I’m Damned To Hell, And I Vote!

Our friend The Stiletto wonders, in a recent post, how an irreligious voter might go about selecting a candidate, given the way they’ve been elbowing each other aside to crow about their faith:

Romney Didn’t Win Any Converts: Rarely does someone get the chance truly to see things from another’s perspective. Having read as much as she can about Joseph Smith, the angel Moroni and the tenets of Mormonism – admittedly, mostly from LDS-sanctioned sources that omit doctrinal beliefs non-Mormons are not meant to know – The Stiletto has a pretty good idea what atheists think of all the miraculous (supernatural) events described in the Old and New Testaments that believers take on faith. When he’s settled back into his post-holiday routine, The Stiletto will ask her pal at waka waka waka to explain how an atheist decides for whom to vote, considering that every candidate holds a variety of “irrational” and “fraudulent” religious beliefs – her curiosity on the matter having been raised by this editorial in The Guardian (London), which asks: “Could you vote for a man who abides by Moronish wisdom?

The short answer, of course, is that you try to choose a candidate with whom you agree on important issues, and whose temperament best seems equal to the many pressures and hard choices that a president must confront.

I’m not sure whom The Stiletto is quoting, above, about “irrational” and “fraudulent” religious beliefs, but some, of course, are more so than others, and happen to be well-represented in this year’s race. We haven’t got any Scientologists in the running, but as far as we godless heathens are concerned, Biblical-literalist creationism and Mormonism don’t add much to a candidate’s luster either.

If one supposes, as I do, that most popular religions are well-tuned adaptations that serve useful roles in the cohesion of groups, then it isn’t surprising that candidates running for high office in America — where religion is still, sadly, the dominant form of social identification — will do their best to advertise their membership as conspicuously as possible. What is particularly grotesque, however, is watching them twist and wriggle to be seen as a part, somehow, of every believer’s in-group, blithely waving aside the countless contradictions and incompatibilities that differentiate the many denominations, sects, and cults to which America’s vast shoals of the faithful actually belong. The way this has been accomplished most recently is to set the charmed circle at its broadest possible diameter, so as to leave only the explicitly godless as the dehumanized Other. It’s all a bit of a sham, of course: the Baptists, for example, know very well that the Papists are going to roast in Hell right along with the rest of us — but that will be after the election. (For most of us, anyway.)

How, then, does a blaspheming wretch like me select his champion? Well, for starters, I’d like someone intelligent, thoughtful, and literate, which would already be a substantial upgrade. It seems to me, though, that the faculties of rational judgment I’m looking for would be incompatible with denying the scientifically uncontroversial fact of evolution in favor of an Iron Age creation myth, or with believing that a convicted grifter with a lecherous eye for young girls pulled God’s Final Revelation quite literally out of a hat. This narrows the field a little.

What else am I looking for? Readers will be aware that I favor a forward-leaning foreign policy, one that takes the threat posed by Islamic fundamentalism seriously, and that I consider the defense of Western civilization to be well worth the effort. This again winnows the crop a bit. I also tend to be leery of Utopian social-engineering programs and far-left economic models, though I lean more toward liberal, rather than traditionally conservative, notions of individual freedoms. I incline toward the view that sheltering large numbers of illegal or wilfully unassimilated immigrants is at odds with the nation’s interests, so I will be listening attentively when those matters are discussed. And so on.

So there you have it. If you want my vote, be religious if you must — and in America, unfortunately, if you can’t at least fake that, you might as well not run — but less is more, in my book. Be intelligent. Be articulate. Be thoughtful. Be civil. Be a grownup. Make sense when you speak. Have an understanding of the issues, and coherent positions on them that coincide, at least roughly, with my own. Show some signs of being curious about things, about wanting to learn, rather than just wanting to talk a lot and be a Big Shot. Show me that you can make decisions when you have to, and that you are willing to take responsibility for your decisions once made. Be someone that I could imagine as President of the United States without groaning or snickering. Be realistic. Be real.

Nothing to it, right? We’ll just have to see. Last time we ended up with Kerry vs. Bush, and it was all I could do not to swallow poison.

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3 Comments

  1. the one eyed man says

    I wish you would stop picking on Mormons, considering that I am half Jewish and half Mormon. It’s the Church of Latter Day Retailers.

    Posted January 2, 2008 at 7:33 pm | Permalink
  2. Malcolm says

    Well, I know both of your parents pretty well, and I’m scratching my head a bit trying to figure out which one of them is the Mormon.

    I wonder how many Jewish-Mormon marriages there actually are, if any. It seems like a particularly unlikely combination, right up there with Jewish-Taliban.

    Posted January 2, 2008 at 7:39 pm | Permalink
  3. the one eyed man says

    I suppose that at a Jewish/Taliban wedding, it’s easy to tell who is with the bride’s family and who is with the groom’s family.

    Posted January 2, 2008 at 8:08 pm | Permalink