Some "Straight Talk" about Muslims and Mormons

That straight-talking maverick from Arizona is living up to the hype once again. John McCain, in an interview with the outstanding website Beliefnet.com, said the following about Muslims who might one day seek to be President of the United States. From the NYTimes:

Senator John McCain said in an interview posted on the Internet on Saturday that the Constitution established the United States as a Christian nation and that his faith is probably of better spiritual guidance than that of a Muslim candidate for president…

“I just have to say in all candor that since this nation was founded primarily on Christian principles, that’s a decision the American people would have to make, but personally, I prefer someone who I know who has a solid grounding in my faith,” Mr. McCain said in response to a question about the possibility of a Muslim’s running for president. [Link]

<

p>Mr. McCain, what are your views of the Constitution exactly?

Q: A recent poll found that 55 percent of Americans believe the U.S. Constitution establishes a Christian nation. What do you think?
A: I would probably have to say yes, that the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation. But I say that in the broadest sense. The lady that holds her lamp beside the golden door doesn’t say, “I only welcome Christians.” We welcome the poor, the tired, the huddled masses. But when they come here they know that they are in a nation founded on Christian principles.[Link]

Well I guess it is better to agree with 55% of people than with 45% of them. Now what about Mormonism? Surely a Christian nation shouldn’t follow a Mormon right?

Q: People are raising similar concerns about Mitt Romney’s Mormonism, which some consider to be outside the Judeo-Christian tradition.
A: I believe that the Mormon religion is a religion that I don’t share, but I respect. More importantly, I’ve known so many people of the Mormon faith who have been so magnificent. I think that Governor Romney’s religion should not, absolutely not, be a disqualifying factor when people consider his candidacy for President of the United States, absolutely not. [Link]

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p>What that implies of course is that McCain doesn’t know people of the Muslim faith that have been magnificent, just so-so maybe. I can just picture an SNL skit where McCain pretends he has Muslim friends :) Of course, McCain did backtrack a little:

After the interview, Mr. McCain contacted the Web site to clarify his remarks, saying, “I would vote for a Muslim if he or she was the candidate best able to lead the country and defend our political values…” [Link]

<

p>What prompted these comments in the first place? Here is an idea:

In a response to the interview that also was posted on beliefnet, David Kuo, the former deputy director of the White House’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, characterized Mr. McCain as “a man pandering to what he thinks the Christian conservative community wants to hear. It is as if he is trying to sound like the ‘agents of tolerance’ he once critiqued, thinking that will cause Christian conservatives to like him. It is a sad performance…” [Link]

80 thoughts on “Some "Straight Talk" about Muslims and Mormons

  1. american politics…such a sad state of affairs. all this talk of religion in a country supposedly founded on the separation of church and state.

    mitt romney is as scary of a candidate as obama and hillary and mccain. i hope someone reasonable comes out of the woodwork at the last minute a la bill clinton in 1992.

    Quoted from McCain: I think that Governor Romney’s religion should not, absolutely not, be a disqualifying factor when people consider his candidacy for President of the United States, absolutely not.

    No, no absolutely not. But this is definitely more of a reasonable disqualification in my opinion:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vfm8Zs3V22U

  2. Hmmm…I don’t suppose McCain has ever heard of Philadelphia…? This just frosts me. It’s like the language issue. There is NO official language, either, surprise, surprise. Nor should there be. While it’s true in its daily and often institutional behavior this country acts very Christian (and let’s be clear on this – that’s Protestant Christian, none of that papist behavior you find in SoCAL and among them Irish types)- and, recently, has embraced its inner Crusader- there still remains the fact that the Constitution openly does not advocate a state religion nor does it openly advocate Christianity. And, for Mr. McCain’s info, Muslims have been in the US since its inception, as have Jews and those pesky papists, with a smattering of others.

    For fun and games, drop by my blog and read my friend Khalil Bendib’s announcement of his candidacy as the first Muslim candidate for president. He makes McCain sound like a rabid dog. The slogan: Fez for Prez! If you’re in SoCal, we’re kicking off the moussem (haouche for any Maghrebis out there)in late Oct. Oct 28 for LA and either the 27 or the 30 for San Diego. Fez’s for all who come and maybe a t-shirt!

  3. effing eff! it’s freedom of religion, not freedom from religion!

    it’s both.

    “But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

    -Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 1782

  4. razib,

    with all due respect…jefferson also kept slaves all the while espousing, “we the people…”

    we celebrate christmas as a national holiday in this country…can we really expect anything else from american politics?

