bookmark_borderMartin Luther King and the Republican Race For Righteousness

If I believed in a god, and one with a sense of humor, I would think she had a big chuckle over timing the South Carolina Republican primary for the same week the nation celebrates Martin Luther King Day.

On May 2, 2000, South Carolina became the last state to make King’s birthday an official state holiday. But South Carolina also then created another official state holiday on May 10 — Confederate Memorial Day. Prior to this legislation, state employees had the choice of celebrating the birthday of Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, or Martin Luther King.

Some of our South Carolina politicians think nothing of rewriting history, even when they can easily be caught. For instance, Congressman Joe Wilson claimed that he spearheaded the effort to have King’s birthday recognized. A friend of Wilson’s from his state legislature days said Wilson must have been confused about which holiday he supported, which was really Confederate Memorial Day. When confronted with circumstantial evidence, Wilson said his memory must have failed him. (This is the same Joe Wilson who famously yelled “You lie!” at the country’s first African-American president during a speech to a joint session of Congress.)

Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul voted against Martin Luther King Day both in 1979 and 1983, when the bill passed. In one of his newsletters, Paul referred to the holiday as “Hate Whitey Day.” Paul, who is viewed as the presidential candidate least likely to lie, claimed that he neither wrote nor read the newsletters that bore his name.

Martin Luther King is not the controversial figure he once was in South Carolina, with racism today subtler and less institutionally sanctioned. But in 1962, at the height of the civil rights movement led by King, the Confederate battle flag was placed atop the State Capitol by vote of an all-white legislature. In 2000, a so-called compromise moved the Confederate flag to the Capitol grounds. When the NAACP continued its boycott of South Carolina, state senator Arthur Ravenel, a member of Sons of Confederate Veterans, called the NAACP the “National Association for Retarded People.” He later apologized–to the mentally handicapped for comparing them to the NAACP.

Presidential candidates are often asked what they think of this flag situation. Former candidate John McCain went back and forth about whether it was a states rights’ issue or a symbol of racism and slavery. In 2008, Mitt Romney took a stronger stance, saying he didn’t think the Confederate flag should be flown at all. I’ll be interested to hear if he changes his mind about this, too, in time for Saturday’s election.

The safest, if not the most courageous, answer for national candidates is to call the Confederate flag an issue for South Carolinians to decide. In fact, last month Newt Gingrich said at a town hall meeting, “I have a very strong opinion: it’s up to the people of South Carolina.” He added that he is opposed to segregation and slavery. Well, that’s a relief. But I’m quite sure that Martin Luther King would disagree with Newt about what he just told a Charleston audience was the biggest domestic threat to America: “Removing God from the public arena.”

In 1998, fiscally conservative Charleston County councilman Tim Scott insisted on posting a Ten Commandments plaque on the wall of County Council chambers, ignoring advice that he would lose the anticipated legal challenge. Scott insisted that the display was needed to remind residents of moral absolutes. After the plaque went up, the Charleston Post and Courier asked Councilman Scott if he could name all the Commandments. He couldn’t. As expected, the court declared the display unconstitutional and handed taxpayers a substantial bill for legal costs.

Councilman Scott was not laughed off the political stage. He was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 2010, the first African-American Republican in South Carolina to serve in Congress. He is now a tea party favorite, and all Republican presidential candidates are seeking his endorsement. He is my congressional representative, though I can’t say that he represents my views. I wonder what Rev. Martin Luther King would have thought about all this.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/herb-silverman/martin-luther-king-and-th_b_1211604.html?ref=offthebus

bookmark_borderHow Would Jesus Vote? Christian Politics in the State Of Lost Causes

Christianity and many other religions are sometimes described by category, rather than by denomination, as conservative, liberal or cultural. To that, I would add a fourth category: political Christian, i.e. a candidate for public office who feels the need to profess deeply held Christian beliefs.

In my home state of South Carolina, Governor Nikki Haley was raised as a Sikh, and became a Christian prior to running for public office. When she first became a gubernatorial candidate, her website said, “I believe in the power and grace of Almighty God.” She later felt the need to change it to “My faith in Christ has a profound impact on my daily life. Being a Christian is not about words, but about living for Christ every day.”

A cynic might say, “Maybe it’s also about winning elections.”

