It’s election season. Time to dust off the Christian Nation myth.


I haven’t given much thought to Sally Quinn for several years, since I last read dead tree newspapers regularly, in the hoary pre-internet days of college.  Now what the hell is this thing?

Romney captures the God vote at first debate

When Mitt Romney mentioned the “Creator” in the debate Wednesday, he owned it. “We’re all children of the same God,” he said.That’s about 85 percent of the country he was talking to. That should have been President Obama’s constituency but he let Romney have it as he let Romney have the debate.

Edit: Based on Jamesbman’s comment drawing my attention to Sally Quinn’s other recent columns, I think it’s likely that this one was an intentional troll.  If so, my opinion stands that it was a bad one.

Yeah, to whom will this be news?  Republicans pander to people who wish the government enforced Christianity every year.  If Romney hadn’t been trying hard not to talk about being a Mormon, he would have spoken out a lot more stridently and “owned” this topic months ago.  There’s been a lot to hate about the 2012 election season, but I will say that until now, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how little talk there was of either candidate being “chosen by God” or “called to serve” or other such meaningless noise.  But Sally’s got the religion beat at the Washington Post, so obviously she’s excited for it to come back front and center.

Citing the Declaration of Independence, Romney said: “Second, is that line that says we are endowed by our Creator with our rights, I believe we must maintain our commitment to religious tolerance and freedom in this country. That statement also says that we are endowed by our creator with the right to pursue happiness as we choose. I interpret that as, one, making sure that those people who are less fortunate and can’t care for themselves are cared by — by one another.” This is a religious country. Part of claiming your citizenship is claiming a belief in God, even if you are not Christian.. We’ve got the Creator in our Declaration of Independence. We’ve got “In God We Trust” on our coins. We’ve got “one nation under God” in our Pledge of Allegiance. And we say prayers in the Senate and the House of Representatives to God. An atheist could never get elected dog catcher, much less president. (Democratic Rep. Pete Stark of California is a nontheist but doesn’t talk much about it). Up until now, the idea of being American and believing in God were synonymous.

Pure, uncut, weapon-grade revisionist history bollocks, thanks very much.

While watching the debate with my sister Keryn, I had an open thread on Facebook where several friends and I posted our real-time reactions in comments. When Romney say “Part of claiming your citizenship is claiming a belief in God, even if you are not Christian” my precise remark was, “Mitt: ‘Suck it, atheists.'”

No, Sally, the idea of being American and believing in God have never been synonymous.  To say so is an insult to the founding fathers who did, in fact, seriously debate the question of how much of a role religion should have in public life, and came to the conclusion: pretty much none.  As Farrell Till pointed out in his essay on “The Christian Nation Myth,”

Such a view of American history is completely contrary to known facts. The primary leaders of the so-called founding fathers of our nation were not Bible-believing Christians; they were deists. Deism was a philosophical belief that was widely accepted by the colonial intelligentsia at the time of the American Revolution. Its major tenets included belief in human reason as a reliable means of solving social and political problems and belief in a supreme deity who created the universe to operate solely by natural laws. The supreme God of the Deists removed himself entirely from the universe after creating it.

Thomas Jefferson said, “It is in our lives, and not from our words, that our religion must be read. By the same test the world must judge me. But this does not satisfy the priesthood. They must have a positive, a declared assent to all their interested absurdities. My opinion is that there would never have been an infidel, if there had never been a priest.”

Saying that real Americans have to believe in God is more than just showing respect for the majority religion in the country; it is a common tactic that is deliberately exclusionary to people of no faith, trying to carve off a minority block from having a voice in the political process.  I’ve come to expect this sort of thing from Republicans, but concern trolls like Sally Quinn regularly try to solidify this framing by actively taunting Democrats to participate.  And sometimes, unfortunately, it works.

Back to the article:

When the Republicans tried to take away the flag it took a long time for the Democrats to realize they had been hijacked. For years, Democrats were wary of wearing flag pins for fear of seeming to pander. They finally got the message.

What message would that be, exactly?  That pandering works? That it is admirable and should be imitated?

Sidebar: wearing a flag pin does not make you patriotic, especially when you are the sort of person who tells blatant lies about the country’s history. Such as, for example, “Up until now, the idea of being American and believing in God were synonymous.” Wearing a flag pin doesn’t make a defender of the country. It doesn’t make you a bad person, it doesn’t make you a good person. But it has the impact of making certain gullible types assume that you are a patriot, in exactly the same way that declaring yourself to be running a “Christian business” makes some people assume that you will never cheat them.  Hence, it is a favored technique of con men.  Neither wearing a flag pin nor advertising yourself as a Christian automatically makes you a con man, but both are common crutches to bypass critical evaluation.

