Mitt Romney, Mormonism and Religion in American Politics

Why is American politics so obsessed with religion?

Why is it important to American voters that Mitt Romney is a Mormon, as opposed to a Catholic or a Jew or an Episcopalian, or a Baptist?

I nearly said Muslim, but in American terms, I might as well have said Satanist.

So what if the founder of Romney’s church claimed to have spoken to an angel and that he translated a book of alien speech that he found on a set of golden plates buried by a native American prophet?  Didn’t Moses climb a mountain and do exactly the same thing, apart from coming back with plates of stone instead of gold?  And didn’t all the prophets of the Judaeo-Christian tradition talk to angels and saints and gods and demi-gods all the time?

Is the problem that Smith was talking to angels in New York, and not in the Sinai desert?

And so what if the Mormons believe that we’re all little space-intelligences who inhabit a human body temporarily?  Isn’t that pretty much what L Ron Hubbard came up with when he started selling his Scientology scam?  And for that matter, isn’t it more or less what Buddhists believe?

I know you’ll be wondering why I defend Mormonism, but fair’s fair.  If a Catholic can believe that a priest waving his hands is able to turn a biscuit into Jesus, and if all Christians can believe that Jesus was killed but isn’t dead, and if Jews can believe that it’s ok to cut off part of a child’s genitalia, then why shouldn’t Mormons believe that Joseph Smith met an angel in New York, found a gold plate with alien writing on it and translated it into English?

Why is one scam better or worse than another?  Why is your delusion better than mine, or his or theirs?

Which brings me to Islam, the Great Unmentionable.

In the United States, one of the most damaging accusations against Barack Obama is the claim that he is a Muslim.

Why?  Because Americans have been conditioned to identify Islam with violence, intolerance and terrorism, however you define that term.  Forget the fact that most Muslims are moderate, easygoing people, who half-believe what their clerics tell them, just like most Christians and most Jews.  In the narrative driven most viciously by GW Bush’s Neocons, Muslims are all crazed killers waiting to break out the daggers and the dynamite belts at a moment’s provocation.  Of course, that view isn’t helped by maniacs like Iran’s President Dinnerjacket, or by the cold, rational, homicidal  logic of Osama Bin Laden.  Nor is it helped by the fact that dangerous Islam is extremely useful to the US establishment, with an eye to securing Middle-East oil supplies and maintaining Israel as a beach-head in the region.

As long as a bogeyman exists, governments are able to keep their public pliable and biddable.  Enemies are just as necessary as friends in the world of international politics.

But of course, in the end, even a Muslim would be more welcome to sit in the Oval Office than an atheist.  In US politics, it seems that a candidate must profess a delusion, any delusion, if he is to be accepted as a sensible, effective leader, though oddly enough, despite their influence, it would be almost as hard to imagine a Jew being elected to the presidency as a Muslim.

Why is it inconceivable that an unmarried atheist might become first citizen of a country that has built into its constitution a separation between church and state?  The United States has a population about 75 times the size of this little crumbling theocracy, and yet on a cursory trawl, I can find two atheists currently sitting in our parliament, one of whom is our deputy prime minister.  On the other hand, I can find no serving politician at all, in The World’s Greatest Democracy, who is prepared to admit he doesn’t believe in a deity of some sort.  What are the odds of that?

Even in this little country which was so riddled with priests for so many years, I can’t imagine a person’s marital status being an obstacle to high office.  I can’t imagine a person’s religious beliefs standing in their way of election any more than I can imagine their atheism being a problem.  And yet, in today’s United States, I don’t think an unmarried person could become president.  I don’t think an atheist could become president.  I doubt very much if a Muslim or a Jew could become president.

Theocracy, it seems, comes in many shapes.


12 thoughts on “Mitt Romney, Mormonism and Religion in American Politics

  1. I’m not sure where my country’s dependence on faith and beliefs in the intangible comes from. It’s bothered me for most of my life. Most of the time I’m forced to be silent out of respect for others beliefs even though I don’t really understand why they have them enough to fully respect them. I never understood why a prayer at mealtime thanked God when Dad worked to pay for the food and Mom worked to prepare it. Perhaps the answer is printed on our currency, “In God We Trust” it says. Maybe we’ve just been lied to by our leaders and our employers and our teachers and our government so many times that we realize we certainly can’t trust them, so something has to be made up to trust in because if it is made up it can’t betray our trust.

