In Which I Am Attacked By a U.S. Senator

No, I’m not kidding.

In August, you may recall, I wrote a post titled “Why I’m Donating to Kay Hagan“. This post concerned the U.S. Senate race in North Carolina, where Democratic candidate Kay Hagan is running against the Republican incumbent Elizabeth Dole. The focus of my post was a press release from the Dole campaign attacking Hagan for attending a fundraiser held by Wendy and Woody Kaminer, who are politically active atheists. In this press release, the Dole campaign pandered to religious bigotry in the most blatant and shameful way, seeking to demonize not just her opponent but all American atheists.

At the time, I had some harsh words for politicians like Dole who build their campaigns on exploiting prejudice and fear:

It’s about time we saw atheists taking a greater role in American political life, and I’m not about to stand by and watch while we’re dragged through the mud by self-righteous demagogues who slander us in order to appeal to the ignorant and prejudiced. If we’re going to have an influence on American civic life, we need to flex our political muscles. Kay Hagan ought to be rewarded for inviting nonbelievers onto her platform…

Now, that the Dole campaign has put out a new ad attacking Hagan. Far from abandoning her earlier appeal to bigotry, this one doubles down on it, dredging up the most contemptible and pathetic lies imaginable about the goals of atheists and about Hagan’s associations with us. In the ad (potentially NSFW language), Dole claims that atheists want to “remove any reference to God in the public arena, including eliminating the Christmas Holiday”, and calls us “the most vile, radical liberals in America”.

And on the last page of this flier, we find this:

Oh yes: the Dole campaign quotes my actual post and gives the URL to this site. I’m speechless. Apparently, Daylight Atheism has now become part of the U.S. Senate campaign for North Carolina.

I’m not upset about this. In fact, I’m thrilled. I couldn’t be happier. Let the Dole campaign send traffic to my site; I regret nothing, and I stand behind everything I’ve written on this matter. With any luck, some of her supporters will come here, read for themselves what I’ve written, and see for themselves the falsehood of Dole’s ugly, bigotry-baiting claims.

Frankly, I think this is a sign of desperation. Recent polls have shown Hagan with a genuine lead. Trying to mobilize the religious right by appealing to hatred of atheists may well be the only hope Elizabeth Dole has left. So, I think we should cut that hope off at the pass. Let’s send the religious right a strong message that atheists are a force to be reckoned with in American politics, and that they stoop to smearing us at their peril.

I’m not saying that the Democrats are perfect, far from it. As a party, they pander to religion much more than I’d like. But at the very least, they have a greater respect for the separation of church and state and are more likely to appreciate the importance of including all Americans in their coalition. By contrast, Republicans in general, and Elizabeth Dole specifically, have perfected the art of pitching their campaigns to an increasingly narrow sliver of the electorate. They pander to the worst instincts of their would-be supporters, stirring up prejudice and fear, rather than promoting substantive and rational governance. They seek only to represent the rigid views of right-wing Christian fundamentalists, rather than building a broader coalition of Americans of all kinds.

Senator Dole, by your words and your actions, you have shown yourself unfit for elected office. You are supported to represent all the residents of your state, yet by your repeated and shameless appeals to prejudice, you have proven that you are not the representative of the 10% of your state’s residents who are non-religious. I take pleasure in battling bigotry of all kinds, yours no less than others. If you want a fight, then bring it on. It’s about time that American atheists, as well as all tolerant and progressive people of good will, took a stand against the venomous and divisive politics of the Christian right.

Postscript: If you want to punish anti-atheist bigotry and help Kay Hagan win, please consider donating to her campaign, and leave a comment letting us know. Let’s show the religious right that they can’t push us around without paying the consequences!

UPDATE (11/4): Good riddance, Elizabeth Dole… welcome, U.S. Senator Kay Hagan!

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About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, City of Light, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • DisComforting Ignorance

    Being one of the most vile, radical liberals in America, I made a small donation. :-)

  • Virginia

    Being one of the most vile, radical liberals outside America, I support your course.

  • Brian Westley

    Being even viler, I made a largish donation! MUHAHAHAHAHA!

  • Sam

    wow, what a douche.

    and she can quote that.

  • Ann

    Bravo! Great post and great job calling the ignorant bigot out!

  • Justin

    I wish I had the money to donate to Kay Hagan’s campaign, but being a college student…

    Anyway, I’m looking forward to seeing Elizabeth Dole lose this race.

  • J Myers

    Donated. Goodbye, Ms. Dole, and good riddance.

  • BlackSun

    Lying for God, lovin’ it. Eliminate Christmas, yeah right.

