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My Take: GOP presidential field at odds with Americans' self-image
Mitt Romney in Michigan last week.
May 16th, 2011
10:05 AM ET

My Take: GOP presidential field at odds with Americans' self-image

Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

All presidential candidates have flaws. But American voters want their presidents to seem presidential. What that means is that they want their presidents to look like them. Or, to be more precise, to look like they imagine themselves to be.

On this score, at least, the emerging GOP presidential field has three strikes against it.

Likely contender Mitt Romney may be tall, dark and handsome, but he didn’t do himself any favors by equivocating last week about the Massachusetts health care plan he signed into law as governor—a plan some are now referring to as Romneycare. Moreover, he is vulnerable for his resume as a moderate Republican.

But the real challenge for Romney, who is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, continues to be his religion.

Yes, the First Amendment guarantees religious freedom, and there is no religious test in the Constitution. But many on the Religious Right think that Mormons aren't really Christians and many on the secular left think Mormons are too conservative.

According to a 2007 Gallup poll, 24% of Americans would not vote for an otherwise qualified Mormon nominated by their party for president. And that is bad news not only for Mitt Romney but also for President Barack Obama's former Ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman, who is another Mormon mulling a presidential bid.

In this same 2007 Gallup poll, Americans were asked whether they would vote for an otherwise qualified candidate who was married for the third time. Thirty percent said no.

The question was designed to address the potential candidacy of Newt Gingrich, who has been divorced twice and married three times, and who officially launched his presidential campaign last week. Now it now applies as well to Donald Trump, who is also working on marriage number three.

Although the divorce rate in the United States is approaching 50%, Americans have elected only one divorced president: Ronald Reagan. That's bad news as well for Indiana governor and potential 2012 candidate Mitch Daniels, who was divorced from his first wife in 1994 before reconciling with and remarrying her in 1997.

Speaking of Daniels, there is that pesky problem of his height, which is officially 5 foot, 8 inches.

Study after study has shown that tall people make more money and rise higher in the corporate ranks than short people do. This bias is so clear, and so palpably unfair, that a Harvard economics professor N. Gregory Mankiw has argued for a tax on tall people.

But this heightism, if you will, is also clear in the Oval Office. Many of America’s greatest presidents — John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, George Washington, Franklin D. Roosevelt — have stood 6 feet or taller. And Abraham Lincoln towered above his fellow citizens at 6-foot-4.

Short men, by contrast, don’t usually get elected president. The last president who was substantially below average in height was Benjamin Harrison, elected in 1888. Short men who have managed to sneak into office have not fared as well as their taller colleagues (Jimmy Carter stands a bit over 5-foot-9).

Mitch Daniels, through no fault of his own, is a lesser man. President Obama, for the record, is 6-foot-1.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Barack Obama • Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints • Health care • Mitt Romney • Mormonism • Newt Gingrich • Politics • Polls • Uncategorized • United States

soundoff (249 Responses)
  1. Q

    I must agree with Andrew here. Beliefs are mental constructs and can be assessed independently from an assessment of the individual subscribing to a particular set of beliefs, i.e. a good person can subscribe to a severely flawed or outright incorrect belief. The issue always seems to revolve around those whose ident-ities are intimately tied to a belief and so any criticism of the belief is invariably viewed as an attack on themselves.

    Regarding ridicule, I've always been fond of this Jefferson quote: "Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them; and no man ever had a distinct idea of the trinity. It is the mere Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus."

    While I and many other posters to this forum will first attempt to engage a belief independent from the person, it's often the case that reason is useless against a position which wasn't originally a product of reason. I believe many posters here, having had numerous experiences with this type of situation, immediately employ ridicule. It's not productive in a dialogue, but then, the object of the ridicule (person, belief or both) likely wasn't amenable to any other response. In this case, it may at least serve as an object lesson, e.g. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are far more effective than any well-credentialed talking head on CNN, FOX, etc, etc...

    May 18, 2011 at 4:31 am |
    • Adelina

      Mr. Q, your fellow atheists are always the worst ones on earth. Correct their manner if you are an honest man.

      May 18, 2011 at 10:20 am |
    • Andrew

      Feynman was that bad? Dirac was one of the worst people on earth? Sagan was vile? I'm pretty sure you're making an absurd generalisation here that you cannot possibly back up.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
  2. Mark from Middle River

    Crud...an "Awaiting moderation" post. Catch you in the morning Andrew. Too tired to edit it tonight.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:09 am |
  3. Andrew

    Mark, I'm saying you're failing to respond because you keep beating a straw man. You keep falling down that slippery slope argument while continuously ignoring my actual point itself. You can, if you wish, try to construct a reasonable argument for why my ideas would lead to systematic oppression of other people, but if you wish to do so, at least show you comprehend what I am trying to say in the first place. You've shown no indication that you understand my argument, you've simply said that what I advocate leads to oppression of others because oppression of others happens when we impose arbitrary standards and declare others who don't share them as the enemy.

    I have advocated nothing of the sort. You have not yet demonstrated what I state leads to said oppression, you've yet to make a single response to my actual argument. You can point to oppression being bad all you want, and you can make the claim that what I advocate will possibly lead to it, but before you do so, can you PLEASE show you understand what I'm actually saying?

    Let me try to de-construct it so you can start from the bottom up. I distinguish 'people' and 'beliefs' so strongly because beliefs are learned, beliefs are something you can change, and do not const-tute the entirety of a person. A person is not kind, generous, loving, caring because they believe something, they are kind, generous, loving, caring because those are personality traits. Someone is not gay because they believe they are gay, they are gay because that is a part of their personality. A woman or a man aren't women or men because they believe they are, they're men or women because they are biologically male or female.

