Marco Rubio: Deluded This Way or That Way? November 27, 2010

Marco Rubio: Deluded This Way or That Way?

A late night rant here. Hope this makes sense.

Do other atheists just roll their eyes when they read articles like the one in today’s New York Times by Mark Oppenheimer?

But while Mr. [Marco] Rubio, 39, presented himself on his Florida Statehouse Web site and in interviews as a Roman Catholic, bloggers and journalists have noted since his election that he regularly worships at an evangelical megachurch whose theology is plainly at odds with Catholic teaching.

For much of the last decade, Mr. Rubio has attended Christ Fellowship with his wife and children. He “comes very regularly to worship service” at the church’s Palmetto Bay campus, said Eric Geiger, the executive pastor…

He retains ties to the Catholic Church, too. “On the final Sunday of the campaign, for example, he attended Mass at Christ the King Catholic Church in Tampa,” according to an e-mail from Alex Burgos, his spokesman. “On the morning of the election, he attended Mass in Coral Gables.”

Let me paraphrase for you what I just read:

For much of the last decade, Marco Rubio has deluded himself by way of one faith.

But he also deludes himself with another faith in order to gain more votes. Somehow, this is news.

In both cases, his faith has no basis in reality, so who really cares?

Oppenheimer makes the point that “religious distinctions matter less all the time” and I agree. Same bullshit. Different name. It shouldn’t make any difference which (ultimately irrelevant) beliefs he holds to.

Like this sentence highlighting a difference between the Southern Baptists and Catholics:

Southern Baptists practice adult rather than infant baptism, for example…

Guess what? It doesn’t matter if you get dunked in water as a baby or as an adult. Nothing. Actually. Happens. You’ll end up in the same place when you die either way.

I’m sure religion writers get off on this sort of story, because they really want to pin down which faith Rubio and other politicians adhere to. Yes, it’s true that faith may guide a person’s actions so it’s important to know what we’re getting into when we vote someone into office.

But from the atheist perspective, does it make a damn bit of difference whether Rubio’s a Protestant or Catholic?

It’s the same feeling I get when I hear that people were once all up in arms over John F. Kennedy being a Catholic. “Oh no, we can’t elect a Catholic! He’ll take direction from the Pope!

I want to say to them: Yeah, well, you all elected a bunch of people who think Jesus rose up from the dead… are their religious beliefs any more sane than Kennedy’s?

A message to the reporters: If you’re going to mention candidates’ faith, let’s hear everything. How often do you see reporters really discussing the Mormon beliefs of Mitt Romney? They too often “respect” it because it’s his faith and that’s all that apparently matters. Even though his beliefs are batshit insane. It shouldn’t be “disrespectful” to ask him which parts of Mormonism he buys into.

If candidates want to label themselves with a faith, then let them explain those beliefs Tell us what they are without sugar-coating them. If they think Jesus turns himself into a cracker so we can eat him, let’s hear it. If they think Jews are going to hell, let’s hear it. If they only decided that black people could become priests in 1978, let’s hear it.

Unless candidate say they’re atheists (or some secular variation), my only hope is that their religious beliefs aren’t really all that important to them. It’s just something they bring up to get votes and that’s about the extent of it.


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  • Kahomono

    Most of the time they behave in office as if their only god is their Swiss bank account.

  • Brian

    “Unless candidate say they’re atheists (or some secular variation), my only hope is that their religious beliefs aren’t really all that important to them. It’s just something they bring up to get votes and that’s about the extent of it.”

    That’s why we should welcome signs that politicians don’t take “their” faith(s) seriously. This is good news about Rubio. Many people actually do take it seriously.

  • What sect one belongs to might matter to the outside world in that it may be a reflection of how seriously he takes his religion and how seriously he thinks OTHERS should take his religion.
    Catholics that were born into the sect are notorious for not taking their Bible, leadership or faith very seriously at all. Many will just admit that this was the religion they were raised in and that they feel comfrotable going to Mass and participating in Catholic ceremonies. There’s very little thought or strong emotion involved, and most of them just do it for reasons of tradition.
    Many adherents to Protestantism however, are at the other end of the spectrum. Protestants also have a reputation (well deserved) for being more evangelical and driven to spread their particular form of mental illness. Catholics are less inclined to be interested in pushing creationism in public schools because they know that their leadership isn’t worried about evolution, and in fact supports it and modern science in general. This is NOT the case with many Protestant sects. Many Protestant sects are more likely to be militant in their beliefs and in their attitude and/or approach towards those who do not share their beliefs.
    What form of lunacy one subscribes to may indeed, make a world of difference in the public and political arena.

