Thursday, February 2, 2012

Secular community rationalizes their politics

This afternoon when NPR reported President Barack Obama said earlier today day that his policies are an extension of his religious faith, I had a funny feeling that today would be the day the secular community gives religion's influence on public policy a pass. I was not disappointed.

From NPR, with emphasis added for the juicy parts:
Blending politics and religion, President Barack Obama said his Christian faith is a driving force behind his economic policies, from Wall Street reform to his calls for the wealthy to pay higher taxes.

Obama's remarks Thursday at the National Prayer Breakfast were his most explicit account of how his personal religious beliefs factor into his decision-making on the nation's pressing problems. The comments came amid election-year criticism from Catholic groups and some Republicans that the president is waging a war on religion following his decision to require church-affiliated institutions to cover free birth control for employees.

Speaking to more than 3,000 people at the annual breakfast, Obama said "faith and values" should play as much as role in tackling the nation's challenges as sound decision-making and smart policies.
Now these statements about letting the Bible guide his policies were only spoken that morning, but it was on the air when I turned in at 1 p.m. I figured my fellow skeptics would have been exposed to it by now.

The clock is close to midnight now and I haven't seen it referenced at all on Facebook and most of the hits on show the only people linking it are anti-Obama conservatives who are speculating (reasonably) that the comments would have sparked outrage if spoken by George W. Bush.

I also checked out some prominent secular blogs out there, from the Friendly Atheist to Pharyngula. They have updated several times today and there's no mention of it anywhere. That may change tomorrow, but the lack of a viral spread is telling.

I see my secular and skeptical friends post news reports all the time about a Republic politician or some unknown right wing loon waving around the Bible and saying America is a Christian nation or we've fallen too much into sin. It's usually introduced by saying "This is why I could never vote Republican."

No friends, you could never vote Republican because you don't like theirs policies. This is just rationalizing, where you come up with compelling arguments to justify your beliefs.

In all these cases, the friend already would never vote for a conservative candidate. They disagree with the right's economic views and hands-off solutions to problems like poverty. Of course, they also disagree with social conservatives, but hey, so do I.

I don't think the president said anything out of the ordinary for politicians today. As the transcript shows he also included plenty of lines about tolerating other faiths.

He's just caving like everyone else and this shows that the idea that only the Republicans will exaggerate their holy devotion just to win votes needs to be taken off the cross, placed in a cave and sealed with a big rock.


  1. It isn't new that the President supports integrating faith and politics. He has always been about that, and he even devotes a good portion of one of his books to the idea.

    The reason this has been ignored is for a few reasons. First, the headlines are blatantly misleading. Obama said he thinks it makes economic sense to give up the tax breaks people of his wealth enjoy. He then said that sentiment also matches up with the teachings of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. Second, he was at the annual prayer breakfast. Of course he's going to pander. Third, I agree with the mainstream Tea Party that Obama probably isn't a Christian. I don't think he's a secret Muslim, either. He's a faitheist, a support of faith who I doubt really believes in all the bullshit. He's too smart of that.

    It isn't the same at all when a Republican says faith guides him versus if a Democrat says it. Most of the reason a person becomes a Republican in the first place has little to nothing to do with economic policies - it's about religion. Democrats tend to be free from that leash, so when they talk up their faith it's either seen as pandering or at least secondary to the secular reasoning they've otherwise displayed.

  2. Mr. Hawkins, that's a big claim you're making - that most of the reason people become Republicans is about religion. Do you have any evidence to back it up?

  3. People are going to go with the party that most matches the most important aspects of their ideology. For the majority of church-going and serious Christians, that means voting Republican. People care about 'pocketbook' issues, but the most important parts of life for many Americans are social and moral. I think if religion suddenly disappeared from the landscape, we would see the rise of a third party (as opposed to the Tea Party which is just the far-right wing of the Republican party, and which has actually done more in terms of social changes than economic ones).

  4. Of course he has no evidence, but the anti-religious argument is easy and obvious, so rather than give himself a mental challenge by trying to honestly argue for socialist politics, he continues to trust in the straw man he can easily destroy.

