January 23, 2012
Gist: The consciences of Romney and Gingrich are beholden to external spiritual Authorities with regard to their expected personal and enduring happiness (after death). These Authorities have made it clear that the rights of some Americans (homosexuals) should be curtailed for the good of the American people as a whole. Today the homosexual; tomorrow perhaps the left-hander; after that the Hispanic or eventually even the European American? The conscience of Obama is (apparently!) free of subjugation to any such external spiritual authority. Consequently, with regard to the sanctity of American rights, an American should feel safer with Obama than with either Romney or Gingrich.
I want to muse on the binding of the conscience, especially with regard to the process presently taking place in the election of the next President.
Romney and Gingrich are subject in conscience to an external Authority (either a Prophet or else a Pope). As religious people they will believe that they will have to have the favor of God in order to expect to enter into a heaven. They will consider their service to the American people as a service to God, and will most earnestly seek to promote the interests of the American people and then through that, through that example, they will promote the interests of all people. They will consider themselves as bound professionally to the best interests of the Americans, and of this there is no reason to doubt. Each will be bound by his own conscience to follow his best understanding of the situation and of the American interests and to act always and only for that best interest and in accordance with their vision for American happiness.
Now a great question arises here. We have tied each to his own conscience. Now both the Mormons and the Roman Catholics insist that every person is bound before God according to their conscience (see Romans 14:4). That is a given. Now in addition to this the Prophet and the Pope have the capacity to bind the conscience, i.e., to authoritatively inform each follower that such and such must be done or that person will lose much happiness (now or eventually). In other words, no matter how either might think that such a command is unreasonable or even wrong (and here considering right and wrong from the standpoint of common understanding [and per Kant]), his future happiness is at least partially a function of his compliance with this dictation.
So suppose that a Pope or a Prophet should inform the Roman Catholic or Mormon President that homosexuality is to be wiped from the face of this nation, e.g., beginning a gradually elimination of the visible presence of the homosexual through the political process, and starting with a curtailment of their rights and their status as full citizens. Since the President will believe that the command of God is also in the best interest of the American people, when God indicates that a given minority is to be suppressed, then ipso facto this will be in the best interests of the Americans (and oddly enough even of those whose rights are being curtailed).
I can even imagine each, the Pope and the Prophet, being sincerely convinced that this condemnation of homosexuality is a message from God.*
[* The Muslims, I think, speak of Satan as a trickster who might even seek to impersonate the divinity.]
As each candidate is a person who believes in a heaven and a hell, we would naturally expect that that candidate must do what he knows for a fact (in faith) that if he does not do he will suffer significantly, perhaps even be burned forever in the flames of hell. This is the concern that Americans in general can have with religious candidates.
So, ramblingly on, what would happen if the President of the United States got it into his head to rid the nation of human beings who are queer or different, say left handed people? And the only defense he has is that he sincerely believes and is convinced that this is the will of his God of punishment and reward? In other words he doesn’t think it is right on his own, but is willing, and even perhaps compelled by his faith, to take the alleged, divine communication as superior to his own thinking and knowledge.*
[* How can any one determine that a communication is divine? See Discerning the Divine.]
Here is now an important question, and I present this is in a sort of Stephen Cobert style. Suppose the President learned that his external Authority had revealed that left handed behavior were to be eliminated from the world, as fast as possible, as fast as the President can convince others to go along. He could appeal to biblical suggestions that the left hand is sinister. “Look”, as I imagine him saying, ” if left-handedness were natural, then about half the people would be left handed. Or if it is a function of God, then it would one hundred percent the one or the other. But it is ten percent left and ninety percent right. Well, doesn’t that tell you that it is sinister? It is deliberate. It is rebellious. This is where all rebellion comes from. This has got to go. Let’s at least make a law which says that the marriage contract must be signed only with the right hand. Before the law the left hand is not acceptable. It is not up to par in the eyes of the world. God is right handed and so are all decent people, and this rebellion needs to stop.”*
[* A dream. If two left handers marry they can’t have children. Just an odd quirk of science. So in an overcrowded world you rationally would want to encourage left-handedness, to the extent possible, beyond the 10% up to maybe the 20% level to encourage some wonderful relationships among people who love each other so much they are willing to go without being able to give birth.**]
[** This thinking is not far fetched with regard to sexuality, of course, for it is becoming increasingly clear that bisexuality is a phenomenon.]