    In that vain, a person is separate from their beliefs. The entire purpose of an 'argument' is an attempt to change beliefs, to change what someone believes. The Greeks felt this was the highest form of discourse, but if you give The Republic a read, you'll certainly find that they weren't above ridiculing people who touted beliefs they felt were absurd. Gloucon was not afraid to say quite strongly Socrates offered no foundation himself (First chapter if you want to read it yourself).

    'I believe X' does not imply 'I cannot be convinced of !X' because someone learned X in the first place. If it is possible for a person to believe something, or not believe it, then clearly it is impossible to equate a person to their beliefs, as the person is evidently distinct from belief.

    If you cannot equate a person to their beliefs then beliefs must stand on their own merit, rather than on the merit of the individual believing them. You can have a very kind person who believes in alchemy, or a kind person who doesn't believe in alchemy, the belief in alchemy is independent of a person.

    Therefore, the belief is subject to scrutiny. The belief is subject to ridicule if it is woefully under-supported, and subject to scorn if it is detrimental. At least, that's how it should be, however in our society, because we are so afraid of hurting someone's feelings, we have it set up that beliefs are left unchallenged, because we have it ingrained that beliefs are to be respected simply because they are sincerely held.

    I find that stupid and diametrically opposed to a society which would value discourse, logic, and reason. For your argument now to hold water, you must be able to show that beliefs are equivalent to a person, that by challenging a belief and putting an idea up to scrutiny, you are likewise doing so with an individual.

    In other words, for your argument to hold water, you need to argue that people are the sum of their beliefs. Otherwise, so long as beliefs are separate from individuals, challenging beliefs cannot possibly result in limiting the rights of other people. You could point to Hitler killing people because they believed in Judaism, but Hitler was attacking the individuals, rather than the ideas. As soon as you attack individuals because of ideas, you've left the realm of real discourse, and left everything I advocate. I challenge ideas, not people, the two are not the same, so quit equivocating.

    May 17, 2011 at 10:49 pm |
  4. T-party

    touch of grey ?

    May 17, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
  5. Adelina

    Self-smart intellectuals are godless liberals, but the common people know better. The Bible is right.

    May 17, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
  6. Adelina

    I think Mr. Prothero is anti-Republican and pro-Democrat. Why does he expect Evangelicals to keep out of politics? Media should be fair.

    May 17, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
  7. charlie888888

    Goodness that was an attractive headline of an interesting topics but with absolutle pithel as content.

    May 17, 2011 at 1:56 am |
  8. Reality

    There's actually quite a lot to like about Romney if you're a republican by temperment......and in fact, he does oppose abortion."

    And that is exactly why Romney or any other prolife candidate has no chance in 2012 i.e. the "Immoral Majority" rules the country and will do so in the years to come. The 78+ million "Roe vs. Wade mothers and fathers" (in 2012) of aborted womb-babies" whose ranks grow by two million per year.

    2008 Presidential popular vote count 69,456,897 for BO 59,934,814 for JM
    (there were an estimated 70 million members of the "Immoral Majority" in 2008)

    Once again, the driving force behind the "Immoral Majority" is their irresponsibility in not using the Pill and/or the male condom properly.

    o Bottom Line #1: The failures of the widely used birth "control" methods i.e. the pill and male condom have led to the large rate of abortions ( one million/yr) and S-TDs (19 million/yr) in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the pill or condoms properly or use other safer birth control methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.

    Bottom line #2-
    Currently, a perfect birth control barrier system does not exist. Time to develop one! In the meantime, mono-ma-sturbation or mutual ma-sturbation are highly recommended for hete-rose-xuals who need a contraceptive. Abstinence is another best-solution but obviously the se-x drive typically vitiates this option although being biological would it not be able to develop a drug to temporarily eliminate said drive?

    May 16, 2011 at 11:40 pm |
  9. bu

    ....or that Mormons are CRAZY (but no crazier than any other religion). Sure, there were gold tablets that disappeared. That, and how many other fairy tales do we have to tolerate these days????

    May 16, 2011 at 10:45 pm |
    • Andrew

      You have to tolerate all of them until it is culturally accepted that silly beliefs are not automatically given respect simply because people sincerely believe them. As long as there is this notion of "respecting other's beliefs" ingrained fully in our society, you'll have to tolerate all of them. It sucks doesn't it?

      May 16, 2011 at 10:58 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Andrew, my friend, that is what Tolerance is... until you find out that the other side is not going away and newer generations are being born each day. The blacks and the whites, the Israeli and the Palestinian, and the pro-life and the pro-choice. See your "it sucks" are the preamble to events such as the Holocaust. What your words push people to think that since their enemy is not going away then action or actions must be taken on a direct level to "make" them "Go Away".

      As long as the Atheist exist and the person of Faith exist, in the same area, we start with "tolerance" ....

      ....soon you will move to the happy state called "Coexistence."

      ...but feel free to continue to live entrenched in your "silly" hateful beliefs. :)

      May 16, 2011 at 11:32 pm |
    • Andrew

      That has absolutely nothing to do with what I said, and seems to be a strawman of my beliefs. My issue is with a society that respects beliefs for the sole reason that beliefs are sincerely held. I feel that isn't a valid reason to respect beliefs, people should not be immune to ridicule or criticism just because they have beliefs. We shouldn't have to tip toe around issues "for risk of offending people" even when individuals hold unsupported and unjustifiable beliefs. I shouldn't have to respect the beliefs of a person who believes the world is 6000 years old just because they sincerely believe that, instead I should be promoted to openly ridicule it for the absurdity that it is.

