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).