While I don’t think arguing for or against religious particulars is something any political party should adopt a few days before an election (or should be a political issue at all, for that matter), PZ is absolutely right when he says that Robertson and his ilk should be called out for the foolish bigots that they are. We wouldn’t tolerate racially-based hatred (Got Macaca?), so why should we tolerate ‘faith-based’ hatred? O’Donnell was doing what was needed: staking out the flank.
If politicians won’t do anything while El Jefe Maximo wipes his ass with
the First, Fourth, Fifth Amendment, and the first and second articles of the Constitution the whole damn Constitution, why do we think they’ll boldly stand against the Christopathic Uruk-hai right wing without a lot of groundwork being laid? Rather than doing what Matt Yglesias suggests, we need to go on the offensive against these bozos because they’re not stopping for anybody:
Christianists, however, have succeeeded in mainstreaming the notion that religion belongs in politics. It doesn’t, not in America, so it’s quite a step to have the churches in this country so well organized to push a christianist agenda and even endorse (wink, wink, illegal tho it may be) candidates. It’s quite a step to have mainstream national politicians trumpet their piety – as if that is some kind of qualification for running a country – with an intensity that I can’t recall in the races of the past thirty or forty years.
To pooh-pooh the influence of christianism on American politics, as Rosenfeld does, requires ignoring the plain and simple fact that General Jerry Boykin [link mine, not Tristero's], a man suffering from paranoid delusions that Satan is hovering over battlefields and who is clearly in need of psychiatric help, still has a job. And not just any job; he is one of the pointsmen in the hunt for al Qaeda and bin Laden.
Sigh. Once again, intelligent liberals are making the dangerous mistake of attributing their own intellectual acumen and worldview to other Americans, who think and live very differently than themselves. I share with Yglesias and Rosenfeld a thorough disgust with both the ideas and the lifestyle of the christianists. I find it hard to believe they take their theology seriously as a religion: as Yglesias points out, it’s nuts to believe in an absurd religion that consigns Gandhi to hell. And like them, I find the unique cultural trappings of christianism – the crass materialism and cynical marketing of religious belief – repulsive. How can anyone be suckered into this bullshit?
But the fact that I find christianism utterly repulsive when it’s not just silly doesn’t take away from the fact that many, many Americans are deeply attracted to it. Many more Americans have trouble distinguishing between the more diluted versions of christianism and their own desire to have a meaningful place for religion and national pride in their lives.
It is a serious mistake to underestimate these people. They have more cash, and more followers than we do. More importantly, they know, as we yet don’t, that they are in a culture war. And they know, as incredible as it surely sounds to Rosenfeld and Yglesias, that the culture war is a continuation of the ancient struggle between the priests and the philosophes and ideals of the Enlightenment. Go ahead, Matt and Sam, read what they actually say. Listen to their speeches. That’s what this is about.
It might be the case that any Democratic politician who attacks ‘Dobsonism’ and ‘Robertsonism’ will lose votes in the coming election, but that doesn’t absolve the rest of us of our obligation to call these guys what they are: delusional morons whose policies are disastrous and murderous (for example, the four year delay in approving the HPV vaccine resulted in the murder of over 11,000 women by cervical cancer). Rather than running away, we need to start laying the groundwork now. Because if we don’t, you can be certain that the Mandarin class and the Punditocracy never will.
While I’m pretty pragmatic, there are lines you should not cross, even in politics. Bigotry is a bright, clear line.