S. E. Cupp demonstrates it’s not easy to be a conservative atheist

Conservative commentator S. E. Cupp got stuck in a dilemma of her own making Thursday when the topic of atheism and politics came up on her new MSNBC news show. The debacle that followed was painful to watch, video below.

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So much to unpack. Cupp clearly felt obligated to praise believers, the bread and butter of her party, why she’s downright envious and defensive of them! She repeatedly insulted all atheists by claiming how intolerant atheists are, talk about projection, and then in practically the same breath professed her intolerance of atheists by saying she would never vote for one because they only represent five or ten percent of the country and think the rest are crazy. Wouldn’t a faithful Jewish candidate, or a Mormon for that matter, represent only a few percent of the electorate and also believe the majority of Americans hold false religious beliefs? If we take her at her word, Cupp would refuse to vote for Eric Cantor or Mitt Romney for the same reason. But we all know this ad hoc rationalization is applied selectively and hypocritically.

Speaking of hypocrisy, Cupp’s single example of purported militant atheist intolerance was a release grading presidential candidates on their religious beliefs vs the policies they espouse by the Secular Coalition of America. Which, for reasons that remain baffling, she described as “abominable and arrogant”. Presumably, Cupp is qualified to be a conservative political expert worthy of hosting a show on cable news in the midst of a presidential election, she holds a master in religious studies, and yet she’s never heard of any other organization that has ever graded candidates on their religious-political views. And despite the resources of MSNBC at her disposal, the only trusted media source she could find on the SCA’s report was in a  newspaper run by Moonies. You have got to be fucking kidding me.

Watching Cupp dance around, nay loathe her own lack of belief, seeing the frightened look in her eyes as it dawned on her that her shot at pundacious fame was suddenly in peril, and worst of all the open pity expressed by other panelists as they tried to gently guide her back to sanity, made me very thankful I’m not a conservative atheist. For the average non sociopath, the mental contortions required to juggle those two hot potatoes must be intellectually and morally exhausting.

It’s not easy to be a conservative atheist these days, the religious right has seen to that. But one would think a professional talking head, who selected and prepared for that very topic, could at least give it a go. Alas, Cupp is clearly not up to the task.


  1. Suido says

    That conversation was disorganised. Almost as disorganised as her thought processes.

  2. lpetrich says

    This issue reminds me of someone named Pogue who claimed that he was an atheist who was totally against church-state separation.

    I asked him if he really wanted everybody to consider him the moral equivalent of a mad dog, and he claimed that I was using emotional language.

    When he complained about some people “twisting Scripture”, I asked what sort of atheist would call the Bible “Scripture”. He had a temper tantrum that I concede I found rather satisfying.

    That’s much like Plato’s Royal-Lie / Noble-Lie theory of religion. He advocated banning the stories of his society’s religion from his Republic, proposing a false religion for making the Republic’s citizens accept the legitimacy of its social structure.

    I find that honesty VERY VERY VERY welcome.

  3. naturalcynic says

    So she’s a Karl Rove Atheist: sucking up to conservative causes; despising herself for not yet achieving the level of faith of those who she serves; envious of faith. Several years ago Rove disclosed these feelings that Cupp now expresses.

  4. says

    Really funny how she’s characterizing atheists as the minority that thinks everyone is wrong except for them – but then makes sure everyone knows she’s not one of “those” atheists. So not only are believers wrong, but atheists are too – except for her, of course.

  5. AsqJames says

    Her second reason for not being able to vote for an atheist as President struck me as perverse. Paraphrasing:

    I like the idea that a religious President doesn’t think he’s above everyone and there is no higher authority than him. I would distrust an atheist President because they would have no higher authority to keep their ego in check.

    Isn’t there something somewhere which says governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed? Kings rule by (claimed) divine right, Presidents are elected to serve the people.

  6. says

    I have a seriously hard time beliving that she is actually an atheist. Despite her claims to be such, in every interview I have seen her do or recieve, she speaks about religion and faith in the same tenor and almost fervor as a believer does. At best I would say she is a deist, or perhaps a theistic agnostic.

    That aside, her attitude is part of the problem of why it is so hard for atheists to come out still. The way she is oblivious to the sad irony of calling for more religious tolerance while in the same breath displaying overwhelming intolerance is what drives me crazy about her, even moreso than disagreeing with her conservative views.

  7. says

    This performance makes me wonder whether Cupp is presenting herself as the right-wing’s notion of what an atheist is. Also, it shouldn’t be hard to be both a conservative and an atheist, but in America, the term “conservative” has been so twisted by the extremist Christians of the right that it’s practically unrecognizable.

  8. Uncle Glenny says

    Wow. Way worse than a Log Cabin Republican.

    She should accept some silly string as her higher power.

  9. says

    Asa, the thing I always found funny about the “no moral compass” argument: if someone completely lacks a moral compass, if they are immune to feelings of guilt, they wouldn’t feel the least bit rotten for posing as a genuine member and mouthing whatever platitudes required of the most powerful and therefore beneficial faith in their culture.

  10. d cwilson says

    Cupp is proof that anyone can be a successful political pundit these days. Obviously, being able to put together an argument in a coherent and consistent fashion is not a requirement for the job.

    I’ve never bought into her “But I’m one of the good atheists” act. Whenever she appeared on Fox, her main purpose seemed to be to explain why atheists should just meekly surrender their rights to the Christian majority, because Christians are just so much better than atheists are.

    It’s not easy to be a conservative atheist these days, the religious right has seen to that.

    I imagine it’s a lot like being a conservative who is also any other minority. Look at Allen West, Herman Cain, Clarence Thomas, or Alan Keyes. To be a black conservative, you have to be twice as batshit crazy as the average white conservative. Cupp must feel similar pressure to fall in line with the religious right viewpoint lest someone question her ideological purity. That is, assuming she actually is an atheist. I’m not convinced.

