After making a nice effort to fact-check the ludicrous accusations being thrown around by some anti-Mormons on its discussion forum, Slate has now reverted to form– deliberately obtuse and mockingly dismissive of religion. The latest iteration comes in Slate’s coverage of the recent endorsement of Romney from Bob Jones III, who operated the famously fundamentalist college that bears his name, and is the grandson of its founder.
Slate’s blog-bite coverage in full:
Losing his religion: Check out Bob Jones’ official “endorsement” of Mitt Romney:
Asked whether Romney’s religion was a stumbling block for him, Jones replied, “What is the alternative, Hillary’s lack of religion or an erroneous religion?”
“As a Christian I am completely opposed to the doctrines of Mormonism,” he said. “But I’m not voting for a preacher. I’m voting for a president. It boils down to who can best represent conservative American beliefs, not religious beliefs.”
Wait, what? I thought the whole point of an endorsement from Bob Jones was that he—or any other fundamentalist Christian university president, for that matter—does pick based on religious beliefs. No one cares what Bob Jones thinks of the health-care plan or tax cuts or plan for Iraq. They want to know who worships the best God! It’s like a master chef recommending a restaurant even though he hates the food.
People always discuss Romney’s beliefs as a weak spot. Who knew he’d be our nation’s last defense against a pagan Giuliani or Clinton administration?
In other words, “I, Slate writer, can’t think of any reason why any religious leader or follower would care about anything besides theology! What’s up with this wacky guy- endorsing someone from a church he doesn’t believe in? These Christians just keep getting crazier and crazier!” Clearly, Bob Jones III has conducted himself in a way unbecoming of a Christian stereotype. Continue reading Values Vs. Theology
Mitt Romney has an identity problem. Newsweek says “voters can’t connect with a candidate they feel they don’t know.” The Chicago Tribune asks “Who is the Real Mitt Romney?” Each publication goes on to try and pin Mitt Romney down, explaining the man in terms of his ancestry, career path, and, most often, his religion. (At one point, Newsweek suggests that Romney’s m.o. at his private equity firm was essentially Mormon– “make good choices because you’ll have to live with their consequences.” Right. Because Catholics and Baptists prefer to make stupid choices).
Despite their attempts to understand the man, both pieces, and scores of other stories just like them, conclude that Romney is inscrutable– an enigma wrapped in a religion wrapped in an enigmatic religion. If you examine these kinds of pieces closely, this conclusion is a bit shocking. For all the people that have set out to understand Mitt Romney as a human being via the interpretive lens of his religion, you would think someone would either find the religion helpful in some way, or that everyone would eventually abandon the approach as useless. Instead, the parade marches on, every week bringing a new story with the same formula: “Who is this guy? Let’s consult his religious beliefs to understand him. Hmm, we conclude that he’s a mystery.” Do journalists have fun asking questions they know they can’t answer, or are they just enjoying the tease?
The repetition of these inquiries reveals one thing: that regardless of whether it sheds any light, the religion angle brings lots of heat, so it’s going to remain a juicy part of the narrative. This is disappointing, because hidden under the analysis of obscure doctrines and superficial cultural flavor, Romney’s Mormonism actually does reveal something very important about the man. Continue reading What Mitt’s Mormonism Does Mean
Michael Kinsley has raised the bar. Starting out on the trail blazed by his former Slate colleague Jacob Weisberg, Kinsley has pulled out a blowtorch to slash and burn great swaths of new acreage. Where Weisberg posited (against all evidence) that people who believe in prophets are incompetent rubes, Kinsley argues (against all history) that you can’t even believe in the Bible and be qualified for the presidency. The war of secularist escalation continues, and before long, it’s going to claim some victims.
All of this from a new Time Magazine op-ed titled God as their Running Mate. For a writer as well-respected as Kinsley, the ubiquity of flat-out cheating in this piece is lamentable. Continue reading The Kinsley Manifesto: You Can’t Believe in the Bible and Be My President
The noise about Mitt Romney’s supposed lack of authenticity went up a few decibels yesterday, due to this column in the Las Vegas Sun about “Silky Smooth, Almost Human Romney.” It’s interesting to notice how the lack of authenticity is proven in these kinds of stories, with the LV Sun column serving as the perfect example. Notice that the writer always backs into the thesis by highlighting how smooth, gifted, polished, articulate, quick on his feet, and even-tempered Mitt Romney is. Indeed, if you separated all this fawning praise from the actual tone and conclusions of the piece, you’d think this was nothing more than a pure puff piece meant to brandish Romney’s image even further.
But something happens on the way to hagiography. Continue reading The Importance of Being Earnest
An interesting column appeared in a small New York paper last week, one that did not garner any national attention as far as I can tell. The column, published in the Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer under the headline “Mitt Romney’s Mormonism: Irrationality Can and Will Be Held Against You,” probably did not reach more than a few thousand souls. However, it represents an attempt at disqualifying Mormons from public office that is just articulate enough, and just brazen enough, to engender echoes from others if not rebutted.
Here’s the thesis:
If a person has irrational beliefs, then he is less likely than others to make reliable judgments. This is because irrational beliefs tend to weaken one’s judgments about rights and liberties . . . . If a person is less likely to make reliable judgments, then he is less likely to make good decisions, and this is not what we want in a leader.