    The Yes on 8 people are doing the same thing in CA. They’re telling people that churches will lose their tax exempt status if they refuse to perform same-sex marriages.

    Go Ebonmuse!

  • Alex, FCD

    Being one of the most vile, radical liberal University students in Canada, I can’t afford it, having already donated my limit to the NDP candidate in my riding. Best of luck to Ms. Hagan and the North Carolinians, though.

  • Mark

    I just gave Ms. Hagan my two cents. And by two cents, I mean 25 dollars.

  • Mark

    Err, Ebonmuse, would you mind removing my last name from the above post? It feels too much like boastfulness if I say that while not hidden behind the pseudo-anonymous veil of a common first name…

    [You got it. —Ebonmuse]

  • TimJ

    Great job and congratulations on getting noticed at a Federal level! I certainly hope that this brings more inquisitive visitors to this site. For any of you all visiting, I highly recommend checking out the essays at the Ebon Musings parent site. If memory serves, in one essay EbonMuse addresses Christmas (hint, he’s not against it). I certainly wish Hagan the best.

  • Siamang

    To be perfectly clear Ebon, this isn’t the Dole campaign mailing this. But certainly her surrogates.

    And yes, I was as gleeful as you are at being mentioned. I only wish it was ME who was mentioned from the Friendly Atheist quote.

  • Siamang

    Hang on… I guess it IS dole’s pac…. I’m confused. Is this a campaign mailer or not?

  • C. L. Hanson

    Congratulations on making an impact!!!

    I hope this brings in some new readers who haven’t thought much about these issues. She could hardly have picked better blogs to send people to. :D

  • Lyra

    I’m not really in a position right now to be able to give her campaign any money, but I’ll make up for it by giving her my vote. It’s an exciting time to be a North Carolina voter! Two years ago my congressional district managed to shed its evil republican overlord (seriously: a region that gets most of its income from tourists who come to appreciate our abundant natural beauty should really not have a representative with one of the worst environmental voting records in history). (The democrat we replaced him with is pro-life, so it’s not a perfect victory, but it’s progress.)

  • Ebonmuse

    Siamang: If you click on the image in my post, it links to a larger scan that shows the entire page of the flier. At the bottom, it says: “Paid for by the North Carolina Republican State Executive Committee, Authorized by and for the benefit of Elizabeth Dole Committee, Inc.”

  • Stacey Melissa

    Being the vile atheist that I am, I just made a donation to… the American Red Cross. For the third time in a month. Even though Dole used to be president of the organization. Even though I have basically no discretionary funds. Even though the economy sucks.

    Why donate to the Red Cross? Perhaps to make the heads of the fundie neocons who read this message explode? No – although that part is certainly amusing. I do it because the Red Cross really needs it right now, and because, while I certainly am a vocal and proud atheist, I’m actually not at all vile like the neocon bigots who made that ad suggest.

    I do hope Kay Hagan wins the NC seat, even though I donated to the Red Cross in lieu of her campaign.

  • decrepitoldfool

    Bonus! Think of all the people who, on the basis of that ad, will for the first time visit an actual atheist website and read what actual atheists have to say.

  • Polly

    Congratulations! And right on the heels of finishing your book. The un-gods are smiling upon you. :D

  • Knuffy

    If it wouldn’t be for the suggestive title of the ad, I would find it actually very flattering and like something Kay Hagan would put in an ad…. strange.

  • Your Name’s Not Bruce?

    At one time (whether it still continues I don’t know) one of the people working for Dole was the former mayor of my home town, London Ontario Canada. One of the things she’s known for here is having refused in 1995 to proclaim Pride Week and refusing to fly the Gay Pride flag at city hall and being found guilty of discrimination by the Ontario Human Rights Commission. Despite (because of?) this she actually won re-election as mayor. She also got into trouble with the London Muslim community in the “March for Jesus” at which one of the speakers prayed for people to be delivered from the “darkness of Islam” and she bowed her head for the prayer. After serving as mayor, Haskett moved to the US to work for Dole. In a recent(2006) bi-election in London she made a brief return as a hand-picked candidate for the Conservative Party, parachuted in from the US for the occasion. She made a great show of buying a place to live, saying she was here to stay. She came in third place in the bi-election and soon after -surprise surprise- moved back to the Washington area. Maybe she’s still advising Dole. Sounds like her god-soaked style. Sorry we couldn’t keep our religious nutters to ourselves, but I’m just as glad to see her gone.

  • Greta Christina

    Dang. You’re a player, dude!

