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Romney’s Mormon Problem Returns

It probably never really went away, but this weekend’s Values Voter Summit made clear that Mitt Romney’s Mormon problem is back for sure:

The Values Voter Summit in Washington this weekend left no doubt about it: The Mormon issue is back.

A Texas pastor’s inflammatory remarks here — calling Mormonism a “cult” — thrust Mitt Romney’s faith into the center of a 2012 campaign overwhelmingly focused on the economy. It was a transparent attempt by Baptist minister Robert Jeffress, a Rick Perry supporter, to drive a wedge between Romney and evangelical voters.

The attack amounted to a test for Romney, forcing him to respond to a rhetorical assault on his faith that flouted the standard rules of American political debate.

Rather than answering Jeffress directly, Romney came to the summit on Saturday and rebuked another hardline social conservative: Bryan Fischer, a controversial official at the American Family Association who has disparaged Mormonism, as well as homosexuality, Islam and more.

“We should remember that decency and civility are values too,” Romney said Saturday. “One of the speakers who will follow me today has crossed that line, I think. Poisonous language doesn’t advance our cause.”

It was a careful response that allowed Romney to criticize a detractor of his faith without inviting a lengthy public conversation about Mormonism.

The response also hewed close to the role he’s tried to craft for himself in the GOP primary, as the grown-up who will talk to the extreme wings of his party, but not work overtime to appease them.

It’s unclear whether that will be enough to win over many social conservatives, who harbor deep distrust of Romney for his history of changing positions on abortion and gay rights.

But Romney supporters say there’s little point in trying to sway voters who may have ruled out the Republican for his Mormon religion – a group that may or may not be large enough to pose a serious political obstacle to the former Massachusetts governor.
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“For social and religious conservatives who really care primarily about values, I think they’ll be very happy with Mitt Romney,” said evangelical public relations executive Mark DeMoss, a Romney supporter. “For those few who are bent on drawing theological boundaries, it’ll be different.”

In the long run, this seems like the wisest choice. Trying to have a theological debate in the middle of a Presidential campaign makes little sense, and trying to convince people who think Mormonism is a cult akin to Scientology that they’re wrong strikes me as pretty much being a waste of time. Even if they didn’t hold this particular belief, it seems unlikely that they’d be prospective Romney voters anyway. So, perhaps it’s best for Romney to leave this issue be. The question is what his opponents are going to do about it. During the 2008 campaign, Mike Huckabee was shameless in his pandering to evangelical doubts about Mormons, at one point even asking “Don’t Mormons believe Jesus Christ and the Devil are brothers?” Additionally, there seems to be little doubt that those doubts helped Huckabee in his race against Romney in states like Iowa.

The question is, what will Romney’s opponents do this time around?

As James Joyner noted this weekend, Rick Perry’s campaign responded with a statement that the Governor did not consider Mormonism to be a cult, but he didn’t comment any further on Jeffers remarks in the introduction. Jonathan Toobin regrets that Perry didn’t go further and condemn Jeffers remarks outright, and notes that his campaign does have the temptation before it of taking the Mike Huckabee route:

The temptation for the Perry campaign to take advantage of Jeffress’ opening up of this Pandora’s Box of prejudice will be great. All they have to do is to continue to publicly deny they agree with the pastor while at the same time produce campaign material and speeches hyping their candidate’s Christianity, in the same way Huckabee did, in order to remind evangelicals they have a reason not to vote for Romney.

But Perry has another, better choice. He can use the controversy as a platform to show what kind of president he would be if he got the opportunity.

Rather than merely deny he agrees with Jeffress about whether Mormonism is a cult, Perry can unequivocally denounce religious prejudice of any kind and say he doesn’t want votes based on bias. Perhaps that would lose Perry some support, but it might also be a chance for him to show there is real substance to his own very public expression of faith than we have already seen on the campaign trail. Doing so would allow him to seize the moment and illustrate that the bumbling speaker who has shown up at the last few GOP debates is not the real Rick Perry.

The odds that Perry will do this seem slim at best, though. With Herman Cain breathing down his neck, there’s little reason for him to alienate the evangelical Christians that are such a large part of the voting bloc in states like Iowa and New Hampshire. While he doesn’t necessarily need to go as far as Huckabee did, it doesn’t take much to draw the subtle, unstated contrast between himself and Romney for those voters for whom this is and issue. Moreover, as Steve Benen points out, there’s plenty of poll evidence out there to support the idea that Romney’s religion is a big enough issue for some segment of the public that it isn’t necesarily in the interest of a candidate like Perry to condemn the Rev. Jeffers of the world

A month ago, a New York Times/CBS News poll included a questionrelated to the subject, without mentioning any candidates’ names: “Do you think most people you know would vote for a presidential candidate who is a Mormon, or not?” A 40% plurality said they believe people they know wouldn’t vote for a Mormon candidate.

