So Liddy Dole ran this ad trying to disparage Democratic challenger Kay Hagan for having taken “godless” money from an atheist group.
I think this might be beyond what Woody Allen had in mind when he wrote, “If Jesus came back and saw what’s being done in his name, He’d never stop throwing up.” I have no pretensions to divinity, but I gotta tell you: I’m having a hard time keeping my dinner down at this point.
I’d just like to crib off Colin Powell and say that the correct answer is Kay Hagan’s not an atheist, she’s a Christian. But the bigger question is, So what? Why can’t someone ‘godless,’ but in all ways able and qualified to hold office, dream of being president or senator? Or for that matter, pretty much anything other than Pope?
Frankly, I’m much more comfortable with an intelligent, well-educated, intellectually inquisitive atheist than an evangelical like Bush or, god(s) forbid, Palin. And not that I have anything against Jesus, per se. It’s just that there nothing empirically Christ-like about the yahoos who try to claim Christ as their running mate. We sure as fuck don’t know they’re Christians by their love. Moreover, an atheist's interests are in the here and now, not the hereafter. No atheist is going to influence policy for the sake of prophecy. The only mission from God an atheist is likely to support is the one undertaken by the Blues Brothers.
I have a buddy* who’s an evangelical, a member of one of those big-ass mega-churches. Last time, he voted for Bush because Bush would govern by “biblical principles.” The problem there is two-fold: first, that approach treads a slippery slope toward a theocratic / American Taliban model; but, second, one who applies biblical principles over constitutional ones is likely too blinded by zeal and, frankly, arrogance, to know it. (Setting to one side for the moment all the not-especially-democratic principles like slavery that the bible has been used to justify.)
There’s also a preemption problem. The trouble I have with people like Palin and Bush is that, for them, the Bible trumps the Constitution. Bush answers to a higher authority. But god doesn’t have jurisdiction in this country, no matter how many batshit judges try to keep the ten commandments on display in their courtrooms. In Lawrence v. Texas, Justice Scalia, writing in dissent, warned against imposing “foreign fads and moods” on the American body politic. By that reasoning, I’m pretty sure the “fads and moods” of a wrathful invisible man in the sky would have to be ruled out as well. Not that I’m necessarily averse to the teachings of the Bible. But if you want to govern by biblical principles, here’s the test: is your pet principle one codified into Constitution or the criminal code or the common law? If it’s something like proscribing murder or stealing or, oh, I dunno, lying through your teeth for the sake of your political agenda, you’re good to go. Constitutional kismet. But if the Founders or the Congress for whatever reason decided not to provide for death by stoning for eating shellfish after sundown on Friday, and/or a man lying with another man, well, you’re out of luck. Move along, have a nice day, thanks for playing, we have some lovely parting gifts for you.
I know this is pie in the sky, my dreaming of a day when reason triumphs over caveman logic. In this regard, shows like Firefly and Battlestar Galactica get it right, if somewhat depressingly so. No matter how advanced technology becomes, no matter how overwhelmingly the scientific evidence undermines and debunks its fairy-tale foundations, religion will never go away, and it will always try to ingratiate itself into politics and policymaking, in various guises—“tradition,” “values,”—as if whatever particular brand of mythology somehow has a corner on the market in those concepts. Technology and enlightenment are just no match for cognitive dissonance. People will always believe the thing that makes them feel better. For most of us, blessedly, we are more comfortable with the empirical.
If I learned anything last year, it’s that legislation by small-d democracy is hard—by design. Conversely, theocracy is just too easy. It’s a fucking cop-out is what it is. So while I applaud Senator Hagan for calling Dole on her skeeviness and setting the record straight, I'd just like to add that I'm pining for the day when I can vote for a candidate who runs on a platform of godlessness.
In the name of the Congress, the Executive, and the Judiciary. Amen.
*UPDATE: I'm pleased to report that my pal not only voted for Obama this time, but voted for Hagan, too, citing Dole's smear as "the last straw." Consider my faith--in human intelligence--restored.