Folks in the Religious Right love to trumpet “morality” as a reason why everyone must be religious — i.e. adherents of their own religion of course. They consider non-belief to be unacceptable because — in their minds — non-belief is amoral. This is, of course, very wrong, as I explain in my Agnosticism FAQ. Nonetheless they love to claim to be the sole arbiters of morality in the world.

An interesting phenomenon, then, is when one of them stumbles along the the path of morality. The most recent example of this is the furiously conservative governor of South Carolina, Mark Sanford, who disappeared for a week, and returned today to hold a press conference (reported by the AP, via Yahoo News):

After going AWOL for seven days, Gov. Mark Sanford admitted Wednesday that he had secretly flown to Argentina to visit a woman with whom he was having an affair. …

“I’ve been unfaithful to my wife,” he said in a bombshell news conference in which the 49-year-old governor ruminated aloud with remarkable frankness on God’s law, moral absolutes and following one’s heart. He said he spent the last five days “crying in Argentina.”

The governor’s disappearance had been a mystery even to many of his own friends in government, and had become a rather serious matter (see this timeline for more information, courtesy of the Columbia (SC) State). Sanford, you may recall — as this AP (Yahoo News) report explains — had once been a vocal proponent of marital fidelity:

As a congressman, Sanford voted in favor of three of four articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton, citing the need for “moral legitimacy.”

Hmm. “Moral legitimacy”? I guess when you’re a card-carrying member of the Religious Right, you can be as hypocritical as you want … even though Jesus Christ himself explicitly and unambiguously ordered his followers never, ever to be hypocritical.

The AP (Yahoo News) report also mentions that U.S. Senator John Ensign, R-NV, had also recently revealed an affair of his own:

Sanford’s announcement came a day after another prominent Republican, Sen. John Ensign of Nevada, apologized to his GOP Senate colleagues after revealing last week that he had an affair with a campaign staffer and was resigning from the GOP leadership.

The question is, are folks in the Religious Right going to rethink their support for Sanford or Ensign — or will they ignore these massive moralistic failures and let them get away with them?

More to the point, it’s examples such as this that fly in the face of the Religious Right’s basic position that Christianity makes people more moral. It turns out that this is not actually the case. Now … the R.R. can certainly argue that “people will still be people, Christianity or no,” and that “we’re all sinners anyway,” and all of that. But these are just excuses for why Christianity is not capable of actually making its own followers into upstanding, moral people. That it does not do so, is nonetheless significant. If Christianity is “right” because it makes people moral, how, exactly, do events such as these not contradict that?

Don’t worry, I don’t expect anyone will answer that question. No one has yet, so I’m not expecting they ever will.

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