Over the summer, Gallup asked voters — not just Republicans, but the public in general — whether they’d be willing to vote for a Mormon presidential candidate. The poll found 22% said they would not, a figure that’s up over the last few years.

The other candidates, Bachmann, Cain, and Gingrich, gave very similar responses to Romney and dismissed the idea that this was a serious issue in the campaign, but similarly failed to condemn Jeffers statements, or the idea that Romeny’s faith somehow disqualifies him from holding office. (It’s worth noting that Cain has previously said that he didn’t believe that Romney could win the nomination, principally because of his faith.) Again, they are probably looking at the same polls that Perry is looking at, and are unwilling to alienate the evangelical voters that they all want to appeal to.

It’s unfortunate, really. As I noted over the summer when this issue first came back up, it doesn’t seem to me that religion has any place at all in politics, at least no in the sense that someone’s religious faith, or lack thereof, ought to be considered a per se disqualification. For one thing, this whole question of whether or not Mormonism is a “cult” strikes me as rather silly. If the Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints were 2000 years old instead of  181 years old, it would be called a “sect,” not a cult. Leaving all the theological issues aside, the main reasons Mormomism is shunned by some Christians, it seems, is simply because its so relatively new compared to either Christianity itself, of the various Protestant sects that broke off from it beginning in the 16th Century. For another, one would have thought we’d left this silliness behind us long ago. Al Smith famously lost the 1928 Election due in major part to his Catholic faith, but 32 years later we elected a Catholic President and it seemed like these idiotic biases were behind us. Sadly, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. sam says:

    ” forcing him to respond to a rhetorical assault on his faith that flouted the standard rules of American political debate”

    The rules changed when the Republican party became a fundamentalist church.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 2

  2. Someday Keith Ellison may run for President.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  3. Boyd says:

    Regarding the question of Mormanism vs Christianity, “Leaving all the theological issues aside…” completely ignores the core difference between Christianity and Mormanism. All of the potentially legitimate objections a Christian might have to Mormanism are theological, so if you take out the theology, you’re only left with trivial concerns. And those look, y’know, trivial.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  4. Hey Norm says:

    Romneys religion is not the problem…it’s the xenophobia of the so-called right that is the problem. Gays, muslims, hispanics…it’s always about the “others”…because they aren’t “real americans”. Freedom of religion is terrific…as long as it is their religion.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 1

  5. rodney dill says:

    Look at his past record… As Governor of Massachusetts we all know that Romney forced the whole state to convert to Mormonism… wait a minute… That didn’t happen, did it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  6. sam says:

    @Boyd:

    Regarding the question of Mormanism vs Christianity, “Leaving all the theological issues aside…” completely ignores the core difference between Christianity and Mormanism.

    Well, what are the core similarities between the dogmas of the Catholic Church and the dogmas of the Southern Baptist Convention that allows those churchs into the fold but keeps the Mormons out?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  7. There are several different meanings of the word “cult” at play here. As Terry Mattingly has pointed out in his post Reporters, Baptists, Romney & Cults, it would help if reporters would do their homework. Most of them think that they are reporting on politics and really don’t “get” religion.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  8. rodney dill says:

    @sam: Here’s at least one comparison.

    http://contenderministries.org/mormonism/comparison.php

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  9. Boyd says:

    @sam: As far as I know, it’s primarily the “deification” of Joseph Smith.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  10. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Over the summer, Gallup asked voters — not just Republicans, but the public in general — whether they’d be willing to vote for a Mormon presidential candidate. The poll found 22% said they would not, a figure that’s up over the last few years.

    I’d be willing to bet dollars to dimes that these are the same people who claim to revere the Constitution, you know, the one that says,

    “but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  11. Boyd says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I don’t believe you understand what your quote from the Constitution means, Hillbilly.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  12. Boyd says:

    @sam: Rodney’s link provides a much better distinction between Mormonism and Christianity, sam. I’ll confess I haven’t looked into it too deeply, but theology is quite clearly the primary (legitimate) reason behind Christian objections to Mormonism.

    Again, which isn’t to say it has a hill of beans to say about who I’ll vote for in any public election.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  13. MBunge says:

    @sam: “Well, what are the core similarities between the dogmas of the Catholic Church and the dogmas of the Southern Baptist Convention that allows those churchs into the fold but keeps the Mormons out?”

    Differences between and among Catholics and Protestants are all arguments over interpreting the same text. Mormons add an entirely different text into the equation. Mormons have theological beliefs that do not resemble anything any Christian sect believes in any way. “Cult” is a loaded word but there are entirely legitimate reasons why Christians, evangelicals especially, would distinguish themselves form Mormons.

