Atheists for Bush

Hitch_1In his latest Slate dispatch, Christopher Hitchens (in a departure from his pre-election shrug) comes out swinging for George W. Bush. He begins by taking "strong exception" to the charge that one must be a "God-bothering, pulpit-pounding Armageddon-artist, enslaved by ancient texts and prophecies and committed to theocratic rule" to have backed Bush in this go-round.

He takes a swipe at Gary Wills for the historian’s "the Enlightenment is falling" piece in the New York Times. Wills, says Hitchens, "who makes at least one of his many livings by being an Augustinian Roman Catholic," should go and contemplate how much hypocrisy one can fit on the head of a pin.

The setup: "As far as I know, all religions and all churches are equally demented in their belief in divine intervention, in divine intercession, or even the existence of the divine in the first place."

Having asserted his atheist credentials, Hitchens explains that "not all faiths are equally demented in the same way or at the same time." Islam is clearly the greater of two evils. Its more virulent strains are "explicitly totalitarian and wedded to a cult of death." He sees the murder of Theo Van Gogh as "only a warning of what is coming in Madrid, London, Rome, and Paris, let alone Baghdad and Basra."

One political faction in the U.S. makes excuses "for the religious fanaticism that immediately menaces us in the here and now." And that faction, Hitchens is "sorry and furious to say, is the left." "A gallery of psuedointellectuals [Isn't he taking this faux Orwell thing too far? -- ed.] have been willing to represent the worst face of Islam as the voice of the oppressed."

While George Bush may be "subjectively Christian," Hitchens argues that "he — and the U.S. armed forces — have objectively done more for secularism than the whole of the American agnostic community combined and doubled." You see, smashing the Taliban, disrupting al Qaeda, and confronting the "theocratic saboteurs" of Iraq all give a huge boost to "non-fundamentalist forces in many countries."

If liberal secularism is framed as an objection to this project, says Hitchens, "I’ll take a modest, God-fearing, deer-hunting Baptist from Kentucky every time, as long as he didn’t want to impose his principles on me (which our Constitution forbids him to do so)."

GetReligion readers will no doubt have some thoughts and questions about this. Here are a few of mine:

1) Iraq under Saddam Hussein was an essentially secular, if brutal, regime. Now Islam will likely play a large part in the nation’s government. It might be the sort of moderate Islam that Hitchens can live with but at this point I’d bet against it. If I am correct — and I hope I’m not — then Hitchens may have to rethink his support for the war in Iraq.

2) Hitchens is nominally pro-life. How much of a role does this play in his ability to shrug off many criticisms of American religious conservatives?

3) On a tangentially related note, for the mother of all overreactions to what’s being called Jesusland, click here, if you dare.

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  • http://www.joe-perez.com/weblog.htm Joe Perez

    No, one doesn’t have to be a God-bothering, pulpit-pounding Armageddon-artist, enslaved by ancient texts and prophecies and committed to theocratic rule to be hearted by the election. However, judging by the recent comments by readers of blogs like this one, it sure helps.

  • Phil Blackburn

    Overreaction? In recent years there have been book-burnings, terrorist attacks on medical facilities, and censorship of science education. All by people calling themselves Christians, from the conservative/evangelical wing – who could well be feeling encouraged by the election result. Nothing to worry about? Maybe Ken Layne has a point.

  • Tom Harmon

    Oh, come on Phil. There have been book-burnings, terrorist attacks on Bush-Cheney campaign headquarters, and censorship of science education in equal if not greater measure on the left. Let’s not get all self-righteous.

  • http://jeremiads.blogspot.com Jeremy Lott

    You mean book burnings like this one?

    http://reason.com/0203/cr.jl.burning.shtml

    And, Joe, it’s good to hear from you. I thought you were boycotting my threads or something.

  • http://beingornothingness.blogs.com Stephen

    There is an interesting article in the Italian Journal TEMPI written by Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete, the Spiritual Director for Communion and Liberation (www.clonline.org) in the United States, which I think makes some interesting points on Red and Blue America.

