After reviewing Mitt Romney’s speech on faith and related comments, I concluded that “Romney has demonstrated that he wishes to sacrifice freedom to religion.” Now Romney, who may still play some role in November’s election, has returned to the topic.
Romney sensibly asserts that religious “non-believers have just as great a stake as believers in defending religious liberty. If a society takes it upon itself to prescribe and proscribe certain streams of belief — to prohibit certain less-favored strains of conscience — it may be the non-believer who is among the first to be condemned. A coercive monopoly of belief threatens everyone, whether we are talking about those who search the philosophies of men or follow the words of God.”
However, Romney’s characterization of atheists as “non-believers” rubs me the wrong way. I’m not fundamentally a “non-believer;” I’m a believer in human reason and objective morality based on human life, liberty, and happiness. Moreover, Romney’s reference to a “coerciver monopoly” refers both to socialistic regimes and to theocratic ones. This undermines his subsequent statement that “freedom requires religion.” Obviously, religion often has been hostile to freedom.
Romney quotes Jefferson regarding liberty as a “gift of God.” But the key distinction is that liberty arises from our human nature, not from the arbitrary whim of some king or ruler. The “Creator” of the Bill of Rights need not be God (and for Jefferson it was not the Christian God). And Romney quotes John Adams to the effect that self-governance requires “morality and religion.” Again, plenty of people with religion have not advocated self-governance; quite the opposite. An objective morality must be separated from religion, else it and freedom become arbitrary whims of some religious decree, rather than of some king. The United States arose not in the era of religion but in the era of the Enlightenment, when religion gave way to reason.
All of Romney’s talk of “freedom” cannot erase the fact that he wants to reduce freedom by imposing faith-based political controls. Freedom of religion is essential, but it is meaningless without freedom of action within the context of individual rights.
And when Romney starts talking about “the holy sacrifice of young lives,” he strays from the American ideal of self-defense, in which young lives are preserved to the greatest extent possible within the context of national security, and moves toward holy war, in which human life is sacrificed to religious causes.