Her predecessor, former governor Mark Sanford, had sex with his “soul mate” in Argentina, which he mistook for the Appalachian Trail. After being caught, he held a press conference in which he apologizedto his spiritual advisor and to people of faith across South Carolina. Implicit in his apology is that people of faith are expected to be more moral than people without faith. What seems clear to me is that politicians who continually proclaim their faith are likely to be more hypocritical than those who don’t.

I watched with some sympathy when Mitt Romney, a Mormon, ran unsuccessfully for president in 2008. My sympathy was not for his political positions, but because surveys showed the main thing atheists like me and Mormons have in common is that a significant number of Americans wouldn’t vote for either of us, no matter how qualified the candidate.

In trying to explain how reasonable Mormonism is, Romney said on the June 5, 2006 Charlie Rose show, “The most unusual thing in my church is that we believe there was once a flood upon the earth, and that a man took a boat and put two of each animal inside the boat, and saved humanity by doing that.” Romney essentially said that his holy book is no more preposterous than the holy books of other candidates. I think he has a point.

Here is a brief history of non-religious freedom in South Carolina. The 1778 State Constitution stated, “That the Christian religion is the true religion” and “The Christian Protestant religion shall be deemed, and is hereby constituted and declared to be, the established religion of this State.” That was updated in 1868 to its present form, “No person shall be eligible to the office of Governor who denies the existence of the Supreme Being.”

Of course, this more “tolerant” version is still unconstitutional, since Article VI of the U.S. Constitution prohibits religious tests for public office. So I assumed this was just an anachronism, and could easily be changed. I was wrong. To challenge this unconstitutional provision, I wound up running in 1990 first as a gubernatorial candidate, and then applying to be a notary public, since atheists were prohibited from holding any public office. It took eight years and a unanimous verdict of the South Carolina Supreme Court to state the obvious, that no religious test for public office may be applied, not even in South Carolina.

While atheists are now eligible for any office in South Carolina, the South Carolina Constitution can only be amended by a referendum in which the majority of voters approve the change. This is not likely to happen any time soon. It took a referendum in 1998 for South Carolina to remove its anti-miscegenation laws from the State Constitution. Even then, 38% of South Carolinians voted against allowing blacks and whites to marry, though the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1967 that states could no longer prevent interracial marriage.

My state wasted about $100,000 trying to keep me from becoming a notary public. Most of the political leaders in South Carolina, and the lawyers advising them, knew they wouldn’t prevail legally. Yet, those same politicians showed that they would rather waste time and money on a lost cause than risk the wrath and lose the votes of the state’s well-organized religious right. South Carolina is known as a state that fights lost causes.

I’m planning to cast a write-in vote in the Republican primary for fellow Charlestonian Stephen Colbert. He’s a Christian with a sense of humor about his faith, and he doesn’t use his faith to pander for votes in South Carolina. Please check the presidential scorecard of the Secular Coalition for America.

I wish Romney, Paul, Gingrich, Santorum and Perry would learn that marketing their faith for political gain might just be sending some voters running to support the “none of the above” candidate, Stephen Colbert.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/herb-silverman/how-would-jesus-vote-poli_b_1205316.html?ref=offthebus

bookmark_borderHas Christmas become too secular?

No. Christmas officially became a secular holiday on June 28, 1870. That’s when President Ulysses S. Grant declared December 25 a legal holiday, along with January 1, July 4, and a day to be determined for Thanksgiving. We were founded as a secular country under a godless Constitution (no mention of God or Jesus), where freedom of conscience is guaranteed for all people. Just so there is no doubt about President Grant’s intent, in his seventh-annual message to Congress on Dec. 7, 1875, he said: “Declare church and state forever separate and distinct; but each free within their proper spheres.”
Christians may certainly celebrate Christmas religiously. Early Christians made up a story about a savior born on December 25, a myth that originated in the winter solstice festivals of ancient civilizations. Mithras, a Persian savior-god, had a sizable following in the Roman world and his birth was celebrated on that day. By appropriating the day for the alleged birth of Jesus, Christians could more easily convert pagans.
Individuals are free to focus on whomever they view as the reason for the season: Jesus, Rudolph, or Santa. My personal preference is a Santa who wants us to be good for goodness’s sake, without fear of eternal punishment for not believing in him. From Rudolph we learn that it’s OK to be different, and to stand proud even if others laugh at you. And though Jesus primarily wants us to give glory to God, I like it that he also asks for “Peace on Earth and goodwill toward men.”
What a wonderful world we would have in any season if we followed these three lessons: be good, accept diversity, and strive for peace. I wish this holiday season would bring us closer to such important secular principles. Unfortunately, the Christmas season has become increasingly divisive.
A manufactured “War on Christmas” by some Christians now forces people to choose between wishing a “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays.” It’s ironic that stores are boycotted when the emphasis is on the Happy Holidays phrase, implying that the true meaning of Christmas for religious people must be “shopping.” In fact, because of the pagan origin of Christmas, some early American colonies prohibited the celebration of Christmas. That might have been the original war on Christmas.
Whether we celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, HumanLight, or any other holiday, my wish for this and all seasons is that we strive for peace on Earth and goodwill toward all humans.
http://www.usnews.com/debate-club/has-christmas-become-too-secular/be-good-accept-diversity-and-strive-for-peace

