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.
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.
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.
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.
There’s a trend I’ve noticed, and I’m surely not the first: So often when a preacher makes some great declaration about the future, he seems to be in it for the money. Oh, he’ll put on a good show of being earnest, declaring that God has spoken to him and given him a message that the big guy needs to get across to his True Believers.
Two recent examples come to mind.
One thing I hear a lot from my fellow nonbelievers is that it seems like Christian extremists are constantly pushing for an American theocracy. While I’m convinced that this is true – that is, that fundamentalists would love to take over the country and turn us “back to the Bible” (whatever that means to them) – I’m not sure just how successful they would be. After all, they would have to deal with all the non-Christians, not to mention the other Christians who disagree with them. That’s no small number of people, either; regardless of how noisy and obnoxious the extremists are, they’re still technically a fringe. And they’re not without their detractors inside the faith community, either. Anomaly100, one of the few Christians I follow on Twitter, wrote (among a lot of other stuff that makes good sense):
The Family at 133 C Street, infamous for their stifling and oppression, behind closed doors, [and for] deeming who is and who isn’t moral, are the very ones showing support to Uganda for giving homosexuals the death sentence.
The protesters in Iran are determined to topple their government due to the oppressive dictatorship they’ve had to endure from a forced theocracy.
Are we becoming them? So much is done in the name of God but do you think God needs their help?
This is something I’ve wondered about quite often. Why do religious extremists feel that they need to enforce their God’s rules? Do they honestly think that an omnipotent, omniscient being wouldn’t be able to handle things on its own? That they’re so ready to take action in defense of their deity seems to directly counter the idea that they are devout in their faith. After all, were they truly of the opinion that their God’s will would always be done, they would see no reason to act on his behalf. And if their God were omnipotent, how could anything possibly go any way but his? The idea of something going against the will of God would be a logical impossibility.
Anomaly100 and I definitely don’t agree on the basic theological argument – that is, she argues against religious extremists on the basis that they distort Christianity, while I argue against them on the basis that their actions belie doubts that their words deny (and think that their stance is more in keeping with a fundamentalist tradition). But her viewpoint is a good reminder that nonbelievers aren’t the only ones who are loath to allow dangerous religious ideas to take a solid root.
Romans 8:31-33 says:
What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?
He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?
Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.
I’ve often thought of these verses whenever I hear about the latest hypocrisy and theocratic nonsense to emerge from the fundamentalist Christian set. To believers and to atheists, they have two very different meanings. For most of the believers I know, it’s a source of comfort. It means that no matter what the world throws at them, God will be on their side, offering defense and protection. It’s reassurance that God is obviously willing to do anything to help them out, since he’s willing to sacrifice his son (himself) for our sake.
As an atheist, I read it differently. It’s essentially saying that anything a believer does is justified and above repute; that since God is the one who justifies actions, non-believers have no right to question anything a believer does. I’m pretty sure that some believers see it this way, too – specifically, the kind of hardcore fundamentalists who are just slightly closer to the sane end of the spectrum than Fred Phelps.