Tag Archives: politics

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaand we’re out of Congress.

Until last Tuesday, atheists had precisely one out-of-the-closet representative in Congress: Representative Pete Stark of California’s 13th district.

In the run-up to the election, there was excitement from atheist blogs and from groups like the Secular Coalition for America about Kyrsten Sinema, who (it was believed) was an openly-bisexual, openly non-theistic candidate. The news hit big blogs like the Huffington Post, and was mentioned in the Washington Post’s “On Faith” section.

There’s just one hitch: She’s not an atheist.

She’s spoken before the Secular Coalition for Arizona, and she won an aware from the Center for Inquiry for “Advancement of Science and Reason in Public Policy,” but she avows that she is not an atheist. According to her communications director Justin Unga:

Kyrsten believes the terms non-theist, atheist or nonbeliever are not befitting of her life’s work or personal character. … She does not identify as any of the above.

In an e-mail to Hemant Mehta, Mr. Unga added:

She does not identify as any of the above, nor does she choose a label to describe what she believes is deeply personal for every individual.

“Not befitting her life’s work or personal character?” Honestly? Clearly, either she or Mr. Unga (or both) think there’s something wrong with being a non-theist, an atheist, or a nonbeliever. Whatever the case may be, it’s clear that she’s not comfortable using a label that would portray her as anything other than a god-believer.

She does exhibit an attitude toward governance that I find (mostly) commendable:

Though Sinema was raised in a religious household, she draws her policymaking decisions from her experience as a social worker who worked with diverse communities and as a lawmaker who represented hundreds of thousands.  Sinema is a student of all cultures in her community and has learned that responsible stewards must consider all faiths with respect and dignity.   She believes that a secular approach is the best way to achieve this in good government.

That last sentence? That’s what separation of church and state is all about.

Regardless, this leaves atheists without an openly nonbelieving representative. That’s troubling, especially when we see people like Paul Broun – a man who said that evolution, embryology, and the big bang theory were “lies straight from the pit of hell,” meant to tell people they don’t need a savior – winding up on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. Combined with President Obama’s re-election, the Religious Right is sure to be whipped into a furor over the next four years. It could make for interesting and distressing times.

9/11/2012

It’s Patriots’ Day, so I just wanted to say this.

Get all the political slogans out of the way. Get rid of the hot-button issues that push our emotional buttons and keep us from looking at the deeper long-term problems. Get to the core of it all, and I think most Americans agree that we’re in a bad situation and we need to find a way to get out of it. We may disagree about the fundamentals of how to do that, but that doesn’t make the other side evil.

We’re all human beings. We’re all flawed. We’re all often quite wrong, even if we’re too stubborn to admit it. And we all have ideas to bring to the table.

Somehow, compromise has become a dirty word in American politics. Those at either of the extreme ends of the liberal/conservative spectrum have painted the other side as evil, bigoted, hate-filled, know-nothings.

I’m a liberal. My heart is constantly bleeding, and I’m not ashamed of it. But this doesn’t mean that I think everyone who disagrees with me is the scum of the earth. It means that I have a set of values that differs from those of other people. When I discuss important issues with conservatives, I can understand how their positions derive from their values. We may disagree, but I don’t think they’re (necessarily) irrational or small-minded simply for disagreeing with me.

At the risk of sounding self-righteous, I think that this is the sort of attitude that our current political dialogue sorely needs. The polarity of our parties is not only hurting political discourse in our country; it’s pushing people further and further to the ends of the spectrum, and that can only have dire consequences for our future.

If this democratic republic is to long survive, we must return to a place where we can stop trying to prove how liberal or conservative we all are, and instead focus on how each one of us, as Americans, can help us come together to restore our faded greatness to what it once was. For better or for worse, we are the descendants of a nation of rebels who overturned the most powerful empire the world had seen in centuries. Our forefathers foresaw many of the challenges we’ve faced thus far, but they had faith that those who followed them would maintain a healthy body politic with a genuine interest in the affairs of state, and in doing so would keep the principle of freedom alive. We owe it to them, and to all who have fought and died for this ideal, to give our all toward keeping the American political system vital, focused, motivated, and sane.