  • Just about the only answer that I’d respect from a politician with regards to a question of faith is “mind your own business”. The question is personal and irrelevant to their ability to do the job that they were elected to do. I hate that they wear faith like a badge of respectability.

  • Claudia

    Guess what? It doesn’t matter if you get dunked in water as a baby or as an adult. Nothing. Actually. Happens. You’ll end up in the same place when you die either way.

    I actually sort of disagree with this. I think adult baptism is the morally superior of the two, because you are not submitting a child to a ceremony he or she has no say in. Of course, what really ought to count is that you don’t indoctrinate religion into your children but wait until they’re old enough to make a considered choice of their own. In this sense, I doubt there’s much difference between Baptists and Catholics. Even if Baptists do the ceremony as adults, they’ve still pushed religion on their children since they were born, so that it’s less of a “choice” than it seems.

    But from the atheist perspective, does it make a damn bit of difference whether Rubio’s a Protestant or Catholic?

    Yes it does matter in a certain sense. However “protestant” is a term that covers Quakers to Pentacostals, which sort of renders it a meaningless term that only means “non-Catholic Christian”. It does matter what the actual religious beliefs of a candidate are though. It matters that a politician denies global warming because God promised not to destroy the Earth again. It does matter if a politician believes in witchcraft, or thinks homosexuality is an “aberration” and a “sinful choice” along with pedophilia and necrophilia.

    Yes, all Christians believe in a god for which there is no evidence, but that does not mean all Christians are the same, in the same way a moderate Turkish Muslim is not the same as a member of the Afghani Taliban or an ultraorthodox Jew is not like Jon Stewart.

    The tone of the article is that of religious infighting, but I do think atheists should pay attention to the religious beliefs (less the religious labels) of politicians, given that some are perfectly compatible with good public service but some are most certainly not.

  • Ron in Houston

    It doesn’t matter if you get dunked in water as a baby or as an adult.

    It sure does to them. One of the things that helped edge me to deconversion were the Baptists saying the Catholics weren’t saved because they weren’t “born again.”

    Besides it helps those fundamentalists feel smug and superior over those wine swilling – saint worshiping Catholics.

    Gee, ain’t religion grand?

  • Grimalkin

    It’s the same feeling I get when I hear that people were once all up in arms over John F. Kennedy being a Catholic. “Oh no, we can’t elect a Catholic! He’ll take direction from the Pope!”

    I want to say to them: Yeah, well, you all elected a bunch of people who think Jesus rose up from the dead… are their religious beliefs any more sane than Kennedy’s?

    Err… the complaint was never that his beliefs lacked sanity. It was a power issue – would the president be the person elected, or would the president be the Pope?

    But yes, the only time I care about the faith of a political candidate is when I know the faith of the political candidate.

  • Rubio’s behavior is due to a variety of reasons. Part of it is to get more votes. Part of it is to honor the fact that that he was raised Catholic. Part of it is due to the fact that the Catholic church probably has no relevance to him any more. Part of it is because he probably likes the sermons and the message better in the mega church. The electorate relates to him because they like people who are religious but not fanatical about any one viewpoint. I think it is just a sign of the times.

    There is really nothing rational about religion.

  • littlejohn

    I remember the Kennedy campaign. West Virginia, oddly enough given its small population, because WV at the time was the most Protestant state in the union, but reliably Democratic due to mine- and steel-worker unions.
    The candidates both visited the Charleston Press Club (my father was a columnist at the Charleston Gazette). Both Humphrey and Kennedy danced with my mother, who never quite regained her breath over it.
    Kennedy won WV, of course, and went on to beat Nixon, principally by buying votes in Chicago.
    But I digress.
    When I feel tempted to scoff at objections to the alleged Vatican influence on the Oval Office, it reminds me that six of the nine Supreme Court justices are Roman Catholic – and apparently devout.
    That DOES bother me, given the church’s record of denouncing Catholic politicians, such as John Kerry, who do not oppose Roe v. Wade.
    In my opinion, those six should recuse themselves from every decision regarding abortion or birth control. I don’t think their religious beliefs are a trivial matter.

