My recent article on the various ridiculous things that Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney takes as, literally, gospel, gave rise to enough comments of a single bent that I think it prudent to take to the pulpit in my own defense.
Consider this my Perrian response.
The most common complaint that the article attracted, other than that my words were crass and unkind (a fair synthesis), was that I was advocating a sort of religious test for election to American government. Those who left a comment saying as much were at the same time more wrong, and more right, than they imagined.
I certainly do not advocate for, in any form, a religious test enacted by the government to prevent, or lubricate, the ascension to office of those of, or not of, a certain creed. Perhaps second most crucial to our country after the freedom of speech is the freedom of, and from, religion (although one cannot well imagine a circumstance in which only one existed as an absolute that would last).
However, as a citizen, I will most certainly apply tests to my elected officials, the process of doing so being the critical act of an engaged electorate. And if someone who wants my vote so that they may have control of our nuclear armament and military believes in obvious theological hocus pocus, I will judge them for it. And negatively.
The suppression of criticism that is supported by a wall of false humility that religion in America commands must be stood up to.
Ask yourself if you would vote for someone who believed in UFOs; would you be likely to elect them? That is how a non-believer views a candidate who professes the Mormon faith, a religion that was founded by a convicted fraudster and is full of such borrowed fantasy that in the words of Christopher Hitchens, “a child can, and all children do, as you can tell from their questions, see through it.”
I am to respect that? I am to place a person’s religious views above critique? That I am admonished by the obviously faithful for such a thing is almost the definition of irony: Religions are inherently exclusive, and so to practice one is to condemn the rest; why am I assailed for simply picking one and pointing out its flaws?
Even more, in this country, with its glorious and hopefully everlasting lack of a religious requirement, we have an test in all but name, but it finds form from what you might say is the right (or at least better) source: the people. Name the atheist that is running for president. Name the members of the atheist caucus in the House, or the Senate. You can’t because they don’t exist, and that is because Americans consistently rank atheists among those that they trust the least, and would vote for with the least frequency.
So be it. If that is the best we can do as a nation, then it is fair collateral for being free. What would be intolerable is if states, or the Federal government, banned atheists, or those of a certain faith (atheists not being a part of that specific federation), from office. The Supreme Court has had to knock down state laws banning atheists from elected office (Torcaso v Watkins), and good on it for that. Our legal precedent is strong.
And so I will not cease my critique of religious people who demand my attention, and tell me that they are serious. How can I not mock them for believing in fairies, or, as in this specific case involving Romney, celestial marriage?
Criticism is a poor thing to want to do away with, in any form. It is only in argument, and dialogue, that we find the truth.