This post has obviously come about because of Dr Ben Carson. He’s done what none of the other US Republican presidential primary candidates could do, and that’s overtake Donald Trump in the polls. This has brought added scrutiny to Carson’s background, which is causing him to accuse the media of a “witch-hunt,” and to insist that President Obama wasn’t subjected to the same level of examination. That’s not true of course, but any attack on the media by a right-wing candidate garners both sympathy and votes, so it’s difficult to go wrong from his point of view.
Carson is by far the best liked of all the political candidates. According to Gallup, his net favourables amongst GOP voters is +59 (Marco Rubio is a distant 2nd at +38). With Democratic voters, the top ranked GOP candidate is John Kasich (0) and Carson comes in 2nd at -13. Overall Carson leads with +21 (Fiorina is a distant 2nd at +6). The Gallup assessment of the numbers is:
For the moment, Carson is the most popular major-party candidate — and by a wide margin. While this fact might suggest Carson has a rare bipartisan appeal that the other presidential candidates lack, his popularity is chiefly driven by his extremely positive image among Republicans. Democrats who have an opinion of Carson see him in less negative terms than they see other Republican candidates, but ultimately, about four in 10 Democrats — a group prone to view any GOP candidate unfavorably because of that candidate’s politics — do not currently know Carson.
There have been quite a few discrepancies found in Carson’s personal story since the media have begun to look at him more. They’re covered in several places – Jerry Coyne did a piece on him yesterday morning NZ time. I’ve covered Carson’s weird beliefs myself a few times. Some examples:
- he believes Charles Darwin was influenced by Satan and evolutionary theory comes from “The Adversary” (a Seventh-Day Adventist term for the devil);
- he believes in eschatological theology;
- he believes the pyramids in Egypt were built by Joseph of Biblical fame, and that they were made to store grain. (Even if the idea that the pyramids were for storing grain wasn’t completely stupid, there is absolutely no historical evidence that Joseph existed.);
- he believes the reason the Holocaust happened was that Hitler disarmed his citizens so the Jews couldn’t fight back;
- he believes that going to prison can “turn” a man gay.
He is simply wrong in these beliefs. Hopefully, there’s no explanation necessary as to why he’s wrong.
He has also made many inaccurate political statements. Some of these statement are probably just the same pandering to the electorate that all the candidates do. I don’t know that any are lies. In fact, I think many of them he believes are the truth. However, to think that these are true statements he has either chosen bad advisors, has failed to do his research, or lacks the ability to properly interpret the facts. Any of these make him a bad choice for political office.
In the United States you won’t find many people looking at Carson’s religion. That’s understandable. There is theoretically no religious test for office, and there shouldn’t be, but the reality is very different. Donald Trump brought up Carson’s religion at a rally in Jackson Florida back on 25 October when Carson first started beating Trump in a few polls. The New York Times reported:
Speaking at a rally in Jacksonville, Fla., Mr. Trump noted that he was a Presbyterian, which he called “down the middle of the road.”
Then Mr. Trump said: “I mean, Seventh-day Adventist, I don’t know about, I just don’t know about.”
Mr. Carson is a practicing Seventh-day Adventist.
Provocation is Mr. Trump’s stock in trade and he has been biting in his criticism of his Republican rivals. But in favorably contrasting his faith with that of a principal rival, he may have reached a new level of bombast, at least as it relates to his opponents.
Back when John F Kennedy was running for president, much of the electorate found his Catholicism a concern. There were scare-tactics, used in anti-Kennedy ads, that the Vatican would be running the country. On 12 September 1960 he made his famous speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, a group of protestant ministers, about making presidential decisions independent of the Church. It allayed the fears of enough voters that Kennedy’s bid for president was, as we now know, successful. In fact it was 55 years ago this week.