  • Deepak Shetty

    Guess what? It doesn’t matter if you get dunked in water as a baby or as an adult. Nothing. Actually. Happens.

    Sure. But one is better than the other I guess – An adult making a choice(even with the indoctrination) seems to be better than parents making a choice for their child.

  • Rob

    “Oh no, we can’t elect a Catholic! He’ll take direction from the Pope!”

    The Pope is a political leader and head of a state. The Vatican issues directives to its emissaries in other countries to try to influence Catholic politicians abroad. Remember that some bishops have declared that they will deny communion to Catholic politicians who support keeping abortion legal. As a religion, Catholicism is just as foolish as the rest of them. But it’s the willingness of Catholic clergy to try to influence domestic politics that concerns me the most.

    Archbishop Naumann: Kansas governor should stop receiving communion

    Bishop cites “national impact” of denying politicians communion

  • Claudia

    @Rob, though I agree with you that the Church’s attempt to influence politics is a problem, I don’t think Catholics deserve to be singled out just because they happen to have a single person identified as their leader. Keep in mind that in theory, all Christians have to defer to the word of God, first and foremost, as would all Jews, Muslims etc. so that in terms of theoretical outside influence, they’re all equally vulnerable.

    I think that we shouldn’t pay as much attention to what a politician labels themself as to how their words and actions reflect what they actually believe. There are Catholics who hang on every word of the Pope. I would be concerned about those in positions of power. However there are self-identified Catholics whose politics more closely reflects those of a liberal atheist (both Andrew Sullivan and Stephen Colbert identify as Catholics). I think we should give the religious the same thing we demand for ourselves; individual treatment and a minimization of the assumptions made about us on the basis of our religious labels. Labels should be used only to get you into the ballpark of actual beliefs, which are what counts.

  • Ben

    I grew up Catholic and as I discovered that I didn’t think there was a reason to believe there was a god I began to look at the Catholic Faith as more of a spirituality. The amount of cafeteria Catholics out there confuses me. They tend not to listen to the Pope or their Bishop or priest.
    To me, religion seems to becoming more evangelical and conservative. And a lot of people naturally resist that which is why, in his cynical effort to get votes, Mr. Rubio courts the more right-winged electorate along with the wishy-washy right.

  • Do other atheists just roll their eyes when they read articles like the one in today’s New York Times by Mark Oppenheimer?

    No, I quake in fear as I always do when that man’s (Rubio) name is mentioned. But, he’s not just our problem anymore. Have fun with him.

  • Hemant, I hope you aren’t proposing a religous (or absence thereof) test for office!

    Once again, I find myself agreeing with hoverfrog and, frankly, the press should be called to task for always asking that question and demanding answers. I’m still waiting for that refreshing answer.

    Frankly, I think the press empowers the Religious Right by fueling the fire. Who do you think stirred up the Tea Partiers? If we could get the press to stop focusing so much on religion, if we could get the emphasis off what a candidate’s religion is and focus on the issues, the Religious Right would lose power.

  • ACN

    Do other atheists just roll their eyes when they read articles like the one in today’s New York Times by Mark Oppenheimer?

    Yes. I try to laugh because otherwise I think I’d have to cry 🙂

    Catholics that were born into the sect are notorious for not taking their Bible, leadership or faith very seriously at all. Many will just admit that this was the religion they were raised in and that they feel comfrotable going to Mass and participating in Catholic ceremonies. There’s very little thought or strong emotion involved, and most of them just do it for reasons of tradition.

    I have catholic roommates who sound EXACTLY like this. We all study physics or engineering, and we often have fun making fun of the beliefs of Scientology, mormons, creationists, fundamentalists muslims and christians etc (we watch South Park, sue us!). I’ve had serious conversations about how they know these metaphysical claims their church makes are fairly ridiculous, but they don’t think about it and they don’t feel that claiming to believe these things is anything other than adherence to tradition.

