A taste of S. E. Cupp

Long-time readers know that, last April and May, I invested a decent amount of time in tearing apart a book by conservative punditress S. E. Cupp. Cupp, a self-proclaimed atheist, had written a book defending the religious right, and she titled it Losing Our Religion: The Media’s Attack on Christianity.

Why, you may be asking, would an avowed atheist describe fundamentalism as “our religion”? I don’t know. But she does, consistently adopting the fringiest, least atheist-friendly forms of Christianity as if they were the only form Christianity could take. Thus, she mocked Chris Matthews’s Catholicism because he’s pro-evolution, even though the Pope is pro-evolution. At the time, she was wrapping up a masters in religious studies from NYU. The mind truly boggles at how little someone can learn if she tries hard enough not to.

All of which I could put behind me except she’s still playing the same games. To wit, talking with MSNBC’s Martin Bashir about Michele Bachmann’s support for creationism and Bachmann’s and her husband’s use of religious practices to attempt to “cure” homosexuality, and her attempt to legally protect such “therapy”. Every relevant scientific and medical authority has denounced this practice as rooted in a faulty premise about the nature of sexuality, demonstrably ineffective, and demonstrably harmful to the patient.

Cupp, like any right-thinking person, says that this is junk science, but she doesn’t want anyone to criticize the Bachmanns for employing it:

BASHIR: You said this is junk science.

CUPP: I think it’s a valid argument to say that praying away the gay is junk science.

BASHIR: It’s not just you saying that, it’s the Association of American Psychologists who are saying this.

CUPP: I think it’s a valid argument, that it’s junk science. But I don’t think you can implicate 80 percent of the population which is Christian, who believe that homosexuality is a sin as crazy and kooky and extreme.

BASHIR: I’m not going there. I’m not suggesting that at all. What I’m asking you is, does Michele Bachmann therefore embrace junk science.

CUPP: I can’t tell you what motivates Michele Bachmann’s belief that homosexuality is a sin. I have a feeling it’s the Bible.

?

BASHIR: Is a potential Republican candidate for the presidency embracing junk science?

CUPP: If you don’t believe that homosexuality is a sin, if you don’t believe that you can pray away the gay, if you don’t [sic] believe that gays should be married then you would disagree with Michele Bachmann and you would say that she is embracing junk science.

If you are a Christian who believes like she does, that homosexuality is a sin, creationism is the story of how we all got here, then I don’t think you would call it junk science, I think you would call that, you know, Scripture, Christianity.

There are any number of problems here. First, that ex-gay therapy is junk science is not “a valid argument,” it’s true. There’s no evidence that it works, or is safe, or is medically justified. It simply is junk science, and Cupp offers no counter-argument to that point.

But she does come up with a surprising bit of relativistic nonsense, and argue that whether it is or isn’t junk science depends whether you’re Christian. And then she claims that dismissing such harmful and ineffective therapies would label as “crazy and kooky and extreme” the “80 percent of the population which is Christian, who believe that homosexuality is a sin.”

No. Literally everything here is wrong. First, 80% of the US does not think homosexuality is a sin. In 2003, Pew asked 1,515 Americans whether they think homosexuality is a sin, and 55% said it was. Which is high ? troublingly high, indeed insultingly high to anyone who thinks America should be a land of the free ? but it is not 80%. Even among the Americans who attend church the most, only 76% thought homosexuality was a sin. The American public has far less negative views of homosexuality today than it did 8 years ago, so I’d guess that less than half of Americans today regard homosexuality is a sin.

i-a49ac5b0f3391927690ee9d2a94abb90-gayacceptance.jpg In 2008, Pew asked a slightly different question, and found that 50% of the public says “Homosexuality is a way of life that should be accepted by society,” rejecting the argument that it should be “discouraged by society” (which only 40% backed). Mainline Protestants favor acceptance 56:38, while Catholics favor acceptance over discouragement by a ratio of nearly 2:1 (58:30). The only subgroup approaching Cupp’s fantastical 80% are Jehovah’s witnesses, in which 76% would rather discourage the homosexual lifestyle.

This was borne out again by a 2010 CNN poll, which asked “Do you personally think that homosexual relationships between consenting adults is morally wrong, or not a moral issue?” 48% said “morally wrong,” 50% said it was “not a moral issue.” That’s an odd way to dichotomize the matter (what about “morally right”?), but even with that biased language, less than half of Americans condemn the morality of same sex relationships.

What Cupp is doing is assuming that every Christian regards homosexuality as a sin, so if 80% of Americans are Christian, then 80% of Americans must find same sex orientations sinful. You’d think a master of religious studies would know better, but no. This is her standard schtick, and she’s not going to let an education or facts get in the way of her conservative talking points.

