If someone who was running as a serious candidate to become president of the United States said, "I believe in the Tooth Fairy," wouldn't that be a reason to question his qualifications to lead our country?
I sure do. That's why I answered my own question on my other blog the way I did. To the query "Mormon Mitt Romney believes in really weird stuff. So?" I said:
We currently have a faith-based presidency. George Bush has absolute faith that Jesus Christ is the son of God who died for our sins. He also has absolute faith that invading Iraq was the right thing to do, despite all the evidence to the contrary. It's difficult, if not impossible, to separate these faiths.
When you're repeatedly willing to deny evident facts about reality in favor of a dogmatic belief, this points to a fundamental mindset. Lots of people do this. I have myself, back when I was a true believer in a religion.
But I wasn't running for president. Romney is. A politician's religious belief definitely shouldn't be off limits for questioning. I'd love to hear a reporter ask Romney, "Now, tell us what you think about those golden plates…"
In 1827 the golden plates supposedly were dug up in New York by the founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith. They'd been protected by an angel named Moroni and engraved by Mormon, a pre-Columbian prophet-warrior. Smith translated the plates by looking into seer stones called Urim and Thummin.
And Romney believes this crap.
Which is even more disturbing than if he believed in the Tooth Fairy, because the Tooth Fairy doesn't take positions on important social issues like gay rights, abortion, stem cell research, and teaching creationism.
Yesterday Romney gave a speech, "Faith in America." It provides even more evidence why this guy, along with every other Republican presidential candidate, would be a disaster if, god forbid, he ever became president.
The speech has been criticized by the Portland Oregonian in an editorial, "Your America is too small." It's right on.
He could have articulated a vision of religious freedom so broad, so all-encompassing – and so confident in itself – that it could embrace even skeptics. But he didn't. Instead, he took a predictable slap at "the religion of secularism." And he failed to offer even a stout defense of his own faith, barely mentioning the word "Mormon."
I also liked a Washington Post editorial, "No freedom without religion?" Astoundingly, Romney said "freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom…freedom and religion endure together or perish alone."
Huh? This makes no sense at all. Why the heck does freedom require religion? The Post pointed out:
But societies can be both secular and free. The magnificent cathedrals of Europe may be empty, as Mr. Romney said, but the democracies of Europe are thriving.
"Americans acknowledge that liberty is a gift of God, not an indulgence of government," Mr. Romney said. But not all Americans acknowledge that, and those who do not may be no less committed to the liberty that is the American ideal.
In his speech Romney said that he believes in his Mormon faith and he endeavors to live by it.
So Romney holds that Mormonism is believable, despite this description (by Christopher Hitchens in his book "God is Not Great") of what happened after Joseph Smith's wife destroyed the first 116 pages of her husband's revelation, which took place behind a blanket.
Mrs. Smith was having none of this, and was already furious with the fecklessness of her husband. She stole the first hundred and sixteen pages and challenged Smith to reproduce them, as presumably—given his power of revelation—he could. (Determined women like this appear far too seldom in the history of religion.)
After a very bad few weeks, the ingenious Smith countered with another revelation. He could not replicate the original, which might be in the devil's hands by now and open to a "satanic verses" interpretation. But the all-foreseeing Lord had meanwhile furnished some smaller plates, indeed the very plates of Nephi, which told a fairly similar tale.
With infinite labor, the translation was resumed, with new scriveners behind the blanket as occasion demanded, and when it was completed all the original golden plates were transported to heaven, where apparently they remain to this day.
Now, all religions are unbelievable. If they weren't, their tenets would be known as "science." In other words, founded in reality rather than fantasy.
So every presidential candidate who professes to be religious should be questioned as closely as he or she would be if a fervent belief in the Tooth Fairy had been proudly communicated to the voters.
Romney was interviewed on NPR a few days before his faith speech. He didn't like being asked if he has a literal belief in the Genesis version of creation. Yet Romney said that the Bible is the word of God, and he tries to live by it.
Meaning, he does believe that the universe was created a few thousand years ago in seven days. And his presidential actions would be founded on such astoundingly unscientific beliefs.
This disqualifies him to be president. Along with every other fundamentalist candidate. Hopefully the American voters will agree with me.
It's OK to believe in the Tooth Fairy when you're five years old. But if you want to hold onto the religious equivalent of that belief into adulthood, you shouldn't be seeking the presidency of the United States.