  11. lanir says

    Honestly… I have to admit I failed on this one. I couldn’t get past 4:03 into the video. By that point she had already tried to pull some reverse psychology you-oppose-this-but-are-really-for-it thing with her guest and implied that somehow this had the slightest bit of anything to do with the Higgs discussion.

    Thank you for the article about this. I don’t watch television or run into people this stupid/dishonest/ in my daily life. It’s occasionally a requirement to remember that there are people out there who just flat out don’t put facts together. And are so comfortable with not doing so that they’re willing to think all kinds of bizarre things about the rest of us to continue the practice.

  12. says

    I didn’t get very far into it either. I had no idea she had her own show now. *groan*

    She wrote a book about how anti-Christian the media is and I guess has famous parents or something.

    This isn’t new at all. What you described (not trusting an atheist president and all) is something she’s been saying for a while.

    I can’t take credit for this – it was on a youtube comment of one of her TV appearances:

    S.E. Cupp is the Uncle Ruckus of atheism.

  13. eurosid says

    She’s no atheist. She just plays one on TV. (She’s not a Scotsman either, I know.) In my dumbass opinion she’s there for the same reason Alan Colmes was with Sean Hannity. Fox wanted to have a “liberal” so the show could be “Fair and Balanced”. Colmes was just there to fail and be a punching bag for Hannity. Cupp serves the same purpose. She’s there to reaffirm that the Christian Right are the proper leaders of America.

  14. hexidecima says

    I would agree with those who have noted that Cupp is a right-wing relgion wet dream of what a “good” atheist is. There is no way for a atheist, a human who does not accept that a god exists, to be such a pitiful apologist for that religion she claims not to believe in. Considering she appears to spend all of her time excusing Christianity and no other religion (please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong), she just appears to be someone who is willing to sacrifice herself on the pyre of her desperate need for attention.

  15. Leo says

    Perhaps a bit of good news is that it is not solely her show. She’s one of four co-hosts.

    I’m in the camp that S.E. Cupp is actually an atheist because she has apparently studied many religions and I cannot help but think that she could have noticed how similar religions can be and conclude that they are man made. Also, she seems to recognize, at the very least, the argument that a lot of religious belief is derived from ignorance (a.k.a. “god of the gaps”). But she’s part of a political party that tends to be quite religious. And she has found a selling point in pandering to that religious crowd. Does she actually loathe herself for being an atheist or is it all just an act? Maybe it’s a bit of both. And maybe she needs to remember she’s on MSNBC, not FOX News.

  16. r3a50n says

    She’s envious of the faithful and she wants to believe but she’s not there…yet.

    I’m not sure I buy that she’s an atheist either. She’s doing it backwards. Many atheists were at one time people of faith, until they started thinking critically about their faith.

    What does that say about an “atheist” who is looking for a reason to believe?

  17. says

    Aside from her preschool mental gymnastics; did anyone notice that the guest that was booked for the segment was left dangling? Shouldn’t the guest be engaged?

    He had to jump in and say, “Excuse me, I might have an opinion!” But Cupp wasn’t finished with her routine. Hadn’t stuck the landing yet; not realizing she was never going to.

  18. philmccracken says

    Someone from Rising Hegemon or Tbogg said it best: “Two cents, one Cupp”.

  19. anthonyindovina says

    I’m sure somewhere at MSNBC an executive is getting called out for conceiving this idiotic format…unless it is intended as at tryout for an eventual TV personality. SE Cupp is not it. She may be an atheist but has not given the idea any thought beyond “I don’t agree with god-believers”.

  20. Pieter B, FCD says

    jonathenhughes says:

    I have a seriously hard time believing that she is actually an atheist.

    She reminds me of those people back in the day who’d call in to Limbaugh and begin with the spiel “Rush, I’ve been a Democrat all my life, but…” I don’t know if he still uses those shills, but twenty-some years ago I had to do a lot of driving where he was about the only thing you could get on the AM radio.

  21. says

    Cupp’s atheism is as fake as her eyeglasses. In a crowded field of right wing female wingnut welfare recipients, she has to find a way of marketing herself to stand out from the pack. So she professes to be an atheist and she wears glasses to lend her the verisimilitude of being intellectual. She’s a phony and she doesn’t deserve to be treated as a legitimate authority on anything. And that includes Bill Maher, who needs to stop having her on Real Time.

  22. NateHevens says

    Please just leave her be. I’m sick and tired of this one.

    She may be an atheist right now, but she is gearing up for a very public, very lucrative conversion… and I expect it sooner rather than later.

  23. jjgdenisrobert says

    I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. She’s not an atheist, she just plays one on TV.

  24. says

    agreed jjg

    I just hate her rhetoric. She’s not an atheist but pretends to be and it gives all the real atheists a bad name – and also confuses believers into thinking she speaks for atheists.

  25. mpragmatist says

    Great, the last thing Atheists need is an apologist. I also believe that the moment she said she envied the religious for their faith, she also demonstrated that she does not of have the courage of her purported convictions. After all, those who made the journey from religion to Atheism, had to not only follow chains of reason to their logical conclusion, they had to have the courage to accept that conclusion.
    She is an agonostic posing as an atheist, and as such is ripe for the old snap back effect. Conservative Atheists believe in accepting responsibility. A responsible person does not set back human progress by pandering to the irrational beliefs of people with whom we otherwise share much common ground. She embarasses herself, not me. I will only double down on efforts to convince fellow onservatives that the values they hold can not only exist outside of the reward/punishment paradigm, but in fact are more noble for doing so.


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