bookmark_borderFinding Reason in the Season

I once believed in miracles because my parents told me they were true, but even then I recognized that all miracles were not created equal. The Hanukkah miracle of a light burning for eight days instead of just one paled in comparison to the Pesach miracle, when a God decided to “pass-over” the houses of Jews and kill the firstborn Egyptian male in each home along with the firstborn cattle (Exodus 12:12). Hanukkah, of course, while a major holiday in this country, did not become one for theological reasons. It is celebrated so Jews don’t feel left out when others get Christmas presents. Jewish children traditionally receive a present every day for eight consecutive days. So take that, Christians, I used to say to myself.
Though Hanukkah trumped Christmas at home, not so in my public elementary school. My grandmother would usually begin a conversation with me by asking what I had learned in school, and she seemed delighted by whatever I reported. One exception occurred before Christmas, when I answered her question by singing “Silent Night.” I didn’t know what a “virgin” or a “holy infant” was, but I noticed an unexpected frown on my grandmother’s face. Since my family didn’t want to appear “un-American,” they wouldn’t have thought of complaining about Christianity being promoted in school. But they were especially upset when I learned “Silent Night” in German. After the Holocaust, all things German instilled fear in our family.
Most Christians who are willing to accept the evidence for the Earth revolving around a stationary sun are also willing to acknowledge that a savior born on December 25 is a made-up story. Christmas has its origins in the winter solstice festivals that most ancient civilizations observed. Mithras, a Persian savior-god, had a sizable following in the Roman world and his birth was celebrated on December 25. By appropriating this day for the alleged birth of Jesus, Christians could more easily convert pagans. Because of this pagan origin, some early American colonies prohibited the celebration of Christmas. That might have been the original war on Christmas.
When greeted with “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays,” I used to mumble, “Same to you.” Since some vocal Christians now claim that the latter salutation is a “War on Christmas,” I wonder when I hear “Merry Christmas” whether it is meant to be a friendly greeting or a challenge in this war. Too bad we seem to be moving further from my wish for all seasons: peace on Earth and goodwill toward all people.
Peace and goodwill don’t necessarily mean agreement with all points of view. The holiday season has now become a time to celebrate freedom of expression through billboards and buses, where some atheists have been known to equate the myth of God with that of Santa Claus. I think this comparison is unfair—to Santa. Santa doesn’t ask children to worship him or to put love for him above love for other humans. He asks only that we “Be good for goodness’ sake,” an idea that makes a lot of sense and has appeared on several humanist billboards.
While atheists and humanists typically spend December holidays with family, we often like to celebrate as a community at this time of year. My local secular humanist group in Charleston holds an annual HumanLight (http://humanlight.org/) “Winter Solstice” potluck dinner and used book auction, with proceeds going to worthwhile community causes. This has become a bittersweet occasion for me in the last several years.
Former dentist Bill Upshur, a founding member of our group, was one of the finest people I’ve ever known. He knew how to live, and how to die with courage and grace. When he learned he had terminal esophageal cancer, he continued to be active as long as possible. He believed, at age seventy-seven, that he had lived a full life. The only time I saw him choke up was when he talked about leaving his beloved wife Jane alone.
Knowing in 2007 that he didn’t have long to live, Bill told me he wanted to donate $20,000 to the Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry. He devised an unusual plan to make the donation. Typically books at our auction go for no more than $10. Bill and I engaged in a fake bidding war for Richard Dawkins’ book, The God Delusion. It started with incremental bids of a dollar or two, then soared to $1,000, $5,000, $10,000, and ended with Bill’s winning bid of $20,000. I had informed nobody, including my wife Sharon, who became increasingly alarmed by my extravagant bids.
When I told Richard Dawkins, he wrote a wonderful note to Bill, which I read to him in the hospital a week before he died. Richard said, “I hope you will not think me impertinent if I say you are my kind of guy. You now possess the most expensive copy of The God Delusion in the known universe. Thank you for all you have done for secular causes.” My last memory of Bill was his broad smile after hearing Dawkins’ words.
We make a special point to remember Bill at each annual winter solstice celebration. He was a real person and I will always associate his sense of humor and voice of reason with this holiday season.

