Is Christianity Good for American Politics? A Debate Between Susan Jacoby and Dinesh D’Souza

This is a long debate — with Q & A — but it’s definitely a worthwhile question:

Leave the timestamp(s) in the comments if you notice any part we ought to take a close look at!

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/iamarevolutionary Pablito Garcia

     Does D’Souza ever disappoint?  Did he just suggest that all modernity (or even just America) is the benefactor of the Greeks and the Jews?

    Next, he tries to argue that because religious language is evoke to advance purely secular agendas that that suggests that religion is a “benefit” to the progress of these ideas.  What he fails to understand is that is GOOD MARKETING of secular ideas when secularism is in the minority. 

    That is, when say slavery is being protected with the Bible, (as it most certainly was — and to a large extent still is):  Then to give the scared sheeple something on which to hang an enlightened thought, you use the Bible (and who among us cannot justify nearly any idea with the Bible contextually or out of context).

    To point out that MLK made an ethical argument using Biblical principles would be equivalent to saying that …the many Greek and Roman gods must have been real and fundamental to Freud and other great writers who appealed to those universal (and actually secular) models and metaphors .

    I know why he has a career in policy and “conservative” politics.  It’s so the bigots he servers can feel better because …some of their best ‘friends’ are ‘black’… after all they know DD by name.

    • Kaydenpat

      From the little I know about DeSouza, I believe he would be highly insulted if anyone called him “Black”.  He doesn’t appear to care for Black folks too much. LOL.

  • http://www.facebook.com/iamarevolutionary Pablito Garcia

     http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Wd2F5mwAWG4#t=1315s  Finally Dinesh tells the truth in this one sentence about his whole talk.

    • http://www.theaunicornist.com Mike D

      He thinks religious people are second class citizens? Yeah, maybe one day a Christian will rise up and be elected President. Golly, maybe there’ll even be 44 of them in a row!

      • Ani Sharmin

        He keeps repeating this claim over and over again … it’s extremely frustrating.

  • http://www.facebook.com/iamarevolutionary Pablito Garcia

    OH here it is again:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Wd2F5mwAWG4#t=1315s 

    D’Souza trys to argue that Religious Conservatives are actually rather OPEN MINDED and not “BIBLICAL LITERALISTS” because they manage to ignore the bible on the matters of social justice!  LOL

  • Jeff Xenobuilder

    I’m only going to press play so I can here Ms. Jacoby.  D’Souza is an idiot, a liar, or thinks that his audience are idiots, or maybe all of the above.  I assume Ms. Jacoby will wipe the floor with him.

    • http://www.facebook.com/iamarevolutionary Pablito Garcia

       She does okay.  Really to win to the average listening you have to be MORE like D’Souza.  Ms. Jacoby is almost too nice and she doesn’t have a sonorous a voice sadly.

      • Jeff Xenobuilder

         Jacoby started well with her “which Christianity are you talking about,” but D’Souza was better at spinning nearly everything to support what it is that he’s trying to sell (poor mistreated Christians).  He really is not stupid; he’s quite the tricky weasel, and he knows that his audience are idiots. 

  • Satia Renee

    Long, yes, but worth the listening.  I was surprised that Jacoby did not come off more strongly at first and dreaded listening to the whole thing but the longer I listened (while getting an anniversary meal together), I found myself smiling, nodding, and wanting to shout out to nobody because I’m home alone.  I actually almost cut myself during one remarkably ridiculous statement D’Souza made in trying to corner Jacoby regarding religious groups on college campuses.  Jacoby’s response was predictable and spot-on.

    Thank you for sharing this.  I’d not have found it on my own, I’m sure.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    I don’t know why any atheist demeans themselves to debate D’Souza. He is so reliable in his lies, his transparent manipulations, his silly corkscrew rationalizations, his blaming atheism for everything bad except the flu, (just wait, that will come next week) and especially his disingenuous whining about how poor, poor Christians are victimized by those meanies who unfairly use reason! Boo! Dirty rotten cheaters! Not only that, they unreasonably demand reason from others! How unreasonable to demand reason! You unreasonably reasonable reasoning reasoners, you!

    Dinesh D’Souza is Ray Comfort with a better vocabulary.

    I’m sorry, but I’ve heard and read enough of him for a lifetime. For me, two hours, three minutes, and thirteen seconds of listening to him, even when mixed with Ms. Jacoby’s intelligent remarks, are exactly two hours, three minutes and thirteen seconds too long.

    I’m going to enjoy that time ripping up some old, dirty, worn-out carpet.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      Add William Lane Craig to your triumvirate and you have a deal.

  • Ani Sharmin

    Thanks, Hemant. I’m listening to it right now. Jacoby’s opening statement was very good, including the obvious point that there are so many Christian denominations. She preemptively adresses the common accusation that secularism is a way to exclude people from the public square, which I think was a good move.