    Mike

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  14. MBunge says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: “but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

    That only means the government can’t require any religious qualifications from candidates. Voters are entirely free to subject candidates to any religious test they want.

    Mike

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  15. sam says:

    @Boyd:

    It was kind of a loaded question, since I asked about Catholicism and the Southern Baptists. If you google, you’ll find that the relations between the two faiths is somewhat “strained”. Indeed, it appears the Baptists have more theological fights with the Catholics than any other faith. And by theological fights, I mean stuff of an intensity not seen,really, since the Arian dustup in the 4th century. Seems to me that the Baptists have as almost as much trouble calling the Catholics Christians as they do with the Mormons. (One more reason why the intrusion of sectarian religion into our politics is much to be lamented.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  16. Tsar Nicholas says:

    This always has been the elephant in the room for Romney and the issue never will go away, at least not so far as the primary is concerned.

    The GOP primary base disproportionately is represented by evangelical Christians. A staggering percentage of evangelical Christians vote directly based upon religion, and in that respect a similar percentage reject Mormonism out of hand. There’s nothing Romney can do or say about this. Also, FYI, this demographic tends not to show up in pre-election polling data. Generally speaking they don’t answer their phones and in any event they don’t speak to pollsters.

    Romney’s strategy has to be to say nothing about this issue and then to hope the anti-Mormon vote gets drowned out once the campaign moves to the higher-population states.

    Last time around McCain won New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida in short order and inevitability sunk in, thereby derailing any realistic chance for Romney to pick up the large delegate prizes. This time around, from Romney’s standpoint, it’s critical that he wins a few of those early states and thereby culls the herd as the campaign moves to the delegate-rich states. Otherwise history will repeat itself.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  17. Rob in CT says:

    I find it terribly amusing when one group of religious people points at another and says “you guys are weird!”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  18. rodney dill says:

    @Rob in CT: I understand your sentiment, but I think the initial or overriding thought would be “you guys are wrong.”

    It seems be more the secular response toward any of the religious that is, “you guys are weird.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  19. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Boyd: Boyd if you mean that the govt can not assert a Religious test, I will agree…. and then point out the complete hypocrisy of those who say they love some constitution while ignoring it with their voting choices, and in fact, wanting their candidate of choice to implement a religious test when making appointments. If you mean something else….

    I am all ears.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  20. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: and I wonder why I have to point out that I am criticizing their hypocrisy… isn’t it obvious?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  21. May want to remember that for almost the first 300 years of the Christian church, it was accused by right-thinking people of being a cult, too. Of course, in Roman times that was not necessarily a pejorative since the Roman world was full of cults, including a cult of the emperor.

    I am far less concerned with Romney’s Mormon religion (in fact, I am not concerned with it at all) than I am with his Constitutional understandings.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  22. @MBunge:

    In my entering class in Vanderbilt Divinity School there was a lone Mormon student who let it be known politely but firmly that she was not included under the term, “Christian student.” I remember clearly hearing her say (verbatim:), “I am a Mormon, not a Christian.”

    But one of my professors, who was Jewish, didn’t think the difference twixt mainline Christianity and Mormonism amounted to a hill of beans.

    “What you see depends on where you stand,” I guess.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  23. MBunge says:

    @Donald Sensing: “But one of my professors, who was Jewish, didn’t think the difference twixt mainline Christianity and Mormonism amounted to a hill of beans.”

    Would your professor have objected to “Jews for Jesus” calling themselves Jews?

    Mike

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  24. Boyd says:

    @MBunge:

    Would your professor have objected to “Jews for Jesus” calling themselves Jews?

    I think that question is complicated by the fact that the term “Jew” is used for more than just religion.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  25. qtip says:

    @Rob in CT:

    I find it terribly amusing when one group of religious people points at another and says “you guys are weird!”

    I agree. From a secular point of view, the whole debate is weird. Once you cross the line to believing stuff on ‘faith’ you end up far, far away from secular thinking. The differences between Muslims, Mormons, Catholics, Scientologists, etc. all seem really trivial to me.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  26. mattb says:

    @Boyd:
    You beat me to it. Doug’s “Mormonism would be considered a Christian Sect” idea only make sense from the perspective of someone with little understanding of core Chrisitian Doctrine. Wikipedia has a pretty good break down of the key theological differences:

    Mormons believe in Jesus Christ as the literal firstborn Son of God and Messiah, his crucifixion as a conclusion of a sin offering, and subsequent resurrection.[35] However, Latter-day Saints (LDS) reject the ecumenical creeds and definition of the Trinity taught by the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Anglican Communion, and Trinitarian Protestantism,[36][37] and hold that the New Testament prophesied both the apostasy from the teachings of Christ and his apostles as well as the restoration of all things prior to the second coming of Christ.[38]