Plus, even if 80% of Christians did find homosexuality sinful, that wouldn’t change the empirically documented fact that the sorts of pseudo-therapy employed by the Bachmanns doesn’t work and does harm to patients. Whether something is junk science is simply not a matter of opinion, it’s an empirical matter.

That goes for attempts to “cure” same sex attraction, and it goes for creationism. Is a Republican candidate embracing “junk science”? Yes! Is she also embracing what she regards as “Scripture, Christianity”? Yes. Are there other Christians who reject Bachmann’s form of Christianity and her reading of Scripture, who regard it as un-Christian and counter-scriptural to condemn their brothers and sisters because of their sexual orientation? Yes! But you’ll never hear that from Cupp. She may be an atheist, but heart is with fundamentalist Christianity.

Comments

  1. #1 Laurent Weppe
    July 12, 2011

    she mocked Chris Matthews’s Catholicism because he’s pro-evolution, even though the Pope is pro-evolution. At the time, she was wrapping up a masters in religious studies from NYU. The mind truly boggles at how little someone can learn if she tries hard enough not to.

    Alternative explanation: she learned a lot: enough to be confident in her ability to outright lie to a target audience less knowledgeable than her and get away with it.

  2. #2 razib
    July 12, 2011

    cupp is an opportunist. or a total moron.

  3. #3 scott
    July 12, 2011

    A mid to high level accommodationist attacking an extreme accommodationist with an almost Gnu type feel(almost but not quite). You just forgot to come right out and call her an ignorant fool.

  4. #4 scott
    July 12, 2011

    razib:

    “or a total moron.”

    Know that would’ve diffidently been a Gnu thing to say, and it would’ve been correct, along with ignorant fool.

  5. #5 scott
    July 12, 2011

    Now, not know. No edit button.

  6. #6 Noza
    July 12, 2011

    What about the position that homosexuality is not wrong, per se, but just weird? This view seems underrepresented.

    Why would you want to stick your penis into someone’s anus? I mean, really? Surely that must be uncomfortable for both parties. Anatomically, the vagina was made for the penis, but the anus definitely was not. So why not try the vagina first, and if you don’t like that, move on to the anus?

    If someone wants to campaign for their right to chew aluminum foil, well OK, you can chew aluminum foil, but are you sure you want to do that? Have you tried not chewing aluminum foil?

  7. #7 Ender
    July 13, 2011

    Ah, Scott. If only you had a modicum of sense you could see the difference between criticism and an attack. And the difference between an accomodationist and a moron. (Hint: The moron is the one attacking a Catholic for believing in evolution)

    Accomodationism says nothing about servile friendliness or never insulting anyone, it’s either about science and religion being compatible, or about it being incompatible, but that good science can be done by those do don’t realise that – and there’s no point alienating those who are on our side by calling them morons for not knowing an irrelevant fact – i.e. don’t attack all religious people, just those who actually oppose science.

    That’s called a sensible position, you moron. (See how alienated from the truth you now feel?)

  8. Somehow I’d missed this Cupp person.

    The real media war on religion is the obvious decision they’ve made to entirely blacklist the ideas of liberal Christians, Jews, etc. It’s part of their obvious decision to blacklist all liberals and leftists. They have on Nazis and their allies on to air their views more often than they do the peace churches.

    Cupp is a conservative and an atheist. Well, it’s no surprise then that she would be a fan of fundamentalist religion which is thoroughly wedded to Mammon. If anyone would care to get into the argument I’d make the argument that fundamentalist “christianity” was phony Christianity, it’s a kind of Christianity without Jesus or any of his disciples.

    If you’ve got a strong stomach, you can listen to any of the media “christians” and find out very quickly that they are completely in service to some modified form of cargo materialism, not a single one of them either practices or advocates their followers advocate doing what Jesus said they were to do. Just for a start, he commanded preachers to have the minimum of material goods and to have no money. Contrast that to the primary message of the media preachers who are always sucking up the money they solicit.

    It’s important, when looking at religion to see what people do as well as what they say. You have to look at what their “religion” produces. Seems to me Jesus had something to say to that effect as well. By every Gospel test, fundamentalist “christianity” fails as Christianity. It’s a form of Mammonism. It’s no surprise that it would enjoy the support of a right-wing materialist.

  9. #9 Neil Craig
    July 13, 2011

    “a self-proclaimed atheist”

    What other sort is there?

  10. #10 Neil Craig
    July 13, 2011

    “a self-proclaimed atheist”

    What other sort is there?

  11. #11 BenSix
    July 13, 2011

    So, Cupp believes 80% of Americans embrace the notion that homosexuality can be “cured”. And she think it’s people who DISAGREE who are being anti-Christian/anti-American?

  12. #12 Jeremy O
    July 13, 2011

    In fairness, I am assuming the CNN poll is addressing whether people believe homosexual relationships are morally permissible. It is odd to call a homosexual relationship “morally right”. I don’t think people put some kind of moral weight on their relationships (excluding relationships we may find morally wrong, like adultery or pedophilia).

