The Scientific Activist

In a recent interview published in New York Magazine, writer Christopher Hitchens is asked “Has anyone in the Bush administration confided in you about being an atheist?”. His answer:

Well, I don’t talk that much to them–maybe people think I do. I know something which is known to few but is not a secret. Karl Rove is not a believer, and he doesn’t shout it from the rooftops, but when asked, he answers quite honestly. I think the way he puts it is, “I’m not fortunate enough to be a person of faith.”

To be completely honest, I don’t find the idea that Karl Rove is an atheist all that shocking. The Bush Administration is a an incredibly cynical organization, so I don’t think anyone should be surprised that one of the key architects of the Christian Right’s takeover of the U.S. government is not a religious man himself.

In fact, this reminds me of a conversation I had last year with a Bush Administration political appointee in the Department of Commerce. Although I normally don’t normally keep these types too close, this particular appointee was visiting a friend of mine in Oxford. Toward the end of the evening (after I had already received a juicy but unrealized tip about a potential legal challenge to Google), the conversation moved into the political realm. Did he not find it problematic, I asked, that through the Bush Administration a relatively small segment of the American population–the Christian Right–enjoys such a disproportionally large amount of influence.

No, no, he told me. I had it all wrong. Most of the people in the administration don’t believe in all of that stuff, he informed.

I offered the obvious response: isn’t that even worse, then, to pander to a group that you don’t even agree with?

He again offered the same non sequitur reply, and the conversation continued unproductively in this same vein until the topic eventually evolved into something else.

I found his nonchalant attitude toward the Bush Administration’s exploitation of–but fundamental disinterest in–the Christian Right quite informative, and it helps put the current revelation regarding Karl Rove into perspective.

Hat tips to Atheist Revolution and Pharyngula.

Update: Atheist Revolution has more details here.


  1. #1 Tyler DiPietro
    April 29, 2007

    Not a surprise at all. The political calculus of the Bush administration here is actually pretty obvious. The evangelical Christians in this country have an insatiable persecution complex and a dangerous credulity toward the apocalyptic preaching of con-artists like Robertson, Hagee, and others. The Manichean and often outright supernatural terms in which the administration couched their foreign policy no doubt appealed to that (albeit without explicitly endorsing it). And of course that was intertwined with the way in which the administration and the amen-corner engaged in constant fearmongering of liberals, intellectuals, scientists, civil libertarians, etc., as a cabal intent on bringing down our godly nation.

    Sorry in advance for Godwining the thread, but it’s similar the Third Reich in that the Nazis would not have been able to advance themselves into power without the centuries of antisemitism embodied in Germany’s Lutheran tradition as well as the bitterness and resentment toward the proverbial “them” after Germany’s defeat in WWI. It’s a good thing that our institutions are strong enough here in the U.S. that the Bushies haven’t managed to completely dismantle them, yet.

  2. #2 Blake Stacey
    April 29, 2007

    I say we replace “Neville Chamberlain atheist” with “Karl Rove atheist”. That oughtta be less inflammatory. . . .


  3. #3 EvilPoet
    April 29, 2007

    Paging James Dobson… Dr. Dobson to the white courtesy phone…

    My opinion on this can be found here…

    The only thing I’d like to add is: the election cycle has begun – beware of false prophets. What is truth? What is a lie? What is the intent behind the actions? Are the words spoken empty and meaningless? What resides behind the mask of the actor? What does the mirror show? The power of nightmares are only as powerful as we allow them to be. Pull back the curtain and what do you see?

  4. #4 mjjp
    April 29, 2007

    If Rove is an atheist that gives atheism a bad name. We don’t want him. I am more concerned about the 150 or so lawyers employed under GONZO who all graduated from Regent University which is founded by Pat Roberston.

  5. #5 Kapitano
    April 29, 2007

    You might have heard of a book called “Tempting Faith” by David Kuo.

    He is a christian fundamentalist of a the “nice guy, fuzzily patriotic but not really racist, reads the bible but ignores the most stupid bits” type.

    He is also one of the christians duped by the neocons with promises of an administration “based on god’s will”, and seduced with promises of political power within it. He documents how the Bush administration used christians as “useful idiots”, while being openly contemptuous of them behind closes doors, referring to them collectively as “The Nuts”.

    And he’s not the only christian to realise how easily he was hoodwinked. I think large sections of the religious right are frantically trying to disengage from the neocons, having finally realised they got nothing in return for prostituting themselves.

  6. #6 Clark Goble
    April 29, 2007

    Should it be surprising that a party made up of different interest groups needs to placate those interest groups? When, if as expected, Democrats win in 2008, don’t you think they’ll need to placate various interest groups in order to get things passed and shore up their votes?

  7. #7 Brian
    April 30, 2007

    It’s not surprising when a political party tries to placate its interest groups, but that’s not really what’s going on here. By putting on a facade of religious fervor, Bush’s administration has been able to get away with completely IGNORING its interest groups. The religious right has gotten little more than ridicule in the last 8 years (aside from, I suppose, the war on Christmas, ID temporarily in Kansas, and the recent anti-choice win in the supreme court), but acts as if it is largely unaware that they’ve been duped.

    It’s quite clever on Bush’s part, actually, but it does seem like people are waking up for better or worse.

  8. #8 vjack
    April 30, 2007

    Thanks for the link. It seems there is even more evidence to support Rove’s atheism which I discuss here:

    This is turning out to be an interesting story. I wonder if we’ll see the mainstream media give it any attention.

  9. #9 Nick Anthis
    April 30, 2007

    This is getting interesting. The Christian Right has quite a knack for willful ignorance, though, so I think we can expect pretty high readings on the b.s. meter related to all of this.

  10. #10 Jim
    August 16, 2010

    Hitchens is a pseudo intellectual. Seems that the stupidity of the atheist to follow him is an example of a wolf leading one to their eventual doom. He has nothing to offer other than vulgar radical rhetoric. Vulgarity and and few fancy words doesn’t mske one an inteelectual. Nor asking questions HE can’t even answer, but expects Christians to have all the answers regarding their faith. Follow Hitchens and you’ll get exactly what he promises. NOTHING!

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