Some rag called Cathedral Age interviewed Obama and Romney about faith. The two responded by ladling out dollops of pious porridge, all of which was nonsensical and fact-free, but did occasionally serve up scraps of information that were mainly horrifying (did you know Obama has a “faith advisor” who sends him bible quotes and CS Lewis quotes and that sort of thing? That’s not the daily briefing I imagined). Read it if you really want to be bored or aggravated.
It did make me wonder, though — if a bunch of Episcopalians can get the attention of the presidential candidates during the election season, could atheists do likewise? Get on it, Dave Silverman: send the two a set of questions that actually drill down to some secular substance. I suspect they’d both ignore them, unfortunately.
And then I thought, well, what if I were asked these same questions in an interview? How would an atheist answer them? Especially, an atheist who wasn’t trying to pander his way into political office? So I took a vicious, bloody-minded stab at it. These are the same questions Cathedral Age aimed at our two candidates, and I’ll just pretend I’m the nominee of the Atheist Party.
How does faith play a role in your life?
It doesn’t. Faith is a poison, a shortcut to answers that avoids reason and evidence and cultivates an undisciplined and lazy mind. I abjure it and think all political candidates should do likewise.
Do you have favorite scriptural passages, prayers, or other words of wisdom to which you often turn?
Scripture is a morass of inconsistency and lies. Even where it is gifted with poetry (which isn’t often), it is simply an accreted mass of dogma. I never consult the Bible, the Koran, or any other holy book for advice, since they are never applicable, and are usually informed by a barbaric morality.
I don’t do prayers. Entreaties to a nonexistent superman seem singularly pointless.
“Words of wisdom” is a stock phrase that usually means “reassuring cliches”. Nope, I avoid those as well.
How do you view the role of faith in public life?
Faith is the great leveler, the delusion that allows any ignorant asshole prancing in self-serving fantasies of being the center of the universe to claim divine, cosmic authority behind his words. It has corrupted American discourse, because it privileges medieval nonsense about how the world actually works and allows antique bigotry to persist, allows people to make claims without concern for evidence, and gives every idiot with a dog-collar a pedestal to stand on.
Faith ought to be mocked and derided. That we give it special authority in public discourse is a disaster.
As a country of great religious diversity and divisiveness, how can faith play a role in unifying america?
It can’t. Faith is unmoored from reality — it gives every blithering child of god a special place free of responsibility, where their beliefs are stamped with divine approval by the voices in their head. Every one of those religions touts itself as the one great truth about the universe, and they can’t all be right, and most likely none of them are right. We’re looking out on a circus arena populated with clowns, and you’re trying to ask me which one’s shoulders I should stand on to bring order out of chaos. And I say none of them.
Some people have questioned the sincerity of your faith and your christianity. how do you respond to those questions?
Well, that’s kind of inappropriate question for me, since I’m not pretending to be a Christian. I’m not and never will be.
What does a political leader’s faith tell you about him/her as a person?
Oh, it hints at many things.
They could be a gullible fool. It could tell me that they don’t think very deeply at all, and have never put much thought into these bizarre claims that they may say are important forces in their lives.
They could be a dishonest opportunist. The media is always touting faith as a marker for morality, despite the fact that it is actually a very cheap signal — anyone can mouth pieties, and even the most corrupt child-raping priest can say they believe in a god — and in the US, it’s virtually impossible to get elected as an atheist because of the raging bigotry against rational intellectuals.
They could be a brilliant rationalizer, who has built up an elaborate set of excuses for their ridiculous beliefs. I would worry that they’d do likewise for any conclusion they wanted to reach in office.
At the very best, they could be a person who’s never put much thought into their inherited religious tradition; maybe it’s because they’ve put more effort into studying economics or political science or sociology, I don’t know. In this case it would be a misleading indicator.
A leader’s faith basically tells me nothing good about them at all.
How can our government and faith communities work together as a positive force for the nation while also respecting the boundaries between the two?
They can’t. Read the Constitution. This country was founded partially on an understanding that bringing god and state together corrupts both. Some thought that because they wanted a secular government free of superstitious influence; others loved their peculiar religions and did not want the state to endorse some other faith. Either way, they were in agreement: government and faith should not work together. So why, Cathedral Age, are you trying to blur the boundaries? Do you think that having a big expensive elaborate building in Washington DC means that when the government decrees a state religion, it will be Christianity or Episcopalianism?
Washington National Cathedral is called to be the spiritual home for the nation. from your perspective, how can the cathedral live out that mission?
This is a secular nation, or it should be. We are not going to have a spiritual home, and we shouldn’t want one.
The best way that the National Cathedral can serve the country is by ending this pretext that it represents faith in America. Gut it completely of its superstitious trappings, fire the god-soaked leadership, and turn it into something secular and useful. Turning it into a bowling alley or a movie theater would be an improvement, but you could also aim higher and make it into a library or a secular meeting hall. Find something better to do with your time and money.
I think you should be embarrassed that you’re maintaining this expensive, opulent building to the tune of tens of millions of dollars a year, all for the purpose of babbling at a nonexistent space ghost.
Well, what do you think? Would those answers help me get elected to high political office?