      I'm not saying we should limit the rights of other human beings, because that would be just as unjustifiable and arbitrary as the beliefs I want to ridicule. I don't want to paint people as 'the enemy', I want instead a society where we respect only what is justifiable and worthy of respect. But just because I don't respect someone's beliefs doesn't mean I support cutting their rights, or would ever support anything akin to a holocaust.

      My point is simple. Beliefs should not be respected on the principle that beliefs are sincerely held. Respecting beliefs should not be the default position, rather, respect needs to be earned by validation and evidence. Everything you seemed to point to seemed to be a straw man not really related to what I believe. However, in our society, validation, evidence are considered secondary to belief, and so we need to respect even the most absurd beliefs for no other reason than they are sincerely held. Yes, that sucks.

      May 17, 2011 at 12:02 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      The first step towards genocide has always been the dehumanization of a people. This is Nazi Germany 101 Andrew. There is the argument that no one should be immune from ridicule but there comes a time when those doing the ridiculing almost always begin to sound the same. Each morning those of hate wake up and even though they all hate different things their comments and statements sound the same. Go to a klan site, a anti-gay site, a black power site... on and on the list go and these people never see that their words are almost interchangeable.

      Andrew I will help you out with this story. I grew up in a community that had a polish population. One day a classmate told a "polish"joke. Being young and stupid, I came home and told the same joke to my father. In his rare wisdom he explained to me that I should not tell such a joke because there was a good chance that before I came to the room or as soon as I left the room that same joke became a "N-gg'r"joke.

      The point of it is that you lost when you stated

      "I want instead a society where we respect only what is justifiable and worthy of respect. "

      That is a heck of a statement kid. A not too many decades ago my people were not "worthy" of respect. The Irish, the Italians, Native Americans,... Gays,Lesbians.... The list goes on and on of people who at some times Society choose to not give respect. In Maryland a transgendered person was beaten at a McDonalds. Sadly society has Gay and Lesbian laws for protection, but that group has not garnered the "worth" from your society to get protection.

      Andrew you place in the belief that society will decide who is worthy. Is it those that share our beliefs? What of those that do not. Is it a situation that our only option is to ridicule them at every chance we can get with the hopes that they move away or stop displaying who they are? Andrew, what if they do not conform? Continue the cycle of ridiculing them? Teach our kids to ridicule them, to continue the cycle into the future?

      Andrew, using your backward thinking, can you image such a society of constant streams of folks just ridiculing those who they do not like? Look in the mirror, I am pretty sure there are hundreds of websites that can't stand you for some part of your life. Is that how you picture our society Andrew,or is there another way?

      Trust in History, the Nazis did not just start killing Jews, they went after other groups in their society, their first weapon, their first strike was with what you define as "ridicule".

      May 17, 2011 at 2:31 am |
    • Andrew

      Mark dear god that has NOTHING to do with what I said. I'm curious, what on earth makes a belief worthy of respect just because it is sincerely held? Why should I respect the belief that we never landed on the moon just because people sincerely believe that? Why should I respect the idea that the world is 6000 years old just because they sincerely believe that? Why should I respect the idea that the world is flat, that bigfoot is real, that unicorns exist, that aliens are secretly in cahoots with the government, why should IDEAS, not people, but IDEAS, BELIEFS, be worthy of respect on the principle that they are sincerely held?

      I am not attacking people. I am not saying we live in a society where we champion to pick and choose who we respect and who we demonize. I'm saying we should live in a society where only ideas that have evidence behind them are worthy of respect, and others are worthy of ridicule. I'm saying that the idea that we never landed on the moon should be treated with as much respect as it deserves, none, because beliefs are not automatically treated with respect because they are sincerely held. I'm not saying that anyone who believes silly things then should have anything happen to them, but their beliefs are not off the table for ridicule, because I don't care if someone has their feelings hurt. I care if they have their rights infringed upon, making your hitler comparison ripe for godwin's law and utterly moot, but not getting your feelings hurt because you don't want someone to criticise your absurd belief in a 6000 year old earth, or aliens kidnapping the president and replacing it with a false cyborg, or any other kind of absurd lunatic idea... is not worthy of respect just because someone believes it.

      That was my argument the entire time. What you are reacting to is a perception very different from anything I argue or would ever argue, and seems to be at best a misunderstanding, at worst a very slippery slope argument. I simply state, again and again, that beliefs are not worthy of respect solely because they are sincerely held. If you notice, I never said 'people are not worthy of respect', you're fighting straw and missed the mark.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:11 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      ""I'm not saying that anyone who believes silly things then should have anything happen to them, but their beliefs are not off the table for ridicule, because I don't care if someone has their feelings hurt. ""

      Andrew, that is what puts you out of the civilized human camp and in the tents of many tyrants and Nazi types throughout history. You statements are that there is a ruler or yardstick and you or someone else will define what is silly, the same as the nazis defined who is pure and who was not. When has any society been totally on the same page about any group? The way our society works or a tolerant society should work is that we should care for one another. The moment we stop is the moment the nooses are tied and the gas chambers are constructed.

      I look at your post and I hear echoes of some very nasty folks in history and in present day. What you fail to realize is that some, in society, never really grow up. Look at all the failed Muslim bombers, since 9/11. Did they start out as .."here's your orders.. go out and do as much damage as you can" ... No Andrew, they always started on some message board or website that demonized and ridiculed some enemy. After spending time there some of the idiots, charged up with hatred rhetoric, they make what to them was the easy leap to carrying out some action towards the disliked group. You saw it in the klan inspired attacks and in anti-gay attacks. Like you and folks like Charles Manson, after the direct action is done and the body bags are being filled... folks like you always say the same thing... "I never told anyone to actually hurt anyone".

