Mitt Romney's speech, "Faith In America," is offensive, wrong and un-American. Romney reveals in the speech that he understands neither freedom nor America. The speech alerts us that a President Romney would be statist and collectivist.
Romney makes the common mistake of equating religion and freedom.
Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.
This is false. Religion destroys freedom and leads to tyranny. Throughout history, from the Aztecs to the Roman Empire to the Inquisition, religion and state have cooperated to form dictatorships that control both body and soul of the citizens. Religion is one of the few institutions that thrive in tyranny.
Freedom can only exist to the extent that people use reason in social interactions. Romney's statement could be rewritten as: Freedom requires reason just as reason requires freedom.
Reason is the epistemology based on the facts of reality perceived by the senses. When two people have a dispute, reality is the court of final appeal. In a free country with the rule of law, people do not use force on one another, they use reason. They attempt to persuade. Arguments come down to one question, "What is the truth?" Or, "What are the facts of reality?"
Faith is the epistemology based on knowledge that does not come through the senses, but through revelation from God. In any dispute concerning faith, reason is useless because the facts of reality are useless. Since faith comes from the supernatural realm, there is nothing in reality a faithful person can point to as evidence he is right.
When reason is out, force fills the void. The more consistently and seriously a man believes in faith, the more he will support the use of force to work for faith. If faith reveals the truth and there is no way to persuade the unfaithful of this truth with reason, then force is justified. Throughout history there are countless examples of the faithful using force against the unfaithful. Faith leads to force.
America was not founded on religious values, as Romney asserts. America was a product of the Enlightenment, which was the apex of reason and the nadir of religion in history. The values mentioned in the Declaration of Independence, "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" are not religious values. Consistently religious people spurn this world as the realm of Satan and turn their eyes to the supernatural world. Religious ascetics do not pursue happiness, but deprive themselves in this world so that they can get to happiness in the next world.
Religion holds sacrifice, the opposite of "the pursuit of happiness," as the moral ideal. This puts religion at odds with capitalism and liberty, both of which allow individuals to pursue their self-interest. The more consistently religious a man is, the more he supports the state suppressing liberty and forcing individuals to sacrifice.
This brings us to the most startling aspect of Romney's speech, his specific advocacy of altruism, statism and collectivism.
We believe that every single human being is a child of God - we are all part of the human family....
The consequence of our common humanity is our responsibility to one another, to our fellow Americans foremost, but also to every child of God. It is an obligation which is fulfilled by Americans every day, here and across the globe, without regard to creed or race or nationality.
Romney believes that Americans have a "responsibility" and "obligation" to all humans. This is a prescription for American sacrifice to the world, a far cry from "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
Americans acknowledge that liberty is a gift of God, not an indulgence of government. No people in the history of the world have sacrificed as much for liberty. The lives of hundreds of thousands of America's sons and daughters were laid down during the last century to preserve freedom, for us and for freedom loving people throughout the world. America took nothing from that Century's terrible wars - no land from Germany or Japan or Korea; no treasure; no oath of fealty....
Romney sees our participation in the 20th century's world wars as sacrificing to serve God. Freedom is not a selfish value in this world, merely a value because it is what God wants for man. Romney's words signal that, like George W. Bush, he would follow the neoconservative nation building to bring the "gift of God" to the rest of the world.
Domestically, religious ethics lead Romney to a vision of sacrifice for the needy:
These American values, this great moral heritage, is shared and lived in my religion as it is in yours. I was taught in my home to honor God and love my neighbor. I saw my father march with Martin Luther King. I saw my parents provide compassionate care to others, in personal ways to people nearby, and in just as consequential ways in leading national volunteer movements. I am moved by the Lord's words: 'For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me...'
Can the man who says these words oppose the welfare state in any consistent, principled way? Or would he rather follow George W. Bush's compassionate conservatism, uniting faith and welfare state? Romney's philosophy spells the death of individualism and egoism, the ideas that underlie "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
And notice that he brings up "national volunteer movements." Would he be able to resist using the state to force young people to "volunteer" in service of others? If God demands sacrifice, why shouldn't the government serve God and make people do their moral duty?
Finally, there is this problematic passage from the end of the speech:
...Any believer in religious freedom, any person who has knelt in prayer to the Almighty, has a friend and ally in me. And so it is for hundreds of millions of our countrymen: we do not insist on a single strain of religion - rather, we welcome our nation's symphony of faith.
What of those of us who refuse to kneel in prayer to the Almighty? Does Romney consider us his friends and allies? Or is there no room at Romney's inn for atheists?
The best we can hope for from a Romney presidency is that he doesn't really mean what he says -- that he is pandering to the religious right to get elected. I raise this possibility because he has a record of opportunism. His principles are formed by his political need of the moment. As Ron Fournier writes,
[Romney] campaigned for governor of Democratic-leaning Massachusetts as a supporter of abortion rights, gay rights and gun control — only to switch sides on those and other issues in time for the GOP presidential race. The first thing he did as a presidential contender in January was sign the same no-tax pledge an aide dismissed as "government by gimmickry" during the 2002 campaign.
Romney does not deserve the support of anyone who values individualism, egoism and capitalism. His stated beliefs, if he were true to them, would continue America down the path started by George W. Bush toward a religious welfare state.