Now it’s God. The Republicans have claimed God as their own this entire campaign, each candidate trying to out-Christian the other. Even Obama, though 17 percent of registered voters think he is a Muslim, has talked about being a Christian as often as he can.
Still, none of Obama’s references have been in a debate. And there was Obama– grim faced, nervous, fumbling his words and wearing his American flag pin — letting Romney, confident and aggressive and in control, roll right over him at every turn.

And here’s my tip for Barack Obama. Every time you might feel tempted to follow Sally Quinn’s terrible advice, and try to do the sort of empty pandering that Republicans do, the preceding paragraphs should make it clear that it won’t work.

Look at what she just said again: “And there was Obama– grim faced, nervous, fumbling his words and wearing his American flag pin.”  She acknowledged the fact that he was wearing a flag pin, and then she used it as a point of ridicule.  She smoothly transitioned from implying that only unpatriotic people are seen in public without a pin, to implying that the use of the pin was insincere.  Can there be a more tacit acknowledgement that people who equate flag pins with patriotism are being fake and disingenuous?

People think Obama is Muslim despite the fact that it’s patently, obviously false, and despite lots of occasions when Obama has talked up his Christianity in public.  Meanwhile, Mitt Romney is actually not a standard Christian, and if you hunt around you can easily find loads of evangelical sermons earnestly putting forth the idea that Mormons aren’t Christian at all.  But it doesn’t matter, because Quinn considers Mitt to be on the team.  The use of religious language to imbue yourself with fake virtue, and the use of a flag pin to imbue yourself with fake pride, doesn’t actually conjure up the real thing in either case.

But what people like Quinn would like to accomplish is, they want to make sure to peel off support for real non-believing Americans, who care just as much about what happens on the political scene; and who want very much to be recognized as full-fledged citizens with an equal say in society.  Neither party does a great job of upholding these values, but only one party (so far) directly codifies divisive nonsense in their platform.  No, it’s not a good idea to make it both.  Don’t listen.

But the God thing clinched it. If Obama wants to win the next debate, he needs to wear God, as much as it offends him to do so, the same way he captured the flag for this one.

Okay, I have nothing left to say.  That’s just stupid.

This column is actually so over the top that I haven’t entirely ruled out that it might be a “modest proposal” style prank. If it is, it’s poorly done, and too easily subject to Poe’s Law. If it’s satire, it is indistinguishable from lots of stuff that people regularly say.

Comments

  1. Sa says

    There are two interesting videos-god and the ism by horusthecoconut on YouTube and physics of the hidden world by Johanan raatz- with reference to the topic of God. It would be interesting to see your response

    Also “end of old world document, mathematical proof of gods existence..” on Godlikeproductions

    And “arkura interdimensional being”

    They are not the most convincing titles but the arguments are not as trivial as the headings suggest. Read them or not I’d you have the time–it generally doesn’t have to do with the usual arguments by the devotedly religious but a rationalist approach, as well as parallels to hermeticism, etc.

  2. Kazim says

    I let these comments posts through but deleted the other six things you wrote. You posted a whole bunch of blank stuff, apparently trying to test your posts and not realizing that new posters are automatically subject to moderation until at least one post has been approved.

    Having said that, I don’t in any way understand what this video has to do with the post you are replying to. Explain?

  3. higher dimensional stuff says

    It doesn’t. I just want to spread the videos above. I’m also not your usual religious fanatic. In fact–ive been an atheist since I was 12 and in the first 3 minutes of my God and the Ism video I prove how order comes from an undefined chaos–seemingly going against the notion of an outside god. It is always pertinent to define what we mean by God. I just want to spread the video—there are a lot of things mankind is not aware of and we should approach these deep questions from all angles. Sorry if I was a pest posting more than once.

  4. higher dimensional stuff says

    Like it would be very interesting to see Matt Dillahunty’s reaction.

    Other posts are “arkura interdimensional being” and “end of old world document. Mathematical proof of gods existence”.

    Godlkkeproductions.

  5. Jamesbman says

    Is this the same Sally Quin who wrote this in a recent article:

    When you add “God” to the Democratic platform you are essentially ignoring the fact that some 15 percent of Americans are either atheists, agnostics, secular humanists or simply say they don’t believe.
    That doesn’t make them less good than those who believe. Osama Bin Laden, for instance, believed in God. What it does make them is disenfranchised. It says, this is a party and a country that doesn’t include you. They may not believe that their potential is God-given. Those who do must know that it goes without saying. So why does it have to be shoved down the throat of the nonbelievers?

