing…crea ting imperfect beings while knowing the outcome of said creation would ultimately serve no purpose. It couldn’t entertain because he or she would already know the script. So what other reasons might explain our creation?

If we assume we are the product of a deity’s creation, then his or her creation would never become perfect of its own volition since it would have been knowingly created with chosen or selected flaws. That would mean that he or she would have to fix us for us to serve any meaningful purpose in our association with a perfect being. If he or she intends to enact the fix…since we humans could not do so by design…becau se if we could, we would have to already possess the capabilities of a god…then why hasn’t he or she already affected the fix and what reason would suffice for him or her to keep us around in a perpetually imperfect state? I’m not sure there is an answer that makes sense.

Further, if we assume that he or she is gradually revealing more answers to us over time…then that would have to happen through god or allah’s selection of certain individuals since we wouldn’t possess that ability innately. That means that those of us who were not chosen would actually serve no purpose and we would always remain reliant upon the ability and willingness of those chosen to know more, to share it with us.

However, in our imperfection  , we would never understand what god or allah had revealed to the chosen few; we would have to believe them as a matter of faith. However, since god or allah already knows our imperfection s, god or allah would know that we were incapable of knowing how to decide what we should believe as a matter of faith. Therefore, making some people capable of understandin g more and providing them clues or knowledge would do little more than fuel controversy and conflict.

In other words, our enlightenmen t would ultimately still have to be given to each of us by god or allah electing to alter the imperfection s we were created with. That holds true if we’re to receive enlightenmen t as a matter of faith through others or if we’re each to be given more knowledge directly from god or allah.

In the end, we humans cannot explain or understand the notion of a god or allah outside of our human existence…wh ich leads us to define god or allah in human terms and which means our perceptions will always be flawed. At the same time, in our imperfection s, we will always disagree as to who is more right. Moreover, logic tells us that our imperfection s will preclude any of us from ever being able to prove what we believe to be right.

Therefore, in our efforts to define god or allah, we actually insult the very god or allah we think exists. When we presume to know god or allahs intentions, we diminish god or allah by falsely elevating ourselves. Knowing as much ought to instruct us to spend our time understandin g each other and making this existence as palatable as humanly possible…for all of us humans.

If there is a god or an allah, he or she would already know that such a goal is the noblest practice and the highest pinnacle we can achieve with the abilities he or she had provided to us. I’m not sure any higher being would be amused by our preoccupatio n with assigning them a name…let alone an identity of our human making. Perhaps its time that we humans focus on that which is within our grasp?

Cross-posted at Thought Theater


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