Notice the support the author offers for this thesis. A person with irrational beliefs has bad judgment; this is because . . . “irrational beliefs tend to weaken one’s judgments.” We are letting this fellow off easy to note simply that his logical framework is based on a tautology and nothing more. What’s more important, though, is why he thinks he can make such a proof based on logic at all, rather than on actual evidence. Continue reading Mormon Mitt is “Irrational”- Just Like Every Other American
Today brings one of the strangest attacks so far, from a Rhonda Chriss Lokeman writing for the Columbia Free Press. The title is “Big Love’s Big Problem.” This is confusing for a bit, until the reader realizes that “Big Love” appears to be this writer’s pet name for Mitt Romney. She does not explain the appellation, nor does she even announce it. She just uses it as if everyone knows what we’re talking about. And if this writer weren’t so eminently dismiss-able, one might find the energy to be truly taken aback by the casual, disdainful use of this nickname.
Big Love, in case you’re not aware, is HBO’s series about a family of non-Mormon polygamists seeking to live normal lives in Utah. Mitt Romney, in case you hadn’t heard, is candidate for the presidency who happens to be Mormon. It is a gargantuan strain to connect these two dots, but without even a sentence of explanation, this woman has done it. To get a sense for how dehumanizing this is, imagine some trite, demeaning popular depiction of blacks in the 1940’s, and then append the name of the character or show to a black person without any connection thereto. Try the same with a woman or a Jewish person. What if we called Hillary, “June Cleaver” without any explanation? It may be more egregious in the case of a woman or racial minority, given the difficulty each group still has in overcoming real prejudice, but it’s exactly the same ugly tendency. There is simply no reason to call Mitt Romney “Big Love” except to slur him, connect him with polygamy, and convey the opinion that he is not worth dignified consideration. Continue reading Romney- Too Religious, But Also Lacking in Conviction
Let’s cherry-pick two columns for today’s post- “Yes, Romney Needs to Answer Questions” from the Philadelphia Inquirer, being reprinted in other regional papers today, and “Mitt’s Faith Isn’t an Issue: As Governor, He Didn’t Try to Convert Us” from yesterday’s Boston Herald. For two columns that reach exactly opposite conclusions, it’s remarkable how similar these two pieces are. The formula, copied from an infinite number of columns written before them, goes like this: Question- is Mitt Romney weird by association with Mormonism? Analysis: Look at all the weird stuff Mormons believe! (List Exhibits A through L, with appropriate phrasing to lend as much of a weird vibe as possible). Conclusion: Does it really matter, now that you’ve just dragged the sincere religious beliefs of six million Americans through the dirt?
Yes, but as long as these writers describe Mormon beliefs accurately, it’s all fair game, right? Not exactly. Continue reading Telling the Truth About Mormonism . . . in the Slimiest Way Possible
Democratic political consultant Mark Mellman has a very good piece up today at The Hill on the baffling and illegitimate opposition among voters to Mitt Romney due to his religion. I liked his closing paragraphs:
In July of 1958, 24 percent of respondents told Gallup they would not vote for a Catholic for president, almost identical to Gallup’s reading on Mormons today. Two years later, John F. Kennedy became the first Catholic to assume the oath of office. Within eight months, the number refusing to vote for a Catholic was cut almost in half.
Sometimes, by confronting prejudice, we can overcome it. Continue reading Finding Truth in the “Would Not Vote for a Mormon” Polls
When you spend your time watching for inaccurate information in order to debunk it, you sometimes dream about the “big one.” You know, that story that will come out with an untruth in every sentence, full from start to finish with lies, hysteria, and bad grammar. And though you sometimes lose hope, it’s often just at that point that someone like Bill Keller comes along and fulfills all your wildest fantasies.
That’s right, Bill Keller, of “A vote for Romney is a vote for Satan” fame, is at it again. This time, he’s got a press release out complaining that the Mormon Church gets closer to world domination every time someone looks at Mitt Romney without shielding their eyes and genuflecting. No, I don’t believe the guy needs more attention, so normally I’d pass on commenting, but I can’t help it on this one. After a few battles with some legitimately smart and credible people these past weeks, I’m ready for some low-hanging fruit. We’re talking low-hanging, like potatoes.
Where to begin? Continue reading The Reverend Bill Keller: God’s Gift to Debunkers
Note: This post is part of an ongoing series of rebuttals to attacks made before RomneyExperience was born. For other RomneyExperience Rebuttals, see here.
Divination: (noun) The process of attempting to foretell future events or discover hidden knowledge by occult or supernatural means.
The process of evaluating a presidential candidate is complex. Over the course of the extended campaign season, gallons of ink are spilled in assessing each candidate’s fit for the job. For all its gaping deficiencies, the current system of electing an American president does one thing quite well: it brings every tidbit of known and knowable information about each major candidate to the fore, allowing the public to interpret the data as it will. The public and press often err in their interpretations, but no one can ever say that there’s not enough information out there.
Given the glut of information on everything from candidates’ families to their hairstylists, their teenage jobs to their voting records, it is surprising to see the occasional commentator draw conclusions based not on the data, but upon random or targeted prejudices. That is, when so much information is available on a candidate, why choose to draw broad generalizations about his fit for the presidency based on your sense of smell instead?
This is apparently the approach favored by Jacob Weisberg, the editor of Slate Magazine. In December 2006, Weisberg fired one of the opening salvos in the war over Mitt Romney’s religion, and what remains one of the most retrograde attacks of the campaign. Continue reading Jacob Weisberg and the Mystical Art of Political Divination