      As was said in a movie, when you raid the cat-house you take the piano player too. Or when the soldier is put to the sword you also have to put the bugler to the sword as well. The persons encouraging hatred shares in the blood on his or her hands as well.

      Folks are getting tired of such Andrew. Tired of the ones that live just to cause turmoil and death in society due to hatred. Online forums we call them trolls. I am sorry for you kid because what caught me about your original post was that you felt tolerance "sucked". For Bin Laden, tolerant Muslims were very much disliked by him also. Tolerant Muslims "sucked". How many klan and black power sites see more hatred against members of their own race who made the choice to go down the path of tolerance.

      I am pretty sure there is a grand wizard somewhere that looks upon the white guy and the black guy going fishing together as something that "sucks". The black gang member that sees that his sister is dating a Hispanic guy from her school, pretty sure to him that tolerance "sucked" as well. These are the folks you are aligning yourself with Andrew, those that do not see the hope of peace.

      I could go on and on not only hitting the mark of your hateful ignorance but I figure you see it but are fighting your heart out to hold on to that ignorance. All folks like you do and I am also talking within the faiths as well. It is just that when a person states that folks of anything be it faith, color, race, s-xual orientation or whatever, should be attacked in such away, its time for the good people to not do "nothing". Its time to stomp out that hatred.

      Finally I am not gay or a Muslim, but I do care when they are attacked. Be it a place burned to the ground or when I hear fervent anti- speech. Only a monster would say "I don't care if someone has their feelings hurt."

      I am not a monster.

      May 17, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Mark: You crossed the line comparing Andrew to a Nazi. It was wrong and you should apologize. It is clearly evident in what was written that no such "Nazi" intent existed in Andrew's comments. Maybe a re-reading of his first post is warranted before you overreact. So long as a person keeps using that term so easily, it not only devalues the seriousness of the crimes committed during the holocaust, but it also shows that person's tendency to be flippant and volatile. If you truly are against "hateful" comments and escalating rhetoric hijacking level-headed discourse, you seem to have forgotten that in these posts.

      May 17, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
    • Andrew

      Mark you seem incapable of responding to what I actually said, and seem to be contentiously beating an absurd strawman. I'd argue we shouldn't respect the beliefs of Nazi's just because Nazi's sincerely believe their rhetoric. We shouldn't respect the beliefs of h-mophobes just because h-mophobes sincerely believe it, we shouldn't respect the beliefs just because people sincerely believe stuff. Beliefs are not worthy of respect only because people believe it, if they were, we'd HAVE to respect Nazi beliefs, but I don't. I don't respect h-mophobic beliefs. I don't respect the belief the world is 6000 years old, nor that blacks deserve to die, nor that jews are evil, nor that christians deserve to be killed, nor that terrorist attacks are justified.

      People sincerely believe these things, but that does not make those beliefs worthy of respect. I don't believe anything makes those beliefs worthy of respect, but first and foremost they aren't automatically worthy of respect just because people believe them. If belief, just because it is sincerely held, is worthy of respect, then we'd HAVE to respect Nazi beliefs, and we'd HAVE to respect h-mophobic vitriol, etc. But we shouldn't live in a society where beliefs are treated with respect just because they are sincerely held, we should live in a society where beliefs are subject to scrutiny, ridicule, and attack if they are not well founded. BELIEFS, not PEOPLE.

      Beliefs can change, beliefs can be amended, which makes attacking beliefs and ideas worthwhile. It's why we no longer believe the earth is the center of the universe. Anyone who wants to make that claim should have their beliefs subject to the proper amount of scorn, criticism, and ridicule, because the beliefs is unsupported. That can't be extended to them as a person because again, people are not the same as their beliefs. We are ent-tled to our rights as human beings, not immunity from criticism for saying silly things. Attacking people is something completely different. You seem incapable of realising that. If someone wants to attack gays, strip the rights of others, impose any kind of restrictions on other people, no matter how small, then it is a separate issue entirely from everything I've been saying, and utterly vile in my mind in the first place.

      Quit beating straw. Quit slipping down a slope.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Frogist – Apologize, to someone that says “I don't care if someone has their feelings hurt." ?? Frogist, I would choose to pass on saying sorry to someone that does not care in such. The comparison to the Nazis, Bin Laden, the Klan and those in the Black Power movement is too easy. All these groups have in common words such as Andrew's and you know it. Because the Nazis went further in their pursuits than the others just lets the world know that we need to challenge folks like Andrew at every step they make because we can't let that happen again. Andrew declares that “tolerance” sucks ...and you feel that I should apologize... like I wrote, Frogist, think of the position of the Nazis and the like and their opinions on the concept of “tolerance” to those that do not look, act, or believe as they do. The echoes are clear and post, such as Andrews shows that evil and hatred will be with us forever and it is up to each of us to stomp folks like him down. Peace

      Andrew- Its interesting that when folks make their case, there is always one that declares that because he or she is offering a counter point, giving their opposing views ..then they “incapable of responding”? Why my friend, because I am vocally saying you are wrong and not agreeing with you then I must not be responding? I guess if I was agreeing with you then you would deem that at that point I was then capable of responding to you?

      The “slope” you speak of is something that those that know history is something that we need to be aware of for if not we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. Your post lean to those that wish to separate and not to those that wish find ways to coexist. Maybe its your word usage but your “BELIEFS, not PEOPLE.” statements are much like when folks say they do not hate the persons who are gay but they just hate that the state of them being gay. If you can not understand that to people of Faith, the moment that they are on that path their faith is who they are.