  5. with all due respect…jefferson also kept slaves all the while espousing, “we the people…”

    so? his attitudes and opinions and actions re: religious freedom (personal and public) were totally consistent.

    we celebrate christmas as a national holiday in this country…can we really expect anything else from american politics?

    the nature of christmas is debatable. it was originally a pagan holiday and not widely celebrated and often banned by christians themselves (easter was the archetypical christian holiday, though even it has had paganized accretions). the first famous ‘war against christmas’ occurred during the british civil war when puritans banned ‘pagan’ holidays. their cousins in new england did the same of course.

  6. what is the point of believing in relgious freedom when you don’t believe in freedom as an overarching concept?? sorry, i don’t really buy it myself.

    the man was complex, as all humans are…but this is a fundamental disconnect in my mind.

  7. what is the point of believing in relgious freedom when you don’t believe in freedom as an overarching concept?? sorry, i don’t really buy it myself.

    there are two points

    1) the founders were constructing what was basically an oligarchic republic. remember that only 10% of white males were initially eligible to vote. this is an old story, remember that in athens you have universal male suffrage for citizens, when most of the population were females, metics (non-citizen residents) an slaves. or recall that caesar’s assassins were objecting to his dictatorship not because the common people felt oppressed (they didn’t, caesar was popular amongst the populace) but because he was removing avenues for personal glory for the nobility.

    2) humans aren’t consistent. i just spent the per capita income of many third world nations in the last 2 weeks saving my cat’s leg since he got it run over by a car (lost only two toes!). in theory i do believe that we should give aid and ameliorate suffering, but in my personal life i do live a middle class consumer life in the USA, which includes medium-prized wines and enormous vet bills for my cat-owners. how do i justify it? well, that’s a long story, but the point is that we all do such lives, live lives of triviality and frivolity in the midst of a world with gross injustice and unimaginable suffering.

  8. Hindutvavadi!

    But younger Americans are disillusioned with Christianity and its relation to politics. Americans are becoming more Hindu (in the sense of pluralistic acceptance of varying religious doctrine) than Hindutvavadi – claiming the nation is founded upon a singular cultural essence.

  9. A few points (i.e opinions)

    1.) McCain is behind and his campaign is floundering. The only way he can revive his chances are to appeal to the Republican base who are going to be in large part Christian. That’s why he identified himself as “a Baptist” when he probably is Episcopalian. He has to secure the nomination first and then he can worry about whether he needs to appeal to the populist masses. Just wrap yourself in GodSantaEagleFlagChristmasJesus and you can’t go wrong if you’re trying ti win the REpublican nomination.

    2.) Although it is not explicitly written into the Constitution that the United States, the founders of the US were Christian. While they wanted freedom of religion I don’t think they envisioned the multiple faiths and religious pleuralism that exists today. I think they wanted a Christian faith that was not dominated by a central authority, be it the Pope and the Vatican or the King and Church of England.

    3.) The Constitution is clear in some instances and intentionally vague in other areas so that there is room for interpretation. The “Well regulated militia” is interpreted by the NRA as the right of every citizen to carry a automatic weapons anywhere he or she pleases.

    4.) The US is selective in defense and interpretation of the principles upon which it was founded upon and the freedoms we enjoy. There are dictators in Mynamar and Zimbabwe but we are not invading those countries to bring democracy to the people.

    Well off to the swimming pool with Asha. That’s my way of defeating the terrorist. They hate might right to swim.

    nm mn mn n 98 on ixzvxx dvbk xch lvkk odmxcjcs,vb mn (Asha’s thoughts on the subject)

  10. Ugh. This Republican field is scary… and McCain is the sanest one of the bunch. Indira Sonia Benazir Hillary Clinton is looking better and better…

  11. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

    One of the few things I learned in Constitutional Law was that the phrase “respecting an establishment” (as opposed to just “establishing”) was intentional. The framers chose that phrase so they could cover the establishment AND dis-establishment of religion. Remember, America already had a history of settlers who were escaping persecution from their homelands because of religion. The establishment clause was designed to not make the same mistake.

  12. Re: Asha’s Dad 11. I disagree. I think the founding fathers were well-aware of the existence of different faiths in the colonies. Pennsylvania, in particular, allowed monotheistic non-Christian groups and Rhode Island colony was specifically founded on the principle of separation of Church and State. In addition, the first independent entity to recognize the US was the Muslim Sultanate of Morocco (Marrakech), with whom the US has had the longest standing unbroken treaty.