    Some notable differences with mainstream Christianity include: A belief that Jesus began his atonement from sin in the garden of Gethsemane and continued it to his crucifixion, rather than the orthodox belief that the crucifixion alone was the physical atonement;[39] division of heaven into three degrees of glory, with hell (often called spirit prison) being a temporary repository for the wicked between death and the resurrection.[40] Additionally, Mormons don’t believe in creation ex nihilo, believing that matter is eternal, and that God organizes existing matter.[41]

    Much of the Mormon belief system is oriented geographically around the North and South American continents. Mormons believe the people of the Book of Mormon lived in the western hemisphere, that Christ appeared in the western hemisphere after his death and resurrection, that the true faith was restored in upstate New York by Joseph Smith, and that the Garden of Eden and location of Christ’s second coming were and will be in the state of Missouri. For this and other reasons, including a belief by many Mormons in American exceptionalism, Molly Worthen speculates that this may be why Leo Tolstoy described Mormonism as the “quintessential ‘American religion'”.[42]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mormonism#Relation_to_Christianity

    More explanation of the differences in Orthodox belied can be found here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mormonism_and_Christianity#Modern_LDS_Church_orthodoxy

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  27. Jay Tea says:

    Bringing up Romney’s Mormonism is a very, very, very bad move. If he wins the nomination, it legitimizes inquiries into Obama’s faith as well — the whole 20 years in Reverend Wright’s pews, his incredibly spotty attendance since disowning the man he could never disown, his declaring that his idea of praying is to “ask himself” questions…

    Romney’s Mormonism has NEVER been a defining characteristic. Moderate to liberal Republican, businessman, former Republican governor in an incredibly Democratic state, etc. etc. He’s never presented himself as “the Mormon X,” unlike others who wear their faith on their sleeve.

    On second thought, let’s make a big issue of it. That opens up a whole big can of worms. Let’s start asking how many Democratic Catholics can consider themselves in good standing with their faith while being pro-choice. And that’s just for starters.

    J.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

  28. Wayne says:

    Atheism is a faith itself. Many confuse it as the same as secular thinking but it is not. Also many treat science as a faith. I suspect the differences between different faiths are only trivial to many until it comes to a deeply held faith they have. After all, what is trivial is very subjective.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  29. Wayne says:

    Also thinking the government shouldn’t have a religious litmus test is not the same as a voter using a religious litmus test. Voters can use whatever litmus test they want. I may think they are foolish for doing so at times. I know people who didn’t like Huckabee for his religion or that he was a minister. Also know some that wouldn’t vote for Dole because he shook with his left hand or that he divorce from his first wife. Regardless I support the constitution and their right to do so. That isn’t contradictory.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  30. mantis says:

    Bringing up Romney’s Mormonism is a very, very, very bad move. If he wins the nomination, it legitimizes inquiries into Obama’s faith as well

    You write that assuming two things. The first is that inquiries into Obama’s religion were not already “legitimate” in the 2008 election. This is laughable. The second assumes that those attacking Romney have some reason to protect the president from similar attacks. They are Republicans. They have no such concerns.

    his incredibly spotty attendance since disowning the man he could never disown,

    What? I thought inquiries into Obama’s religion were illegitimate! How do we know anything about his church and preacher? Oh right, that was a load of crap. Also, by all accounts his attendance was spotty all along.

    his declaring that his idea of praying is to “ask himself” questions…

    I love it when self-proclaimed agnostics get all pious. You wear it quite awkwardly.

    Romney’s Mormonism has NEVER been a defining characteristic.

    Neither was Obama’s Christianity, until his political enemies tried to make it one. You know, like you do quite often?

    Let’s start asking how many Democratic Catholics can consider themselves in good standing with their faith while being pro-choice.

    Because that’s never happened before at all! Remember when John Kerry ran for president in 2004? Neither does Jay Tea!

    It’s pretty amusing that Jay tries to pin the anti-Mormonism stuff on Democrats, when it’s religious Republicans sounding the objection, and in doing so he hilariously pretends that Democratic politicians’ religions have been off limits all along, while wholeheartedly endorsing religious attacks on the left, because of the hypocrisy he invented from whole cloth. In short, standard wingnut fare, but amusing to see it form nonetheless.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  31. Jay Tea says:

    @Wayne: Atheism is a faith itself. Many confuse it as the same as secular thinking but it is not. Also many treat science as a faith. I suspect the differences between different faiths are only trivial to many until it comes to a deeply held faith they have. After all, what is trivial is very subjective.