I think it would be worthwhile for both of these candidates to justify why it is that rights of marriage should be limited by either sexual orientation or hand orientation. Tradition is not the answer. Tradition cannot trump human rights, for 99% of us would still be serfs. And the justification cannot be based on Divine decree, for the American people will not trust their interests to a President whose best judgment (concerning justice and equality) could be trumped by a religious edict which that President could easily view as binding on him, and whether he liked it or not.
We Americans need to know the sanctity of the universality of rights (in the eyes of these candidates) before we can be assured that there is no possibility of any divine intervention through them restricting the rights of some of us.*
[* As I understand, Romney once supported equal rights for homosexuals. Since he has changed his mind he owes the country an explanation of the factors that led to this change of mind. I don't think Gingrich has ever been for gay marriage, either as a bible-beholden protestant or as a Roman Catholic.]
Now I want to turn by attention to Obama. This candidate, I think, is the embodiment of the Free Christian (known in the Christian scriptures as “Gentile Christian”), only he doesn’t know it yet because he hasn’t read my treatise on this (ha ha). This Free Christian is, according to Immanuel Kant, the most revolutionary creature in the history of religions, for this follower of Jesus has only a single rule for all his practice. Nothing else is needed. This single rule is the law of universal neighborly love. The Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15) made it clear once and for all (and by unanimous acclamation [for the Holy Spirit also concurred]) that the follower of Jesus needed no practical guidance beyond this his marvelous embodiment of Kant’s Moral Law. This moral law is supreme for all actions of the Free Christians (as expressed by the Law of Love). The only question has to do with expediency, i.e., how best to implement this great Law of Universal Love. And this will be a function of one’s best and most sincere understanding of what enhances human personality. Accordingly the spirit gives us love, and the understanding gives us our knowledge of medicine and poison, of what is helpful and what is hurtful. The spirit is constant, the understanding can change and improve with the progress of science.
This liberty of the Free Christian from external Authorities goes beyond simply Pope and Prophet and includes also the Christians’ sacred text. For in John 15 of those texts we find the icon of Christian liberty, for here the Christian, following Jesus, refuses to acknowledge as binding on his conscience any alleged communication of God Himself which would inhibit an immediate act of love.
Thus in the process of scanning the sacred texts in search of rules and regulations for his living, the Free Christian comes to realize that he is bound only by the Law of Love.
So Obama can declare himself a Free Christian and thereby show that he could never recognize as authentically from God any communication, no matter how delivered, that would call for him to deny any left hander or homosexual or anyone else their rights both as a human and as an American.
The upshot of all this in reference to these three possible candidates seems to be as follow: concerning the security of the rights of the Americans I would be much more at ease with Obama than with the other two.
Now as an after thought we might consider the security of our rights if the President were an atheist. Of course we would not have to worry about alleged communications from any God calling for the restriction of rights with an atheist. There are instead other concerns such lack of moral restraint* against utilization of the office to further the personal interests of the President, either while in office or in retirement.
[* A totally rational and consistent atheist must reject the moral law as inane and absurd (as Kant has shown**), and then he must decide whether he will simply disregard it in his pursuit of personal happiness, or whether he will just be moral anyway (and give up his happiness). The former can be called the rational and immoral atheist, and the latter the moral and irrational atheist. And so if an atheist is a candidate for President, he should declare if he is rational, where then we can count on him to be immoral if it seems safe and profitable to him. And if instead he admits to being irrational, then we certainly wouldn’t want him running the country.]
[** For example: " . . . without a God and a world not visible for us now, but hoped for, the splendid ideas of morality are indeed objects of acclaim and amazement, but not motives for resolution and execution . . . "***]
[*** The Critique of Pure Reason, Canon, 2rd Section, 17th paragraph.]
Note 1. The reason that Kant thought it was so important to come upon the fact of God first through common, moral reasoning (and not through speculative arguments and proofs) was because it would always temper our understanding of any alleged communications from that God, i.e., we would know in advance that God’s communication could never be understood as calling for what we in our common understanding recognize to be an immoral act, e.g., denying rights to some. In interpretation leading to that conclusion would have to be rejected as incorrect, and indeed a priori.
Note 2. Regarding the possibility of three or more people joining in a marriage, while that can not be totally excluded as a legal possibility in the future, prudence would suggest to refrain any such arrangement until we had gained considerable experience with keeping even two people married for life. And such a three way marriage would also not be one man marrying each of two or more wives, as Muslims and some Mormons might have it, but would entail all three being married to each other, e.g., each Mormon wife would have both a husband and a wife, while the husband would have two wives.