    One thing about Romney if he becomes a Mormon president, maybe he can have those Mormon Missionaries that come knocking on the door help out and deliver the mail while they are going to be there pestering us anyway. Might be a considerable savings for the Postal Service.

  2. So America will elect a Mormon bishop over a African Islamic athiest. I think i need to lie down.

  3. Too early to tell if they will actually choose the Mormon, but he does have Presidential hair. A bald athiest would lose to a known crazy person completely detached from reality. Michelle Bachman still holds office.

  4. “In god we trust”

    And an atheist can’t go to war claiming god on our side.

    The US needs god (and specifically a Christian one), else it can’t be righteous.
    Righteousness alleviates the need for self-questioning.

    Romney is ready to set the guns on Iran, and as he recently put it ‘every american is now in danger from Iran because of Obama’s inaction’.

    Electing an atheist would upset the domestic psyche. How can a leader be guided by god, if he himself doesn’t believe? It suits America not to break the circle.

    My thoughts anyway.

  5. ” most Muslims are moderate, easygoing people, who half-believe what their clerics tell them, just like most Christians and most Jews ”

    Than you. I’m sure the overwhelming majority of Muslims just cringe when they hear about an underpants bomber the same way we “Christians” cringe when we hear some doofus spout hatred in the name of Jesus

  6. Muslims today, yesterday it was the “Commies” or reds, tomorrow they will choose a new enemy of the people. Funny they never worried about the Muslims or freedom fighters as they were termed by Regan when they were killing Russian conscripts in
    Afghanistan back in the 1980’s and funny enough, one of those freedom fighters was Osama Bin Laden.

  7. What is clear in American politics at present is that the Republican party promote the concept that the richest Americans are being ripped off by the poorest ones. Their supporters deeply resent the poor, the destitute, the crazies, gays, blacks, Hispanics, in fact anyone who doesn’t reflect white Christian aspirational ( read ruthlessly materialistic) values.

    Their God is different to the God of the poor. Their God tells them that if they work hard, network cleverly, and keep their eye on the bottom line, God will reward them— not with knowledge or wisdom or compassion— no siree — with a big fat pay check.
    They need a God to justify their superiority and their greed. It is surprising that so many decent Americans buy into this falsehood.
    Internationally they support their immoral social model by force of arms, sending the poorest bravest Americans to spill their blood in foreign fields whilst making vast profits for their defence industry; which pays for an Ivy League education for their children. Body bags for some kids, trust funds for others. That’s the reality of the republican party American dream. The real tragedy here is that the vast majority of Americans are decent moral people.

  8. O ffs if it isn’t the Muslims it’s the Niggers. If it isn’t the Spics it is the Puerto Ricans. We all gotta hate but you all gotta love Obama, best salesman this side of the Rockies.

  9. Rob, that clarifies it all, thanks. /s

    I’ll take a stab. The reason why religion is so important in the election is that the swing states are those where religion is the organising mechanism around a person’s everyday life. All life events are arranged by the church – sports leagues, coffee mornings, book clubs, entertainment of all kinds- all in a mega church environment. Your friends are from church, your kids’ teams are part of the church, a pastor may be an employer etc etc. Not far removed from Ireland in the old days. The Bible belt won’t elect anyone without a somewhat shared belief system. Mormoms, dodgy but not as dodgy as a religiously loose and potential atheist incumbent.

    Why don’t we have any atheists in office? Anyone with a bit of ambition will find a church to nominally belong to as soon as they go down the political path. It’s like the church gate speeches of years ago. Has to be done. I imagine that there are many who couldn’t care less but they still check the religious box.
    I never really thought about the single. You are right though. We definetly elect the whole family to a degree.
    Funnily enough, or horrifyingly enough, this race is so tight (remember we are not electing a guy on the popular vote, rather a state by state weight of votes, like points on the Leaving) that the actual counties of the states are in play, and those that are too close to call have a large amount of Catholics. That’s why we are seeing a bit more of pandering to the Catholic vote in action. The Baptists will do what they will do but the Catholics are a bit more divided. Their votes are up for grabs in the swing counties.
    So bizarre. It’s all daftness really. It’s actually a very small sliver of the electorate that swing the election. Democrats vote Democratic, Repubs vote Republican and the sliver of swing voters decide it every time. Then, when you study the powers of the presidency, you realize that they don’t have a ton of power, more influence, highlighting, setting the tone, framing the agenda etc. Millions of dollars later……that’s it.

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