      Is tolerance to those that are different than you really that deplorable to you as you stated? Do you see that there can be a successful society with all groups respecting each other? I ask this of my friends of Faith and some of them carry the same Bin Laden gene that you and many others do.

      If you feel that it is worthwhile attacking folks beliefs than that is a waste of a life, and do continue to expect the push back. Think about it Andrew, you say “"I don't care if someone has their feelings hurt." while at the same time saying ”Attacking people is something completely different.” Do you not see that groups such as the Nazis all began with this level of thinking? That is why good people did nothing, because when Hitler and others like him started to declare folks the enemy and began the dehumanization process , they said nothing and remained silent. If folks such as yourself do not get challenged right out of the gate then when? When Mosques, Temples and Churches get set ablaze? You state that the burning of such is a “separate issue”. Before those things that you call “vile” happened... do you not realize that before those actions took place than it is always some person stating that they did not care if the persons got hurt? If I have to continue to beat that point home for you I will, so that maybe one day you will see the link between hate speech and hate actions. It is the wick to the dynamite.

      Sorry kid, it comes a time when folks can either voice their opposition or stand silent in their complacency.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
    • Andrew

      Oops... umm... right, posting it here.

      Mark, I'm saying you're failing to respond because you keep beating a straw man. You keep falling down that slippery slope argument while continuously ignoring my actual point itself. You can, if you wish, try to construct a reasonable argument for why my ideas would lead to systematic oppression of other people, but if you wish to do so, at least show you comprehend what I am trying to say in the first place. You've shown no indication that you understand my argument, you've simply said that what I advocate leads to oppression of others because oppression of others happens when we impose arbitrary standards and declare others who don't share them as the enemy.

      I have advocated nothing of the sort. You have not yet demonstrated what I state leads to said oppression, you've yet to make a single response to my actual argument. You can point to oppression being bad all you want, and you can make the claim that what I advocate will possibly lead to it, but before you do so, can you PLEASE show you understand what I'm actually saying?

      Let me try to de-construct it so you can start from the bottom up. I distinguish 'people' and 'beliefs' so strongly because beliefs are learned, beliefs are something you can change, and do not const-tute the entirety of a person. A person is not kind, generous, loving, caring because they believe something, they are kind, generous, loving, caring because those are personality traits. Someone is not gay because they believe they are gay, they are gay because that is a part of their personality. A woman or a man aren't women or men because they believe they are, they're men or women because they are biologically male or female.

      In that vain, a person is separate from their beliefs. The entire purpose of an 'argument' is an attempt to change beliefs, to change what someone believes. The Greeks felt this was the highest form of discourse, but if you give The Republic a read, you'll certainly find that they weren't above ridiculing people who touted beliefs they felt were absurd. Gloucon was not afraid to say quite strongly Socrates offered no foundation himself (First chapter if you want to read it yourself).

      'I believe X' does not imply 'I cannot be convinced of !X' because someone learned X in the first place. If it is possible for a person to believe something, or not believe it, then clearly it is impossible to equate a person to their beliefs, as the person is evidently distinct from belief.

      If you cannot equate a person to their beliefs then beliefs must stand on their own merit, rather than on the merit of the individual believing them. You can have a very kind person who believes in alchemy, or a kind person who doesn't believe in alchemy, the belief in alchemy is independent of a person.

      Therefore, the belief is subject to scrutiny. The belief is subject to ridicule if it is woefully under-supported, and subject to scorn if it is detrimental. At least, that's how it should be, however in our society, because we are so afraid of hurting someone's feelings, we have it set up that beliefs are left unchallenged, because we have it ingrained that beliefs are to be respected simply because they are sincerely held.

      I find that stupid and diametrically opposed to a society which would value discourse, logic, and reason. For your argument now to hold water, you must be able to show that beliefs are equivalent to a person, that by challenging a belief and putting an idea up to scrutiny, you are likewise doing so with an individual.

      In other words, for your argument to hold water, you need to argue that people are the sum of their beliefs. Otherwise, so long as beliefs are separate from individuals, challenging beliefs cannot possibly result in limiting the rights of other people. You could point to Hitler killing people because they believed in Judaism, but Hitler was attacking the individuals, rather than the ideas. As soon as you attack individuals because of ideas, you've left the realm of real discourse, and left everything I advocate. I challenge ideas, not people, the two are not the same, so quit equivocating.

      May 17, 2011 at 10:50 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @MarkfromMiddleRiver

      Hey -Mark it's been awhile...I hope that you are well.

      I have been reading your back and forth with @Andrew here, and... I must say, in (my honest opinion) either you are not getting the points that Andrew is making or not willing to realize/admit that you are, in fact...wrong.

      Sorry my friend...Andrew has gone over and over with you, and you just aren't getting it...or don't want to admit it.

      Even @Frogist made an attempt...and...yes, I agree with her as well.

      No need for me to try to say it any differently here.

      But, I would suggest, my friend that you 'may' ...if you choose...'really' think about what was said. If you still think you are in the right...or...not willing to admit that you are wrong, then not much else to say.

      Respectfully,

      Peace...

      May 18, 2011 at 1:11 am |
    • Peace2All

      @MarkfromMiddleRiver

      Hi again Mark...

      Upon reflection from my previous posting, I realized that I believe that I was rather 'harsh' in my posting to you.

      You and I have always, while not always agreeing on our postings, we still have agreed more often than not. You have been a decent and respectful 'cyber friend' here on these blogs.