    That intrigues me. How would you peg us agnostics?

    J.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  32. mantis says:

    Atheism is a faith itself.

    No, it is a lack thereof.

    Also many treat science as a faith.

    Perhaps, but science is but a method for arriving at knowledge and understanding of the natural world. If faith in that method exists, it should be faith in the process, not the conclusions. Conclusions are subject to change upon consideration of new evidence.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  33. Jay Tea says:

    @mantis: Yeah, it’s a few Republicans, but you wanna argue that the Democrats and the media (but I repeat myself) don’t egg it on?

    As far as my statements being “illegitimate,” I’ve been called a bastard so many times it doesn’t faze me in the least. Hell, I revel in it.

    And all I’m saying here is… bring it on. I’ve really gotten into the “sauce for the goose” thing with tactics I find despicable. Once the attacks based on religion start in, it’s all fair game. Let’s ask Representative Keith Ellison the question the Powerline guys came up with. (http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2011/08/faith-questions-for-keith-ellison.php) Let’s ask Joe Biden how he can reconcile the Catholic Church’s positions on abortion and birth control with his own beliefs. Let’s ask Harry Reid the same questions tossed at Romney.

    I already know the overall answer to the questions. The entertaining part will be seeing how they’re spun.

    J.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 5

  34. sam says:

    @Jay Tea:

    Bringing up Romney’s Mormonism is a very, very, very bad move. If he wins the nomination, it legitimizes inquiries into Obama’s faith as well

    Uh, are you sure ‘legitimizes’ is the right word? And, anyway, seems that all the folks inclined to question Romney’s religion are your side of the aisle. Why would you suppose that that kind of bigotry, should he get the nomination, would spill over and infect the electorate at large?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  35. qtip says:

    @Wayne:

    Atheism is a faith itself.

    As mantis said, atheism is a *lack* of faith. It’s strange how faithists try to use this argument so frequently when it’s absurd on it’s face…it’s exactly the opposite of what atheism is.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  36. mantis says:

    Yeah, it’s a few Republicans, but you wanna argue that the Democrats and the media (but I repeat myself) don’t egg it on?

    No, I want to argue that your contention that this will backfire on people who don’t want President Obama’s already pored over religion to be pored is rather silly, considering it is Republicans on the attack against Romney’s Mormonism, not Democrats. I mean, it’s cute how you take the comments of a preacher at the Values Voter Summit and try to blame them on Democrats (for no reason) or the media (for reporting what happened).

    As far as my statements being “illegitimate,” I’ve been called a bastard so many times it doesn’t faze me in the least. Hell, I revel in it.

    Not my word. I said your attempts at projecting piety were amusing, not illegitimate.

    I’ve really gotten into the “sauce for the goose” thing with tactics I find despicable.

    No you haven’t. You have gotten into constructing straw men of that variety, and only when attacking Democrats, while ignoring any and all Republican hypocrisy. This argument, for instance, is based on the faulty premise that the religion of Democrats is never analyzed or discussed. All you have are faulty premises and partisan motivations. In other words, you’re a wingnut.

    Let’s ask Representative Keith Ellison the question the Powerline guys came up with. Let’s ask Joe Biden how he can reconcile the Catholic Church’s positions on abortion and birth control with his own beliefs. Let’s ask Harry Reid the same questions tossed at Romney.

    Ok, ask those questions. Who is stopping you?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  37. Barb Hartwell says:

    I get so sick of religion bashing, we have freedom to practice whatever religion in this country but we need to put it to the side and practice the laws of the land. Shut up and let God deal with them later. The Christians hate when Christmas comes under attack myself included, I like all holidays even when they are not of my faith, I will sing and dance with the Jews, Hindus etc Get over it people this is the United States the melting pot of the world. We have a lot bigger issues that need to be taken care of.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  38. JohnMcC says:

    Worth pointing out that the Southern Baptist Convention is practically the official state religion in much of old Dixie and that it has some characteristics of a cult. So Rev Jeffress probably feels he has some ‘skin in the game’.

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  39. G.A.Phillips says:

    Atheism, is, a religion, evolution, is, it’s creation story.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  40. sam says:

    @G.A.Phillips:

    Atheism, is, a religion, evolution, is, it’s creation story.

    Stop it, you commakazi.

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  41. Davebo says:

    Atheism, is, a religion, evolution, is, it’s creation story.

    And ignorance is bliss!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  42. mantis says:

    Atheism, is, a religion,

    Are you stuttering as you type?

    Atheism is a religion? What are it’s central tenants? Oh, it doesn’t have any. Places of worship? Rituals? Oh, none of those, either. How about an order of clergy? Too bad, doesn’t have one of those either. Some religion.

    evolution, is, it’s creation story.

