Casting the First Stone Very Precisely: Keep Your Religion Private or Publicly Defend It

| Tue Nov. 27, 2007 9:16 PM EST

Not to mention: live by it.

I'm with Hitch: Mitt Romney, let alone any publicly religious person running for office needs to tell us exactly what it is that they believe. Especially the bits that infringe just a tad on others' freedom (gay rights comes to mind).

Even were I not an apostate, I like to believe that I would want others to keep their religion to themselves. Failing that, if you're going to try to score points with it ("Jesus is my favorite philosopher") or try to control others with it (see: 'pro-lifers' who support capital punishment) then defend it. But first, 'fess up. I hear it's good for the soul. At least the Pope has the 'nads to spit directly in womens' eyes with his opposition to birth control, abortion and female priesthood. But if he ran for prez, things would no doubt get all vague. Bump that, especially the godless press's 'deference' to such twaddle.

As usual, Hitch (who's a pal) has his normal great fun with Mormonism but en route makes excellent points:

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It ought to be borne in mind that Romney is not a mere rank-and-file Mormon. His family is, and has been for generations, part of the dynastic leadership of the mad cult invented by the convicted fraud Joseph Smith. It is not just legitimate that he be asked about the beliefs that he has not just held, but has caused to be spread and caused to be inculcated into children. It is essential. Here is the most salient reason: Until 1978, the so-called Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was an officially racist organization. Mitt Romney was an adult in 1978. We need to know how he justified this to himself, and we need to hear his self-criticism, if he should chance to have one.

Embrace Louis Farrakahn, Al Sharpton, Barbra Streisand or the Dixie Chicks and you will undoubtedly, and legitimately, have some 'splainin' to do (note the alacrity with which Obama distanced himself from his surrogate father-pastor once the latter's racial politics were liberally quoted); why not Mitt, Pres. Bush or anyone else who brings their religion, or their baggage, into the public sphere? You are the company you keep, or at least Obama was when he recruited black homophobes to shill for him. America won't vote for a Mormon president (our sad belief in our own 'tolerance' notwithstanding) but anyone short of Lucifer himself would occupy the Oval before an avowed atheist would. Imagine the grilling ("when did you first realize you had no morals of any kind?")

Those of us who don't believe are routinely assumed to think that anything goes: no Bible? No rules. Go ahead - steal, rape, rob, cross against the red. Tug on Superman's cape. It's one of the reasons y'all are partially right that we think you're kinda dumb; I've lost track of the heretofore intelligent people at parties who looked at me dumbstruck when I dropped that bomb. It was as if they expected me to strip naked and start drinking baby's blood right after the appetizers.

It's my choice, which I normally exercise, to simply walk away when oh-so-sincerely asked how I sleep at night, being atheist and all. But I'm not running for office. Were I, America would have a right to inquire into any systems of thought (e.g. feminism, the politics of blackness, what the hell, I might yet become born again) for which I demanded deference. Which is the actual point of this little diatribe: all too often, the religious don't want respect, though that's what they say. What they really want is deference. And that journalists, if no one else, should never supply.

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