Apparently, we now have Democratic Senate candidate Kay Hagan’s response to her opponent’s charge that she pals around with atheists.
The North Carolina I was raised in would NEVER condone this kind of personal slander.
(See: American Chronicle, Dole Ad Attacking Hagan Christian Faith Called Fabricated, Pathetic)
In short, Hagan responded by saying that the accusation of palling around with atheist is so horrendous and awful that anybody who makes such an accusation (without proof) is guilty of slander - a wrong serious enough to be taken to court.
At their core, Americans aren´t Democrat or Republican, red or blue – they´re Americans, plain and simple. We ALL love our country, and we all value the role of faith in American life. Shame on anyone who says differently.
Consider reading Hagan's prepared statement, which can be found in the link above, and imagine Democratic Presidential Candidate Barak Obama giving the same speech in response to accusation that he is a Muslim. Imagine what such a statement would say about attitudes towards Muslims.
Hagan isn't making the claim that atheists are Americans too and have a right to present their views to perspective political candidates. She is not saying that the fault of Dole's advertisement is that Dole is lying and promoting bigotry and hatred. She, in effect, endorsed the hate and answered, "How dare you accuse me of not being just as bigoted against atheists as you are! You take that back!"
She is not making an ordinary political charge of wrongdoing, like the wrong of accusing Democratic President Obama of palling around with (domestic) terrorists. This is far, far worse. The accusation of palling around with atheists is, according to Hagan, more like the accusation that one molests children – something that deserves a response that is just as powerful as the accusation itself.
Why would she say something like this?
My guess is that the pollsters told her that Elizabeth Dole's accusations will be successful unless she made a forceful response such as this. Atheists are so hated that the people of North Carolina will certainly refuse to vote into office anybody who can be successfully labeled as a "friend of atheists"
Consequently, Hagen did not have the option of saying, "There is nothing wrong with meeting with atheists." That would be political suicide. The only option she had available was to treat the accusation of meeting with atheists to be an order of magnitude worse than an accusation of meeting with terrorists. In order to preserve her chance of winning the election, she opted to go before the cameras and give support to atheist bigotry by reinforcing the message that talking to atheists is one of the worst possible things a political candidate can do.
At least the people of North Carolina (and, in fact, the people across the nation) are getting the same message from this race. At least both Hagan and her Republican opponent and accuser Senator Elizabeth Dole are spending their campaign money promoting a common set of values – the view that atheists are worse than the lowest form of criminals on the political landscape.
I have written in past posts that it is unreasonable to expect people to form their beliefs entirely by appeals to reason – they do not have the time. Instead, it is human nature – part of the brain's programming – to look for (admittedly fallible) shortcuts that do not guarantee the truth of the conclusions, but are reliable enough to allow the agent to get by.
One of those shortcuts is to look at society and seek beliefs that are held almost without question by everybody. Even though people can be in near universal agreement on something that is mistaken, they still get buy. A vast majority of the beliefs a society holds in common are true, and good enough.
The message coming out of North Carolina is that atheists are such a despicable group of people that nobody – particularly nobody running for public office – should be caught in the same room as one.
One of the things that I have now learned about the event in which Hagan allegedly met with atheists is that this was a meeting among several advocates, one of which happened to be a member of the Godless Americans Political Action Committee. She did not go to this event specifically to meet with atheists. She went to a meeting in which one of the participants happened to have been an atheist.
You can well bet that, with this article now in the news, future politicians will be much more careful. If somebody wants to host any new events like the one that Hagan attended are going to be more careful about vetting the list of attendees, and to make sure that nobody associated with anything like a Godless American Political Action Committee is in the room. Failure to do so could cost the candidate the election.
Even if Hagan wins this election (particularly given the way that she has decided to respond to the accusation of meeting with atheists) the lesson will still be learned that one must exclude atheists from all future events.
At the time that the news first broke that Dole was going to appeal to anti-atheist bigotry, many of those who noted that fact decided to respond by contributing to the Hagan campaign. As it turns out, those people ended up funding a front page news campaign to cover North Carolina in specific, and ultimately the country, with a major news story that the accusation of atheism, or the accusation of meeting with atheists, is slanderous. This is the message that those contributions have ultimately funded.
Which brings me to a question that I have asked a couple of times now in recent posts.
Are you tired yet of being used as a club for attacking the very things that you claim to value?
Here is an editorial that appears in the Greensboro, North Carolina paper, News-Record: Dole's attack on Hagan's faith drives heated campaign lower
Dole's ad forced the political debate into the realm of religious beliefs. It exploits what now looks like a campaign misstep by Hagan -- attending a Boston fundraiser at the home of atheist activist Woody Kaplan, a founder of Godless Americans.
Note that it is now being counted as a "misstep" for a candidate for public office to attend a function in which a known atheist is present.
It is not just a misstep to go to a function hosted by atheists or to talk to atheists directly. It is a misstep to go to a political event in which one or more promiment atheists has also been invited to attend - unless the atheist is there is an adversarial role (e.g., a debate opponent perhaps).