bookmark_borderWar on Thanksgiving?

Many religious believers and atheists alike express regret at the crass materialism shown this time of year, when Thanksgiving now represents the prelude to a shopping spree for Christmas presents on “Black Friday.” I gained an appalling insight watching television on the Saturday after “Black Friday.” First I saw frenzied crowds of Egyptian protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, risking their lives to demand freedom. Then I saw frenzied crowds of American shoppers, trying to push others aside to save a few dollars on sale merchandise. Though their causes were significantly different, the crowds looked the same. This is not a form of American “exceptionalism” to be proud of.
In recent years we were subjected to a media-manufactured “War on Christmas,” when pundits decry those who say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” This year breaks new ground, because we just had a manufactured “War on Thanksgiving,” allegedly started by our commander-in-chief. President Obama gave a three-minute Thanksgiving Day speech without the word “God” in it. Here is a portion of what he said:
“We’re especially grateful for the men and women who defend our country overseas. To all the service members eating Thanksgiving dinner far from your families: the American people are thinking of you today. And when you come home, we intend to make sure that we serve you as well as you’re serving America. We’re also grateful for the Americans who are taking time out of their holiday to serve in soup kitchens and shelters, making sure their neighbors have a hot meal and a place to stay. This sense of mutual responsibility – the idea that I am my brother’s keeper; that I am my sister’s keeper – has always been a part of what makes our country special. And it’s one of the reasons the Thanksgiving tradition has endured.”
Imagine that. President Obama gave an inclusive speech showing support for the men and women who serve overseas, and also praised those who help the less fortunate at this time of year. He even provided a biblical reference that this atheist likes, the one about being our brother’s keeper (and the updated sister’s keeper). However, many Christians would have preferred he thank an imagined God rather than the real people he did thank.
http://www.aol.com/2011/11/25/obama-thanksgiving-speech-god_n_1113106.html
They probably would have been upset, too, had Obama read from the U.S. Constitution, a document with no mention of a god. We’re a country of both believers and non-believers, so Obama shouldn’t have to say anything about God, one way or another. Atheists and theists can agree on the value of setting aside at least one day per year to give thanks, though we may disagree over “to whom” and “for what.” This should properly be left to individuals. On Thursday, I thanked my friends who prepared a wonderful Thanksgiving meal and provided us with the opportunity to share each other’s company.
I expect the manufactured war on Christmas will soon begin. Despite our secular Constitution, some continue to call this a Christian country, but others now refer to it as a Judeo-Christian country. So “Happy Holidays” is no more a war on Christmas than it is a war on Hanukkah.
There are lots of reasons for the season, some good and some bad. Here’s my best reason for all seasons, for both theists and atheists: A reminder that the best wish of all is “Peace on earth and goodwill toward men and women.”

bookmark_border‘In God we trust,’ when politically convenient

The House of Representatives on November 1 voted in favor of a Congressional resolution reaffirming “In God We Trust” as the national motto and supporting its placement on public buildings, public schools, and other government institutions. This House Concurrent Resolution 13, which passed by a vote of 396 to 9, with 2 voting present, was sponsored by Representative Randy Forbes (R-VA). He added, “As our nation faces challenging times, it is appropriate for Members of Congress and our nation – like our predecessors – to firmly declare our trust in God, believing that it will sustain us for generations to come.” (http://www.christianpost.com/news/house-vote-to-reaffirm-in-god-we-trust-as-national-motto-59976/)