      Admittedly, your postings (in my humble opinion) are so far off base that I don't understand how you are not getting what Andrew is saying, as well as Frogist. But... that's what the blogs are for... we all get to state our opinions.

      Rarely if ever am I 'harsh' with someone... and some i know wouldn't even consider what I said to be harsh in comparison to many posters here.

      But, my apologies my friend... I must admit... that somehow, it is certainly possible that Andrew, Frogist and myself are the one's missing 'very salient and fine distinctions' here on your part.

      My best to you...

      Respectfully,

      Peace...

      May 18, 2011 at 1:53 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Andrew – It is a sad thing but also a rewarding thing to teach another. In a debate or an argument the goal is, as you said, to get someone to change their point of view. What most have learned is that this is rarely done using ridicule. This is because no matter how your opponent views a subject unless there is a equal respect between the parties then there is nothing. Your desire to use ridicule will either have the other holding on tighter to their position or punching you in the nose or for the most part laughing at you.

      If that is your goal, here on the Belief Blog, you have come to the wrong place Andrew. Those of Faith are too strong and those not of Faith are also too strong. Each side has their numerous supporters so you can not ostracize either side. Effectively, to use ridicule any one here on this blog you will only be speaking to your own choir. :) It is one of the things I take great joy in viewing at this blog, those that think they alone hold the magic bullet that can destroy those that hold opposing views. Every now and then folks, such as yourself, do come here and think that the other side(s) will be easy push overs. They come armed with quotes and emotional post and are met with un-movable Atheist and un-movable persons of Faith.

      All this boils down to, what is our future then? Most folks, on I feel both sides, can imagine a society where both can co-exist side by side. What we get though are those such as yourself that say any move to tolerance “sucks”. I can not see how I am equivocating the words that you yourself typed. To you “Tolerance”= “sucks”. :) This same sorta sentiment can be found through out history in folks such as I have mentioned before and, by your own words Andrew, in you. I guess in the end you wish to “ridicule” and I am hoping to “shame” you into seeing that there are other ways.

      The other ways are what, I believe this forum was created to do. For folks of Faith and also those non of faith to meet and discuss issues. Not to have blood feuds but, to see if all we have to look forward to is a future much like the past. Your method is a step backwards. It has been tried and what you fail to see is that your method is awash with a sea of blood.

      There are Atheist, that I have met here, that I would rather have living right next door to me than the extremist persons of Faith that I have met here. HeavenSent on the Faith side and Reality on the non-faith side are good examples of those that see no middle ground, they see no tolerance and a future of coexistence scares the death out of them. Folks such as them come here attempting to draw people to their extremes. They see threads with persons of Faith and Atheist sharing respectful exchanges and go nuts. To them they can not “respect” those that disagree with their individual views.

      Scrutiny, of views and beliefs are good. In some ways debates here have made me a stronger and sharper Christian when I find a Atheist that I can give respect to and receive respect in kind. The problem is that those chances are rare here but they do happen. That is a failing of many here and perhaps it is a general fear. The fear is that if they actually participated in respectful exchange with someone on the other side they might see something that they seriously do not want to see. They will see a human being. A person of Faith will see a Atheist that is not at home trying to figure out how they can attack the church and a Atheist will find a person that is not ready to repeat the inquisitions of those not of Faith. This is a scary thing for some. Its got you so scared that your best response was that it “sucks” to live with tolerance. This is why I had to respond and will continue to respond to you Andrew because I believe that there can exist a state of Tolerance and it is something that you and others, ...on both sides fear.

      It is funny to see you trying to cleanup and restate your post but in the end, you are just attempting to civilize your opposition to a world where folks might hope to one day co-exist.

      “A woman or a man aren't women or men because they believe they are, they're men or women because they are biologically male or female.”

      In this statement, where would you put those in society who are transgendered? You state that a gay person is gay because it is part of their personality, do you believe a person when they say that they were born into the wrong body?

      Either way I'll be around dude :)

      May 18, 2011 at 2:04 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Ok, with much respect Peace, ...for you I will be open to listening. If you have the time please explain what Andrew is trying to say. I hear his statements of “ridiculing” others beliefs and views and that goes against any attempt to have meaningful and respectful dialogue.

      Throw on top of that this statement from Andrew :

      “As long as there is this notion of "respecting other's beliefs" ingrained fully in our society, you'll have to tolerate all of them. It sucks doesn't it?” May 16, 2011 at 10:58 pm

      If Andrew feels that the social viture of “respecting others beliefs” is wrong, then please explain why I should not be responding the way that I have been. Heck, if he just took back the statement then I would have let it past. I read all of his post and that belief of his I felt needed to be challenged. Its just not how I was raised. To ridicule is to be absent of respect. Without respect, then society just continues with hate for hate, anger for anger and blood for blood.

      Please... and I am not joking, please explain his statement. I am open to how others view it and if I am interpreting it wrong Peace please let me know. :)

      May 18, 2011 at 2:18 am |
    • Andrew

      Mark, despite being far more civil, you once again seemed to have missed the crux of the issue at hand. But at least now you're in the ballpark. I believe what you are saying is a symptom of the problem I'm trying to address. People being unmovable in their beliefs is symptomatic of a society where beliefs become treasured, where beliefs are respected far too much and people become ridged in holding them. The question of ridicule being an effective tactic is not what I'm discussing. It is the concern of beliefs being given respect for the sole reason they are sincerely held.

      I did not say 'tolerance sucks'. I said it sucks to have to tolerate beliefs on the principle of respecting beliefs because they are sincerely held. There is a difference. Even in this, admittedly far more civil, post, you still seem to be missing the crux of my issue. I'm not here to debate the effectiveness of ridicule as a debate tactic... though in my experience if a society ridicules belief like the earth is the center of the universe, people won't believe it. That's a tangent to my argument.

