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Gingrich vs. the Secular Atheist Islamists

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In the future (5 days from now, precisely), an article by Henrik Hertzberg will come out in print in the New Yorker. That article will concern one Newt Gingrich and his alternative-history novels, and use these novels as a lens from which to view the current GOP nominating process.

About these novels, I have nothing to say. Really. I have never read a novel by the politician Newt Gingrich. Probably, that won’t happen. Why politicians think they can write novels, I’ll never understand (maybe they can), but if you want to hear a wonderful rant about a terrible novel written by a politician, ask Mrs. TRC.

But there is something of interest to me in Hertzberg’s piece. Hertzberg says:

Gingrich’s sudden rise and special appeal to the emotions of “the base,” one suspects, stem less from his vaunted “big ideas” than from his long-cultivated, unparalleled talent for contempt.

This might be right. Because if Gingrich is the smart one, the ideas man, the educated historian first, and the Washington DC insider (that he oh so clearly is) second, then how can one explain the kinds of things that Gingrich is quoted saying? This is not just the ridiculous (EMPs and mining the moon) but just nonsense as well, as we’ll see. Gingrich’s “brains” are overrated, TRC believes, but his ability to use words to express contempt, well, that might be unparalleled in modern American Politics.

To highlight this, I will conclude with a final culling of Hertzberg’s article. He ends with a quote from Gingrich that on its face makes no sense at all to anyone who understands the words that are being used, or who at least takes a second to stop and think about it. I don’t like to generalize that most people do not do so, but that can be the only purpose of such a comment as this. Gingrich, and I, assume they will just find the contempt in Gingrich’s comment, and hear what they want to hear: Christians, led by Newt Gingrich, have to save America.

In March, at the Cornerstone Church, in San Antonio, Gingrich declared, “I am convinced that, if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America,” his grandchildren will live “in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American.”

Is there any better way to frame the danger to “what it means to be American” than to threaten Americans with Atheism and Islam?  What can be worse than an atheist nation dominated by radical Islamists?

Any ideas man worth his weight in novels would notice the irony.


Written by Christopher ZF

December 14, 2011 at 21:02

the propensity to distrust Atheists.

with 8 comments

This is a follow-up to some comments from an old post on TRC. It comes up again because it is of interest to the author, though TRC has no specific insights to add. It is just astonishing.

On a post about Mormonism, Religion and Politics, the following comment was made:

Commentor: I’m short of the source at the moment, but I recall reading about a survey showing that significant portions of the populace have qualms about (or refuse to) vot(ing) for an atheist. 30%?… 

AuthorI would expect that number to be much higher than 30%. Atheists and smokers are the two most disliked population groupings in the US.

Yesterday, I came across a study that looked into the general distrust of non-believers. The article, Distrust Feeds Anti-Atheist Prejudice, revealed these results:

A landmark 2006 study, analyzing data from a large survey of Americans, found that atheists “are less likely to be accepted, publicly and privately, than any others from a long list of ethnic, religious and other minority groups.”…researchers noted that “while rejection of Muslims may have spiked in post-9/11 America, rejection of atheists was higher.”… So why are atheists “among the least liked people … in most of the world,” in the words of a research team led by University of British Columbia psychologist Will Gervais? …Atheists, they argue, are widely viewed as people you cannot trust.

Other notes of interest:

  • If you believe – even implicitly – that the prospect of divine retribution is the primary factor inhibiting immoral behavior, then a lack of belief in a higher power could amount to a free pass.
  • nearly half of Americans feel morality is impossible without belief in God
  • There is no actual evidence backing up the assumption that atheism somehow leads to a decline in morality.
  • a strong case could be made that atheists and secular people actually possess a stronger or more ethical sense of social justice than their religious peers,” adding that they, on average, have “lower levels of prejudice, ethnocentrism, racism and homophobia” than the much larger population of believers.
  • with the important exception of suicide, states and nations with a preponderance of nonreligious people actually fare better on most indicators of societal health than those without

All fascinating results. I have no insights or pithy remarks regarding the points. But I have long been surprised by the openness with which American culture demonizes Atheism. (there is of course, plenty of criticism hurled back, it just comes from a much, much smaller population).

If you dispute the notion that atheists are truly distrusted…

…consider one of the experiments. One hundred and five students read a brief vignette about a man who fails to take responsibility when he hits a parked van with his car, and then pockets money from a wallet he finds on a sidewalk.
Participants were asked whether they thought it was more probable that this clearly amoral man was either (a) a teacher, or (b) a teacher and a second identifying factor. That factor varied for individual participants; for some it was “a Christian,” while for others it was “a Muslim,” “a rapist” or “an atheist.”
“A teacher and an atheist” was the equation most likely to chosen over the simple “a teacher.” Astonishingly, it was slightly more likely to be chosen than “a teacher and a rapist.”


Written by Christopher ZF

November 17, 2011 at 14:37

Posted in atheism, religion