February 5, 2008

Super Tiw's Day

Here's a worthwhile piece at ABCNews.com, concerning a number of questions that might be put to at least two of the remaining aspirants to the presidency, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee. One in particular, directed at the fomer Arkansas governor, merits a bit of additional commentary:
Article 19 of the Arkansas state constitution states, "No person who denies the being of a God shall hold any office in the civil departments of this State, nor be competent to testify as a witness in any court." Although it and similar laws in other states are not enforced, do you support their formal repeal?
It amazes me that such completely irrational nonsense continues to exist on the books, let alone that it was put there in the first place.

The latter component, dealing with competency to stand as a witness in court, is particularly bizarre. While it derives from an arcane notion in the law of evidence (since abandoned) that a witness' credibility and reliability for stating truthful observations somehow obtain from "swearing to god," it utterly contradicts more reasonable notions of credibility relied on by the government almost daily.

When, for example, criminal suspects are questioned by the authorities, their statements are deemed to be especially credible because those statements are made "against their penal interest." In other words, the truthfulness of the statements is assessed against the suspect's informed knowledge that those statements may well end up putting her or him in the slammer, or, in some States, prostrate upon the lethal injection slab.

Why not, similarly, the testimony of an atheist? Because for a large majority of Americans, a declaration of non-belief in god has less to do with such temporal inconveniences as life in prison or state-sanctioned homicide but the skewering of the heathen on the eternal rotisserie of hellfire and damnation. So, for the believer at least, what statement could possibly be more representative of "against their penal interest" than "I don't believe in gods"?

Much religion is silly enough on its own without injecting it into politics or worse, codifying its imaginary prescriptions into the laws of the land, where we all live for the time being.

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