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The Religion of the Left

Roger Ebert has an interesting article in his journal pointing out the hypocrisy of people who think it is in bad taste to discuss religion in public, but have no problem talking about New-Age beliefs such as astrology, psychics, reincarnation and past lives, healing crystals, Tarot cards, or Feng Shui. As Ebert puts it:

If you were attending a dinner party of community leaders in Dallas, Atlanta, Omaha or Colorado Springs and the conversation turned to religion, a chill might fall on the room if you confessed yourself an atheist. Yet at a dinner party of the nicest and brightest in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and (especially) Los Angeles, if the hostess began to confide about past lives, her Sign and yours, and her healing crystals, it might not go over so well if you confessed you thought she was full of it.

I do find it funny that some people who condemn religious conservatives as wing-nuts have no problem with equally nonsensical new-age beliefs.

But I think that Ebert goes a little too far when he says that anyone on either side who believes any of this nonsense should not be elected president. Ebert even says:

And if a candidate counts among close friends and advisors anyone in communication with the spirit world, that candidate should not be elected President.

And yet, Mary Lincoln held seances in the White House attended by Abe, Nancy Reagan had her own astrologer/psychic, and astrologer Jean Dixon spent lots of time at the White House hanging out with the Kennedy boys, to name but a few examples.

As Ebert himself points out, the important issue is whether one’s beliefs affect how they do their job. I remember when JFK was running for president and many people screamed that his being a Catholic would put the Pope in charge of America. But “There’s no indication that JFK’s Catholicism affected his political positions. … On the other hand, Bush’s beliefs did have an obvious influence on him in such science-related areas as stem cell research, global warming and conservation.”

So when a candidate says something should be outlawed, and their main reason is because the Bible says so, I have a problem with that. But until a candidate proposes rebuilding Washington DC according to the principles of Feng Shui, I don’t really care what nutty things they privately believe in (as long as they don’t affect their public decisions).



  1. starluna wrote:

    DC would be much improved if it was rebuilt according to Feng Shui. I might get lost less often.

    Sunday, December 6, 2009 at 3:14 pm | Permalink
  2. Iron Knee wrote:

    Starluna, most of Hong Kong was built according to Feng Shui, but I’m sure you would get lost there even more than in DC.

    Sunday, December 6, 2009 at 3:29 pm | Permalink
  3. If you believe is something without evidence, like Feng Shui, the healing power of crystals, past lives, etc., then it shows a lack of critical thinking skills. And critical thinking skills are important for a president.

    They are important to everyone, but they are very important in leaders.

    Sunday, December 6, 2009 at 5:55 pm | Permalink
  4. espian2 wrote:

    To the best of my knowledge, Mrs. Lincoln, Nancy Reagan and Jean Dixon were never elected president of the United States, so your rebuttal to Ebert’s contention seems irrelevant.

    Sunday, December 6, 2009 at 10:38 pm | Permalink
  5. I agree on your main point. I’m not as concerned about the wacky beliefs on the left because the worst of them haven’t worked into policy.

    Nevertheless, I take both C.S.Strowbride’s and Espain2’s critiques to heart. Critical thinking skills are necessary, in leaders and in the citizenry, if we are to have a sustainable republic. Including that point in your post would strengthen it. And the examples of the wives of the Presidents is a bit of a red herring. Yes, wives can have significant influence on the political thinking of their husbands. But they don’t necessarily have that sort of impact (at least, I’ve not seen such from, say, Maria Shriver). I would remove the examples from the Presidents’ wives and replace them (though with what escapes me at the moment).

    Monday, December 7, 2009 at 6:04 am | Permalink
  6. Iron Knee wrote:

    Sheesh, you guys don’t let me get away with any sloppiness at all. Ok, I updated the post to make my point clearer. Certainly even you guys would admit that Mary Lincoln was a “close friend” of Abe, as was Nancy to Ronnie.

    Monday, December 7, 2009 at 12:18 pm | Permalink
  7. Oh, but Iron Knee, you wouldn’t want it any other way. Seriously, if you didn’t want feedback, you wouldn’t have a spot for comments. 😉

    (Oh, are we ever going to see pictures from your vacation? 😉 )

    Monday, December 7, 2009 at 12:57 pm | Permalink
  8. Iron Knee wrote:

    Well, of course I want you to keep me honest, but that doesn’t mean I won’t ever complain about it.

    Vacation photos were posted in the forum.

    Monday, December 7, 2009 at 2:07 pm | Permalink
  9. IronKnee. Ah, missed the photos. Life here was ugly the last three months.

    So it goes.

    I’ll go looking. 🙂

    Monday, December 7, 2009 at 2:17 pm | Permalink