  5. I'm with Mark, that's a wild speculation.

    1. Michael, I do not think you're with Mark on most of this. Two of the three claims he made were either false or random. Do you think I made an anti-religious argument above? If so, please explain. Do you think it is relevant for me to argue for socialist politics in order to explain why Obama gets a pass and Republican would not?

    2. Fair enough, I avoid throwing the word "socialst" around when talking about anti-market policies to avoid confusion.

      What happened is you made a factual claim, I asked if you can prove it, and you proceeded to delve into the logic of the claim without addressing the lack of evidence. Foul!

    3. How does my argument have anything to do with anti-market policies? How does it have anything to do with any market whatsoever?

      Is it not a fact that the most important aspect of life for many people is the social and moral aspect? Is this not doubly-true for the religious? What of the statistics I've cited?

  6. Why do you attempt to participate in these things, Mark? You weren't able to keep up when you spammed my website (I re-read the thread and it's hilarious), and you aren't able to keep up here. Not only do I have obvious evidence for my claim, but my argument wasn't even anti-religious. I'll break it down for you, though I doubt you'll get it.

    1. Religion is tremendously important to people. You can feel free to use your own time to look up the detailed statistics, but about 80% of Americans are Christians. A sizable portion of those people are devote.

    2. We see most highly devote Christians concentrated in the Republican party.

    3. People vote in ways which reflect their values. For Christians, the Republican party matches their values better than the Democratic party.

    Social issues for most Republicans are premised in Biblical terms. That may not be the case for you or Michael, but you two are in the minority. For most Republicans, such as the religiously-motivated Tea Party faction of the party, what the Bible has to say on societal issues is, well, gospel. I know you wholly lack a social conscience (as long as you get what's yours, amirite?), so this probably seems foreign to you, but try to keep up: If Christians can be said to breed anything, it's Republicans; Republicans do not breed Christians.

    It only makes sense that people gravitate to the political party which best matches their values. For people who become Republicans, they overwhelmingly start out with religious values. This is such common sense, I'm almost embarrassed that someone had to ask for evidence. For Democrats, the basis for their political affiliation tends to be more varied, though since we are in the U.S., religion is still a factor, however diminished versus Republicans.

    Your mention of socialist politics is a non-sequitur.

    So to sum up, I gave evidence for my claim two posts above this - you ignored it, to your own embarrassment. Going back to my first post, no anti-religious points were in the least bit central to my argument. In fact, the only disparaging thing I said about religion was that Obama was too smart for me to believe he could really be a Christian. That was a separate point which wasn't even in the same paragraph as my claim that most Republicans are first religious and then Republicans. Now I have gone into greater detail using clear logic which matches the well known statistics. Since I have made a sound case whereas you have made three false claims (that I lack evidence, that my argument was anti-religious, and that it is relevant for me to argue for socialist politics), the onus is now on you. Here are some questions for you:

  7. (There is a character limit per post. Here are the questions.)

    Do you think it is a precept of Christianity to ignore its teachings at the ballot box and in legislative bodies? If so, why? Further, if so, do you think Christians actually do this?

    Do you believe people choose their political party before they figure out their values? If so, can you cite examples where people have changed their political party prior to changing their values? If you cite people changing parties due to shifts in party platforms, do you believe you have cited an instance where political party comes before values? If so, please explain.

    Can you cite where I made an anti-religious argument? If you cite my comment about Obama being too smart to be a Christian, can you please explain how that pertains to my claim that people usually become Christians before they become Republicans? If you cite something else I have said, please be sure to explain how it supports your contention.

    Can you explain why it would be honest for me to argue for socialist politics in the context of Michael's post and my response? Do socialist politics address Michael's point about bias? You seem to be saying random things, so it is unclear what it is you wish to argue. Please explain.

    Finally, I recommend you re-read Michael's post plus my first two comments at least once. Thereafter, you should re-read this post at least twice before tackling it piece-by-piece and very slowly. Of course, I'm more than happy to insult you, as you know, but I am quite honestly making this recommendation to you because you make consistent errors in reading comprehension. You did it several times on my website, and some of what you've said here either reflects that same tendency (such as when you claimed my post was anti-religious) or is outright random (such as when you go on about socialist politics). I think it would be much more productive for everyone involved if you took your time.

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