A recent Gallup survey shows that atheists, socialists and Muslims are the least likely to be successful in a presidential bid in the United States:
Personally, I find it fascinating that so many people clearly make judgments about people based on things about themselves that aren’t a choice. I can understand not wanting to vote for a socialist if that’s a political ideology you disagree with – that’s relevant to the job of president. But to decide that no matter what you won’t vote for a woman, Black, Hispanic, or gay or lesbian to me is bizarre. Jewish could be a religious choice or just a culture, so it’s hard to know what people are basing their decision on there. (There are many people who call themselves atheist Jews, for example.)
Atheists are looking better than they ever have at 58% – that’s a huge improvement from when Gallup first started asking the question in 1958. Back then we languished down at 18% – so low they didn’t even bother asking again for years.
So, in the United States, who are the Seventh-Day Adventists and what do they believe? The Pew Research Center provided some data from an earlier survey again last week in an attempt to answer that question. Church members make up 0.5% of the US population, and is one of the most racially and ethnically diverse. Unlike most Christian religions, their numbers are rising.
While I agree completely that there should be no religious test for office, there are some religious beliefs that would make me less likely to vote for a candidate. Conservative Seventh-Day Adventism, such as that accepted as true by Carson, is one of them. The following is a summary of the beliefs of Carson’s religious beliefs. (Not all Seventh-Day Adventists accept all the beliefs below.)
The Seventh-Day Adventist Church was formally founded in 1863, and grew out of the Millerite movement in the United States. Based on Daniel 8:14-16, Baptist pastor William Miller predicted that the second coming of Jesus would occur between the northern spring of 1843 and the northern spring of 1844. When he didn’t turn up some hard-core Millerites, led by their prophet Ellen Gould White, decided that the date was correct, but the event was wrong. What had actually happened was Jesus had entered the “Holy of Holies” in heaven and was working on “The Investigative Judgment” which is currently ongoing. Through this investigation, Jesus is checking out all the believers to decide on their ultimate destiny.
White made multiple prophecies, which are detailed in a book called The Great Controversy (1888). White is revered in the Seventh Day Adventist Church. It was “revealed” to her that when Jesus’ Investigative Judgment had concluded, The Rapture would occur. We’ll know when The Rapture is close at hand: White gave us some things to look out for in a short but difficult period that will be known as The Time of Trouble.
1. The Roman Catholic Church will return to prominence. Seventh Day Adventists consider the Roman Catholic Church the First Beast from the Book of Revelation.
2. The United States will rule jointly with the Vatican. The United States is the Second Beast.
3. The Protestant churches of the United States will join with the Vatican/USA union.
4. A conflict involving the whole world will arise, which will result in the enforcement of Sunday worship. The Sunday Law is their interpretation of the Mark of the Beast of the Book of Revelation. (Seventh-Day Adventists, of course, worship on Saturdays.)
5. Those who continue to worship on the “proper” sabbath of Saturday will receive the Seal of God of Revelation 7:2.
6. Keepers of the Saturday sabbath will be persecuted throughout the world. Eventually, governments will establish the death penalty for those who worship on Saturdays.
Soon after this death penalty is made law, The Rapture will occur. Jesus will appear in the sky, and we’ll all see Him and know Him. Those who have already died but Jesus considers the Good Guys will be resurrected (the Righteous Dead) and they will be taken to heaven along with the Good Guys who are still alive (the Living Saints). Just before leaving for heaven, Jesus will turn his justified wrath on the world – all the Bad Guys (the Wicked) will be killed and the planet will be laid waste.
The Good Guys (the Redeemed) then get to spend the next 1,000 years in heaven with Jesus. Their sins will be transferred to Satan, and he and the bad angels will be banished to the now desolate earth to wander around wishing they’d followed God’s word when they had the chance.