    I encourage you to check it out: http://home.comcast.net/~clippings/alb.html

  • Phil Blackburn

    Jeremy: good article making a good point. I still find it scary that one man can gather 400 church-goers in one small town to burn books by Rowling, Tolkein and Shakespeare – supposedly in the name of Jesus – but I guess it’s true that it remains a minority pastime.

    Tom: seriously? As many book burnings by the left? A campaign of years of violent intimidation against Republican buildings? Science education restricted according to left-wing religious viewpoints? All in the name of Christ? The media must be more biased than I had realised.

    It seemed to me that this election pandered to extremes: because the right won it is right-wing extremists who are likely to be encouraged; if the left had won then maybe it would be a different minority to be concerned about – pro-abortion, pro-homosexuality, pro-pagan, whatever. That’s what you get when politicians appear to give up on the middle ground.

  • Ken

    Garry Wills is an “historian”? An “Augustinian Roman Catholic”?

    If so, very bad at both.

  • Ken

    I meant to note also that in the America of George W. Bush, Christopher Hitchens and Joe Perez can say anything they wish about Christians. Compare that to Sweden and Canada, where a Christian affirming Christian doctrine about the sinfulness of homosexual acts is subject to prosecution.

  • Scott

    “I meant to note also that in the America of George W. Bush, Christopher Hitchens and Joe Perez can say anything they wish about Christians.”

    For now, and no thanks to them. Wait until the bill for Iraq comes due and responsibility for that mess is placed on evangelicals, where it belongs, and they get hysterical and defensive and hide behind charges of “treason” and “persecution” aimed at anyone against them.

  • Will

    Terrorist attacks? You mean the ones on genetic research facilities?

  • Scott

    **** How much does the Religious Right support human rights?

    In addition to GeeDub being president and Ashcroft being Atty Gen at the time…..

    http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2004/010/22.32.html

    Wooing the Faithful

    …The most tangible foreign policy problems for the administration have been the scandal at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison and abusive treatment of suspected Al Qaeda terrorists in detention at Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay naval base. After the pictures of Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse and torture were released, CT spoke with evangelical professionals in intelligence agencies, the State and Defense departments, and Congress.

    What emerged was troubling. Beyond setting Bush administration priorities, evangelicals were significantly involved in drafting policy memos that created the permissive climate in which the abuse of prisoners occurred. Asking not to be named, Christians who serve in federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies told CT that aggressive interrogation of suspected terrorists was no-holds-barred. Bob Woodward, the author of a definitive book on Bush’s war effort, told CT, “It was very clear from my interviews that [Bush] felt the gloves were off for the CIA.”

    In a February 7, 2002, executive order, the President wrote that he wanted prisoners in the war on terror treated “humanely” but also “consistent with military necessity.” He also explicitly argued that the Geneva Convention’s guidelines for treatment of prisoners of war did not apply to terrorists. Evangelical legal scholar John Yoo contributed to several of the legal memos for Attorney General John Ashcroft justifying much harsher interrogation techniques in the war against terrorism. Yoo declared, “Terrorists have no Geneva rights.” (The Geneva Conventions do not address how nations in wartime should handle persons who are agents of hostile, clandestine organizations rather than members of the military arm of a recognized government.)

    A well-known evangelical, Army Lt. Gen. William G. “Jerry” Boykin, deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence, heads what some label a worldwide find-and-hit squad against terrorists. And one top Pentagon-related expert who taught officers how to interrogate Muslims is an evangelical….

    See also: http://billmon.org/archives/001518.html

    http://www.beliefnet.com/story/146/story_14608.html

    The Same General Boykin?

    It has the potential to be a public relations nightmare buried within a public relations nightmare: one of the major players in the Iraqi prison abuse scandal, it now appears, was the same general almost fired last year for describing the war on terror as a clash between Judeo-Christian values and Satan.

    According to testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee last week, and new reporting from the New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh, the prison abuse scandal grew out of a decision to give greater influence to the Defense Intelligence unit, led by Stephen Cambone, the Under-Secretary of Defense for Intelligence–and his deputy, Lt. General William G. `Jerry` Boykin.

