Pharyngula

Is it really that hard to understand?

Once again, we’ve got an anti-atheist claiming that the opposition to the nomination of Francis Collins to head the NIH is built entirely on the fact that he is a Christian. It’s nuts. We spell it out clearly, over and over again, and these people seem incapable of comprehending a basic fact.

Every single one of us that has come forward to voice our unhappiness with the nomination has given an argument that is not based on the simple private fact that a nominee prays or goes to church. Such a position would be insane and impractical; we live in a country that is at least 80% Christian, and there is a bias to preferentially select nominees for public positions who are at least nominally religious. If we really felt that being a Christian meant you shouldn’t work in government, we’d be raging constantly at every public office in the country.

Do you see that happening? No. We aren’t interested in what public officials do in their free time. They can have whatever legal hobby they want, they can favor whatever private rituals they want, they can associate with any non-dangerous group on their weekends that they want, whether it’s going to church or gathering to watch football.

So what’s different about Collins? He doesn’t keep it to himself. He is openly and avidly evangelical, brags about adding religious messages to NHGRI announcements, and recently built a high-profile website that promotes evangelical Christianity. I don’t mind a Christian in charge of the NIH, but I do object to a missionary, especially one who has said some awfully stupid things about science, being put in control of such a large chunk of our country’s science budget.

I find it difficult to believe that the people who have been sowing this lie, that the “New Atheists” oppose Christians in office because they pray or go to church, are so stupid to believe something so patently untrue, or so carefully negated in our arguments. It seems to be pure malice: they are trying to discredit us with disinformation. I guess I have to get used to the fact that the other side likes to fight dirty.