Karl Rove an Atheist?

I’m not sure what to make of this blog post over at TPM. Neoconservative writer Christopher Hitchens says that White House political advisor Karl Rove is an atheist. Hitchens (an atheist himself) told the New Yorker that Rove “is not a believer, and he doesn’t shout it from the rooftops, but when asked, he answers quite honestly.” I wonder if James Dobson ever asked? If not, he’ll be picking up the phone now. If true it explains a lot. I could never quite see Rove as a fellow religious warrior, arm-in-arm with George W. Bush against the “evildoers” and “killers” who threatened Christendom itself. He was too Machiavellian to believe the propaganda dished out for the healthy consumption of the useful idiots on the religious right. Which would mean, like Machiavelli before him, Rove might instead believe that religion should be in the service of the state. Or as Machiavelli put it, to use religion as a convenient cloak to fool the masses into supporting war.

Update: Atheist Revolution has more details on this story.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13551684109760430351 Hume’s Ghost

    Rove’s views on religion are probably the same as the rest of the neoconservatives … they’re for it as a tool to control the masses. Joe Conason covers this topic (as it relates to neoconservatives) adeptly in his latest It Can Happen Here

    Leo Strauss and the Grand Inquisitor by Shadia Drury gets it about right.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05501109533475045969 Explicit Atheist

    Am I the only one who sees a contradiction here between defining neoconservatives as people who view religion as a tool to control the masses and calling openly anti-theist Christopher Hitchens a neoconservative? It seems to me that some people (particularly on the left) are just using neoconservative as a catch-all label for people who are willing to endorse military invasion by U.S. and/or NATO. Neoconservative, properly utilized, which it is rarely is, just doesn’t fit Hitchens.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03743116454273042629 Sheldon

    As Hume’s ghost has already alluded to, many so-called neo-conservatives are Straussian’s. I think Wolfowitz was an actual student of Strauss, a professor of political science at the Unv. of Chicago I think. The magazine Philosophy Now also has had some recent articles about Strauss and some of his students.

    I too am a little skeptical of this term neo-conservative. There always has been various types of conservatives, including the type referred to now as neo-conservative.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05868095335395368227 vjack

    More evidence for Rove’s atheism here: http://tinyurl.com/3c3hfq

    I’m glad to see that this story is starting to get the attention it deserves.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09010421115826273321 Tolerant666

    I always suspected the (current) Right of Machiavellian tactics, but the Straussian belief system is just beyond tolerable. The old Republicans were tolerable, at least; they had a legitimate set of policies to debate and to advocate with the rest of American society. Similarly, the moderate-to-liberal Christians have never been *that* explicitly authoritarian. The Straussians, by contrast, are ironically more dangerous to democracy than the so-called “threats” they invent. It’s saddening that so many people can believe their supposedly “democratic” ideology.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13551684109760430351 Hume’s Ghost

    Wolfowitz was indeed a student of Strauss. When I use neoconservative I mean it the same sense that Drury does … students or followers of his philosophy.

    I can’t think of names off the top of my head, but there are a whole heck of a lot of straussian neoconservatives out there.

    There’s also two secondary uses of the term

    1.The Democrats that massacred Jimmy Carter’s presidency because they believed he was capitulating to the Communists are also called neoconservative … Scoop Jackson is the model for this type of neocon. (Interesting aside, Wolfowitz helped manufacture “intelligence” to prove this as part of Team B. Team B’s “intellegince”, much like the Iraq debacle, was wrong)

    2. Anyone who has bought into the neoconservative vision of unilateral interventionism to impose American hegemony around the globe can be considered a neoconservative.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13551684109760430351 Hume’s Ghost


    It’s worse than people think. Conanson outlines this in his book, and Drury touched on this in a recent article for Free INquiry, but the Straussians can trace their philosophy’s origins back to fascism.

    Strauss’s mentor Carl Schmitt, was the legal theorist of the Nazi regime. He’s the one that came up with the Fuhrer principl. He had advocated the Weimar Republic invoke Article 48 to persecute the Communists and Nazis, but when the Nazis came to power he joined up with them and encouraged them to do the same to everyone else.

    Karl Rove’s primary and at one time only full time foreign policy advisor is/was Michael Ledeen.

    Mike Ledeen IS a fascist. He’s written a book about it where he expresses his admiration of the principle of creative destruction and some such. He was also involved in making the Iran-contra deal happen, he probably was involved in facilitating the forged Niger documents, and he was also involved in trying to again use Iranian contracts to fabricate intelligence recently in regards to Iraq/Iran.