    …and this:

    As with racism, sexism, our views toward homosexuality or discrimination of any kind, one day non-believers will no longer be excluded from the discussion either. In fact, it’s already happened. Somebody somewhere decided to take God out of the Democratic platform this year, simply assuming that it wouldn’t be a big deal. They were right about one thing. Some day it won’t be.

    She appears to me to be lauding the Dems for not including God in their language in this piece or am I missing something?

    Here’s the link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/on-faith/post/playing-the-religion-card/2012/09/08/26de33fa-fa17-11e1-8b93-c4f4ab1c8d13_blog.html

  6. Jamesbman says

    Apologies, I forgot to encapsulate those in quotes. Here they are again for clarity:

    “When you add “God” to the Democratic platform you are essentially ignoring the fact that some 15 percent of Americans are either atheists, agnostics, secular humanists or simply say they don’t believe.
    That doesn’t make them less good than those who believe. Osama Bin Laden, for instance, believed in God. What it does make them is disenfranchised. It says, this is a party and a country that doesn’t include you. They may not believe that their potential is God-given. Those who do must know that it goes without saying. So why does it have to be shoved down the throat of the nonbelievers?”

    “As with racism, sexism, our views toward homosexuality or discrimination of any kind, one day non-believers will no longer be excluded from the discussion either. In fact, it’s already happened. Somebody somewhere decided to take God out of the Democratic platform this year, simply assuming that it wouldn’t be a big deal. They were right about one thing. Some day it won’t be.”

  7. jdog says

    No, we’re not going to watch 30 minutes of poorly-made videos by people who read a book and decided it was proof of a creator deity just to refute it for you.

    Tell us what claim you’re making and what you think the evidence is that supports your claim.

  8. Leeloo Dallas Multipass says

    Based on the mention of quantum computations in the preview image, I’m assuming the message of the videos is “God is real because [TECH].”

  9. Kazim says

    I edited the post to acknowledge your point. However, a bad idea is still a bad idea no matter who presents it, and enough people genuinely believe her points that it’s worth responding to.

  10. jdog says

    More or less. From what I saw of the first few minutes of the “videos” (written text* set to music, with the occasional explanatory images), it’s wild speculation based upon Bohm’s own unproven speculation by someone who (surprise!) didn’t really understand what Bohm was talking about.

    * To the videos’ author(s): How about written text all in one easily viewable document with explanatory images? Having this load of bollocks in video format just means we have to skip back and forth through the thing to find each 15-second snippet where something wrong was said.

  11. jdog says

    Your video makes some unproven claims and contains a big misunderstanding about what evolution is and how it works. Please explain what you think “infinite complexity” is and why you think evolution must necessarily produce it at some point.

  12. Sonorus says

    I don’t know how you get to 85%. The god Romney believes in is most certainly not the one I was taught about in Sunday School. We didn’t learn that god used to be human and lives on the planet Kolob. Sorry but “we” has to include the speaker (Romney) and so he can’t count any non-mormons as believing in the same god he does. Fail.

  13. Sonorus says

    About “Christian businesses”…there was an investment scheme known as “Baptist Fund of Arizona”. It was sold, among other places, at Baptist retreats like Glorietta and Ridgecrest. People bought it thinking a “christian” business would be more ethical than a secular one. They were wrong. They were caught doing essentially what Bernie Madoff did about a decade earlier. It was actually the first of a string of investments with falsified profit statements and collapsed just a few months before Enron. Investors eventually got a good deal of their money back but could have made money rather than lost it in a non-scam investment. Of course con-men are going to pretend to be Christians. It’s a time-honored scam technique.

  14. curtcameron says

    “We’re all children of the same God.”

    Yeah, I’d like to hear him elaborate on this. After he explains Mormon ideas of this God that we’re all children of, he can explain to very Christian America how that same God includes the Muslims’ Allah.

  15. says

    Here is a long form argument that settles it from two views:

    1. Taking the Biblical view
    2. Taking the view of the DoI, the Constitution and laws of the nation.

    I am just an atheist, not a writer, so if you have the patience to read through what could be shorter, please: http://bit.ly/T0Hi4B

  16. Muz says

    Total aside, perhaps likely to annoy: The show often gets late entries on the blog or none at all. I know it’s work and you’re all busy. Would I be right in thinking there’s often so much chat and facebook traffic that blogging it seems superfluous?

  17. Kazim says

    It’s because someone has to remember to do it, and some of us are better than others at making updates after our own shows. I know neither Matt nor Don will make a thread, so I did it after I saw your message.

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