Thursday, July 5, 2007

Orson Scott Card's anti-atheist bigotry


Orson Scott Card has an article on Beliefnet called "Who Gets to Define 'Christian'?" It was written in response to Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr.'s "Mormonism Is Not Christianity."

Card's lies and anti-atheist bigotry are on full display in this single paragraph:

We Mormons don’t agree with you on many vital points of doctrine. But I hope we all agree with each other about this: In a time when a vigorous atheist movement is trying to exclude religious people from participating in American public life unless they promise never to mention or think about their religion while in office, why are we arguing with each other?

A vigorous atheist movement? I wish! We're only about 3 percent of the American population, 9 percent if you include everyone called "non-religious." We're the least trusted group according the polls. At best only 45 percent of the population would vote for an atheist, and that's the bigotry Mr. Card wants to plug into.

Sure, some atheist books have ascended to the top of national bestseller lists. Christopher Hitchens’s God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything has, since its May 1 publication, sold 58,000 copies, according to this Publishers Weekly article. Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion, published last September, has sold 282,000 copies. The population of the United States is 301,139,947. Can you do the math Mr. Card? How do their sales compare with the sales of Tim LaHaye's and Jerry B. Jenkins' "Left Behind" books which have sold more than 62 million copies.

And according to Mr. Card this atheist movement is "trying to exclude religious people from participating in American public life unless they promise never to mention or think about their religion while in office." Where the hell does that even come from? How exactly are we trying to exclude religious people or silence them? By pointing out how crazy their statements are?

I'll admit that I'm a bit disgusted by all the god-blathering politicians have to do to get elected but there is a kind of god-blathering I consider "safe and sane enough" to vote for. For example, John Kerry's semi-quoting of Lincoln's "we pray that we are on God's side and not blaspheme and claim he is on our side," by saying: "I don't want to claim that God is on our side... I want to humbly pray that we are on God's side." Does Mr. Card think only a secretly crypto-atheist would say such a thing? John Kerry was accused of secretly being an atheist in addition to getting swift-boated.

There is, however, another kind of god-blathering I don't consider safe or sane, such as Kansas Senator and presidential candidate Sam Brownback's New York Times Op-Ed, "What I Think About Evolution," and Rep. Ben Bridges' and Rep. Warren Chisum's memo that called for the end of “tax-supported evolution science” because it has a religious agenda to name a few examples.

Does Mr. Card know the difference between safe and sane god-blathering and dangerously insane god-blathering? Or does the more god-blathering a candidate does make him a better candidate in my Mr. Card's mind? He doesn't seem like someone who would connect the Christian Right to the rise of American Fascism.

Then Mr. Card notes how "Christians" fight among themselves rather than defeat this dangerous atheist enemy. Like we atheists don't argue among ourselves?

Remarkably, Mr. Card inserts that paragraph just a few paragraphs after writing this:

We are as legitimate, as citizens and therefore as potential officeholders, as anybody else in America. Because there is no religious test for holding office in America.

And if you try to impose one, by saying that all persons belonging to this or that religion should never be elected president, then who is it who is rejecting the U.S. Constitution? Who is it who is saying that people with certain beliefs are second-class citizens, for no other reason than their religion?

You want to know who is it who is saying that people with certain beliefs are second-class citizens? How about the Democrat Mr. Card warning Republicans of a vigorous atheist movement that is trying to exclude religious people? Yea, right, 3 to 9 percent of the U.S. voters are going to exclude you Mr. Card. We can't even get most of the younger ones to vote at all they're so disgusted by politics.

If anyone is excluded as potential officeholders it's us atheists and it is in part because of liars like Mr. Card. Mr. Card who thinks he can make Mitt Romney acceptable to Republicans by repeating the magic word, "Jesus."

What if we define “Christians” the way most people would: “Believers in the divinity of Christ and in the necessity of the grace of Christ in order to be saved in the Kingdom of God.”

Or, “People who believe Christ is the Son of God and the only way to please God is by following Christ’s teachings as best you can all your life.”

Or how about, “People who believe that the New Testament is scripture and that its account of the life, death, resurrection, and teachings of Jesus is true and that we should act accordingly.”

We can come up with a lot of definitions that do a much better job of describing what most people mean when they use the word “Christian.”

How many ordinary Christians actually know or care about the “historic creeds and doctrinal affirmations” that form Dr. Mohler’s definition-of-choice?


That's what I would call mumbo-jumbo. Mr. Card repeatedly uses the magic, saving words, "Jesus," "Christ," "Christian," "New Testament," "God" and "Son of God" while being vague about the underlying details of what is believed about Jesus. Does he believe that Jesus cast demons out of a man and put them in pigs? Does he believe his faith can literally move mountains? Does he think Jesus came from a planet near a star called Kolob? Does he think "Christians" should establish an American theocracy? (Well, he probably doesn't but a number of the Republicans Mr. Card wants to reach probably do.)

Does Mr. Card care what some Christians he might vote for believe? If religious faith is so important would he vote for Osama bin Laden before he voted for an atheist? Interestingly, Mr. Card, a Democrat, decided to contrast Bill Clinton with George Bush:

How then would we find out what he really believes? What his standards are? How well he keeps his commitments? It’s not impossible to determine that even with people whose religious commitments are, shall we say, skin deep. It wasn’t hard to find out what Bill Clinton’s standards of truth-telling and word-keeping were before he was elected; he absolutely performed exactly as his past behavior had given us reason to expect. We got what we voted for.

So, Bill Clinton's god-blathering wasn't good enough for the Democrat Mr. Card? Did he vote for George Bush of whom he says:

Think about it. How often has President Bush been mocked because he believes he was born again? How often have his critics ridiculed him because he believes that when he prays, God hears him and even, sometimes, answers?