    The neoconservatives, make no mistake, would turn the US into a one party state if they got their way. They are dangerous to democracy.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13551684109760430351 Hume’s Ghost

    Also might be interesting to ask, but Mark Vuletic who has one of the excellent and intelligent blogs linked here (how could I not like it … he’s got a picture of Hume up) considers himself to be a neoconservative, so someone might ask him what he considers the term to mean.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08661320596961633813 James Still

    I agree it’s unfair to put a single label on anyone. However, you often take shortcuts in blog posts. I used the shorthand label “neoconservative” for Hitchens because his foreign policy views fit the bill. He was a former Trotskyite who came to believe sometime in the 90s that the U.S. should intervene in the affairs of other states (militarily if necessary) in order to bring about change desirable for U.S. national interests. he has been a strong supporter of the war in Iraq to bring about a realignment in the Middle East. Hitchens is on record as saying that he allies himself with “pure” neocons like Wolfowitz but he has always been suspicious of George W. Bush as a leader. Hitchens is far too fascinating and complicated of a person to reduce to a single label. But the point of the post was Rove’s alleged atheism rather than the source of that allegation.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03743116454273042629 Sheldon

    “2. Anyone who has bought into the neoconservative vision of unilateral interventionism to impose American hegemony around the globe can be considered a neoconservative.”

    And this is where I disagree with the “neoconservative” label. The U.S. has had a long history of attempting to impose hegemony around the globe. Through both Democratic and Republican parties. Perhaps there has been a shift towards a more extreme unilateralism, and perhaps the so-called neo-conservatives have become alot more reckless about these adventures.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05501109533475045969 Explicit Atheist

    Rove’s alleged atheism and Bush’s alleged lack of religiousity doesn’t surprise me. It is kind of obvious that some people who profess religion appear to rationalize doing so indirectly on the grounds that religion is helpful for preventing some people from behaving irresponsibly or for encouraging people to lead more productive lives. I don’t think that people who profess to be religious for such utilitarian reasons are therefore against democracy or therefore a danger to the republic if they are elected or appointed to high office. Nor do I think that strictly secular utilitarian types of justifications for religion, such as accepting religion as being a necessary crutch for many people, originates with Strauss. This is not to say that I agree with them, nor is it to deny that there are religionists who oppose secular democratic republican form of government. I don’t think that
    Wolfowitz falls into this latter category at all. People who are trying to make so called “Straussian’s” out as really dangerous bad guys synonomous with both neoconservatives and fascists are way off target. We have genuine problems with real enemies so I find this scapegoating and slandering of people who are sincere supporters of secular democratic republics is extremely unfortunate.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18387795767838484035 Renegade Science

    We in the moderate minority need to expand our definition of neoconservatives: simply put there are too many of them to neatly confine them to slim catch-all phrases. “Expicit atheist” is correct, Hitchens doesn’t fit the definition. I too have crossed that line in using the term “conservatives”, not to mention neoconservatives, in inaccurate ways. I am sure I will err again in the future, but at least my antennae are piqued. John

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13551684109760430351 Hume’s Ghost

    How can it possibly be considered scapegoating when the Weekly Standar/PNAC neoconservatives are the ones influencing this administration’s foreign policy and are fervent supporters of permanent war as well as a unitary executive that is not bound by the Constitution or Bill of Rights? Do you not consider that dangerous to democracy? It has nothing to do with utilitarian belief that religion is a good for social cohesion … it has to do with a blatant belief by the followers of Strauss who are stacked in this gov’t that we should be living in a one-party banana republic that should create Pax America via military might.


    In my view, the neoconservative enthusiasm for radical democracy has two sources. First, it is rooted in the hope and the gamble that the people are likely to be more conservative than their “parchment regime”—the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. And if the last two presidential elections are any indication, this may well be true. Second, neoconservatives are hostile to America’s liberal traditions. They are smart enough to recognize that there is a gulf between democracy and liberty, and that the former can be used to defeat the latter. They are clever enough to grasp the self-refuting nature of democracy.