    Between the Obama campaign and the No on 8 (saving same- sex marriage in California) campaign, Nurse Ingrid and I have been donating up a storm this election. But I was inspired, and I just made a $25 donation to Hagan’s campaign. I wanted her to know that it came from the atheist community, so I followed it up with this letter. I encourage any other atheists and atheist- positives who donated to write to her as well ( Here’s what I wrote:

    Hello. My name is Greta Christina, and although I don’t live in North Carolina, I just made a donation to your campaign. I wanted to let you know that I did so prompted by recent posts on the Daylight Atheism and Friendly Atheist blogs.

    I am appalled by Elizabeth Dole’s open bigotry and hatred towards atheists — a bigotry and hatred that would not be tolerated towards any other religious group. And I am encouraged by Kay Hagan’s recognition that atheists are citizens, who have a right to have our voices heard in the political arena.

    My funds are limited (especially since I’ve been donating to other political campaigns this year), so my donation was small. But I plan to write about this on my own blog, and encourage my readers (some who are atheists, many others who aren’t but support atheists’ rights) to support your campaign as well. Thank you again for your recognition of our growing community, and please know that we are grateful and will not forget it.

  • Sengkelat

    I chipped in a ten-spot, and sent an email to Ms. Hagan’s campaign explaining why.

    Inciting and using religious bigotry for political ends is vile, and Ms. Dole should be ashamed.

  • Katherine

    $25 is all I can afford, but I sent it.

  • Ebonmuse

    Thanks for the info, Your Name’s Not Bruce. I don’t think much of those “human rights commissions”, but it does go a long way toward showing the kind of people that Elizabeth Dole associates herself with.

  • Richard Seibel

    Based upon what I read here and elsewhere, this 60 year old EX life long Republican has donated $75 to Ms. Hagan.

    All I can say is “too soon too old, too late too smart”

  • Eric

    You’ve now made the big time. Expect trolls.

  • Cuttlefish

    I thought I saw an atheist
    Approach a voting booth—
    Her voice was shrill, her eyes were wide
    Her manner quite uncouth;
    She tried to force her views on us
    And exercise control—
    I looked again—I’m wrong once more
    Why, this was Libby Dole.

    I thought I saw an atheist
    Discriminate and hate;
    Deride a weak minority
    Because the hour’s late—
    To try to stir the masses
    She’s been losing in the polls;
    I looked again, and listened well—
    Those words were Libby Dole’s

    I thought I saw an atheist,
    So “radical” and “vile”
    Wage war against America–
    A villain with a smile
    Promoting hate, promoting fear
    For petty, selfish gain—
    I looked again, and clearly saw
    The Libby Dole campaign

    I thought I saw an atheist
    Stand up and say “no more!”
    I will not be your scapegoat
    Like so many times before!
    Americans, stand up as Christian
    Muslim, Jew, and Pagan,
    Or atheist, or anything,
    And cast your vote for Hagan!

  • valhar2000

    And yet, trolls are conspicuous by their absence. I guess that it takes Catholics to put together a properly frothing response.

  • Stephen

    Cuttlefish: superb as ever. Kudos.

  • MountainHumanist

    I am a resident of North Carolina and imagine my surprise when I received this piece of true junk mail from the N.C. GOP. I have no plans to financially support any candidate — would rather donate to humanitarian organizations — but I hope Hagan wins now. This diatribe pushed me from undecided/apathetic to pro-Hagan.

    On the other hand, it was a Zen moment to read a blog I visit regularly featured prominently in a political ad. Makes me feel interconnected somehow.

    Great job.

  • lpetrich

    This makes me wonder where all the “liberal Christians” have run off to. Judging from their remarkable masochism toward the Religious Right, it’s like they are happy to let the Religious Right speak for them without any challenge whatsoever. And happy to let the Religious Right (1) count them as supporters and (2) disparage them as Not True Christians. Yes, happy, because that’s what it looks like to me.

    And for all their wailing that they are not fundies, they don’t seem very willing to demonstrate how they differ from fundies.

  • Darren

    As a Libertarian atheist in NC, I’m encouraging my fellow atheists to be aware of Dole’s hatred but to vote for the Libertarian candidate, Chris Cole, rather than Hagan. I believe Hagan’s dedication to expanding the power and scope of the government in virtually all areas of life is an extreme threat to our individual liberty. Also, the bigger and more powerful the government, the greater will be any effects of church-state entanglement. My thoughts on this are on my blog: Elizabeth Dole calls her constituents “vile”.

  • Artoo45

    Thanks to you and PZ Meyers I have donated to Ms. Hagan’s campaign. You may also want to donate to the very rational Hal Bidlack in Colorado. He could use the money as he’s running in a very conservative district.
    Thanks again for your wonderful blog.

