Monday, February 19, 2007

Screw the Outrage; Ask Romney WHY?

It's great that there's quick, viral outrage to Mitt Romney's not-particularly-noteworthy remark that "we need to have a person of faith lead the country." (You can see it here, h/t to C&L and Street Prophets...not to mention the MSM). The rationalist left has to learn how to start responding to stuff like this. There are lots of (practiced) ways not to do so. And one enlightening way to do so.

We don't need more howling, however justified, about the Constitution's prohibition against religious tests for office-holders. We don't need to holler about discrimination against atheists (most people like discrimination against atheists. We don't even need to dissect all the intra-religious dynamics of a Mormon seeking the Christian right's support. There's only one thing we need to do when Romney or anyone else proclaims that faith is a requirement, or even an asset, for public office-holders.

We need to ask why.

What is it that belief in magic, and magic beings, gives politicians that rationalists can not offer? Which wars will theists get us into that rationalists will fail to? Which economic policies will atheists fail to embrace, due to the ostensible myopia brought on by not believing in magical people?

The year-long town-hall-palooza of 2007, and the subsequent 2008 primaries, offer us rationalists a unique opportunity. The next time Romney or anyone else in the race extols faith as better than not-faith when it comes to serving the American public, forget the outrage, drop the analysis, and do what journalists should be doing: Ask why. Keep in mind, the answer to this will be additional pablum. Which is why you'll need to be ready with challenging follow-up questions, to get at the alleged reasoning behind the claim, to ensure that his/her fundamental explanation is sufficiently exposed. (See here and here). Is it that accepting Jesus makes you a better person? How? Show us the statistical evidence. Is it that belief in God improves your moral reasoning? How? Show us the statistical evidence.

After 9/11 and George Bush, this should have been the year of the non-religious candidate. Clearly, that ship has sailed. But we can still push back on this discriminatory pandering toward the religious right, by subjecting "faith" to the same level of rigorous scrutiny any other politically self-serving claim would/should get.

In fact, let's all ask him right now and keep asking until the absurdity of his position forces him to recant it.

1 comment:

Vigilante said...

I'll take all bets that it'll be Rudy that gets nominated. Romney is the most dangerous; McCain is too old (watched him in Demoins last night on C-Span) and won't last the marathon. It'll be Rudy G. (You heard it from me 1st!)

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