    Evolution isn’t a creation story. The Big Bang theory is a creation story of sorts, but evolution? Nope.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  43. Wayne says:

    @Mantis
    Atheist “believes” there is no god. They “believe” there is no afterlife. They belive you live then you die and that’s basically it. Of course like any belief system those within it believes will vary somewhat. Faith is as much in what you don’t believe in as much as what you do. Jews not believing Jesus was the Messiah doesn’t disqualify them from being a faith. Atheism in the end is a faith system.

    I agree science should be treated as a method but many do not. Their belief system is believing strongly in conclusions they like. Many believe the conclusions they like are indisputable. To many, science is no longer a method but a group of beliefs design to explain the world. In other words a faith.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  44. Wayne says:

    @Jay tea
    Agnostics beliefs are bit more complicated. Some believe in god some don’t. Some believe in this and that others do not.

    What makes them Agnostics is their “belief” that you can’t know for sure one way or another. I fall into that category. However I know people who in their mind do know. I disagree with them but being a true Agnostic, I acknowledge that I could be wrong. Then there is the whole philosophy of what constitutes “knowing”. That is a big can of worms. Regardless in the end being agnostic is having certain beliefs.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  45. Wayne says:

    My point is for those who ridicule others for having faith\beliefs don’t realize we all including them have faith\beliefs. Just some are not in an organized religion. Also just because something is not important to us doesn’t mean it is ridiculous that it is important to someone else. Almost everyone who ever had a long term relationship should be able to attest to that.

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  46. Jay Tea says:

    @Wayne: I’ve said that I “lack the faith gene.” I declare that I don’t know and don’t believe I can know one way or another, but don’t want to contradict anyone else’s — unless they try to evangelize me. Then it gets… unpleasant.

    I only care about others’ beliefs when they come to how that affects others. Then I get cranky. Romney has never tried to impose his Mormon beliefs despite being in several positions where he could have, so I don’t see it as a big deal.

    J.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  47. mantis says:

    Atheist “believes” there is no god.

    No, that’s just what you believe about atheists. Doesn’t make it so. I am an atheist, and yes, I believe there are no gods in the same way I believe there are no trolls living under bridges, or alien spirits infecting humans, or fire-breathing dragons. There just isn’t any evidence for them; they are stories that people have invented. It takes no faith to believe those things don’t exist. It doesn’t mean they are necessarily impossible, just highly improbable from my perspective.

    They “believe” there is no afterlife. They belive you live then you die and that’s basically it.

    Again, I’ve never seen any evidence of an afterlife. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, but there is no reason to believe it exists, so I don’t. I don’t believe in Heaven or Hell or Valhalla or Elysium or the Big Rock Candy Mountain. Where are these places? Without evidence they are but fairy tales. It takes no faith to not believe they exist.

    Faith is as much in what you don’t believe in as much as what you do.

    You have to have faith in some belief system for it to be “about” anything.

    Lack of belief is simply that, a lack. It is not an assertion of proof of a negative. One cannot prove a negative. You can only calculate the probability based on the information you have. I don’t believe in god the same way I don’t believe in other highly improbable things for which no evidence exists. Who has the time for that?

    Do you believe the tenants of every religion on Earth? No, you pick one and disbelieve the rest. I merely disbelieve one more than you, and am thus faithless. I need believe in no more than the world around me. You can attempt to project your need for supernatural explanations onto me, but it doesn’t work. I don’t need to fill in the blanks you want filled.

    Their belief system is believing strongly in conclusions they like. Many believe the conclusions they like are indisputable. To many, science is no longer a method but a group of beliefs design to explain the world.

    Such as it always has been. Science as a practice and popular belief in the infallibility of science, such as it may be, are two different things. Scientists don’t think that way, and they are the ones performing science.

    In other words a faith.

    Yes, people who don’t have the time, inclination, or wherewithal to understand how the conclusions of scientific inquiry are arrived at and what they mean can sometimes have a blind faith in science. This is rather common, and I agree it is a bit like religion in its simplicity. Luckily for them, overall, science has a much better track record than religion.

    In any case, what you describe is non-scientists’ reaction to science, it is not science itself, and it certainly isn’t atheism. Neither of which are faiths.

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  48. Herb says:

    @Wayne:

    What makes them Agnostics is their “belief” that you can’t know for sure one way or another.

    Isn’t science a method of narrowing it down though?

    As for Romney’s “Mormon problem,” it should be said that it’s only a problem for the folks who haven’t quite bought into the whole Freedom of Religion thing.

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  49. Boyd says:

    @mantis:

    I merely disbelieve one more than you

    Actually, I think you have the same number, since Wayne claims to be agnostic.

