thoughts on politics

September 23, 2008

When religious fanatics attack

Filed under: Uncategorized — Matt @ 12:49 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Sam Harris, author of the atheist tracts Letter to a Christian Nation and The End of Faith, has this to say about Sarah Palin in Newsweek:

We have all now witnessed apparently sentient human beings, once provoked by a reporter’s microphone, saying things like, “I’m voting for Sarah because she’s a mom. She knows what it’s like to be a mom.” Such sentiments suggest an uncanny (and, one fears, especially American) detachment from the real problems of today. The next administration must immediately confront issues like nuclear proliferation, ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (and covert wars elsewhere), global climate change, a convulsing economy, Russian belligerence, the rise of China, emerging epidemics, Islamism on a hundred fronts, a defunct United Nations, the deterioration of American schools, failures of energy, infrastructure and Internet security … the list is long, and Sarah Palin does not seem competent even to rank these items in order of importance, much less address any one of them.

Palin’s most conspicuous gaffe in her interview with Gibson has been widely discussed. The truth is, I didn’t much care that she did not know the meaning of the phrase “Bush doctrine.” And I am quite sure that her supporters didn’t care, either. Most people view such an ambush as a journalistic gimmick. What I do care about are all the other things Palin is guaranteed not to know—or will be glossing only under the frenzied tutelage of John McCain’s advisers. What doesn’t she know about financial markets, Islam, the history of the Middle East, the cold war, modern weapons systems, medical research, environmental science or emerging technology? Her relative ignorance is guaranteed on these fronts and most others, not because she was put on the spot, or got nervous, or just happened to miss the newspaper on any given morning. Sarah Palin’s ignorance is guaranteed because of how she has spent the past 44 years on earth.

I care even more about the many things Palin thinks she knows but doesn’t: like her conviction that the Biblical God consciously directs world events. Needless to say, she shares this belief with mil-lions of Americans—but we shouldn’t be eager to give these people our nuclear codes, either. There is no question that if President McCain chokes on a spare rib and Palin becomes the first woman president, she and her supporters will believe that God, in all his majesty and wisdom, has brought it to pass. Why would God give Sarah Palin a job she isn’t ready for? He wouldn’t. Everything happens for a reason. Palin seems perfectly willing to stake the welfare of our country—even the welfare of our species—as collateral in her own personal journey of faith. Of course, McCain has made the same unconscionable wager on his personal journey to the White House.

We have endured eight years of an administration that seemed touched by religious ideology. Bush’s claim to Bob Woodward that he consulted a “higher Father” before going to war in Iraq got many of us sitting upright, before our attention wandered again to less ethereal signs of his incompetence. For all my concern about Bush’s religious beliefs, and about his merely average grasp of terrestrial reality, I have never once thought that he was an over-the-brink, Rapture-ready extremist. Palin seems as though she might be the real McCoy.

Harris’ points are all too important, but will still go all but neglected by voters.  Maybe these ideas will get tossed around some in the media, thrown up and batted down by the “faith correspondents” on TV.  Ultimately they will be totally dismissed and harangued by the right, as symptomatic of the secular depravity of the liberal media, which will turn and run back to the unquestioned acceptance of religion, trying to pretend this never happened.

Still, I did not hear Harris crying foul when Obama stooped to the same Palinesque tactics of religious pandering.  He’s not as frighteningly fundamentalist as Sarah Palin, but he still plays the game.  See Newsweek’s fascinating cover story on Obama’s Christian Journey, for example.

I wonder what it would look like for an avowed atheist to run for president these days.



  1. Sam Harris is a hater. Obama believes Jesus is black and that if God is white He should be murdered, at least according to his religion’s founder.

    Come on, get your head out of the sand. If you don’t like Jesus, why don’t you just admit it?

    You seem to run Christianity through this filter of liberalism dogma and throw the baby out with the bath water. I’m not talking Palin, I’m talking Jesus.

    How about it? Forget all the baggage and just talk about Jesus, God and Man. Not Christians, not Christianity, not Palin, not Harris. Jesus.


    Comment by revromansky — September 23, 2008 @ 2:49 pm | Reply

  2. Rev Romansky,
    I agree with Mr. Harris and Matt’s suggestion that people via the media should be made aware of Gov. Palin’s religious beliefs, but I am not anti-Christian. For me it’s not about religion or devotion to Christianity or the ideology. That is not the real issue for me but rather it is how Gov Palin thinks. To disagree or have questions about how religious beliefs might shape foreign and domestic policy does not suggest I am against Christianity? I’m troubled by that automatic label.

    Absolute certainty is a problem in political leadership. Gov. Palin seems unable to really evaluate another position, instead she seems more likely to try to prove other are wrong and then execute what she believes is meant to be. In Gov. Palin’s reality everything is predetermined. I believe God gave us a very powerful tool, God gave us free will. I would prefer our leadership to know their actions do matter and can effect all of us. I’m a little scared about that.

    Gov. Palin also believes in the End of Times prophecy. They tend to support war with Iraq as do others. I’m not confident Gov. Palin is in the best position to avoid that war.

    It saddens me that the word “liberal” automatically means anti-Christian. I can’t live my life by your beliefs in Jesus, my beliefs are different. Does that make me a hater?

    Anne V.

    Comment by Anne V — September 25, 2008 @ 12:32 am | Reply

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