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Friday, 07 September 2012 08:33

Marco Rubio, “Faith,” and the Coming Religious Wars

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STEVEN JONAS, MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Sen. Marco Rubio (FL) gave a speech on the last night of the Republican National Convention. The GOP loves him because he is one of those relatively rare Latino politicians who call the GOP home. He of course rigorously supports GOP policies, except when it comes to illegal immigration. On that one, if you listen carefully, he takes no position, except that whatever President Obama has done (and he has presided the deportation of more undocumented aliens [mainly Latinos] than any other President) is wrong. Another little problem for Rubio has been that for years we were told that his parents were “defectors” (otherwise known as “emigrants”) from “Castro’s Cuba,” until it was discovered that they actually left the US-supported dictator Batista’s Cuba four years before the Cuban Revolution.

At any rate, there was one particular paragraph in Rubio’s speech that caught many ears. It came when he was talking about the US people, and what is “special” about us:

“We are special because we’ve been united not by a common race or ethnicity. We’re bound together by common values. That family is the most important institution in society. That almighty God is the source of all we have. . . . Our national motto is ‘In God we Trust,’ reminding us that faith in our Creator is the most important American value of all.”

Fascinating stuff, especially for someone who was born Catholic, as a teenager, when his family was living in Las Vegas, converted to Mormonism, and then converted back to Catholicism upon their return to Florida (1). Presumably, he made some changes-in-values on that trip. Nevertheless, let’s see just what might be the “common values” he referred to in his speech.

It’s certainly true that we are not united by “race or ethnicity.” The European settlers virtually eliminated the original inhabitants of what became the United States, enslaved members of another ethnic group brought here against their will, some of the descendants of those European settlers still practice discrimination against both, and some of the same have added Latinos, both those whose ancestors were here long before the Euros arrived and more recent arrivals, to that list. So in that he is quite correct.

Now what about “common values” by which we might be “bound together?” Well, I for one, for example, don’t share any of, for example, the most basic values held by Mitt Romany (2). As for family, while mine is central in my life, there are plenty of people who either A) don’t have one with which they relate much at all or B) can’t stand theirs if they do.

But then we come to the “God” thing. First of all, there are plenty of us who don’t believe that there is a deity or even a group of them. (An increasing number of us secular humanists are “coming out of the closet” on this one; as for me, coming from a secular household I’ve been out of it for as long as I can remember.)   Second of all, as for the “In God we Trust” thing, that slogan, hardly a “national motto” adhered to by all of us, was adopted by Congress in 1952, at the height of McCarthyism and the domestic/international campaign against “godless Communism.”

Just for Sen. Rubio’s information (and he should know this; having been to law school he presumably has read the Constitution, and maybe even studied it in a Constitutional Law course), the word “God” does not appear anywhere in that one document that could be considered to establish the common values for our nation and our people. In its only references to religion, in Article VI and Amendment I, the Constitution prohibits the establishment of any religious qualifications for elected office, and ensconces the principle of the separation of church and state in our national polity.

Finally, Senator, “faith in our Creator” is hardly the most important value of all, for many U.S. citizens. Among other things, it is a pretty undefined term, even for those of the theistic persuasion. Let’s see what that kind of policies taking that position can lead to. Why in your party it leads to the religion-based homophobia, misogyny, and religious authoritarianism on abortion rights that now dominate your platform and political agenda. “God” itself is a pretty undefined concept. A personal God, who is in one’s life at all times? A general guider of things? A force that established the world and then left it to its own devices, the concept at the center of the Deism adhered to by many of the founders? Or perhaps there is more than one, as the Hindus hold. A being with whom one can have conversations, as the Presidential nominee of your party apparently thinks that he does (2)?

And then we can get to a banner seen outside the RNC (selected elements): “Why do you love the devil? Homos, Feminists, Mormons, Buddhists, Catholics, Atheists, Democrats, Environmentalists, Racists, Scientologists, Muslims, Loud Mouth Women, Liberals, Sophisticated Swine, and Sports Nuts (Hey, I’m one of those; how did we get included?): Repent and Believe in Jesus.” This is not, of course, (current) GOP policy. But European Christians slaughtered each in the hundreds of thousands in the 16th and 17th centuries over disputes about who “really believed in Jesus” and who was, or was not “repentant,” (disagreeing too over what that word meant). “Jesus?” Just who’s Jesus is this person talking about? The Catholics’? The Mormons’? The Presbyterians? (To say nothing of the Jews’ or the Muslims’.) Very dangerous territory is being approached here.

Rubio talked about “God” and “faith.” But his concept of “God” is, for example, one that would sanction the criminalization of any religious belief about when life begins other than his. Yes indeed, if this kind of thinking is allowed to spread, indeed if it allowed taking over our country, look out, everyone. Indeed, a modern version of religious war, much more lethal even than its historical predecessors, could well be just around the corner.

One observer recently put it very well: “The Founding Fathers knew the only way to insure religious freedom and to maintain democracy is to keep religion and government separate. We cannot allow our government to endorse religion even slightly for it’s a thin line from endorse to enforce” (3). Mark Marco and his party well on this one, my friends. Mark them well.

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References:

1.       Avlon, J., “Who is Marco Rubio?’ http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/06/18/who-is-marco-rubio-life-story-revealed-in-manuel-roig-franzia-s-biography.html

2.       Jonas, S., “Mitt Romney's Core Values,” BuzzFlash@Truthout on Thu, 07/19/2012, URL: http://www.buzzflash.org/node/13613

3.       Cottle, B., “Myths and Truths About Atheism,” http://www.coloradoan.com/article/20120902/OPINION04/309030008/Myths-truths-about-atheism?nclick_check=1

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Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 30 books. In addition to being a columnist for BuzzFlash/Truthout (http://www.buzzflash.com, http://www.truth-out.org/), he is the Managing Editor of and a Contributing Author to TPJmagazine.net.