    Conservatives understand that people are vulnerable to manipulation and can easily be made to turn against their own liberties. If the people can be convinced that liberty leads to licentiousness, children out of wedlock, drug addiction, prostitution, and rampant crime, and if they can be convinced that liberty also undermines national security, they will gladly rid themselves of liberty. In short, the neoconservative enthusiasm for democracy has its source in the very real possibility that democracy can be the most powerful instrument in the destruction of the liberal regime

    In the Feb/Mar issue of Free Inquiry Drury wrote an op-ed entitled “Eliminating the Enemy” where she explains why neoconservatives love permanent war and wish to eliminate political opposition. She describes Strauss as a “post-modern conservative” which goes along way towards explaining the reality denial that is consistenly disseminated from the folks at Weekly Standard.

    And regarding associating them with fascists: Leo Strauss wrote a letter to his mentor Schmitt after the Nazis started persecuting Jews that said that the persecution should not take away from the necessity of a fascist political philosophy.

    I have the exact quote … I can bring it out if necessary.

    Plus there’s this: http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2007/04/21/wmd_conspiracy/index.html?source=rss

    That’s not fascism. That’s someone (a neoconservative) who wrote a book with a fascist motif writing an article of historical revisionism based on the allegations of an outright fascist.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05501109533475045969 Explicit Atheist

    Leo Strauss in Wikipedia. I am aware of Shadia Drury’s commentary regarding Leo Strauss and, unfortunately, her political rantings about Leo Strauss don’t merit being taking seriously. I I recommend
    Reading Leo Strauss Politics, Philosophy, Judaism by Steven B. Smith
    whose writings about Strauss are much more accurate.
    Also Neocon or Not? Review by ROBERT ALTER

    The letter hume’s ghost is referring to is probably the May 1933 letter to German scholar Karl Löwith, five months after Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor and a month after implementation of the first anti-Jewish legislation. Strauss was desperate to get out of Germany at that time and what he wrote to various German’s needs to be placed in the context of that goal. Also note that after Strauss left Germany he never wrote to the Nazi Schmitt again. He needed Schmitt’s support to get out of Germany.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13551684109760430351 Hume’s Ghost

    “The ultimate foundation of th Right is the principle of the natural evil of man, because man is by nature evil, he therefore needs dominion.” – Strauss to Schmitt shortly before he came the Nazi legal theorist

    And, yes, I’m referring to that letter:

    “Just because the Germany of the Right does not tolerate us it simply does not follow that the principles of the right are therefore to be rejected. On the contrary, only on the basis of the principles of the right – fascist, authoritarian,imperial is it possible in a dignified manner, without the ridiculous and pitiful appeal to ‘the inalienable rights of man’ to protest againt the mean nonentity.” – Strauss

    I find it hard to dismiss Drury’s analysis of neoconservatives seeing that in power they are doing precisely what she has said they would do. The proof is in the pudding, or so they say.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13551684109760430351 Hume’s Ghost

    The Case for a Strong Executive

    That’s Straussian Harvey Mansfield arguing for a dictator.

    This link is Greenwald explaining Mansfiel’d open contempt for the rule of law, and thus, democracy.

    Like I said, I can hear all the apologetics for Strauss in the world, but as long as his students are out there dismantling American democracy I’m not going to have a very high opinion of him.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05501109533475045969 Explicit Atheist

    Again, hume’s ghost is completely overlooking the obvious fact that Leo Strauss, as a Jew, was writing under duress during the time he was in Germany after the Nazis came to power. If Leo Strauss criticized the Nazi’s from the left in his letters he would have been killed. The only way he could possibly criticize the Nazis at that time without being killed was to pose as a fascist himself. An honest reading of Strauss over his lifetime, as provided by Steven B. Smith, shows that he was not a fascist and he didn’t promote fascism as a Professor. The claims otherwise are nothing short of ridiculous.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13551684109760430351 Hume’s Ghost

    I don’t think that people who profess to be religious for such utilitarian reasons are therefore against democracy or therefore a danger to the republic if they are elected or appointed to high office.

    My attention was re-drawn to this post and I can’t believe I let this comment go without comment. GWBush (and Rove as strategist) have done more harm to the separation of church/state than possibly anyone else in American history. As Kevin Phillips has argued in American Theocracy, the GOP is now America’s first fully religious party with a core constituency consisting of Religious Right dominionists.

    The RNC has sent David Barton out to promote “Patriot Pastors” and Christian nationalism while encouraging church leaders to turn their churches and megachurches into GOP political arms.

    Pull up the Christian Coalition’s ranking of members of Congress and you will see an alarming # of members (virtually all Republican) who score 80-100 from that dominionist organization.

