Yes, I caught Eastwood's appearance at the convention, about which much has been said, but it was less interesting to me than Mr. Rubio's speech that followed. Marco Rubio is an impressive public speaker. I see that he is bucking to be a leader in the republican party, and he certainly has the talent. I don't know what his ambitions are, perhaps the presidency, but he has the chops to do it. That said, I also found Rubio's speech almost entirely devoid of content. Of course, knowing how to spend time in front of a crowd and say nothing for 15 minutes or so is also an essential political skill.
The one place he actually said something got on my nerves. He said that belief in God is the most important American value of them all. Well, Mr. Rubio, no it isn't. Remarks like this actually scare me a little bit. He may believe this, or he may think it made a good soundbite. In any case at least some of his audience holds this position -- and that bothers me. I am now one of those people whose nerves are rankled by such remarks. The United States has a history of religious intolerance. Despite the First Amendment, let's face it, non-Christians have faced constant discrimination in the United States; this includes even peoples of the other 'Abrahamic' faiths. Things have obviously gotten much better over the last couple of centuries, but we should continue to push America forward and not be silent when this parochialism rears its head.
On the other hand, I've recently been made aware of some rather offensive billboards put up by the American Atheists in NC. It is understandable that atheists who feel discriminated against by the rest of our society might express themselves in offensive ways, but it is still not helpful. But let's not forget that the billboards had to be taken down because of threats. Threats simply make the point that the U.S. still has a long way to go when it comes to religious tolerance and the acceptance of those with other beliefs as full-fledged Americans.
In the end we should replace pronouncements about faith as the most important value and mockery of people's beliefs with reasoned debate about these issues. It is the habit of questioning, and the respect for argument itself, that makes Socrates the most important figure in the history of philosophy. I'm certainly no Platonist, but the starting point for all good thought is open-minded exchange. Mockery, such as that on the billboards, and dogmatic pronouncements, such as that by Mr. Rubio, are distractions from argument, and such distractions can have very negative consequences.