    D’Souza, in his opening statement, is giving credit to”Athens and Jerusalem” for Western civilization. At about 15:00 to 16:00 he claims that there is no reason to care for people we are not related to, but we do (obviously trying to give credit to Christianity for this). While doing this, he insults various countries — including India — saying that they wouldn’t care if there was a famine in Haiti.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BBEO7V4H7LJIJBERAN3MHYQOFI Ms Loree

       He flat out stated that Muslim and Asian countries do not give disaster relief money.. that it’s only the West that does so because of values instilled by Christianity.

      That sounded wrong on it’s face, so I looked it up.  In the case of the Haiti earthquake, when looked at on a per capita basis, Bahrain, an Islamic country, was seventh in the world.  Several non Christian countries placed higher than France, Germany or the UK.

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2010/jan/14/haiti-quake-aid-pledges-country-donations

      • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/FDGYHBEWVNGUG763L5X4TON3JQ Nazani14

         Exactly.  You’d think that he’d know that alms-giving is almost  mandatory in Islam.   Did Arabs give aid to Haiti?  Maybe not.  How many  Americans donated after the earthquakes in Turkey and Iran?

  • Ani Sharmin

    At about 39:10 D’Souza uses the argument that atheists read the Bible just as literally as the fundamentalists. He does lead up to it by saying that morality does not come from the Bible, but says the Bible contains a codification of moral rules. He doesn’t seem to acknowledge that some of these rules are just flat out wrong.

  • Annie

    At about the 20 minute mark, the question posed was, “What does the term ‘separation of church and state’ mean to you?  It was humorous to listen to D’Souza  say that it was an invention of Christianity (or more accurately Jesus).

    One question I had was that D’Souza said (38:30+) mark that the bible is not the source of morality.  I thought that he said the exact opposite earlier on, so if anyone caught that, I’d love to know.

    I thought Jacoby did a great job, but dropped the ball with her question to D’Souza.  She totally made up for it though when she nailed a question posed at 1:33:00.

    Thanks for sharing, this was very interesting, even if it took me all day to get through, but I enjoyed taking 15 minute breaks between projects to hear a bit more.

  • Keith Cha

    After seeing D’Souza in more debates than I care to recall, I can’t bring myself to sit through another minute of his pseudo-intellectual blather.  I literally would rather have a root canal. I like the comment about him being like Ray Comfort with a better vocab – that’s really how I feel every time I see him.  

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/FDGYHBEWVNGUG763L5X4TON3JQ Nazani14

    I bailed as they finished up banging on about the intent of the Founding Fathers.  It’s beyond me why we should deeply care what the FFs wanted.  None of them would have known what to make of me, a woman with a university degree, a combat record, and her own land and small business.   Ok, there is some  historical value to proving that they meant it when they set up separation of church and state, but if succeeding generations can end slavery and allow women to vote, then (re)establihing the secular nature of our government  is also doable.

  • gotlost

    I haven’t heard anything from D’Souza in the past.  His logic here is at times twisted and flat wrong, but I think he’s quite a bit better than Ken Ham as some other commenters have suggested.  Jacoby may be brilliant, but she didn’t do a great job in this instance.

    When given an opportunity to pose a question to her opponent, she asks (paraphrasing) “name one country with an official state church and a good standard of living for its people.”  Without making some restrictions to the answer, my immediate thought (and D’Souza’s as well) was Great Britain.  Yes, we all know what her point was and that GB is not what she was getting at.  Regardless, that was a sad mistake.

    The other big problem with her performance was that she repeatedly dodged D’Souza’s question about why religion is treated differently than secular issues.  Several times he asks in one way or another why we can have discussions about various points of view on political issues but not religious, why we can memorialize secular figures but not religious (even if they’ve contributed more to our society) etc.  Her continual answer is “because the Constitution says so,” which comes across as no better than “because the Bible says so” – see around 1:30:00 for one example.  I can come up with several arguments for that, but Jacoby dodges and retreats to the Constitution over and over.

    D’Souza at the end (aroudn 1:53:00) goes stupid.  He says there’s a “skepticism built into religion” because we are “believers, not knowers” – if more religious people would live this way, rather than being completely sure of themselves, we’d all be better off.  He then points out that science can’t tell us why (in the sense purpose) does the universe or life exist.  Correct, but irrelevant.  His closing statement is that separation of church and state discriminates against religious people.

    Jacoby’s closing statement almost redeems her performance – she points out that faith groups thrive better here in the US than in other places, due to separation of church and state, completely countering D’Souza’s thesis statement.  She also addresses the actual question of the evening that was really lost in the discussions of 1st amendment rights.

    Overall very interesting discussion, but definitely not the floor wiping that some were hoping for.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    Finally getting a chance to listen, and Jacoby nails it in the intro.  (Nails it means she says what I’ve been hammering at)

    The seperation of church and state emphatically does not mean the exclusion of voices of faith from the public square.  What it does mean is that  religilous faith is not a sufficient argument to justfiy any other policy

    Have your church.  Have you faith.  But if you want to dictate what someone else can or cannot do, or how tax dollars are spent, then have some other reason other than your god telling you so.  That’s not a reason.  Anyone can make up the dictates of an invisible being.


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