    Then we have the President’s Faith Based Iniative which is a program to funnel money into the Religious Right … Rove conceived of it as such.

    What I find odd about the original bolded statement is that it seems to imply that Still was saying something that he was not … what Still was clearly touching upon was the hypocrisy of an atheist harnessing an anti-democratic movement for purely political reasons.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05501109533475045969 Explicit Atheist

    My comment in bold was not directed at James Still, it was directed at the comment “The Straussians, by contrast, are ironically more dangerous to democracy than the so-called “threats” they invent.” and similiar comments by Tolerant666 and hume’s ghost.

    Strauss was never personally active in politics, never endorsed imperialism, and questioned the utility of political philosophy for the practice of politics. Strauss cherished democracy as the best bulwark against tyranny, and valued intellectual honesty above all. Here is an article that describes Leo Strauss correctly The demonization of Strauss. Shadia Drury’s writings about Leo Strauss are motivated purely by her desire to influence pulblic opinion by slandering Leo Strauss and associating him with other public official and she is ruthless enough to deliberately engage in character assasination for the end. That is why I am referring you to “Reading Leo Strauss” (Chicago, 256 pages), Yale professor Steven Smith which gives an honest account of who Leo Strauss was and what he taught. If you guys are genuinely opposed to falsehood and genuinely want to know who Leo Strauss was you would read that book.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13551684109760430351 Hume’s Ghost

    Again, I reiterate, one can explain and re-explain Strauss ad nauseum … I’m aware that he is a controversial figure and one of the issues of Free Inquiry I cited also has a review of him that is somewhat more sympathetic and certainly doesn’t portray him as a fascist.

    Yet to argue that the neoconservative students of Strauss who are in our gov’t now and comprise a political movement are not enemies of democracy is, to me, like arguing the sky is not blue.

    Again and again and again and again we get lies, deception, and corruption that follow in these people’s wake. Irving Kristol, and father of neoconservatism and the father of Bill Kristol, himself decided to make common cause with the Religious Right for the sake of garnering political power for the conservative movement.

    They ARE enemies of democracy. Maybe Drury is just terribly off about Strauss. It just sure is aweful coincedence for Strauss that so many of his students turn out to be corrupt enemies of democracy who believe in the rule of law.

    I find it interesting that the article linked compares Strauss to walter Lippman, given that Lippman was a liberal who kind of gave up on democracy, feeling that the public was too dumb for democracy to work and that democracy had to be delt to them from the top down. Lippman’s conception of top down journalism beat out Dewey’s conception of bottom up democracy and the propaganda model of media that we have to day can in large part be traced back to Lippman.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13551684109760430351 Hume’s Ghost

    I would also add the caveat that I do not equate Strassian and neoconservative, but when I refer to Straussian neoconservatives I’m referncing specifically the PNAC/Weekly Standard/New York Post/Fox New axis of neocons.

    I’m aware of conservatives that are opposed very much to the above neoconservatives who themselves consider themselves Straussian, such as Andrew Sullivan, for example.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05501109533475045969 Explicit Atheist

    hume’s ghost wrote here “but the Straussians can trace their philosophy’s origins back to fascism.” Is that a fact? I think hg employs a double standard here. On the one hand he insists, correctly, that Fox News and others on the right stop making up false “facts” and stop drawing illogical conclusions. On the other hand, when it comes to similar balderdash from his preferred version of the left, his attitude seems to be the nastier and more paranoid the accusation the better, the more Jews he thinks he can get away with labeling “fascist” or associating in any way with “fascism” the better, and he runs with that without making a serious effort to verify if his reckless accusations could be mistaken. Surely it is not surprising that a political philosopher like Strauss would be worried about majority opinion in a democracy leading to a bad outcome, that is what Strauss witnessed first hand in Nazi
    Germany. But no, hg doesn’t appear to me to want to understand Leo Strauss on his own terms, instead he appears to me to want to vilify Leo Strauss because a group of Jewish policy makers he despises, along with who knows how many other people from all political and religious persuasions whose names we don’t even know, may have taken a college course or two on Plato or
    Montesquieu taught by the evil Leo Strauss. How sinister of them!
    They are guilty by association, maybe its all part of a larger right wing Jewish elite controlled fascist conspiracy to rule the world?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13551684109760430351 Hume’s Ghost

    Wow. I think your interjection into this that my criticism of Leo Strauss has anything to do with antisemitism betrays your own prejudices and biases. Really, that’s just uncalled for, but it has become a reflexive tactic that I’v seen used increasingly, where criticizing neoconservatives is equated with hating Jews.