      My argument concerns the principle of beliefs being automatically given respect just because they are held.

      Since I advocate beliefs are not due respect just because they are sincerely held, and you seem to be taking a contrary position, I am going to state a belief individuals have held. I would argue that it deserves NO respect, at all, nothing but condemnation, and indeed scorn. I don't care who is offended by ridiculing the idea, because I don't believe the idea deserves respect just because people sincerely believe it. That is insufficient justification for respecting an idea. You, to take a contrary position to my argument, must then defend why, just because people believe it, we must respect the following belief. Otherwise, you admit beliefs are not worthy of respect SOLELY BECAUSE PEOPLE SINCERELY BELIEVE IT. That's it. That's all I'm arguing. So...

      Why should we respect the belief that Jews are evil and deserve to be killed?

      May 18, 2011 at 2:31 am |
    • Peace2All

      @Mark from Middle River

      Hi -Mark...

      I'm honored that I have your 'respect' and your 'ear' and willingness to talk with me. You have 'mine' as well.

      I 'think' I 'may' be able to present it in a way, that 'may' make sense where we can build some -mutual agreement.-

      Unfortunately, you caught me getting ready to head off to bed, and ... I don't have the energy to start the process of breaking the conversations down into small enough 'chunks' for discussion at this point.

      However, I do realize that you make some good points too. I want you to know that.

      If I can, I will see if I can make it back here to this article/thread tomorrow afternoon or Thursday or so, and see what I can do.

      Maybe you can check back in again here tomorrow or Thursday...?

      And again Mark...my apologies to you ! I think i was and am really cranky-tired.

      Respectfully,

      Peace...

      May 18, 2011 at 2:34 am |
    • Andrew

      Mark, in context, you know, the sentence directly before the one you quoted, I clearly establish that my statement pertains to respecting beliefs on the basis of people believing them, not that I have an issue with respecting beliefs in general. I continued to state the same thing over and over, so even if you believe I was imprecise with my first post, the next few should have been an indication that my first post was not lamenting the idea of respecting beliefs in general. Just lamenting respecting beliefs on the sole principle that they are sincerely believed.

      "I don't like respecting people's beliefs just because people believe them" is different from "I don't like respecting people's beliefs".

      May 18, 2011 at 2:36 am |
    • Peace2All

      @Mark from Middle River

      Hey Mark...

      I'm laughin' here, because I went to bed, but couldn't sleep as I felt (guilty) that i left you hangin' and should have at least started to chunk the conversation down to start with you.

      And... here I log back on and @Andrew has posted before me and after me. Actually, glad to see that he did.

      So, I would respectfully suggest that you start by reading -Andrews' last 2 postings specifically, especially the first of the 2, as (in my opinion) he has done a fine job of synthesizing and chunking down his argument into small enough bits to understand and go with.

      Specifically...his argument of:

      **Just because someone has a right to believe, doesn't *mean* that...that any particular belief should/must automatically be 'respected.' (my paraphrase).

      His example of the 'Jews' is a good one. Do 'you' believe that just because some people believe that "jews should be killed" means that that belief is worthy of and should automatically be respected...? Of course not. Just for starters... 'actions' flow from beliefs. And of course I could list many more reasons.

      So, 'tolerance' and 'respect' are evaluated and earned... when it comes to certain beliefs. It was 'because' the Nazi's believed that Jews were evil, etc... that it caused them to 'act' on those beliefs and kill 6,000,000 jews. Look at what the results were of 'Tolerating' those kinds of beliefs. Does that help...?

      I could be wrong here... but I'm guessing and (hoping) that you are realizing that just because someone believes something, it does not automatically mean we all should respect their beliefs... bottom-line...it depends what they are, yes...?

      ****More specifically...Don't confuse the right for someone to believe something and respecting the 'right' to believe (vs.) 'respecting' the (actual belief itself). They are 'not' the same thing... does that make sense...?

      O.K...Mark, I hope that @Andrew's and my posting have helped.

      Going back to bed now... I'll check back tomorrow and I sincerely hope that this has all helped, or... at least started the process of some 'agreement' for further elaboration and discussion.

      Again, my best Mark...

      Peace...

      May 18, 2011 at 3:38 am |
  10. Ronald

    Any way you slice it there is nothing special there. The GOP just doesn't get it and won't get it until they quit giving in to the extremists in their party. Anybody with sense and logic knows that those ideas won't work and certainly just won't fly. Until they can prove that they aren't only protecting the corporate masters that they serve intelligent people are not going to go there. So far they have only played the obstruction game and America is tired of it.

    May 16, 2011 at 10:43 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Ronald, it is the extremes in both parties. The Dems played to theirs and lost and the Republicans might do the same. Do not make it sound as if America is only tired of the Right's extreme views and are ready to accept the Left's extremist views.

      That is the first and normally fatal flaw on both sides. What America is tired of is both sides making pretend we care that much about things on the extreme ends.

      May 16, 2011 at 11:25 pm |
  11. James Ravazzolo

    He actually ended the article by saying Daniels is a "lesser man" ? A 'less tall man' perhaps (although if he's really 5'8" that's
    about the average for American men), but a 'lesser man'. Amazing choice of words.