You mean that guy who got elected president twice in spite of being mocked and whom many people would now like to see impeached?

The president who just recently commuted Scooter Libby's sentence after saying this about the commutation process? Yea, right, Georgie has been a great example of a faithful president.

His profession of membership in a Church gives us a way to find out about the standards of good and evil, of right and wrong, that his religion teaches.

Umm... like we learned about George Bush's standards of good and evil, of right and wrong, that his religion teaches?

What I'd like to know about a presidential candidate is how they define the difference between good and evil because that's how you tell if they've fallen victim to the Manichean delusion. The Manichean delusion is the self-anointing of "us" as good and "them" as evil. Everything you do is good, everything your proclaimed enemy does is evil.

Just using the words Mr. Card does here, their paring, "good and evil," is a clue to his having become a victim of the Manichean delusion himself, because the opposite of "good" is not "evil" -- the opposite of "good" is "bad." Good is something that fulfills its role well, a sharp knife is a good knife, a dull knife is a bad knife. The opposite of "evil" is "love." Love is nurturing and caring and helping while evil wants to kill and cause pain, cause damage, halt plans.

The problem with such a non-Manichean definition is that doing evil can be a necessity in war.

Where I would be worried is when we have a candidate who does not profess any religion, or does not live up to the standards of the religion he professes.

In other words, Mr. Card is one of those many people who would not vote for an atheist and just might prefer Osama bin Laden as our president. Well, that might not be fair, but he sure doesn't seem to be warning those Republicans away from the Pat Robertsons, the James Dobsons and others.

15 comments:

The Barefoot Bum said...

Great post!

One quibble: "Alice Shannon"'s letter to Kenai Peninsula Clarion was revealed as a hoax; A Whore in the Temple of Reason has the story.

The Barefoot Bum said...

I was especially amused by this passage:

Certainly, for instance, it wasn’t hard to find out what Bill Clinton’s standards of truth-telling and word-keeping were before he was elected; he absolutely performed exactly as his past behavior had given us reason to expect. We got what we voted for.

Yep: A somewhat conservative, highly intelligent and well-educated policy wonk who eliminated the deficit, didn't lie us into wars any worse than Somalia and Bosnia, presided over the strongest economic expansion in half a century.

I actually believe that Card would prefer to see us lied into a world war by a believing, practicing Christian than live in peace and prosperity under an atheist.

Anonymous Atheist said...

I like this! I tried to provoke a similar argument in the comments to Card's post, but only one person responded, and we got off track pretty quickly. You did a much better job of it than I did anyway.

normdoering said...

The Barefoot Bum wrote: "Alice Shannon"'s letter ... was revealed as a hoax

Thank God!

I'll edit that out soon.

Thanks.

Got any other good examples of religious political insanity you like?

The Barefoot Bum said...

I have fifty examples so far!

Anonymous said...

The vast majority of "believers" are hypocritical liars -- it goes with the territory.

Anonymous said...

One quibble: "Alice Shannon"'s letter to Kenai Peninsula Clarion was revealed as a hoax

I think you're rather gullible. How do you know that the second letter, claiming the first was a hoax, wasn't a hoax? The Clarion claims "Numerous attempts to contact Ms. Shannon proved the letter was a hoax", but attempts to contact someone, no matter how numerous, can't prove any such thing, they can at best provide supporting evidence.

It may well have been a hoax, but it still reflects the views of George Bush Sr. and many other Americans, and I think that, if OSC had seen it, he would have thought something like "I wouldn't go so far, but I admire her passion and spunk".

normdoering said...

Over on Mr. Card's BeliefNet screed there's a commentor, calling themselves Anon, lashing out with this kind of crap:

You are clearly intolerant of my opinion. You are clearly intolerant of a lifestyle that includes the rejection of atheism. And, as much as we can tell about Mr. Card, we can also tell that you are intolerant of identities (people who reject atheism) differing from your own.

Now--you may reject the second two, because "we don't know you." But they are as easily rejected of Mr. Card, because we don't know him. Your statements are excessively judgmental, so you can't criticize me or Card for making judgmental statements. The first item you obviously cannot reject. You explicitly state your intolerance.


Good grief -- I'm intolerant of that jerk's ignorant opinion. Fuck tolerance.

I'm not even in the mood to read his shit yet, so if anyone wants to read it and pile on, be my guest.

The Barefoot Bum said...

Anon: You appear to understand neither evidentiary arguments nor the definition of "gullible".

Evidentiary argument never "prove" anything, for or against, at least by deductive standards of proof. All a skeptical person can do is evaluate the evidence and come to the the most probably explanation.

At the very least, the Shannon letter is not sufficiently well-evidenced to itself serve as evidence for the conclusions of Norm's essay. Furthermore, the reaction to Shannon's letter, as reported by the newspaper via the Whore (herself a reliable source) show that the ideas expressed in the letter—sincere or not—were not typical, at least of that newspaper's readership: The letter garnered overwhelmingly negative commentary.

I think Norm has sufficient evidence to support his thesis, but skeptical analysis cannot allow the admission of Shannon's letter as sufficiently veridical to serve itself as evidence for any other thesis.

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Anonymous said...

Funnily enough you only contest that athiests are strong. Perhaps what Christians see is athiests love seperation of church and state. Fine.

They also see a socialist movement for larger and larger governmental involvement in society. If government expands and government silences religion, then the natural conclusion is "athiests want to silence religious people."

If athiests want to undue this effect (true or untrue), they must advocate less governmental expansion.

Anonymous said...

OSC has proven himself to be a lover of the authortarian mindset. I guess he decided to join those for whom 9/11 became their call to go batshit crazy.

Sad...

jason said...
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