    As for the NRA and guns. I am not a fan of the NRA, but given the way things are going, I like the 2nd amendment more and more. The military is sworn to uphold the constitution and defend the US against all enemies foreign and domestic. They are not doing well on the foreign ones and I have yet to hear of the US Army marching on Washington and taking back the White House in the name of the people. So, if you don’t mind, I am off to target practice.

  13. Although it is not explicitly written into the Constitution that the United States, the founders of the US were Christian. While they wanted freedom of religion I don’t think they envisioned the multiple faiths and religious pleuralism that exists today. I think they wanted a Christian faith that was not dominated by a central authority, be it the Pope and the Vatican or the King and Church of England.

    that is debatable. they spanned the gamut from orthodox christianity toward non-christian deism (though some, such as john adams, viewed themselves as christians even if most christians did not view him as such because of his anti-trinitarianism). some did want a decentralized christianity, perhaps most, but some of the founders were often very negative toward christianity, jefferson and paine most importantly. you should read the godless constitution for the complicated back story.

  14. The US is selective in defense and interpretation of the principles upon which it was founded upon and the freedoms we enjoy. There are dictators in Mynamar and Zimbabwe but we are not invading those countries to bring democracy to the people.

    ? are you trying to say that the USA should impose its constitution and bill of rights on every nation or we’re hypocrites?

  15. Although it is not explicitly written into the Constitution that the United States, the founders of the US were Christian. While they wanted freedom of religion I don’t think they envisioned the multiple faiths and religious pleuralism that exists today. I think they wanted a Christian faith that was not dominated by a central authority, be it the Pope and the Vatican or the King and Church of England.

    In 1796, towards the end of Washington’s term, the US signed a treaty which said:

    As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion[Link]
  16. In 1796, towards the end of Washington’s term, the US signed a treaty which said:

    hey, that treaty is pretty controversial. last i checked it seemed most likely that it reflects differing opinions among the american founders and that it was pushed through by the anti-clerical faction (which madison, jefferson and paine were the most prominent members). i’m saying this because that is what i read on internet infidels years ago, an atheist site. the take home point is that people saying “most of the founders were christian” or “most of the founders were deist” really need to take a step back and look at it on a case by base. consider thomas jefferson, who drifted toward christian deism late in life, while his personal views were probably more in line with anti-christian deism during his presidency. or john adams, who considered himself a christian though most christians wouldn’t consider him one (shades of mitt romney?). the founders had complex thoughts and ideas. i think both atheists and christians are wrong to “claim” them, when 1) they differed in their views 2) their personal views were often filled with evolution, ambiguity, and a sort of deism which is not particularly popular today

  17. p.s. though i do want people who say “most of the founders” were christian to name which ones they mean. some were quite clearly, i believe benjamin rush for example, but many were not by a orthodox christian definition (e.g., protestant & catholic), e.g., jefferson, madison, adams, like monroe and washington. others such as benjamin franklin were or weren’t depending what you quote or who you believe or what stage of his life he was at (i think he’d average out to being a very liberal christian). there is a large body of scholarship which would contend that andrew jackson was the first president of the united states whose religious beliefs reflected the majority tendency on religious issues; that is, orthodox nicene christianity.

  18. while we are it, is anybody else completely befuddled by this general rhetoric of intent of the founding fathers/constructionist interpretation? maybe i am reactionary, but i’d like to say the world now is a tad different from what it was in 1776. shouldn’t the interpretation of the principles of liberty, freedom etc. move on?

    it will sure be amusing to see constructionist interpretations and debates of the ethics of cloning and genetic treatment based on the omniscient intent of the founding fathers. i am sure the founding fathers expected people to live only 35 years on average, so should we do some planned culling too? (on the plus side, it might help social security in the short term).

  19. whenever people start talking about the founding fathers of the US or about the (unofficially) official religion of the country, things come to a screeching halt in my head, because then i am forced to ask that most obvious of questions, that one question that is so easily overlooked: and what do the indigenous peoples of America have to say about this?

  20. while we are it, is anybody else completely befuddled by this general rhetoric of intent of the founding fathers/constructionist interpretation? maybe i am reactionary, but i’d like to say the world now is a tad different from what it was in 1776. shouldn’t the interpretation of the principles of liberty, freedom etc. move on?

    Amen. I do not think the founding fathers had ever envisioned anything like the world we currently live in. While it’s good to respect their memory and the genius in their collective work, it’s also good to remember that what they created was, above all else, a flexible and free infrastructure for government that allowed people as much choice as they could get while still providing for the common welfare.

