Here are a conservative unbeliever’s responses to Bill Keller’s questions.
Q1. Is it fair to question presidential candidates about details of their faith?
Q2. Is it fair to question candidates about controversial remarks made by their pastors, mentors, close associates or thinkers whose books they recommend?
Q3a. Do you agree with those religious leaders who say that America is a “Christian nation” or “Judeo-Christian nation?”
A3a. Not a bad approximation, though “Judeo-Christian” always sounds a bit weasely to me. Why not just “Christian,” since Christianity was founded by Jews? That’s approximate too, though. The U.S.A. is an Athens-Jerusalem-Germania nation, an offshoot of early-modern European civilization.
Q3b. What does that mean in practice?
A3b. That our laws and customs have developed organically from those of early-modern Europe, and that anyone unwilling to call himself a revolutionary — certainly anyone calling himself a conservative! — should wish them to continue doing so.
Q4. If you encounter a conflict between your faith and the Constitution and laws of the United States, how would you resolve it? Has that happened, in your experience?
A4. Not applicable, since I have no “faith” in the sense intended (belief in supernatural agents, commands, etc.) I can, though, imagine being faced with a law that seemed to me grossly wrong. I would strive to avoid obeying that law, with due regard to the welfare of those who depend on me. I would speak out against it as best I could.
Q5a. Would you have any hesitation about appointing a Muslim to the federal bench?
A5a. No; though I am strongly opposed to the mass settlement of foreign Muslims in this country.
Q5b. What about an atheist?
Q6a. Are Mormons Christians, in your view?
A6a. An outfit calling itself The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints plainly holds Jesus of Nazareth in extremely high regard. How then would it be improper to refer to them as “Christians”?
Q6b. Should the fact that Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman are Mormons influence how we think of them as candidates?
A6b. Mormons in the generality seem to be exceptionally well socialized, and to cleave firmly to some of the old American ideals I admire very much — self-sufficiency, mutual aid, etc.— so Romney and Huntsman being Mormons is a slight positive for me.
Q7. What do you think of the evangelical Christian movement known as Dominionism and the idea that Christians, and only Christians, should hold dominion over the secular institutions of the earth?
A7. Not a preposterous idea; but I am sure it would end in a nasty fight over which Christians get the scepter. Being a Christian doesn’t stop you being human. See history.
Q8a. What is your attitude toward the theory of evolution?
A8a. As best I can judge, it is an elegant and convincing explanation for the observed variety of living things.
Q8b. Do you believe it should be taught in public schools?
A8b. My views on education are pretty much consonant with those in Milton Friedman’s 1955 essay on the topic, which gives primacy to parental choice. So if parents want it taught, yes, otherwise, no. I can’t see that particular scientific theories fall within the “common set of values” that is the only proper scope for governmental interference in the school curriculum; though I think you could make a case that some understanding of scientific method in general may.
Q9. Do you believe it is proper for teachers to lead students in prayer in public schools?
A9. Yes, if the parents want them to; otherwise, no.