    Boykin made headlines last fall when it was revealed he had made numerous statements suggesting that America, as a Christian nation, is engaged in a battle against idolatrous Muslims. Enemies like Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein “will only be defeated if we come against them in the name of Jesus,” Boykin said during an Oregon church gathering last year….

    …There is still much to be learned about Boykin’s role in the current scandal, including the pivotal question of whether his anti-Muslim views may have made him more prone to dehumanizing Muslim prisoners. What is already clear, however, is that Boykin’s evangelical supporters now find themselves in an awkward position. They have supported Boykin steadfastly but are wary about defending prisoner torture.

    Here is what is known so far about Boykin’s role in the prison abuse scandal: He is a main strategist for Cambone, who oversees a secret program with the goal of capturing and interrogating terrorism targets. According to an article by Seymour Hersh in the current New Yorker, the unit brought `unconventional methods` to Abu Ghraib as a way of getting better information about Iraqi insurgents….

    …So far, Christian leaders are standing by Boykin.

    “A lot of our people are just so tired of hearing about that whole situation, especially now that we’ve seen [the beheading of Nicholas Berg],” Michele Ammons, spokeswoman for the Christian Coalition, said last week. “I think it’s time to get over it. And that’s what I’m hearing.”

    Ammons, who said evangelical leaders have been consumed primarily with the gay marriage debate, added that the Christian Coalition would keep an online petition in support of Boykin on its homepage….

    **** Who do evangelicals see as terrorists or deserving of having their rights respected? Note that this is Dobson and Colson, not Rev Smith from Hicksville Baptist.

    http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/week_2004_11_07.php#003969

    James Dobson:

    …`Homosexuals are not monogamous. They want to destroy the institution of marriage,` Dobson said.

    `It will destroy marriage. It will destroy the Earth.`…

    …`Patrick Leahy is a ‘God’s people’ hater,` Dobson said.

    `I don’t know if he hates God, but he hates God’s people.`…

    http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2004/010/18.152.html

    The Moral Home Front

    America’s increasing decadence is giving aid and comfort to Muslim terrorists.

    By Charles Colson with Anne Morse

    …We must be careful not to blame innocent Americans for murderous attacks against them. At the same time, let’s acknowledge that America’s increasing decadence is giving aid and comfort to the enemy. When we tolerate trash on television, permit pornography to invade our homes via the internet, and allow babies to be killed at the point of birth, we are inflaming radical Islam.

    Radical Islamists were surely watching in July when the Senate voted on procedural grounds to do away with the Federal Marriage Amendment. This is like handing moral weapons of mass destruction to those who use America’s decadence to recruit more snipers and hijackers and suicide bombers.

    One vital goal of the war in Iraq, and the war against terrorism, is to bring democracy to the heart of the Islamic world. Our hope is to make freedom so attractive that other Muslim countries will follow suit. But when radical Islamists see American women abusing Muslim men, as they did in the Abu Ghraib prison, and when they see news coverage of same-sex couples being “married” in U.S. towns, we make our kind of freedom abhorrent–the kind they see as a blot on Allah’s creation.

    Preserving traditional marriage in order to protect children is a crucially important goal by itself. But it’s also about protecting the United States from those who would use our depravity to destroy us. We must not give up simply because the Senate voted down the FMA. It took William Wilberforce and his allies 20 years to shut down Britain’s slave trade; it will take years to win the battle for traditional marriage.

    The lessons of history are a warning that the church must not fail to engage these moral battles. Comparing U.S. decadence to the fall of Rome is an old chestnut that culture warriors have used for years. In the past, I dismissed such comparisons because of America’s enormous economic and military strength. But the tactics of terrorists changed that equation.

    Recall that Rome’s destruction came about not only through its decadence, but because the Rhine River froze, allowing barbarians to cross into Roman territory. America is vulnerable not only through its decadence, but because the vast oceans that once protected her from enemies protect her no more.

    This makes reversing U.S. decadence an urgent priority, not just for Christians, but for all Americans. If our cultural rot continues unabated, a Talibanized West may no longer be a joke, but grim reality.

