Pharyngula

The A-bomb

Oregon looks to have an interesting senate primary race, with two excellent Democratic candidates, Jeff Merkley and Steve Novick, vying for the chance to give the boot to two-faced Republican Bush booster Gordon Smith. I think it’s great that more progressive candidates are being drawn into loftier tiers of the political arena, and that good wholesome sparring in the primary is going to help them both out, no matter who wins the nomination. Why, though, should this Minnesotan care? Aside from having lived in Oregon for 9 years (and loving it!), it was brought to my attention that there’s a sly tactic being carried out here. Someone dropped the A-bomb in the discussion already: they’ve asked “Is Steve Novick an atheist?

That quickly developed into a major topic of discussion at BlueOregon. One of the major points is that while Oregon is one of the least godly states in the country, it still has a large Christian majority, and the assumption is that tagging him with areligiosity will hurt Novick’s chances.

What this kind of tactic actually does, though, is tarnish the reputation of Christians, so I’m saddened but unsurprised that more believers aren’t distressed by it. Imagine if a black candidate were running, and someone tried to argue that he was going to be beat because a large percentage of the voters were white. That’s not a commentary on the candidate, although there always is a tendency to hold the victim accountable: it’s an acknowledgment that the majority of voters are superficial bigots, an appeal to the prejudices of the lowest of the mob.

At least nowadays people wouldn’t try to publicly defend their bigotry against blacks, although I suspect many still practice it in the privacy of the voting booth (it’s also still a useful dirty campaign issue, as was used against McCain). We’ll still see people argue that atheism is a legitimate reason to vote against someone though, because he doesn’t share their “values”. That’s an admission, I think, that they want a Christian candidate who will inject religion into the secular task of running the country.

Comments

  1. #1 Blake Stacey
    July 28, 2007

    So if you really think that Jesus is the one true way and that people who don’t convert are going to spend eternity in hell it makes sense to avoid voting for someone who doesn’t share that belief since it’s going to lead to policies that don’t reflect that very real concern you share with your fellow believers.

    By the same logic, it makes sense to vote for a fellow Klansman, because voting for that “articulate” man running in opposition would lead to policies that don’t reflect the voter’s very real concerns (e.g., “property values”).

  2. #2 Sastra
    July 28, 2007

    The bigotry part isn’t when Christians refuse to vote for an atheist candidate because he or she doesn’t share their values — it’s when Christians refuse to vote for an atheist candidate because they assume he or she doesn’t share their “values,” when they actually might. There is a widespread perception that atheists don’t have morals, or don’t feel empathy, or can’t really believe in truth, justice, or the American way. That’s an error, a misapprehension.

    It’s not bigotry to refuse to vote for a candidate because of their stance on an issue — such as separation of church and state — which you disagree with. But if it’s not about issues, or how they will vote, or anything specific or known but “character,” if this character assessment is based on nothing more than race, sex, or religion, there’s probably unwarranted prejudgment: prejudice.

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