Tuesday, February 20, 2007


Since I'm busy today I haven't had time to check, but I bet that the various atheist blogs are already all over this one. But having followed Andrew Sullivan's link to this Jim Wallis piece in Time magazine, I had to comment on this line:
Democrats are learning to connect issues with values and are now engaging with the faith community. They are running more candidates who have been emboldened to come out of the closet as believers themselves.
Coming out of the closet as believers? Are you fracking kidding me, Jim Wallis? At a time when it is virtually -- possibly literally -- impossible for anyone who is not (publicly) a believer to get elected to any major office in this country, this is simply a disgusting thing to say. Let's put aside the fact that it is flatly false (since it implies that any significant Democratic candidates have been publicly presenting themselves as nonbelievers); and let's even put aside the fact that it buys into the (false) Republican framing of the issue of Democrats and religion that the article as a whole seeks to counter. But at a time when people are less likely to vote for an atheist than a member of any other group -- yes, even moreso than gays and lesbians, despite the powerful homophobia that continues in this country (although they're second to us heathens, natch), making Wallis's appropriation of the "out of the closet" language even more ironic -- to talk as if it is believers who are shut out of elective politics is, well, vile.

(What Wallis meant by "running more candidates who have been emboldened to come out of the closet as believers" was that Democrats are running more candidates who are willing to follow Republicans' lead in exploiting their religious beliefs to get votes -- and are doing so more successfully. Whether that's a good, bad or neutral thing I leave to "people of faith" themselves.)

Mitt Romney recently responded to attacks on his Mormonism by turning the issue around and issuing an attack on an even less popular group: atheists. "We need to have a person of faith lead the country," he said. Sullivan, to his credit, recognized this as the naked bigotry that it is. But most people didn't. Romney has not been chastised for his comment the way he would have been if he'd said we need a [white/male/whatever] person to run the country. Hell, if Romney had just said we need a Christian to run the country, all the Jim Wallises of the world would have been (correctly) after him for antisemitism, anti-Islamism, and what have you. But to defend his own religion by attacking the least popular group (as far as electoral politics is concerned) in the country -- that's just fine. No one cares.

Look, atheists are unelectable in this country. I can live with that. But to have Wallis imply that it is believers who are "in the closet", in either major political party in this country -- how dare he. How !@#$% dare he. The man should be ashamed of himself.

Of course, he won't be. Because he has God on his side. So what need does he have to be fair to people who don't believe?

Wallis ends his essay by hoping for a "a revival for justice," and then saying " The era of the Religious Right is now past, and it's up to all of us to create a new day." But Wallis's "us" doesn't include me -- it doesn't include a lot of people. You'll forgive me if I find myself worried about the nature of whatever "justice" that man is seeking.

Update: PZ Myers weighs in on Wallis.

Update 2: My speculation in my opening sentence seems to have been wrong -- at least, I haven't seen anyone else who got as cranky about that particular sentence as I did. (PZ doesn't count, since I emailed him to kvetch about it; and anyway, he explicitly said I was "even crankier" than he about it.) Wallis is, however, getting some fairly negative (in both senses) attention for other matters these days. Although he doesn't mention the inaccuracy I was griping about, Frederick Clarkson points out Wallis's history of inaccuracy on these topics.

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