Wednesday, August 08, 2012

The Silence of the Church(es)

As an Atheist I suppose I should not comment on the business and beliefs of churches, but I will anyway. I am not an Atheist because I made a serious study of various religions and then rejected them all, but because I could never get past the first few pages of any of the religious books I attempted to read, or past the apparent nonsense I was asked to believe. Lewis Henry Morgan once made a statement about religions that might be appropriate here:

“The Growth of religious ideas is environed with such intrinsic difficulties that it may never receive a perfectly satisfactory exposition. Religion deals so largely with the imaginative and emotional nature, and consequently with such uncertain elements of knowledge, that all primitive religions are grotesque and to some extent unintelligible.”

If you strike the word “primitive” from that statement it expresses precisely my feelings about all the religions I know about (even granted I don’t know much about any of them). Perhaps I was just born atheistic.

Along these lines, I know very little about the Mormon religion, the Church of Latter Day Saints. But I’m pretty certain it does not condone lying. As far as I know, no religion condones lying. Some say the Mormon faith is not a true Christian religion but, rather, a cult. From what I do know about it I should think it must be closer to a Christian cult than anything else. In any case I do not believe that unlike all religions it accepts lying as legitimate practice for its members. So what does the church think about Mitt Romney?

Romney’s lying about President Obama has reached the point to where it has so poisoned the political dialogue s to be inescapable. Most everyone is now aware of it, even many members of his own party. He takes virtually everything Obama says and deliberately distorts it in such a way as to make it sound the opposite of what it is. These are not mere slips of the tongue or gaffes, they are obvious, deliberate, attempts to accuse Obama of saying things he did not, in fact, say. Unfortunately, unlike the good old days when there was no audio and videotape to record everything politicians say, there are now precise records of what Romney has done and all of his lies have been exposed. There is no way he can credibly deny them. He has become (if he was not always) a rather pathological liar. This is even worse than merely being the world’s greatest flip-flopper.

But, you say, all politicians lie. Yes, that is true. But not many have ever managed to base their entire campaign on deliberate and consistent lies about their opponent. The Bush/Cheney set a standard for consistent serial lying I thought could never be outdone, but Romney is setting a new record, even outdoing them. But it is not the amount or the quality of lies that is of issue here, it is merely the fact of lying at all and how this relates to the beliefs of most if not all religions. Bush was supposedly some kind of born-again Baptist, I have no idea what Cheney’s religion is or was, perhaps a form of Satan worship, Gingrich is supposed to have jettisoned a couple of previous religions to become a Catholic, and so on. They all lie, some more outrageously than others.

But if churches do not sanction lying, and if Romney and others chronically and seriously lie, why are the churches silent on this issue? Is the Mormon Church not backing Romney? If they are they are backing a known and serious liar. Does the Catholic Church approve of Gingrich’s often ridiculous lies? How about the Baptists and Bush’s non-stop performance as President?

I guess the churches cannot come right out and publicly support a candidate for fear of violating the principle of separation of church and state. But is their acceptance of such egregious lying part of that same acceptance? Do they believe lying is wrong when done within some arbitrary parameters of “churchiness,” but is perfectly okay when done for political reasons? Does the Mormon Church desire a President so strongly they just do not care if he is a chronic liar with obviously questionable morals? Where do other churches stand on this matter? They appear to be remarkably silent about it.

He who has not a good memory should never take upon himself the trade of lying.

Michel de Montaigne

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