Questions I’d Like to See Put to Mitt Romney

In 1898, Robert Green Ingersoll wrote an essay entitled, What Is Superstition? It contained this excerpt:

The belief in gods and devils has been substantially universal. Back of the good, man placed a god; back of the evil, a devil; back of health, sunshine and harvest was a good deity; back of disease, misfortune and death he placed a malicious fiend.

Mormon candidate for president Mitt Romney, a Republican as was Ingersoll, would agree with the Great Agnostic, at least on this point. Anyone familiar with Mr. Romney’s strong religious beliefs knows that the former Massachusetts governor believes in gods and devils, and credits the former for bringing sunshine and harvest while blaming the latter (a malicious fiend) for disease, misfortune and death.

Should voters care about a candidate’s beliefs about gods and devils? Yes, I think voters should care and would care, if the issues were addressed in very specific ways in public forums.

Do you believe in God? Do you pray? Do you accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior? Americans expect their politicians to respond yes to these kinds of general questions.

But, what if the questions went deeper? The above questions are almost cliches with the faithful, that is, the nominally faith-based majority. Such questions are too broad to get at what a candidate really thinks – and in Romney’s case, as would have been true of candidates Bachmann or Santorum, what the candidate really believes just might give even otherwise favorably inclined conservatives more than a little pause.

While most Americans claim to be religious and say they believe in God and rarely challenge established norms of supernatural beliefs, I think most would be startled if reporters and others could get Romney to be more specific about his supernatural convictions. If he were just a citizen or a candidate for a lesser office, maybe this would not be such a big deal. But president?

Consider a few other sentences in Ingersoll’s take on superstition:

Is there any evidence that gods and devils exist? The evidence of the existence of a god and of a devil is substantially the same. Both of these deities are inferences; each one is a perhaps. They have not been seen — they are invisible — and they have not ventured within the horizon of the senses. The old lady who said there must be a devil, else how could they make pictures that looked exactly like him, reasoned like a trained theologian — like a doctor of divinity. Now no intelligent man believes in the existence of a devil — no longer fears the leering fiend. Most people who think have given up a personal God, a creative deity. They now talk about the ‘Unknown,’ the ‘Infinite Energy,’ but they put Jehovah with Jupiter. They regard them both as broken dolls from the nursery of the past.

Most adults reason like trained theologians. There is plenty of skepticism but a shortage of nerve to talk about doubts. Most adults have embraced religions and all that came with them during the long years of socialization. They were fed a diet of god-talk, bible fables, angels, ghosts, prayers, magical miracles, told about heaven and hell, the authority of priests and so on.  All this Twilight Zone indoctrination arrived unaccompanied by alternate explanations.

This kind of faith only goes so deep. When the ludicrous nature of religion is brought into conscious awareness under certain conditions suitable for rational reassessment, many adults have second thoughts. A pause in consent that is only habitual can lead some to revisit the intellectual appeal of faith contrasted with less familiar explanations from science concerning the natural world.

No better opportunity exists at the moment for sparking this kind of reassessment than the 2012 presidential presidential election. For that, we can thank Mitt Romney.

Here’s a radical idea: Get Romney to be specific about his supernatural beliefs. If non-Romney enthusiasts can do that, enough citizens might take a closer look at the implications of this particular Mormon in the White House. A fuller recognition of his supernatural convictions could swing the election to President Obama. While Obama himself is no Ingersoll, or a even a secularist, compared with Romney he’s Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris.

I find it hard to believe that even religion-besotted Americans want a commander-in-chief, a leader who will have the power to blow up a good chunk of the planet that embraces the supernatural insanities that animate Mitt Romney.

Let me offer a few questions I’d like to see put to the candidate, the better to prompt Americans to look more closely at Romney’s mental state. The attributions about his beliefs are all found in a speech given at the George Bush Presidential Library – see Michael Luo’s article entitled, Romney, Eye on Evangelicals, Defends His Faith, New York Times, December 7, 2007.