When the 1,000 years is up, Jesus will come back to Earth, alighting on the Mount of Olives in Israel. The Redeemed get to come back with him, but they’ll land inside a new Jerusalem. At this point Jesus will command the Wicked to rise from the dead. They will mass behind their leader, Satan, and march on New Jerusalem. Fire will engulf the earth but The Redeemed will be protected inside New Jerusalem. The Wicked will each have their sins announced to them, then they’ll be thrown into The Lake of Fire, where the pain they feel will be commensurate with their sins. When they’ve felt the correct amount of pain for their sins, The Wicked will die. Permanently this time.
The Fire will purify the earth of all sin, and a New Earth will emerge, recreated in perfection and beauty by God. The Redeemed will live there permanently with God.
Make of that what you will. All sounds like a complete load of bollocks to me. One of the world’s leading neurosurgeons accepts all that as, ahem, gospel, and he could be the next president of the most powerful country on earth. I think there are times when a person’s religious beliefs become a disqualifying factor for high political office. I don’t know exactly where that point is, but I think Carson has reached it.
Wow! I didn’t realize they were that crazy. Of course the Mormons and Jehovahs Witnesses and 7th days all originated about the same time in the US. Of course once you open the door to supernatural influences, there’s little barrier to the most bizarre explanations.
I became a deist before I was five. Because of my upbringing, I never doubted God was real, I just thought all the religions had it wrong. I was sure there must be one out there that had it right. I’d hear about a new religion and think they seem like nice people, then in about two seconds flat I’d discover something nutty they believed.
As Donald Trump says, Presbyterianism is pretty middle of the road, so it’s not like I was looking for a new religion or anything like a lot of people do. Eventually I realized god wasn’t real either, which freed my mind enormously. No more trying to reconcile stuff that can’t be reconciled.
But even the Presbyterians still believe in a god who intervenes. It’s all just a matter of degree when it comes to religion. It’s just mental health vs physical health. If you’re just a couple of kilos overweight, it’s probably not going to do any harm. Once you get to the stage where you need to lose half your body mass, there’s no doubting it’s affecting your health.
Just so’s you know, the religious test only applies to the government itself. That is, there can’t be a law or regulation or the like that requires people to swear fealty to this or that god or religious doctrine or whatever in order to hold an office or carry out its duties.
But when it comes to voters deciding who to cast a ballot for, the First Amendment guarantees that you can base your own personal decision on as much or as little religion as you like.
Religious discrimination at the ballot box (and even in the campaigns) is fully protected, but those in office are fully protected against religious discrimination.
Cheers Ben. I knew that, but I definitely could’ve expressed it better. Good thing you’re here to explain it properly! 🙂
I was more referring to the way in the US people are reluctant to question a candidate’s religion. I shouldn’t have referred to that as a religious test for office, because it’s confusing.
God help us!
Lordy now i have to go to wikipedia and look up Seventh day adventists. Not tonight thou tomorrow but will probably forget about it.So soon we will forget about this Ben dude.
Other than the End Times stuff, they’re fairly typical conservative Protestants – fairly similar to the Southern Baptists. The Southern Baptists mock the SDA version of End Times. Their own version is the correct interpretation, they insist.
I also think Carson will go the way of Rudy Giuliani, Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, and all the other early leaders of the GOP primaries in recent years.
Now I’d like to see a poll on how many Catholics support Carson…And someone should ask him why he wants to be President of The Second Beast…
I think because of the US distaste for questioning a person’s religious beliefs, most Catholics probably don’t know what he thinks of them. It’s much worse than I portrayed above. SDAs blame the Catholics for forcing Sunday worship on the world against God’s will, consider the Vatican to be the Whore of Babylon (from the Bible), and the pope the be the Anti-Christ. I’d love a reporter to ask Carson if he thinks Pope Francis is the Anti-Christ! That’d scuttle his candidacy real quick.
OH, yes, someone has to do that!!
I’ve just watched three hours of Fox (yes I know, take me out and shoot me). The overwhelming conclusion there is that Carson has got the better of all his critics over the last few days. They’ve also been highlighting some of Obama’s stories that didn’t pan out. Apparently, Carson has had an upsurge in donations over the last few days.