  • Scott

    I totally forgot about this exchange where evangelicals equated those who disagree w/ them w/ the Arab Muslims it’s OK to torture:

    JERRY FALWELL: And I agree totally with you that the Lord has protected us so wonderfully these 225 years. And since 1812, this is the first time that we’ve been attacked on our soil and by far the worst results. And I fear, as Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense, said yesterday, that this is only the beginning. And with biological warfare available to these monsters — the Husseins, the Bin Ladens, the Arafats — what we saw on Tuesday, as terrible as it is, could be miniscule if, in fact — if, in fact — God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve.

    PAT ROBERTSON: Jerry, that’s my feeling. I think we’ve just seen the antechamber to terror. We haven’t even begun to see what they can do to the major population.

    JERRY FALWELL: The ACLU’s got to take a lot of blame for this.

    PAT ROBERTSON: Well yes.

    JERRY FALWELL: And, I know that I’ll hear from them for this. But, throwing God out successfully with the help of the federal court system, throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way — all of them who have tried to secularize America — I point the finger in their face and say “you helped this happen.”

    PAT ROBERTSON: Well, I totally concur, and the problem is we have adopted that agenda at the highest levels of our government. And so we’re responsible as a free society for what the top people do. And, the top people, of course, is the court system..

    JERRY FALWELL: Pat, did you notice yesterday the ACLU and all the Christ-haters, People For the American Way, NOW, etc. were totally disregarded by the Democrats and the Republicans in both houses of Congress as they went out on the steps and called out on to God in prayer and sang “God Bless America” and said “let the ACLU be hanged”. In other words, when the nation is on its knees, the only normal and natural and spiritual thing to do is what we ought to be doing all the time – calling upon God. ~~~

    PAT ROBERTSON: > Amen

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    OK, everyone who wants to ban Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson from all talk shows, raise your hands.

    I thought so. More hands up on the right side of the aisle than the left. Amen.

  • Scott

    “I thought so. More hands up on the right side of the aisle than the left. Amen.”

    Is that from disagreement or embarassment, tho?

  • Derek

    Although no one has really been commenting on it, I’m pretty impressed by the article written by Msgr. Albacete that Stephen posted above. I think he has a prescient analysis of the current issue, and I encourage you to read it, here is an excerpt:

    America is divided into many tribes, but these are united in their loyalty to a political system which, in their opinion, best guarantees those fundamental rights to which the national project is dedicated: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Americans recognize that there are many different ways of interpreting these ideals, but most Americans agree that their political system is a fair way for individuals and communities to pursue them. What is absolutely required is respect for the rules of the game. This has not changed, as shown by Senator Kerry’s graceful acceptance of his defeat. The red and blue division does not divide America into two nations. When something happens that is felt to threaten the basis for their united fidelity to the “American way,” the country comes together in a surge of patriotism, as was clearly shown right after the attack of September 11, 2001. This is still the case today and, indeed, one of the factors in the election was the hesitance of many Americans to change Presidents while their country is in the midst of the terrorist threat to the American “way of life.” In fact, those Americans who understand the terrorist threat as going beyond a “crime” problem to pose an actual threat to the American national project voted for Bush no matter where they lived.

    Others say the division is religious in nature. I do not see it this way. There is a vast religious difference between an evangelical Christian and a Catholic who loves the Pope and frequently receives the sacraments. And yet both ended up voting for President Bush In any case, for most Americans religious pluralism is a good to be appreciated. “Religion” as such is not rejected in the blue states. What bothers the blues is religious morality, not “religion” in general.

    For this reason, it became popular to say that it was a matter of a struggle between “moral values.” The two sides were responding to different value-systems, it is said. Data from the exit polls seemed to confirm that “values” were an important issue for most voters. This, however, tells us nothing. Divisions are not in terms of values. Everybody is pro-life; everybody is pro-choice. Gay marriage supporters are “pro-family!” The question is: to what experience do moral values refer? Values refer to “experiences of life” as we have sensed it can be lived. One “knows” what freedom is when one has experienced it and someone tell us: “that is what freedom is.” Experience is necessary. Otherwise the language of values means nothing. It’s the language of ideology. This brings us close to the nature of the problem.

    I post his link again: http://home.comcast.net/~clippings/alb.html


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