Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Atheism as "Unfit for Political Office"

Hot on the heals of yesterday's post, in which I questioned the government's right to declare that atheism is unpatriotic, we have an example of a political candidate using the government's teachings in charging a political rival with supporting atheist (read: "unAmerican") activities.

Albuquerque City Councilor Don Harris sent out a campaign mailing that "[Barbour] is a donor to Atheist organizations and speaker at Atheist events…" prominently featured, with the word "Atheist" capitalized and in italics to indicate that this is the horrible thing he wants the reader to focus on.

(See: The New Mexico Independent: ABQ City Councilor Harris responds to NMI on “atheist” attack on challenger)

We can well imagine what the reaction would have been if Harris had made the accusation that his opponent donated to Jewish causes and spoke at Jewish events. We would know right away what types of attitudes that Harris was appealing to - and even promoting - with such an advertisement.

The moral bankruptcy of such a statement would have ended Harris' political career immediately. Even his own party would have abandoned him for making such a bigoted claim, and for the hate-mongering inherent in such a statement.

Of course, Jews are smart enough to rise in absolute (and well justified) anger whenever somebody in political office - or aspiring to political office - expresses those kinds of sentiments. They have history to teach them how foolish it is to let those types of statements go unchallenged.

While many atheists arrogantly assert that they are mentally superior to those who hold any type of religious belief, here is the case in which atheists act as fools, where the Jews would respond to such a political ploy with far greater wisdom.

(Though the Jewish population should recognize that if it is viewed as politically legitimate to make this type of involvement in atheist organizations a political campaign one year, there is less to block the use of the same type of political message targeting Jews a few years down the road.)

Of course, we are then invited to ask the question of where people get the idea that "atheist" is equivalent to "being unfit for public office." We find the answer in the Pledge of Allegiance and the national motto. The former puts atheism in with rebellion, tyranny, and injustice as the four great unAmericanisms. The latter says that all patriotic Americans (We) trust in God.

This is a part of the cost - the special burden - placed on atheists because their government has adopted the policy of writing into its pledge, printing on its money, in posting in public buildings, the message, "Those who do not believe in God are not fit for public office."

As a consequence, candidates can put in their political mailings, "My opponent speaks at atheist events and donates to atheist causes." When this is combined with the government's hate-mongering, we have an effective filter that is 99.9% effective at keeping elected offices out of the reach of those who do not trust in God, or support a nation under God.

At the same time, we are told that the Pledge and the Motto are not to be understood as violating a prohibition on government against promoting or establishing religion.


Zachary Jones said...

While you are certainly right about the moral bankruptcy of the statement, I think your comparison to the Jews is unfair. The Jewish community has often been quite close knit, with Jewish families and social institutions working together to effect political change. Atheists have no such organizations, and thus cannot be expected to exercise such collective intelligence. Atheists lack many of the proper implements to become politically viable. As sad a state as this is (and one that I certainly hope will change) I am nonetheless very pessimistic about it.

Anonymous said...

"Of course, Jews are now smart enough to rise in absolute (and well justified) anger whenever somebody in political office - or aspiring to political office - expresses those sentiments. They have history to teach them how foolish it is to let these types of statements go unchallenged."

That is an interesting and curious observation.

I say this based on the fact that the ADL, and Jewish politicians like Cong. Jane Harman (D, Ca), the Chairperson of the House Intelligence Committee, (the one the FBI caught on tape spying for a "foreign country) have taken stands supporting the Turkish government's denial of the Armenian Genocide.

Heck, she even posted her letter to her Armenian constituents on her website, telling them "now is not the time" to recognize that Genocide.....

As a grandchild of a survivor of that Armenian Genocide, which was led by Jewish "Young Turks", the allies of the Bolshevik Jews of Russia that murdered over 50 million Ukrainians and White Russians (ethnic Germans living in Russia), I find your statement to be, let's say, "incomplete", to say the least.

How would you advise Armenians to react to Jewish politicians and organizations doing this?

Should we rise in "absolute and well justified anger?"


Paul said...

1-If you will read the comments left in response to the cited article at http://newmexicoindependent.com/38444/abq-city-councilor-harris-responds-to-nmi-on-atheist-attack-on-challenger, you will note strong responses criticizing Rep. Don Harris for his implied slight of atheists.

2-While you the criticize the use of religion as a voter criterion in selection of a political candidate, the question that nags at me is what then is the anointed list of acceptable reasons. In thinking about the voting process for myself it is important to me to have a sense of the person I am voting for. I can see how for many a candidate's religion is a part of that, the closer it is to their religion, the better. And given the subset of Christians that believe they are a chosen people, that is personally disturbing.

But I think this is a flaw of democracy. When you let the citizen's decide, their choices are going to reflect their biases and prejudices. Non-Mormons are at a disadvantage in much of Utah, non-Jews in Israel, non-Muslims in Iran, and theists in China. Do you think a community of atheists would not harbor some doubts about the wisdom of a born again Christian running for office? I don't know that I would look for fairness in the representativeness of elected government officials.

That said, I also don't think minority status is a blackball to holding elected office. I think there are numerous examples of various types of minorities winning elected posts. A candidate's job is to convince voters that he will best represent them. A minority candidate just has more work to do to accomplish that.

3-I have never seen on any public institution the statement, "Those who do not believe in God are not fit for public office." Thus stated, it is quite unAmerican in my understanding. I am clear here that you are suggesting that this is the impact of the inclusion to references to God on our money and in our Pledge of Allegiance and such. But whether that is the impact of these references is an empirical matter. Herein you have neither cited research nor qualified your remarks. Possibly you have addressed this in other blog entries.

Moreover I personally believe that the various public references to God serve a very important public function: aligning our government with what the great majority of the population see as their moral authority. And again, it is my belief that breaking or weakening this connection is a grave mistake advanced by some atheists. If the words mean nothing to you, what is the problem? If your hypothesis is correct that these theistic references adversely impact us, I believe there are other remedies.

These are my thoughts. Comments welcome.

Paul Frank