    But then on the other hand, I have other serious catholic friends who responding to someone’s gentle joke of “Could god make a boulder so heavy he couldn’t lift it?” seriously replied “Well, since god make people in his image, and therefore he invented logic, he is not bound by any laws of logic, so the answer is obviously yes”. When I pointed out that this strategy of throwing away logic was quite gymnastic to answer what is sort of a stupid question, he only responded “What gymnastics, it is just the truth of god”

    tl;dr
    It always surprises me that there so many different levels of seriousness despite the fact that all of the people purport to believe the same absurd things.

  • Steve

    @TheGodlessMonster

    There’s very little thought or strong emotion involved, and most of them just do it for reasons of tradition.
    Many adherents to Protestantism however, are at the other end of the spectrum.

    That’s American Christianity at work again. In Europe, there is really no difference. Both are in it mostly for tradition.

    I’m nominally Catholic. My father’s side of the family is Protestant – they live a bit away, so it’s just a matter of where one is born. I’ve been to Protestant services. You notice that it’s different, but it’s mostly the structure. The differences are extremely superficial.

  • Robert W.

    Muggle,

    For alot of religious people, there are quite a number of issues that are related to their faith and their stance on the issues are in part based upon their faith. So, a candidate’s professed faith would be important. Conversely, of a candidate said he was of a certain faith and acted or took positions entirely contrary, it would be a good indication that the candidate was not truthful.

    And i would think that even atheists would like to know a person’s faith if there were issues such as teaching creationism in schools or pro-life. So i don’t think that a person’s faith or lack thereof is irrelevant.

  • I think hypocrisy is a fair issue to raise in considering the behavior of a politician (and most of them appear to possess this trait). In terms of predicting what a politician will do in light of his religion, it’s true that Catholicism has traditionally had a lighter touch in the field of science (no demands that co-religionists denounce evolution or believe in a young earth), contemporary Catholicism is becoming more extreme in terms of reproductive freedom and choice (today’s hierarchy is obsessed with abortion and contraception). Rubio appears to be drawing from the worst of both worlds—dogmatically anti-choice and anti-science.

    Rubio’s attendance at both Catholic and Protestant churches at least suggests that his religious convictions are rather flexible (or opportunistic). In this regard he is like Dinesh D’Souza, who continues to claim to be Catholic while he preferentially goes to a Protestant church. It appears these guys aren’t sure what they believe, yet they give no evidence of harboring any political doubts.

  • Erp

    I should point out that Rubio might attend the megachurch, but, he apparently hasn’t joined (e.g., has he done the adult baptism or taken communion with them? both of which would be serious offenses in the eyes of the Catholic Church). The Catholic Church a fair while ago stopped prohibiting its members from attending non-Catholic services.

  • Others have touched on it, but yeah, I do think the specifics of a candidates religion matter unless you truly believe s/he can separate his/her religious views from political obligations. A Catholic is much more likely to be science-friendly in terms of educational curriculum than an evangelical. An Episcopalian is much more likely to be LGBT-friendly than a Mormon. The different views of various religious sub-divisions absolutely affect how practitioners stand on real-world issues, and since the overwhelming majority of our representatives remain Christians, focusing on the fact that they all believe in a deity ignores the fact that some are going to be allies with you on the biggest issues of the day.

  • another opportunistic politician? i’m shocked, shocked i tell you.

    and i’m sure xtians of all sorts “justify” his mixed sectarianism by saying “well, it just shows how open minded and how much in the true xtian spirit of brotherhood he is.”

  • captsam

    i have to agree with Kahomono the first comment.

  • Christine O’Donnell said she was raised Catholic, then became protestant, but now identifies with and practices both. Apparently she wants to keep a foot in both camps.

  • Sure. But one is better than the other I guess – An adult making a choice(even with the indoctrination) seems to be better than parents making a choice for their child.

