Monday, December 03, 2007

On Faithiness, for Feminists

"Faithiness" is a term coined (as far as I know) on Eschaton comments threads to describe the kind of religiosity that politicians are required to have in the U.S.. It is not faith, but "faithiness". The distinction is similar to Stephen Colbert's definition of "truthiness" as opposed to "truth." Truthiness has to do with statements which might be the most glaring lies ever but which taste, smell and sound like truth, at least to the primal political parts of our brains. Truthiness is crunchy and wholesome, even though it's really hot air.

Faithiness is something very similar. It has the smell of holiness but no substance. Politicians must declare that they believe in God, and they must give every possible sign to tell us that it is the vindictive god of the Old Testament they follow. But try to nail them down on exact details of their belief, and they turn into slippery eels. So they are not going to tell us if they would stone adulterous women, for example.

All this is quite entertaining to watch from a distance. The fundamentalists from the right want the Republican candidates to tell us that they believe in the Bible as the literal word of God (even when it conflicts with itself), and that presumably would require the stoning of lots of adulteresses. But the politicians know that being in favor of stoning would not go down terribly well with the majority of Americans. It's a tricky tightrope walk for them to say all the nice things openly and also to give the wink-wink-nod to their fundamentalist supporters.

I was thinking of this when I read that Mitt Romney is going to give a speech about his Mormon beliefs. I bet that he will not tell you anything about women's role in his religion (not good at all) or about the very interesting initial justifications for polygamy in Mormonism.

Why am I bad-mouthing religions here? Because all religions have bits which are very unsavory to outsiders, and pretty much all fundamental religions treat women horribly, and if we are going to demand faithiness from our political leaders, I, for one, certainly want to know if adulteresses will be stoned or not and if women really must spend all eternity pregnant with spirit children to populate those planets the men, now turned into gods, rule.

In short, I don't want a faithy president, a president who declares faith but doesn't say anything more about its contents. If faithiness becomes an important issue then every presidential candidate should be grilled in great detail about the exact tenets of his or her religion that will be used in the governing of this country. And those religious tenets must then be openly discussed and criticized by everyone, not just those who have the same religion.

This is not something most religious people probably want, but it seems the logical thing to do. If your religion is going to affect my life through the government for which I pay taxes, then I have the right to criticize your religion.