  • Tommykey

    Darren, while I am glad you oppose Elizabeth Dole, by not voting for the candidate who has the best chance to beat her, aren’t you letting the perfect be the enemy of the good?

    After all, it was Elizabeth Dole, as Reagan’s transportation secretary, who supported withholding federal transporation funds from states that did not raise the drinking age to 21.

  • Darren

    I know, I know, she’s a horrible person. But millions of people continually voting for the “lesser of the two evils” is what has resulted in our current two-party system, with both parties utterly devoted to aggressing against the populace. I won’t be a part of the lesser-of-the-two-evils strategy any longer.

  • lpetrich

    That’s a structural problem, something that’s sometimes called Duverger’s law — fear of wasting one’s vote on an unlikely candidate forces many voters to choose between the lesser of the two big evils.

    There are alternatives to first-past-the-post that can fix this problem, like approval voting (can vote for more than one candidate), preference voting (rank the candidates in one’s order of preference), and proportional representation.

  • Darren

    Absolutely. In fact, the Libertarian Party in my area has been pushing (with some success) for instant run-off voting and (with less success) for “none of the above” voting.

  • Damien R. S.

    My favorite is range voting: though they seem to be using score voting now. Rate the candidates on a numeric scale; subsumes both approval voting (give only max or min ratings) and ranked (give evenly spaced ratings.)

    “preference voting” covers a large variety of ways of counting the preference votes: Borda count, the popular but ineffectual IRV (ineffectual: places that use it still have only two parties, and it’s easy to see why), Condorcet (itself a whole family based on tiebreakers) and others.

    But yeah. If my preference is Libertarian > Democrat > Republican, and I think Libertarian + Democratic votes > Republican votes, but Democrat > Libertarian, then by voting my preferred choice I’d be risking having my least favorite choice win. One of the front-runners will win, with large probability; by not voting for one of them, I forfeit a chance of making a difference. Which is okay if you genuinely don’t see a difference, or think party-building is more important, but given a decent difference, one is better of donating and campaigning for the third party (or more importantly, for electoral system reform), but voting for the preferred front-runner until the opinion poll numbers get comparable.

  • Damien R. S.

    Gah, IRV. Australia and Malta have IRV and still have only two large parties, or two stable coalitions! Supposedly the Green Party Australia is trying to get away from IRV and have more PR, *because they can’t get elected* under IRV, but can with PR. Green Party USA seems to have missed this. But the examples are simple.

    plurality: Green 10%, Democrat 45%, Republican 45%. It’s suicidal to vote Green (assuming Green voters would generally prefer D to R.)
    IRV, same numbers: it’s save to vote Green, as the votes will promptly be eliminated and shifted back to the Democrat.
    IRV, big shift to the left: Green 31%, Dem 29% (18% Dem > G > R, 11% conservative and Dem > Rep > Green), 40% R. Now the Democrats get eliminated… and the Republicans win, 51 to 49%. Oops.

    With approval/range voting, you can always vote fully for your favorite candidate, though strategically you should also vote for your preferred front-runner.

  • Darren

    Interesting. Hadn’t really looked into range voting before. I think all this just highlights the fundamental inability of politics (i.e. coercive government) to provide solutions, unlike the market where everyone votes with their dollars for exactly what they want and there are a wide range of options at various qualities and prices. Democracy, in the end, is always a case of two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.

  • Jim Baerg

    Democracy, in the end, is always a case of two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.

    Actually it isn’t. A country is a democracy only so long as there is broad consensus on any issues worth killing & dieing for.

    If the vote is over whether to kill some of the voters, any who would be killed will take up arms rather than accept the results of such a vote.

    for an discussion of the effects of this.

  • Damien R. S.

    I think there’s a rather large leap from “our voting system is pessimal” to “politics doesn’t work”, especially given all the polities relatively happy with their governments. Better to say that Americans are structurally and/or culturally bad at government (e.g. our voting, the government structure itself, our habit of electing politicians who say government doesn’t work and proceed to run a non-working government…)

  • noncarborundum

    Dole has just persuaded me to make Hagan’s campaign $50.00 richer. Funny how that works.

  • Ebonmuse

    For the record: the Fayetteville Observer has editorialized in opposition to Dole’s bigot-baiting, in Dole’s new ads set the low mark in negative political campaigning.