    I sort of agree with that, but I feel like the level of indoctrination is more important. One Protestant denomination might believe in adult baptism, yet those parents drag their toddlers to fire-and-brimstone services three times a week and then claim that their children have a “choice” about what to believe. To my mind, a moderate, mild-mannered Catholic upbringing would be preferable to that. I have Catholic relatives who baptized their infants, yet the kids have normal, largely secular lives. I don’t fear for them the way I fear for children growing up in extreme fundamentalist homes.

  • Spherical Basterd

    As a fellow Floridiot of Mr. Rubio’s I am surrounded by these so-called mega-churches and to a one, they are ultra-conservative and fundementalist. This is the web page for the Christ Fellowship’s beleif statement:
    http://www.cfmiami.org/new.php
    Our state legislature is overwhelmingly Republican in both houses as well as our next governor Rick Scott who was CEO of what is now United Healthcare when they paid the largest fine in US history for Medicare fraud: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2003/June/03_civ_386.htm

    I see Florida becoming the next battleground for the christian fundementalist imposition
    of creationism and the curtailment of womens reproductive rights.

    So, the answer is yes, a politician’s religious beliefs matter very much.

    I don’t need clean beaches in Florida, I have a sea of hypocricy around me.

  • I was walking across a bridge one day and I saw a man standing on a ledge, about to jump off. So I ran over and said, “Stop! Don’t do it!”

    “Why shouldn’t I?” he asked.

    “Well, there’s so much to live for.” “Like what?”

    “Well, are you religious?” He said yes. I said, “Me too!”

    “Are you Christian or Buddhist?” “Christian.” “Me too!”

    “Are you Catholic or Protestant?” “Protestant.” “Me too!”

    “Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?” “Baptist.” “Wow, me too!

    “Are you Baptist Church of God or are you Reformed Baptist Church of God?” “Reformed Baptist Church of God.” “Hey,me too!”

    “Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1789 or Reformed Baptist Church of God, 1915?”

    “He said, “Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915.” “Me too.”

    “Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915, Western Congregation, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915, Eastern Congregation?”

    “He said: “Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915, Eastern Congregation.”

    “I said, “Die, heretic scum!!” And pushed him off the bridge.

  • Deepak Shetty

    @Anna
    I dont think we disagree – indoctrination is the bigger problem.
    It’s just that I feel those who believe that baptism is an adult choice have the potential to be convinced why religious education should also be imparted to people who are mature enough to understand. But I guess it works both ways , they might also feel that they have to make sure their child makes the *right* choice when he is old enough.

  • Chakolate

    I remember Kennedy once saying that he hated being the first Catholic prez because that meant for the next four years he’d actually have to go to Mass every Sunday.

  • Frances

    I went to a Southern Baptist church growing up and although they do baptize people as adults, children who grew up in the church start getting pressures to be baptized at around age 10 or so, before they are old enough to realize that the preachings of the church are ridiculous.

  • Robert, what you’re proposing is a religious test for office which is supposed to be prohibited but we, in fact, have because what is made of candidate’s religion in the press.

    For what you said, as I said, address where they stand on the issues. I’m pro-choice because I’m a woman who chose to make a baby and give birth and don’t think any woman should be forced to go through that for a baby she doesn’t want. Many religious people are against abortion for religious reasons. All we need to know is where a candidate stands on that issue. If they’re pro-choice or anti-abortion when deciding to vote for them. We don’t need to know why.

    Besides, not all Atheists are pro-choice for instance; and not all theists are anti-abortion.

  • It’s just that I feel those who believe that baptism is an adult choice have the potential to be convinced why religious education should also be imparted to people who are mature enough to understand. But I guess it works both ways , they might also feel that they have to make sure their child makes the *right* choice when he is old enough.

    Unfortunately, it seems like the people who believe in adult baptism are the ones who are most fervent about indoctrinating children. I think they’re less likely to be convinced than anyone else because they have an extra incentive to make sure that their kids have the correct beliefs so that they can make that “choice” as soon as possible. Like Frances said, there’s enormous pressure on children in those churches to be “saved” and then baptized. More moderate churches might baptize babies, but they don’t spend every waking minute indoctrinating their kids because (in general) they are less likely to hold rigid opinions about salvation and damnation.

  • Deepak Shetty

    Anna
    I guess you are right.
    I don’t know much about baptists , being mostly exposed to Catholics only.