    Strictly speaking, they enshrined the principles they all agreed upon very explicitly, right there in the Constitution. And “America is a Christian nation” is not in there anywhere. Nor is the “right to bear arms” (that was added later, you know?). Insinuating that America is moving to a wholly Christian destiny, or that Christians have some kind of unique right to govern by invoking the name of the founding fathers and their putative beliefs is disgusting.

    While saying this kind of thing is currently in vogue politically, that doesn’t make it true. Or right.

  21. and what do the indigenous peoples of America have to say about this?

    you think they speak with one voice? some of the iroquois confederacy sided with the british and some sided with the americans. and that was when the iroquois weren’t raiding groups like the alquonquin and sending war parties as far as illinois. there has been 10,000 years of habitation of the new world, and the extant record in places like mesoamerica suggest the expected rise and fall of peoples. the only “indigenous” claim that natives of north america have is over the english settlers who replaced them is that they replaced another group before them hundreds of years earlier (these weren’t static cultures which showed 10,000 years ago and never evolved or moved).

  22. btw, jefferson’s declaration of independence hints at the religious sentiments common among the founders When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

    “Nature’s God” is of course the deist god.

    While saying this kind of thing is currently in vogue politically, that doesn’t make it true. Or right.

    there’s a lot of stuff made up in america’s churches. i’ve talked to many christians who repeat the line that “america’s founders were christian,” with the implicit assumption that they were christian like. forget the fact that most of the early presidents are on the record rejecting the divinity of christ. most of the people who repeat these talking points haven’t checked up them, so if you ask them what the founders said which implies that they’re christian it is amusing to note they repeat stuff about religion which is often a) very general b) in line with the deistic phraseology of the late 18th century. they don’t know the historical context so they simply put it through the christian filter.

  23. Razib, I think Fathima is talking about moral authority here.

    It’s disingenuous to say that the current inhabitants of America inherited the land via legitimate means. They did not, no matter how you cut it.

    The real question, then, is what is OUR moral authority? Each generation seeks to define itself anew, keeping that which is good from those previous, learning from their mistakes, and passing forward the best of its own.

    America was also a slave-owning society. It is not any longer. Before WWII, America had a deeply-ingrained anti-Semitic streak. Before the 1960s, America was very much male-oriented. In this day and age, gay people face many of the same hurdles that black people, Jewish people, women, Hispanics, and Indians (native born or otherwise) have faced in the past.

    I do not say that these problems have all been fully addressed. But at least they’ve been admitted to, and at least our government, and our society has taken steps to remedy at least the most obvious and egregious of its failings.

    My point is that America continues to evolve morally. And now is not the time to stop. You may question the moral underpinings of America’s founding, but as Razib points out, that’s because you have the luxury of historical perspective on your side. No country or society that I’m aware of has origins that are wholly innocent, or even partially so. There’s always plenty of blood and blame to go around.

  24. No country or society that I’m aware of has origins that are wholly innocent, or even partially so.

    exactly. all post-hunter gatherer cultural systems are predicated on an aspect of coercion, and that coercion often reflects values which are alien to our modern perspective.

  25. right, so my phrasing of that question did imply that i believe indigenous americans have a single version of american history – which i don’t actually believe. but my point was, phrased now less obliquely, that all this talk of “founding fathers” bothers me because it presumes a beginning point to american history that is easily disputed. in fact, it not only presumes it, it strengthens it. to talk of a basically Christian country, however critically, is to neglect a vast chunk of continental history, however problematic or uncertain that history may have been (and so yes, razib, i do agree with you that violence was not endemic to the colonisers – that violence is something easily spotted in all cultures). as to the other issues of moral evolution – with certain qualifications (because straight-line ‘progress’ is an iffy concept for me), i do agree with you, Salil. i’d never meant to imply that i don’t think the US hasn’t changed since the Civil War or the civil rights movement or any of its other historical moments, but i wasn’t really talking about all those things. it’s this whole discourse that surrounds the creation of the nation-state that is america now that i find problematic. because my personal interests do not limit themselves to nation-states or to pre-approved textbooked histories. discourses involving ‘founding fathers,’ however, do.

    but i think i am straying off-topic here. apologies for the previous careless throw-away line.

  26. I think the republicans are getting too much credit here, the more one thinks of it the more it seem like the party of Lincoln is no longer for you unless you are rich or white or a Christian. Wasn’t it just two days back that not a single republican lead candidate attended a debate at a black college! Sure the African Americans wont bring much money or votes for republicans but politicians used to at least pay lip service to multicultarlism previously, not anymore.

    And McCain is just desperate, he is rotting in the sidelines and trying whatever he can. The sad thing is not what he said but that he is saying exactly what the republican base would like to hear.