What Forbes and many other Americans fail to recognize or acknowledge is that “In God We Trust” only became our official motto in 1956, at the height of the Cold War and the McCarthy witch-hunt for communists, as a means to separate us from godless communism. The de facto motto established by our founders had been E Pluribus Unum, which is Latin for “out of many, one.”
Such sectarian religious propaganda fails to unite us. The phrase “In God We Trust” does not apply to more than 16 percent of Americans who identify as atheist, agnostic, humanist, nonreligious, or unaffiliated. There are millions of good Americans who simply do not believe in a deity, let alone trust one. Branding our secular country with a religious motto only creates division among its citizens and erodes the wall of separation between church and state. Our secular government should neither impose a religious motto on its citizens nor give an official stamp of approval to a particular religious worldview.
This House Resolution sends an inappropriate message that the religious views of certain Americans stand superior to others. Do we need the State to serve as our pastors, reminding us to be faithful? We are reinforcing power in the State to watch over our religious activities, a blatant offense to the separation of church and state.
Freedom of religion is one of our fundamental liberties. Nobody has the right to “establish” any religious sentiment, or claim to speak for all Americans on this important issue. We are a nation of laws, a country that respects the freedom of and freedom from religion for every American. Those of us who would like to restore the movingly appropriate “E pluribus unum” are being true to our country’s historic traditions.
Our secular government must remain neutral with respect to religion. A government that feels entitled to tell you to trust in God can also feel entitled to tell you there is no God.

We are a diverse population, and E pluribus unum confirms American diversity as our source of strength. We are one nation made up of people from many lands, and people of many faiths and none. Similarly, during the McCarthy era, the words “under God” were added to our inclusive “one nation, indivisible” Pledge of Allegiance.

bookmark_borderMandating coverage is not requiring use

Proposed regulations in the Affordable Care Act would provide preventive services for women that Catholic doctrine considers sinful. I am not surprised that John Garvey, President of Catholic University, doesn’t approve. But I thought I was reading George Orwell’s novel 1984 when he said: “In objecting to these regulations, our university does not seek to impose its moral views on others. All we ask is respect for the religious beliefs we try to impart to our students.”

Huh? Has the Catholic Church not spent over 30 years trying to impose on everyone in the world its moral views on contraceptives and abortion? It is not the place for government to either respect or disrespect the religious beliefs that Catholic University tries to impart on its students. It is up to informed students to decide whether they respect such beliefs. And they don’t. Some 98 percent of sexually active Catholic women have used contraceptive methods banned by the church. (http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/04/13/us-contraceptives-religion-idUSTRE73C7W020110413)

Perhaps Garvey should focus more on the Catholic Doctrine of Free Will. Like it or not, female students have a choice to use or ignore services offered in their health care plan.

The law doesn’t require Catholics or anyone else to exercise all available options. No one is forced to commit the “sin” of taking a contraceptive. It is up to the Church to persuade their faithful that Church doctrine is correct. Since public money is being used for healthcare by Catholic University, they must either live with the regulations or set up another system without any public funding.

If the University wants to deprive its students and employees of access to certain forms of preventive healthcare, even if those students and employees are not Catholic or are Catholic and prefer to make their own moral choices, then it needs to limit its student body and staff to those who share their beliefs. It would have to modify significantly its website: “The Catholic University of America welcomes students of all faiths, ethnicities and backgrounds and recognizes that diversity is essential to a modern experience in higher education.” (http://admissions.cua.edu/undergrad/identity/index.html)

Perhaps the University can then require a loyalty oath that students and staff remain faithful to Catholic doctrine, with the threat of immediate dismissal for anyone found using contraceptives or engaging in unmarried sex. I wonder what that will do for enrollment, or for the quality of education at Catholic University.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/on-faith/post/mandating-coverage-is-not-requiring-use/2011/10/06/gIQA7PKWQL_blog.html

bookmark_borderA non-believer’s guide to biblical economics

I’ve studied economics and taught mathematics to students who became economists, but I’m not an economist. Still, I know enough to recognize that economists sometimes selectively focus on data that fit their liberal or conservative ideologies. At least both sides work with data and try to make convincing arguments for their models. Economists of all stripes recognize that their own models are by no means perfect.

I should have known it would be only a matter of time before biblical economics turned the “dismal science” into something even more dismal. Some conservative Christians are now educating themselves and others with quotes about economics that come from that same infallible “science” book describing a flat earth with four corners resting on pillars at the center of a ten thousand year old universe. It’s also the same book of biblical morals that once justified slavery, anti-Semitism, treating women as property, executing blasphemers and homosexuals, and burning witches and heretics.