    May 16, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
  12. noemi

    Who would want a dirty mormon as our president?do they really think the bible belt would vote for him.palin tried look were it got her.he is not good for our country.who well vote for people that wear holy garmets under there close?we don't like muslims but we know what they appear.mormons wear there holy garb under there close.people need to know this.how many wifes does he have?or sister wifes that's what they call them now.and does he hang out in bath rooms to.we need to really look it to this cult they call a religon.its a cult why would we vote for a cult leader.this is america people this romney belongs to one of the biggest cults there is.I pray people well open there eyes to this person wanting to become prez.

    May 16, 2011 at 10:22 pm |
    • Andrew

      Is there a single religion you can point to which doesn't believe silly things? Talking evil snakes in the bible, Jains who believe you don't need to eat, Hindus who consider a filthy river sacred, there is no limit to the silly things you can find in religion. At this point, so long as a candidate isn't a creationist, I'd be satisfied that they're not enough of a religious fundamentalist to let religion cloud any form of rational thought or judgement. No matter how silly the religion. (Once you enter the creationist... 'scientific community is all part of a conspiracy to reject the bible!' realm of insanity though, religious beliefs have superseded rational thought)

      May 16, 2011 at 10:38 pm |
  13. Rick Beagle

    Are you kidding?! What the heck is the point of this article? Who on earth is the targeted audience for this article, and since pigs are still not flying; let me clue you in, "they" don't read or watch CNN. Whomever green lighted this piece of trash should go home and take a break for a few days....

    May 16, 2011 at 9:49 pm |
  14. Dave

    I thought our country had moved beyond bigotry, but I guess not.

    May 16, 2011 at 9:35 pm |
    • ummyeah

      what on earth ever made you think we were past bigotry?

      May 17, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
  15. Dread

    With names like Newt and Mitt, I just can't phathom even touching that vote.

    May 16, 2011 at 9:32 pm |
    • Militia 1776

      I hear ya I couldn't fathom voting for that piece of trash Obama

      May 16, 2011 at 10:10 pm |
  16. Gop

    Sometimes people make mistakes when they type so excuse me for doing so. I guess you are perfect pat? I highly doubt that. You might be as dumb as your stump Obama!

    May 16, 2011 at 9:31 pm |
  17. Jennifer

    What an absolutely useless contribution to electoral news. Do you honestly believe how tall a person is will dictate whether he's president or not?

    People like the author obviously vote for a president based on whether he has that firm chin and silver streaked hair, rather than on what his qualifications and values are.

    May 16, 2011 at 9:31 pm |
    • richie

      I don't think the author was giving his personal views, he was stating the the American public is prone to do–based on past experience. But i guess that was obvious.

      May 16, 2011 at 9:39 pm |
    • JohnS

      Now this guy is try to convince voters we have a choice?

      May 16, 2011 at 9:42 pm |
    • Andrew

      All the author is saying is that Americans have clearly shown a predisposition for looks over substance. And he backs it up with a few fairly strong arguments as well, cause it's kinda weird that the last 5'9 president we had was in the 1800s. You may want to pretend we live in a world where looks don't matter, but just because you're naive doesn't mean CNN shouldn't run an article which points to the contrary.

      May 16, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
  18. Dave

    So I guess the idea is since the Republican party can't win on the ideas, show how much more white Mitt Romney is than Barack Obama. Otherwise why do physical attributes (besides immediate health problems or advanced age) have to do with anything?

    May 16, 2011 at 9:02 pm |
    • CTYank

      Now what do you think Sister Sarah has going for her, other than what she demonstrated in a tee-shirt at Belmont Park?

      Wet tee-shirt would have been sooooooo apropos for her.

      Reactionary righties would NEVER admit this, nor their disdain for non-lily-whites

      May 16, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
  19. Nathan

    Actually, I voted for McCain I'm just saying I wouldn't vote for Newt b/c I agree with Denizen Kate that you can't trust a cheat....just consider the several inexplicable flip flops that Newt made over the weekend. on health care. Basically Newt and Romney are closet socialists masquerading at fiscal conservatives.

    May 16, 2011 at 8:48 pm |
    • John Keefer

      FDR had a mistress. In fact she was by his side instead of his wife when he died. He still seemed adequate to deal with Hitler though!

      May 16, 2011 at 9:26 pm |
    • Andrew

      I don't care how many wives you've had as long as you're not a hypocrite about it. Newt funnelled money to groups against gay marriage, and panders to the "family values" crowd despite clearly demonstrating none of himself. It's newt's blatant, utter, absolute hypocrisy that I care about more than just having three wives. Everyone has faults, and cheating on your wife shouldn't be one that disqualifies you for presidency because realistically his personal life doesn't necessarily mean he'll implement bad policy. But being a blatant hypocrite, and clearly living by some arbitrary moral standards which he wants to legislate on others, is a bit different.

      But either way, he's also too fiscally conservative for me. I sincerely doubt you have any idea what the word 'socialist' actually means, seriously, look up Canada's NDP's party platform, then try to tell me any main political figure in the US is socialist. Politics in the US are generally pretty right compared to any real socialists. Unless, of course, you just use that word as a talking point without any real knowledge or care of an actual robust meaning.

      May 16, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
  20. Kevin

    Fire Prothero. What a worthless contributor.

    May 16, 2011 at 8:46 pm |
    • jon

      This is actually a very well thought out article – better than all the ranting and raving of the Republican spokesholes on the radio and TV.

      May 16, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
    • Joseph

      Just can't wait till the bungling Republicans lose the Presidential election 2012 and the Dems get back more seats because the retarded people that voted the TeaBaggers in are seeing what huge mistake they made. It always amazes me how shirt of a memory the public has from the last disaster BUSH! Just saying..

      May 16, 2011 at 9:29 pm |
    • Adelina

      Americans should care about honoring God, not self-image.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:42 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.