    But further to your point, if you had been talking to a Christian, the argument could be made that you disbelieve two more religions than a Christian. But I only bring it up because I love to quibble.

    Also, you understand faith much better than many Christians, it seems to me. Science and Christianity present no paradox to me, because science is based on fact, and Christianity is based on faith. If there’s proof of a principle or that something exists (fact), then it’s no longer faith. Even an atheist believes things that can be proved, right? So these folks should stop trying to prove God exists.

    But that’s another subject entirely and as usual, I’m taking the discussion off the rails.

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  50. G.A.Phillips says:

    Atheism, is, a religion,

    Are you stuttering as you type?

    Atheism is a religion? What are it’s central tenants? Oh, it doesn’t have any. Places of worship? Rituals? Oh, none of those, either. How about an order of clergy? Too bad, doesn’t have one of those either. Some religion.

    evolution, is, it’s creation story.

    Evolution isn’t a creation story. The Big Bang theory is a creation story of sorts, but evolution? Nope.

    I am to sleepy to go over all this again but here is a good site.
    I got to get up at 3 am to make the bottom blocks….

    http://debunkingatheists.blogspot.com/2010/07/atheism-is-religion.html

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  51. Wayne says:

    @Mantis
    The definition of an atheist: a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings. I don’t see how I got that wrong.

    Re “but there is no reason to believe it exists, so I don’t”

    There is no proof it doesn’t exist either. So you are basing your “belief” not on proof but on faith. Yes it very difficult to prove a negative. However just because it is difficult to prove a belief false, or there are good possibility that other beliefs are false, doesn’t make a particular belief false.

    Not believing in something until you have proof is a reasonable position. What constitutes proof will vary depending on a person. Many will argue there are proofs of a god. I am not here to argue that but only point out people beliefs is personal. You choosing to believe something doesn’t exist is still a belief.

    Believing Jesus was the messiah is a belief. Believing he isn’t or that he didn’t exist at all are beliefs as well.

    @Herb
    Yes science is a method to make an intelligent guess of a probability of how thing are. It is not absolute though.

    Freedom of religion means people can practice whatever religion within reason they want. It does not mean you must exclude all religion from your life.

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  52. An Interested Party says:

    …it legitimizes inquiries into Obama’s faith as well — the whole 20 years in Reverend Wright’s pews…

    Umm, so sorry to disappoint, but been there, done that…

    I get so sick of religion bashing, we have freedom to practice whatever religion in this country but we need to put it to the side and practice the laws of the land.

    Yeah, we talk a good game, but it is all just so much hollow rhetoric…just imagine what it would be like if a Muslim or an atheist ran for president…

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  53. Wayne says:

    @ Jay Tea
    You have believes and faiths whether you believe in religion or not. Religious faith or lack of is only a particular type of faith. Many of the same methods people use in their religious faith\beliefs are used by people in other areas of their faith\beliefs. Many people believe things as being true because someone they trust told them so or that a person gave them what seemed like a reasonable explanation. They believe things because it seems right to them. Etc

    Romney being a Mormon doesn’t bother me. A person dabbing in witchcraft as a teenager doesn’t either. A person being a long time Satin worshiper would. Other people draw the line at different places.

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  54. Fog says:

    You can save your breath, mantis. The unspoken assumption here is that “people of faith” have closed minds. They don’t even bother to argue the point. Instead, they will say “science is a faith,” as a way of saying that scientific minds are as closed as theirs are. Or, as Pee Wee Herman used to say, “I know you are but what am I?” Of course, the fact that scientists keep coming up with new stuff does undermine their argument a bit.
    Kettles versus pots, pots versus kettles, one group of fake Christians calling another group of fake Christians fake Christians. I’m sure there are wonderful Christian individuals within each group, but as a group, the only real Christians we have in this country are either Quakers or ride in buggys.

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  55. mantis says:

    Yes it very difficult to prove a negative.

    No, it is quite impossible to prove there is no god. If you can’t even figure that part out, there’s no reason to continue.

    Believing Jesus was the messiah is a belief. Believing he isn’t or that he didn’t exist at all are beliefs as well.

    What’s a messiah?

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  56. Wayne says:

    @Fog
    Yes some people hold such a strong belief in their knowledge which they claim is science that they are closed minded.

    Re “Of course, the fact that scientists keep coming up with new stuff does undermine their argument a bit”

    Not at all. Many religions also evolve some beliefs as well. That is why many of factions fractured off in the first place. Just because some people of a certain belief including science are not close minded doesn’t mean none of them in that belief are. Scientists also have discovered quite often that they were mistaken.

    @mantis
    I was talking negatives in general. Some negatives can be proved. Yes there is a “possibility” that there is way to prove there is not a god, at least not in the way that we think of god. Then again it is possibility that t can’t be proved. However that is another big can of worms.