  27. Looks like conservatives are also looking at third-party candidates, since they are fed up with the current GOP front-runners.

    yes, mccain has to run against his erstwhile (now ancient) sanity, giuliani against his homosexual-loving/pro-immigration/multiply-marrying record (at least, he loves shocking terrorist genitals), romney against his mormonism. fred thompson – well, thanks to his laziness, he doesn’t have much of a record to speak of, and he is trying to bolster his religiosity claims by saying he goes to church in tennessee when he visits his mom (awww, loves christ. and parents! except, nobody in his mom’s parish has actually seen him in that church). huckabee, who has a stellar record of losing weight, cracking jokes, and supporting creationism unfortunately is not a front runner, so maybe the loonies have to turn to the pat robertsons of the world.

    a sorry sorry field that makes me want to throw up.

  28. … so maybe the loonies have to turn to the pat robertsons of the world. a sorry sorry field that makes me want to throw up.

    Hey, maybe they can support Nader. :)

  29. a sorry sorry field that makes me want to throw up.

    But then the good out this mess will be a better chance for a woman a democrat in the white house. I just love em republicans when they are like this.

  30. But then the good out this mess will be a better chance for a democrat in the white house. I just love em republicans when they are like this.

    one can only hope. although, in the past, a personal emetic reaction has not been indicative of what a majority of people want (bush 04). whenever i go back and see how the definition of the political centrist position has moved so far to the right, it only makes me depressed. the terms of the debate have been changed so significantly that barely playing defense is considered a victory for the “left”.

  31. Let’s wait and see if Bloomberg throws his hat in the ring. That would make the situation very interesting.

  32. internet infidels on the treaty of tripoli.

    Interesting link, Razib. I had no idea that Godel’s Theorem, which kicked up dust on SM recently, was a standard theist argument. The atheist-theist arguments have become so predictable you could pretty much have them by argument number. ;)

  33. Haha, that’s funny Sakshi. Something like

    Theist: Arg #13 Atheist: Arg #52 Theist: In that case, #27

    Actually, the quoted portion above is joke #31 in my list of jokes. Unfortunately, the effect would be totally lost if I just said “thirty-one” on SM, ‘cuz, you know, the delivery is important and can’t by conveyed except in person.

  34. Interesting link, Razib. I had no idea that Godel’s Theorem, which kicked up dust on SM recently, was a standard theist argument. The atheist-theist arguments have become so predictable you could pretty much have them by argument number. ;)

    Very clever.

  35. Is it just me, or is McCain making a veiled attack against Barak Hussein Obama, thus managing to pound (quasi) Muslims and (half) blacks in one go?

  36. The Straight Talk Express continues to take a detour through Bullshit Town… (thanks, Jon Stewart!)

    a sorry sorry field that makes me want to throw up.

    The sad thing is, the Dems will probably still find a way to lose the election.

  37. The Straight Talk Express continues to take a detour through Bullshit Town… (thanks, Jon Stewart!)

    Pshaw! The talk from that express is about as straight as Senator (Past September 30! I love him! No, not enough to be in the same restroom as he is) Larry Craig.

  38. This sounds awfully like the Hindutva rhetoric coming from fundamentalist politicians in Hindustan. They claim that Hindustan is a Hindu nation and all rest must assimilate or be wiped out sort of like how the Buddhists were pushed out.

  39. Seven years ago, McCain railed against the Christian Right during his bid to win the Republican candidacy.

    Now he is licking the boots of the Evangelicals.

    I used to hold a lot of respect for McCain and now he is like a fallen Jedi. Sad to see McCain go through this path.

  40. I’m just curious, Sakshi. What would argument #1 be in the atheist-theist debate?

    The atheist-theist arguments have become so predictable you could pretty much have them by argument number. ;)

    Let me try my hand at creating the numbered list:

    1: There is no God.

    2: Yes, there is.

    3: No, you’re wrong.

    4: You’re kind of stupid. Here, read this book that some old hoary so-and-so wrote umpteen thousand years.

    5: That book is way boring and stupid, and it was written umpteen thousand years ago by a person whose decendants also went on to invent crack cocaine.

    6: You are a bad person, and your mother dresses you funny.

    7: Why are your eyes crossed like that? Is it because your cousins had carnal relations?

    8: Once, in reading this very old text, there was a proverb about people like you, wherein this God dude pretty much killed you all.

    9: Once, in this book I’m writing here, I said that people like you are the reason people like me make so much money on book tours.

    10: I hate you.

    11: I hate you, too. Can we be friends on Facebook, though?