  • You have called for a robust role for religion in public life. What would you like to see as part of that role that does not exist at present?
  • You have declared your intention not (to) separate us from the God who gave us liberty. What is the nature of the separation you have in mind and how will you prevent it using the powers of the presidency?
  • What is the evidence that God gave us liberty, versus the liberties provided by our secular Constitution, as written by the Founders after we gained our independent from Great Britain?
  • You say you would not separate us from our religious heritage. Is this a role for the president and, if so, what does it entail and how will you prevent such a separation?
  • What is the evidence for your assertion that the nation’s founders envisioned a prominent place for faith in the public square?
  • You have criticized those who seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God, claiming that some are intent on establishing a new religion in America — the religion of secularism. To what extent would you, as president, work to have God acknowledged in the public domain beyond any such acknowledgement than is now the case?
  • What would you say to those who affirm that secularism, which you have termed a new religion, is simply the non-presence of deities in government, and thus no more a religion than not collecting stamps is a hobby.
  • You have often stated that a president will need the prayers of the people of all faiths. How do you know this? How does that work? Can a president not succeed if some faiths don’t come through with prayers? Are some prayers more helpful to a president than others? Which ones are best and how do we know that?
  • You declared: We do not insist on a single strain of religion—rather, we welcome our nation’s symphony of faith. Who is we? Besides welcoming a symphony of faith, how do you feel about a symphony of reason, a quintet of doubt or other combinations from citizen players who prefer no faith at all but rather reliance on critical thinking, evidence and empiricism? Is there an equal place for them in America if you are elected president?
  • You have stated that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind. Billions of people around the world would not agree with that statement, tens of millions of Americans would not, either and, what’s more, it’s doubtful that anyone has any idea what it even means. Why does mankind need to be saved, and how will Jesus do that?

No doubt many Americans will have others such questions, and as the campaign gets going more will be suggested. It would, for instance, be helpful to hear from the candidate about religious ideas that he has not volunteered in his frequent appearances in churches, at religious universities and in forums composed primarily of evangelicals. Here are just a few that would most interest secularists like myself:

  • Is the God you believe in male, female or something else?
  • Does “God” speak English? If so, does he/she/it have an accent?
  • Do you believe every word the Mormon religion professes about how Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon from Egyptian texts? Can you understand why most Americans find this story difficult to believe?
  • You have talked about having conversations with God. Could you tell us a bit more about these chats? What is the nature of the conversations, how often do they occur, how frequently are you influenced by God’s answers and what does God think about separation of church and state?

For now, answers to these questions will surely encourage original thinking amongst the faithful. If Mitt Romney’s could be induced to be more specific about his superstitions, I believe his prospects for election as president would soon fall in the category Ingersoll described as the broken dolls from the nursery of the past.

4 thoughts on “Questions I’d Like to See Put to Mitt Romney

  1. This comment is from Rev. David R. Randle, President, WHALE
    http://www.trunity.net/whale/

    Good set of questions. I doubt the press will ever ask any of them.

    I would add to the list of your questions these three

    1. Do you wear the Mormon sacred underwear aka temple undergarments and do you really believe these undergarments protects you? Follow-up. If so do you really need the Secret Service and why?

    2. Do you believe like your faith tradition teaches that the U.S. Constitution was divinely inspired by God? If so do you believe the amendments have taken the nation away from God’s will and that we should return to such so called God inspired concepts as blacks only counting as 3/5 of a person, and only white male property owners be given the right to vote?

    3. Do you agree with the Mormon member of the First Presidency, James Faust, that sustainability is the work of the Devil? Please explain why you agree or disagree with your religious leaders position.

    Be Well,

    Dave

    • Don,

      Haven’t been on my soapbox in your realm for awhile, but thought I’d weigh in on recent Gallup polling data.

      It’s all, as is most information concerning America’s grip on faeries and goblins, a rich tapestry of bemusement. But when we have a President who, for all worldly purposes, seems to have an above average intellect, who seems to see the world fairly clearly, and who speaks cogently and always with due reflection; and a Presidential candidate-in-waiting who says he has at times made decisions on the merits of the issue only to change his mind because God spoke to him (or, as Bill Maher stated, “a fairy whispered in his ear”), what are we to expect?

      While I’m pleased that you and others are continuing the painstaking effort to help America to evolve into a secular society, I’m not hopeful. It’s a quixotic mission that requires true dedication for, as the Gallup poll indicated, the beliefs of our citizenry have changed little over the past thirty years. This has to be a depressing and exhausting assignment.

      I’m not up for it. I think I’ll stick with the easy stuff like amending the Constitution to nullify the Citizens United ruling and continuing the battle to bring about Medicare for all. And researching material to write a book about that pesky “provide for the general welfare” clause in our Constitution.