    A broadcast ad targeting her opponent, Democratic state Sen. Kay Hagan, shows Dole ratcheting up her rhetoric, and probably winning the honor, so far, of fielding the nastiest, most misleading, negative ad of the campaign. Here’s part of the ad that portrays Hagan as a godless liberal:

    “Godless Americans Political Action Committee is a left-wing organization…

    “They actively support political candidates who are atheists and who also support their liberal agenda to remove ‘under God’ from the Pledge of Allegiance and force the Boy Scouts to accept atheists and homosexuals as troop leaders.”

    Dole’s campaign made the same charge in a widely-distributed mailer.

    Yes, it’s true, as the ad states, Hagan did attend a fundraiser in September hosted by author Wendy Kaminer and her husband Woody Kaplan. Kaplan serves on the board of the Godless Americans PAC, whose agenda includes putting atheists in office and removing the pledge from schools.

    But that doesn’t make Hagan an atheist or anti-American. Hagan is an elder at the First Presbyterian Church in Greensboro and she does not support removing the “Under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance.

  • Lynet

    Wow! The editorial doesn’t come right out and say it, but it directly implies that there is bigotry in attacking a candidate for attending a fundraiser organised by atheists. We have progress!

  • Alex Weaver

    Although it also makes a point of insisting that Hagan herself is not an atheist, as if that would make her look better, so it’s mixed…but also treats “atheist” and “anti-American” as different categories. Hmm.

  • stillwaters

    I’m late getting to this post, but it looks like I’m in for another donation to the gracious Ms. Hagan.

    I’ve been enjoying watching the polls and seeing Ms. Dole go down in flames. Desparate indeed. I think I’ll throw her an anvil.

  • Alex Weaver

    Donated. Sent this message to Elizabeth Dole via the email form on her site:

    Senator Dole,

    Like many others, I am an American citizen, a patriot, a loving father, a good husband, an all-around decent human being – and an atheist. I am appalled and ashamed at the small-minded and vicious bigotry your campaign has recently displayed in its attacks on your opponent, Kay Hagan, as it comprises outright slander against the entire community of American atheists. This sort of bigotry is shameful and un-American. I can see no reason why a candidate capable of standing on the basis of her record and policies would descend to what is essentially the modern-day equivalent of attacking one’s opponent as a “n*gger-lover” – as if recognizing that members of minorities are human beings and Americans were somehow shameful. Based on your campaign’s conduct with regard to Mrs. Hagan’s decision to attend a fundraiser organizaed by the Kaminers, I have little doubt that, had this race occurred 50 years earlier, your campaign would have done exactly that.

    As a citizen of California, I have no direct stake in this race, for which your campaign’s bigotry makes me exceedingly glad. As a show of solidarity for a candidate and human being who took a courageous stand in embracing the American principles of liberty, tolerance, and the unity of disparate groups working for a common purpose, and to join many members of my community in publicly declaring that pandering to bigots is not a defensible strategy for winning elections or for anything else, I have made a monetary contribution to Kay Hagan’s campaign. I know I am not alone.

    I am exceedingly glad to see that prediction sites are giving her good chances of winning, and I hope you and your campaign get the message that appealing to the worst in the American character, and pandering to bigotry against minority groups, are neither viable nor acceptable in this great nation.

    Alex Weaver

  • John Hodges

    Besides Freethought, election reform is “my other worthy cause”… Three cheers for Proportional Representation! For districts with small numbers of seats, or elections that must be for a single seat, such as Mayor, Governor, President, I support “Candidate List”, where each candidate lists all the other candidates in order of THAT candidate’s preference, i.e. “If I don’t win a seat, I’d prefer all the votes I got to be transferred to candidate B; if they don’t get enough to win a seat, then transfer my votes to candidate C”, and so forth. If there are multiple candidates such that no one gets the necessary number, then the candidates’ lists and vote totals are the input data for an STV or Condorcet process, to select the winner(s). The advantage of this is that ballots are simple; voters don’t have to rank a dozen candidates, election administrators don’t have to deal with great numbers of ranked ballots, you can use paper ballots counted by hand, and still get Proportional Representation/Condorcet, eliminating the spoiler effect, allowing independent/nonpartisan candndaites, and so forth.

  • bestonnet

    John Hodges:

    I support “Candidate List”, where each candidate lists all the other candidates in order of THAT candidate’s preference, i.e. “If I don’t win a seat, I’d prefer all the votes I got to be transferred to candidate B; if they don’t get enough to win a seat, then transfer my votes to candidate C”, and so forth.

    That’s been tried and has led to some strange outcomes that aren’t even close to representative of the population.

  • Dakota

    I’ve recently discovered this site so I have a lot of catching up to do. For any others who are reading this article for the first time, I thought I’d post the news that Kay Hagan did indeed win the election.