Of course our government’s huge national debt is a looming threat to long-term prosperity. Good secular and moral arguments can be made on how best to solve the problem. We should analyze arguments over tax policy and deficit spending. We can have reasoned disagreements about what type of tax is fairest, and whether we should spend more on guns or butter.

The one thing we should not do is make economic policy based on “God’s plan.” Nobody knows God’s plan. I don’t believe God has an economic plan, because I don’t think God exists. Conservative Christians are citing passages from Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy, in which God tells Israel not to borrow money from any nation. The implications are that we (even though we are not Israel) should not sell bonds to other countries and use the money to help poor people in this country. Whenever I hear something about “God’s plan” I compare it with the “Tooth Fairy plan.” Usually the Tooth Fairy comes out better, but in this case they are similar. Empirical evidence suggests that the Tooth Fairy gives more money per tooth to children of rich people than to children of poor people. I guess she must be an economic conservative.

You can quote from selected biblical passages to make whatever case you want, and then claim the moral high ground. Here’s something for conservative Christians to contemplate. Jesus tells us to pay our fair share of taxes without grumbling, and that he favors class warfare. He is probably a socialist, and maybe even a communist. How do I know? The Bible tells me so.

Matthew 22:21: Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.

Mark 10:25: It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.

Matt. 19: 21: If you want to be perfect, sell your possessions and give to the poor.

Acts 2:44: All the believers were united and shared everything with one another.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/on-faith/post/a-non-believers-guide-

to-biblical-economics/2011/09/28/gIQAarGk5K_blog.html

bookmark_borderMitt Romney: A reasonable man?

Here’s a hypothetical scene in which four presidential candidates are asked about their religious views.

Candidate 1: “It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” He adds, “And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.”

Candidate 2: “As I understand the Christian religion, it was, and is, a revelation. But how has it happened that millions of fables, tales, legends, have been blended with both Jewish and Christian revelation that have made them the most bloody religion that ever existed?”

Candidate 3: “During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution.

Candidate 4: “When I do good, I feel good; when I do bad, I feel bad. That is my religion.”

Were this to take place at a public debate today, I expect Candidates 1 (Thomas Jefferson), 2 (John Adams), 3 (James Madison), and 4 (Abraham Lincoln) would be booed off the stage, their political careers ended.

None of the current Republican candidates seems to have the courage of the man once known as Mr. Conservative (Barry Goldwater), quoted in the September 16, 1981 Congressional Record: “I’m frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in ‘A,’ ‘B,’ ‘C,’ and ‘D.’ Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me?” Are we better off with today’s presidential candidates who pander to religious factions and cannot end a speech without “God bless America”?

I think the most reasonable Republican candidates are the two Mormons. My bar here is set pretty low: they never talk about their deity telling them to run or how to vote. Perhaps they have a good reason to downplay their Mormonism. The only thing atheists and Mormons have in common is that a significant number of Americans admit they wouldn’t vote for either.

As far as the role of faith in the 2012 election, I can’t say because I don’t know the faith of the candidates. I can take them all at their publicly religious word, but why should I? The major truth-telling test for me among candidates is whether a candidate expresses a view that he or she knows will be politically detrimental. That’s why I’ll believe any candidate in this country who says he is an atheist, and I’ll believe any candidate in Iran who says he is a Christian.

The important question to ask all candidates is if and how their private faith would impact their stands on public policy. I could be comfortable with a candidate who says she would compartmentalize her irrational, faith-based beliefs and govern rationally on evidence-based information.

I was appalled by the Christian values expressed by both the candidates and the audience in the most recent presidential debate. The audience cheered when Rick Perry proudly talked about how many citizens he was responsible for executing in Texas. And the audience again cheered when Ron Paul said the government should ignore the plight of a young person with a deadly disease because he failed to pay for health insurance. Even worse, in my mind, was that none of the other candidates publicly disagreed, though they had no problem challenging anyone who favored government money for health care.

As an atheist, I pick and choose from many books—including the Bible. I particularly like how the quote from Matthew 7:16 applies to the presidential candidates who were on stage that night: “By their fruits you shall know them.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/on-faith/post/mitt-romney-a-reasonable-man/2011/09/23/gIQAN0iAqK_blog.html