Now that Governor Mitt the Mormon isn’t running for President anymore, and doesn’t need to suck up to evangelical Christians, he can afford to be nice to atheists. Like apologizing for his remarks made during the campaign, which disaffected unbelieving Republicans like me. So now, he can enjoy the political latitude to say things like this:
Several commentators, for instance, argued that I had failed to sufficiently acknowledge the contributions that had been made by atheists. At first, I brushed this off — after all this was a speech about faith in America, not non-faith in America. Besides, I had not enumerated the contributions of believers — why should non-believers get special treatment? But upon reflection, I realized that while I could defend their absence from my address, I had missed an opportunity…an opportunity to clearly assert that non-believers have just as great a stake as believers in defending religious liberty. If a society takes it upon itself to prescribe and proscribe certain streams of belief — to prohibit certain less-favored strains of conscience — it may be the non-believer who is among the first to be condemned. A coercive monopoly of belief threatens everyone, whether we are talking about those who search the philosophies of men or follow the words of God. We are all in this together. Religious liberty and liberality of thought flow from the common conviction that it is freedom, not coercion, that exalts the individual just as it raises up the nation.
He goes on to defend his claim from December that freedom requires religion, mainly by conflating religion with “truth” and also with morality. I’ll leave contemplating of that bit of intellectual sleight-of-hand to you, my Readers, by asking you to consider that even if you are relgious yourselves, you surely know of the existence of false religions, religions which encourage conduct you find immoral.
But, the overt recognition that atheists, like believers, have contributed to the vitality and spirit of our nation and that we to deserve to enjoy the benefits of the liberties that are fundamental to our society are welcome and worthy of praise. Governor Romney earns my thanks for those concilatory remarks. And while I may not completely agree with the balance of his speech, I will respect his sentiments as a thoughtful, religious, patriotic, and moral man concerned with the ongoing welfare of his country.