Why Is Joe Lieberman Dissing My Mother?

Sept. 1 2000 8:30 PM

Why Is Joe Lieberman Dissing My Mother?

If you take all his God talk seriously, it's insulting. Also wrong and a bit un-American. 

(Continued from Page 1)

But Joe Lieberman has always made a big deal about saying the right thing rather than the popular thing. So surely it's fair to take him seriously for expressing an opinion about morality and religion that seems so clearly confused. At least to this agnostic.


First off, what exactly does Lieberman mean by saying that morality cannot exist without religion? Does he mean that no irreligious person displays moral behavior? Or that nonbelievers are immoral no matter how they behave?

Lieberman obviously thinks that religion offers a consistent set of rules and principles of how to treat other people. Let's set aside the fact that religions differ around the margins about these ethical rules and assume, with Lieberman, that there is such a thing as a religious way to act. As generally agreed, these rules include treating everyone with respect, applying the golden rule, being merciful to the unfortunate and kind to those who are different, and so on. Is Lieberman suggesting that no person who lacks faith follows these religious ethical rules? Surely he doesn't believe that. My own dear mother is an agnostic, and she's about as ethical as they come. Does Sen. Lieberman have a problem with my mother?

Maybe Lieberman's exact words are a politician's hyperbolic way of saying that, as a statistical matter, religious people are more likely to act in an ethical way than nonreligious people. Is this true? While hard data is sadly lacking, it seems pretty uncontroversial to note that the world has seen plenty of religious sinners and upright nonbelievers. And how would Lieberman explain the fact, if he concedes it, that at least some nonbelievers manage to be ethical? Are there some people who are naturally ethical and others who need the help of religion to be ethical?

On the other hand, perhaps Lieberman is saying that if you act as God wishes but not because of a belief in God, then it somehow doesn't count. That seems awfully fussy. By requiring faith as a prerequisite for morality, Lieberman is dismissing a lot of philosophical thinking that grounds itself in reason, not faith, and still manages to arrive at the same conclusions that Lieberman would probably endorse. In any event, if people do live by the rules of decency and honor, the question of whether they do so with or without believing in God is surely not a concern of the government, of the vice president in his official capacity, or a concern that belongs in a national election campaign. 



Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

The U.S. Is So, So Far Behind Europe on Clean Energy

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

Even if You Don’t Like Batman, You Might Like Gotham

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

John Oliver Debunks the Miss America Pageant’s Claim That It Gives Out $45 Million in Scholarships

Trending News Channel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Over There
Sept. 22 2014 1:29 PM “That’s Called Jim Crow” Philip Gourevitch on America’s hypocritical interventions in Africa.
Sept. 22 2014 1:37 PM Subprime Loans Are Back! And believe it or not, that’s a good thing.
Sept. 22 2014 2:55 PM Nuptial Expert Sarkozy Worries About Gay Marriage and the Family
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 12:29 PM Escaping the Extreme Christian Fundamentalism of "Quiverfull"
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
Brow Beat
Sept. 22 2014 3:16 PM Watch the Best Part of Beyoncé and Jay Z’s On the Run Tour
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 12:14 PM Family Court Rules That You Can Serve Someone With Legal Papers Over Facebook
  Health & Science
Sept. 22 2014 12:15 PM The Changing Face of Climate Change Will the leaders of the People’s Climate March now lead the movement?
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.