      Wish me good fortune, as I do you.

      Bruce Midgett, Writer.Editor.
      The Blue Collar Writer
      for a Tech Forward World

  2. Posted on behalf of none other than his distinguished excellence, Sir Science Junkie – himself!


    All good points, well made. Except no one – not even you – is going to get Romney to reveal details of his faith, details that would be abhorrent to the vast majority of believers in this ridiculously fundamentalist Christian country. (Not saying those beliefs wouldn’t be abhorrent to rational people.)

    I noted in the NY Times article you linked to that Romney, like most Mormons, refuses to talk about the dreaded details of his bizarre faith, because he well knows that’s where the devil resides as far as his candidacy is concerned.

    But Mr. Romney said it was inappropriate for a presidential candidate to be asked to explain the details of his religion.

    “To do so would enable the very religious test the founders prohibited in the Constitution,” he said. “No candidate should become the spokesman for his faith. For if he becomes president he will need the prayers of the people of all faiths.”

    Romney is one slippery dude who’s not going to be pinned down on matters that he knows would alienate the majority of his potential supporters. So he comes out with some amazing doublespeak – right out of Madison Avenue. Romney has proven he will say anything or take any position that will help his election chances. And of course he will also avoid, as far as possible, revealing anything that will damage his chances, as the details of his religious beliefs surely would. And I guaran-damn-tee you, the mainstream media in this country are not voluntarily going to try to pin him down. They are beholden to the same constituency for their livelihood – it’s all about pleasing the readers and viewers so they’ll watch the ads. And you can bet Romney’s handlers will keep him at a safe distance from members of the alternative media who would ask embarrassing questions about those embarrassing details (magic underwear, anyone?).

    But while Romney and Republicans will be evasive to the end, that shouldn’t stop you and people like, say, Bill Maher and Matt Taibbi from raising what are relevant issues, as you so ably pointed out. Maybe that way the mainstream can be compelled to take it up, though I’ll bet you they’ll find ways to protect Romney. And let us not forget that if Romney is embarrassed by public airing of his crazy core beliefs, the Repugs won’t hesitate to play the Reverend Wright card, saying, in effect, “Hey, Americans, their guy is as crazy as our guy!”

    I note Romney had no reservations about bashing “the religion of secularism.” And you gotta love this amorphous “faith” he claims is shared by so many and apparently by the same God who answers the prayers of all – even though they’re all heretics.

    I have read that it is a widespread Mormon practice to hide details of their ludicrous belief system when proselytizing new recruits, until they show signs of commitment.

    I have come to the conclusion that religion is the strangest attribute of homo sapiens. And quite possibly the most dangerous.

  3. john f.:If I was still an active meebmr of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I would indeed be averse to him becoming the most recognized public face of the faith. First, he would further reinforce the stereotype that LDS are, as Seth so well put it, narrow-minded conservative throwbacks. Given that I did not fit that stereotype while I was an active meebmr of the LDS church, I hate to see that stereotype reinforced on a rather grand scale. Second, he has repeatedly changed his publicly-stated views on a variety of issues, each time conveniently to fit the demographic wherein he is running for office. He has done this so often, that I am unable to conclude that he is an honest man. I would be concerned that he might commit an unethical act, which would, due to his position, reflect badly upon the LDS church.Third, he has made more than one public statement which I would frankly expect faithful LDS to find offensive. Take, for example, his public joke that he believes marriage should be between a man and a woman, and another woman, etc. Take, for another example, his recent comment that he couldn’t imagine anything more awful than polygamy. I don’t care that the majority of modern LDS would probably leave the church if plural marriage came back. Romney has shown, by his words, that he is completely willing to mock and/or repudiate principles which have been sacred to meebmrs of the LDS church, not to mention his own ancestors. This one makes me angry even as a FORMER meebmr of the LDS church.Fourth, Romney represents the so-called gospel of prosperity, which is already far too rampant in LDS culture. Seeing an extremely wealthy meebmr of the church elevated to such a position would only exacerbate that problem, I believe.Fifth, Romney’s political views are, in my opinion, incongruent with those of a person who allegedly believes the U.S. Constitution was divinely inspired.I could go on, but this should be enough to make it clear that I’m not making a mere knee-jerk reaction here.

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