  13. #13 Federalist-Conservative
    July 13, 2011

    Couldn’t have said it better. And I like S.E Cupp, I do have a crush on her but even I admit she sounds off base at times.

    I’m an undergraduate in Psyche and yep, there’s no evidence that praying cures homosexuality. I wish it does, I am pro-life but the evidence is not there. We do know about gender identity begins at a relatively young age. Is when you can claim a boy or girl–or girl or boy. We know that kids do believe that they can “change” their gender but understand that logistic and provision skills are not full effect yet. Which is the Nature vs Nurture debate but no secret, Nurture matters a lot. If it didn’t, Barbarians wouldn’t be that cool.

    I want to ask a question: do you think she wants to be something that she does not want? I guess like a personality switch. In her mind, she is an atheist, but her soul is something else. And I think that’s why she may sub-consciously say something before she consciously wants to say it. She knows who she is, but may ultimately be afraid of it.

    Too much science, I say. Nice article about my crush. I guess is good to know that her heart is with conservatism…or somewhere else, ;-)

  14. #14 Federalist-Conservative
    July 13, 2011

    Couldn’t have said it better. And I like S.E Cupp, I do have a crush on her but even I admit she sounds off base at times.

    I’m an undergraduate in Psyche and yep, there’s no evidence that praying cures homosexuality. I wish it does, I am pro-life but the evidence is not there. We do know about gender identity begins at a relatively young age. Is when you can claim a boy or girl–or girl or boy. We know that kids do believe that they can “change” their gender but understand that logistic and provision skills are not full effect yet. Which is the Nature vs Nurture debate but no secret, Nurture matters a lot. If it didn’t, Barbarians wouldn’t be that cool.

    I want to ask a question: do you think she wants to be something that she does not want? I guess like a personality switch. In her mind, she is an atheist, but her soul is something else. And I think that’s why she may sub-consciously say something before she consciously wants to say it. She knows who she is, but may ultimately be afraid of it.

    Too much science, I say. Nice article about my crush. I guess is good to know that her heart is with conservatism…or somewhere else, ;-)

  15. #15 scott
    July 13, 2011

    Ender,

    I do know the difference between criticism and attack. When I originally typed that sentenced I used the word ‘criticizing’, but decided to change it to ‘attacking’ because that’s the word apologist and accommodationist wrongly use when describing a Gnus criticism of religion. I’m glad to see you caught it, that’s what I was hoping for, and now I hope it raises your conscientious when your building a strawman against the Gnus.

  16. #16 TTT
    July 14, 2011

    Cupp is a fraud–a live-action concern troll. Real atheists (“gnu” or otherwise) do not defend creationism on its intellectual merits or via appeals to majority.

    She’s a grifter hoping to keep enough attention on herself to be able to live out her years on the pundit / convention speaker circuit. Nice work if you can get it.

  17. #17 Ender
    July 15, 2011

    “and now I hope it raises your conscientious when your building a strawman against the Gnus.”

    If I was a dick I could pretend that I can’t understand what you’re trying to get at here.

    As I was saying to an accommodationist the other day, perhaps you should specify which people you are criticising, the people who actually “wrongly use attacking”, rather than generalising it to “apologists and accommodationists”

    I have no trouble believing that some accommodationists do treat all criticisms as attacks, but I know for an evidenced fact that there are those who don’t. So what else can I do other than ignore your poorly evidenced, and pointlessly generalised claim?

    If you want to be logical and scientific you have to evidence your claims. If you want to be persuasive and accurate then you must refer specifically to individuals or groups, not pretend that entire inchoate groups of people are the same or behave in the same way. It just weakens your point.

  18. If it’s factual and warranted, it’s a criticism, if it’s untrue and unwarranted, it’s an attack.

  19. #19 skinner city cyclist
    July 16, 2011

    It should be clear to anyone that Cupp is an anti-Poe, illustrating the opposite of the traditional Poe, that is, that no one could possibly mistake her ravings for the opinions of an actual atheist, no matter how strongly she asserts them.

  20. #20 Laurent Weppe
    July 16, 2011

    Not necessarily: a lot of atheists keep pointing fingers at religion for “fostering sectarian tribalism” and some among the most vocal love to flaunt their “intellectual superiority” compared to religious people. Well, an atheist who really think that she is way smarter than the common man might also think that sectarian tribalism is a good tool to keep the mindless rubes all nice and obedient. So it’s not hard to imagine an atheist like Cupp being very complacent toward fundie christianity.

  21. anti-Poe

    Is there an unlimited number of these categories that can be constructed to suit any purpose? What is it with these things?

    If she says she’s an atheist she is the only possible authority on that. Maybe Richard Dawkins is a secret theist who is there to act as the perfect foil for creationists, as they have thanked him for being.

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