    Nice argumentation tactic there.

    Ok, you got me. I’m a Jew hater. you win. discussion over.

    Geez, I ignored the implication before in your link, thinking that just a coincedence. But this is just ridiculous. That’s one of the lowest argumentation tactics possible.

    Could I be wrong about Strauss and his links to fascism? Certainly. Am I a Strauss expert? Certainly not. But where in the hell does the paranoid tirade about attacking Jewish policy makers come from? If you were talking to someone from Stormfront that might make some sense, otherwise, not so much.

    Really, it strikes me at a tactic to distract from the matter at hand. The fact is, despite you pointing to Steven Smith’s book, Shadia Drury is a respected scholar of Strauss who can’t be handwaved away on your say so.

    And then there’s stuff like this


    Strauss’ philosophy is hardly incidental to the strategy and mindset adopted by these men – as is obvious in Shulsky’s 1999 essay titled “Leo Strauss and the World of Intelligence (By Which We Do Not Mean Nous)” (in Greek philosophy the term nous denotes the highest form of rationality). As Hersh notes in his article, Shulsky and his co-author Schmitt “criticize America’s intelligence community for its failure to appreciate the duplicitous nature of the regimes it deals with, its susceptibility to social-science notions of proof, and its inability to cope with deliberate concealment.” They argued that Strauss’s idea of hidden meaning, “alerts one to the possibility that political life may be closely linked to deception. Indeed, it suggests that deception is the norm in political life, and the hope, to say nothing of the expectation, of establishing a politics that can dispense with it is the exception.”

    Like I said, if it’s just coincedence that these students of Strauss have been working over time for the last 6 years to overturn democracy, then that’s really unfortunate for Strauss.

    What’s more, beside Michael Ledeen, who is not a Straussian neoconservative, I do not think that the neoconservatives are fascist. I do think, however, that they and hard line movement conservatives like Cheney are shifting the power base of the GOP to depend more and more on an extremist fringe, and this fringe is protofascist.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13551684109760430351 Hume’s Ghost

    And I would add, I’m glad you provided an alternative context for Strauss’s letters defending fascism, as well as offered the links to alternative views on Strauss.

    I wish I had done so myself (in the spirit of fairness) it’s just that my fears that democracy in this nation are eroding at a rapid pace have left me a shriller tone that I would like to engage in, while also responding quicker than I would usually.

    Really, the accusation of racism is just absurd. If I was interested in bashing neoconservatives for the sake of prejudice I would not have e-mailed Mark Vuletic – who is an individual that I consider to be more intelligent than myself – inviting him to defend/explain neoconservatism because I knew I was being harsh on neoconservatives and wanted to give someone a chance to give the other side.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13551684109760430351 Hume’s Ghost

    And thirdly, I specifically said I was referencing the PNAC/Weekly Standard/New York Post/Fox News axis of neoconservatives, not anyone that has ever taken a course taught by Leo Strauss.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13551684109760430351 Hume’s Ghost

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13551684109760430351 Hume’s Ghost

    book link

    There’s another rabid Jew hater bent on perpetrating a Protocols of Zion-esque one world gov’t neoconservative conspiracy.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05501109533475045969 Explicit Atheist

    You sound like a good guy to me, I am not assigning you labels or calling you any names. I do think there is a real problem with people on the left making factual and logical mistakes similiar to those that we correctly criticize people on the right for making. I think we can do better and I am optimistic that we will do better in the future. In general, I think we need to try to approach claims with some skepticism regardless of whether they are conservative or liberal or whatever claims in general. In particular, I think we need to be more carefull about how we characterize Leo Strauss.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13551684109760430351 Hume’s Ghost

    Ok, fair deal.

    Tell you this … if my local library system has the book you’ve linked I’ll read it (not immediately … I’ve got a lot of books cued up … but I’ll read it.)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03751204990888503797 leonids11

    “I’m not a conservative,” Hitchens pointedly interrupted Paula Zahn last November to correct her characterization of him as a conservative. “I’m no kind of conservative.”


    As Michael Kinsley put it in a May 13 NYT piece, Hitchens is “the most (possibly the only) intellectually serious non-neocon supporter of George W. Bush’s Iraq war.”


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