    If you don’t know what a messiah is Google it.

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  57. Jay Tea says:

    @Wayne: True enough about “beliefs,” but I take a smidgen of pride in that I derive my own beliefs based on what I consider logical and rational thought, not any kind of intangible, unverifiable, and (literally) unreasoning faith. And I don’t mean that as any kind of insult; one of the basic aspects of most any religious belief is that faith in the absence of proof is an essential part. And that’s where I run into my limits.

    I just make a point of not denigrating those who can make that “leap of faith,” or feeling superior over it. Hell, sometimes I almost envy them — and I also think I lack the “envy gene.”

    On the Satinist front… chum, obviously you’ve never slept on Satin sheets.

    Seriously… the Satanists strike me as just mindless rebels looking to shock their parents or parental figures. They are usually good for laughs, but are a bit more prone to going over the top and doing really crazy shit.

    I respect those who hold their beliefs as sincere and important, and have more trust for a seriously devout person than those who treat religion as almost a fashion accessory, who say they have their beliefs but only use it as a prop or fashion accessory, regardless of their politics.

    J.

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  58. Herb says:

    @Wayne: “Yes science is a method to make an intelligent guess of a probability of how thing are. It is not absolute though.”

    But that’s not really what science is. Science is a method of testing a hypothesis and seeing how well it stands up. It’s not a religion or even the mirror image of a religion. Indeed, what is a religion but a metaphysical hypothesis without any empirical testing?

    Also:
    “Freedom of religion means people can practice whatever religion within reason they want. It does not mean you must exclude all religion from your life. ”

    No, freedom of religion means you can practice whatever religion you like, including “excluding it from your life” (hey, freedom) or the ones other people consider “weird.” We don’t need the “within reason” stuff. You see, your definition gives some outside arbiter the power to decide what’s “within reason.” My definition makes every individual their own arbiter.

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  59. mantis says:

    Yes there is a “possibility” that there is way to prove there is not a god

    Explain how one could prove god doesn’t exist.

    If you don’t know what a messiah is Google it.

    You miss the point. You claim that whether I believe Jesus was the messiah or don’t believe he was the messiah, it’s still a belief. However, I don’t need to believe either. I don’t believe he was or wasn’t the messiah because I don’t believe messiahs exist. I don’t believe anything about him at all. Maybe he was a guy who existed, maybe not. Don’t know, don’t believe one way or the other, don’t care.

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  60. mattb says:

    For what it’s worth Atheism is not inherently a religion — especially not in a Western Sense. One of the key reasons for this is that there is no formal organization or ritual associated with it.

    However Atheism is a belief system and a system of faith — fundamental to it is the notion that the universe is knowable and that there is a specific system for knowing it.(*) Granted the specifics of those beliefs can be overturned via those processes — but in many cases the same thing is true about religions (see the Hermeneutic and Interpretative traditions of all major religions).

    Also, like religions, Atheism has branches that are radical and evangelical (see Dawkins, Harris, and Pullman as examples).

    (*) – I’m happy to point out the areas where Western BioScience has historically made assumptions about what is “Good Science” and how it was necessary to overturn it or where the system largely breaks down (especially in the area of medical research).

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  61. Les says:

    If one would follow this rule we would have so much less confusion. If you want to learn about the Mormons(THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST of Latter Day Saints) go ask that Church and not some evangelical about the Mormon Faith and vice versa. (visit Mormon.org) Just imagine, would you ask a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin about Jesus of Nazareth or do you think you might have a better chance to learn about him by asking one of his apostles or even the Saviour himself. This evil Rev purposely insulted the Mormon faith and had every intention to do so. There is not a more painful statement to a member of the Mormon Faith that he or she is not a Christian. It would be like telling a Father of an adopted child you’re are not his father nor do you love him and then multiply that by a billion. I am a Member of the Mormon Faith and can tell you that my love for the Savior is far beyond my capacity to express it. He died for us all and he is the only way for true salvation – that is my belief and I CERTAINLY RESPECT others if they differ from that. I find it interesting that this Rev’s Church is named after a man – John the Baptist. Should we start a stupid rumor and say he worships John the Baptist??? I won’t go down to his level…

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  62. Les says:

    @MBunge: We are different and so was the Saviour’s Church – I believe Peter even said a “peculiar people” The Mormon Faith does not believe in the same man made creeds of other faiths. We believe in modern revelation and that our Father in Heaven continues to speak to his children today. Relying on just the Bible has created so much confusion – proof hundreds if not thousands of different church each with their own interpretations of very important points of doctrine. I believe Mormon. org is a good source of information to learn about the Mormon Faith.

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