I get e-mail, too

Early last month, PZ Myers over at Pharyngula posted a link to a survey by a radical anti-gay group (maybe it’s just a single person? I can’t tell) asking silly questions about whether the government should force companies to hire gay people, and things like that. To fill out the survey, you had to enter an e-mail address, so I put in one of my throwaway ones in the hope that I’d get some entertainment out of the things they send to their mailing list.

I was not disappointed. Here are a few samples of the rantings and delusions of Eugene Delgaudio, probable closet case and founder of a group called Public Advocate of the United States.

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We’re dangerous!

We can always count on Republican politicians to give us clarity! Today, the GOP presidential candidates (sans Rick Perry, who was apparently off fighting wildfires) met in South Carolina to hold a forum where they shared their views on various subjects. Newt Gingrich said something that has had remarkably little coverage in the mainstream press, save for this one story:

At a GOP candidates’ forum in South Carolina, Gingrich maintained that everyone, especially a president, needs God’s help in “a world where evil always lurks.” He added that someone who faces serious issues without praying “would be a person who totally misunderstood the nature of life and who would be dangerous holding a major office.”

Apparently, it’s still okay to say stuff like this about atheists. Well, then, I guess we can just ignore Article 6, Paragraph 3 of the Constitution!

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

Good to know you can disregard the Constitution as much as you like and still be considered a serious candidate so long as you believe in a god.

Texas can’t catch a break.

When it comes to its education standards, Texas has had a lot of bad luck these last few years.

Whether they were contending with a willfully ignorant dentist whom Texas Governor Rick Perry somehow thought was qualified to chair the State Board of Education (SBoE) and who decided it was his job to stand up to the experts on the subject of evolution, or debating how to keep radical ideologues from revising the social studies curriculum to take emphasis off of the influence of the Enlightenment on America’s founding fathers and “to identify significant conservative advocacy organizations and individuals, such as Newt Gingrich, Phyllis Schlafly and the Moral Majority,” advocates for good education have had their hands full for quite a while.

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Give them the exemptions–it will backfire.

The New York state Senate is currently mulling over a bill to legalize gay marriage in New York, finally bringing marriage equality to one of the most famously liberal states in America. There’s just one little nit to pick first: religious groups, like the Catholic church, are insisting that lawmakers write exemptions into the law allowing them to refuse to perform marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples.

I say we should give them what they want.

Despite the stereotype of hard-core conservative Catholicism, recent polling shows that as many as 43% of American Catholics support the rights of same-sex couples to marry, with another 31% supporting civil unions that are equal in all but name. Imagine nearly half of the Catholic population suddenly being legally at odds with their own church. This organization that they’ve made such a central part of their identity suddenly becomes a caricature of itself, sticking dogmatically to old, hateful moral ideas they’ve long since discarded.

And it’s not just the Catholics. Part of what keeps people in organized religions is the idea that they’re a part of some great force of moral authority. Hundreds of thousands of liberal Christians officially ally themselves with anti-gay groups without even recognizing it. But when a gay Christian couple approaches their church to ask them to perform a marriage ceremony, only to find themselves tossed aside as immoral garbage because of the bigoted teachings of the larger church, they’ll become disillusioned with the body of the church and may start to question the claims of authority it makes on other issues.

So as I said before, let the bigoted religious groups refuse to perform marriage ceremonies. It’ll be a good way to sort out the hateful fools from the more reasonable folks, and it’ll push people to leave organized religions and thus force church officials to come to grips with just how out of touch they are with the rest of humanity.

Mike Huckabee Plays the Victim Card

Over on The Atheist Experience blog there’s a post with a link to a very … interesting letter from Mike Huckabee, soliciting donations for a new organization he’s involved with. In the letter – which I strongly urge you to read – he mentions the threat we face from Islamic radicals, but then warns his constituents of “an even greater menace [that] threatens to destroy us from the inside out” – “a re-energized Left here in our midst that is working harder than ever to drive out God and ALL MENTION of religious faith from America’s public life.”

That’s right – Mike Huckabee, a Christian living in a majority Christian nation, wants to warn his fellow Christians that, somehow, evil godless liberal atheist scum are going to subvert their will and override the entire democratic system.
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