He’s so popular with certain Protestant conservative groups like the home-schoolers, it would be all but impossible to hurt him with them. A lot of them think the pope is the anti-Christ too anyway – they just think the End Times are going down a bit differently than Carson does. And they don’t blame him for that, they blame the SDA church. (It’s not his fault his church has interpreted the Bible incorrectly.)
I’m hoping the Fox Business debate tomorrow will expose that he knows nothing about economics. He’s been learning some responses – his position has changed slightly on tax, for example, since he started. But his knowledge is not good. It’s pretty bad on foreign affairs too.
However, while he might (and probably will for a while) stay popular with those who vote in Republican primaries, and polls currently show him beating Clinton head-to-head, I don’t think his appeal to the centre and left can last. USians aren’t that stupid are they? 🙂
Well, yes actually they are, as Bush’s second term attests. But Carson is more than just stupid. Some of his prejudice will go down well, but I think a lot won’t. As I’ve said before, no one has ever won with all their religious craziness out in the open. Even George kept a lid on it. Still, I’ll never say never.
In a democracy stupid people have every right to representation. Hence you sometimes get a dangerously naive narcissistic nincompoop like Adjunct Prof. Obama — and yes, the lamestream media’s shameless advocacy and double standards are in part responsible for that. But for the double standards, they’d have no standards at all.
I suspect that most Seventh Day Adventists, like most religionists everywhere, don’t know or care much about the more bizarre aspects of their church doctrines. Like the Mormons and the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the 7th days originated in a time of virulent anti-Catholicism in America. Almost all Protestant sects developed in opposition to Catholicism. As Trump says, Presbyterianism is considered middle of the road today, but the concept of predestination is a radical refutation of free will as maintained by the RC church. There are still plenty of Presbyterians and related Calvinists today (although the numbers are declining). But how many of them subscribe to predestination, or even know anything about this central doctrine of their sect? As the foundations of Christians beliefs crumble, the various churches are ignoring their theological disputes to confront the common enemy of secularism. As long as Carson says he’s a Christian, that’s enough for most other Christians.
The effort to find the cause of people’s behavior today in religious tracts written long ago, including the Bible and Quran, is mostly quixotic. People reach for religious confirmation of their own beliefs and prejudices.
I’ve been trying to decide whether it’s not knowing/caring or whether it’s just that they don’t really take them seriously. They pretend to, to co-religionists, but I wonder if in their heads they don’t really. A Catholic will tell you that they believe in transubstantiation, but I bet none of them taste blood and flesh when they take communion. If anyone did, a mental illness would be assumed immediately. Look how upset everyone got in 2012 when Catholicism was called Santorum’s Jesus-eating cult, but that’s exactly what it is.
And yes, it’s the idea of being fellow Christians that’s the most important thing, or even fellow One True God believers – there’s a lot of reaching out to Jews and Muslims too.
If it be the case, as per the cited Gallup survey, that nearly one in five wouldn’t vote for a Mormon, then I would hope it unnecessary to point out that this fact alone is more than sufficient to explain Obama’s second term.
Nearly 1/10 wouldn’t vote for a black person either, so that probably eats into that figure considerably.
My analysis is that socially, the US electorate is more Democrat than Republican (which is something most pollsters agree on), but that Republicans are more likely to vote. The reason Obama won in 2012 was his ability to get people out to vote.
The demographics of the US electorate are changing significantly, and the Republican party is appealing to a smaller slice of it, despite the fact that they have a more representative range of candidates in their primary. Unless and until the Republicans can appeal to a broader range of the population, they will continue to lose. George W Bush managed to appeal to more Hispanic voters than Republicans normally do – that’s what got him elected.
I analysed the 2014 election, in which the Republicans did well. It seemed to me that the reason for that was who voted.
Presidential elections have a higher turnout, and if the Democrats can maintain Obama’s high Democratic turnout, they will win in 2016.