Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Get G.O.D. out of the G.O.P.

By Hannah Sparks

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A friend of mine recently “came out” as an atheist to her mother, who dismissed her daughter’s beliefs (or lack thereof) as “just a phase,” like sporting pink hair or black nail polish. Another friend of mine struggles to hide her atheism from her staunchly Catholic family.

Courtesy FlickrFan/Flickr

These two incidents are in no way isolated. In our increasingly tolerant world, atheism is still a taboo. Atheists are distrusted and even disliked in some cases. Those in the public eye are often accused of having the inability to make moral decisions, as they have no beliefs on which to base their morality. To not believe in anything is, to most Americans, not only strange but also unacceptable and threatening.

The results of the 2011 American Values Survey show that two-thirds of Americans would feel uncomfortable with an atheist president. To offer a comparison, two-thirds of Americans would vote for a gay or lesbian candidate, and a third would vote for a Muslim candidate. That the American public is far more comfortable electing a Muslim or homosexual candidate than an atheist is striking, given the diverse and oftentimes controversial views held by many Americans regarding those groups.

While Christian values have long informed conservative beliefs, they have become a focus since the Tea Party came to power in the Republican Party in 2009. This has been made clear in the current race for the GOP nomination. Frontrunner Mitt Romney and recent dropout Jon Huntsman are both Mormon; Rick Santorum’s views are informed chiefly by his very conservative Catholic beliefs; previous contenders Michelle Bachmann and Rick Perry claimed that divine intervention inspired their ultimately unsuccessful bids.

Of all the candidates, Santorum is the most open about his religious views, and thus the most criticized and mocked by both opponents and the press. He is prominently and aggressively anti-gay rights and has made numerous inflammatory comments comparing gay relationships to polygamy and bestiality. Such remarks have led to the famous repurposing of his name by gay rights advocate and columnist Dan Savage. Santorum has also questioned long-held assumptions regarding women’s rights to birth control, saying that it harms both women and society. The scary part of all of this, for those who do not subscribe to conservative Christian beliefs, is the fact that while the GOP race is still anyone’s game, Santorum is very much in it.

The religious undertones of the GOP race rest upon the erroneous assumption that Christian values and American values are now and have always been synonymous. Christian values, however, are not as inherent to American politics as many Americans might think. The First Amendment of the Constitution maintains freedom of religion, and the Establishment Clause calls for the complete separation of church and state, disallowing the declaration of an official religion. Familiar monikers like “In God We Trust” and “One Nation, Under God” only appeared in the American consciousness in the 1950s. Stereotypical Christian, American values did not even exist before United States became a superpower after World War Two.

The “Leave it to Beaver” conformity of the 1950s called for a unified American identity that was wholesome, white, middle-class and Christian. A lot has changed since the 1950s, and as the primacy of the United States on the international scene is in question, we should not look for answers in antiquated values. Some prosperous, albeit not internationally dominant, nations in Europe such as Sweden, Denmark, and France regularly make it on to lists of least religious countries. I do not mean to conflate secularity with success, but with politics as turbulent as they are, removing religion from the equation would free up space for more meaningful arguments regarding pressing economic and environmental concerns.

To use a ubiquitous idiom, “legislating morality” is just not practical in times when there are more important issues on the table, such as economic disparity and high unemployment.

Extremely conservative beliefs, such as those that target minorities and seek to take away rights and entitlements already granted, do not address the true problems facing this country, such as lack of government efficacy and high unemployment. I do not advocate a wholly secular future but I do support a turn from the exclusionary religious rhetoric of current conservative politics to more pragmatic views that better suit the modern world.

Hannah Sparks is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected]

22 Comments

22 Responses to “Get G.O.D. out of the G.O.P.”

  1. Bill Hale on January 27th, 2012 1:43 pm

    “removing religion from the equation would free up space for more meaningful arguments regarding pressing economic and environmental concerns.”
    =====
    Another liberal using the media to attack religion. And a naive attack at that.

    To suggest that “removing religion” from who a person is while they are governing is like asking Tim Tebow to kindly leave his faith at the locker room door..”Sorry Tim, no God allowed in football.”

    Liberals like this dream of a world where people of strong faith secretly express their faith behind closed doors or in basements, like those in North Korea and China who have to meet underground to avoid persecution from the State.

    It continues to be amazing, and somewhat sad, that the today’s liberals chant tolerance out of one side of their mouth, until they don’t agree with it.

    My suggestion to this writer – if you don’t like a politicians view on faith, or their favorite color, or flavor of ice cream, or what kind of car they drive, or what kind of music they listen to – turn off the channel, and vote for someone else. But to “remove religion” because it makes you uncomfortable is the exact opposite of the founding principles of this nation.

  2. William Welch on January 27th, 2012 5:11 pm

    Great article. You are spot on perfect! Keep it up.

  3. Hannah Sparks on January 29th, 2012 3:50 pm

    Your interpretation was naïve, not my article. You completely miss my point. This liberal would like to direct you to the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, one of the actual founding principles of this nation. It states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Religion has no place in politics, simple as that.

  4. Brandon on January 29th, 2012 4:57 pm

    I don’t think the author is asking politicians not to be religious, or to practice their faith in secret but simply to encourage effective governance without being dominated by religious motivation. Rick Perry and Michelle Bachmann are two such examples. Both of these former candidates have expressed such a deep religious conservatism that one truly questions whether they would have planned to introduce a theocracy. Frightening. I mean, seriously, have you even heard some of Bachmann’s former recordings on her “moral” convictions founded on biblical radicalism? Praising an anti-gay ministry and ushering “the Lord” to return to the land. Whoa, really? This is someone you want in office? With material like that, I question Bachmann’s mental stability and her competence to handle foreign and internal affairs that will be in the best interest for the American people and not for her religion. Not to mention, stunts like bashing homosexuality devalues human rights and equality. This is the sort of content that the author is referencing, when religious conviction is coupled with governance and instituting policy.

    Now, my question to you is would you want other professions to be dominated by a similar virulent strain of religious “enthusiasm?” As an example, would you like difficult decisions involving the welfare of your life in a hospital to be informed by religious zeal and superstition, or tested and supported practices? It sounds crazy to even ask, right? Yet some individuals choose the cuckoo-cuckoo route and end up with a Darwin award. Likewise, I would certainly like (and expect) that if a leader of this country is thrown into making a very difficult choice that will somehow effect the people in this country, that the individual making the choice is informed by logic and reason and not some nonsense about biblical justice or prophecy.

    But unfortunately, I’m just one man. All I can do is vote and hope that the stupidity of the American people is not as great as the stupidity of some interesting candidates. This country will soon have two monuments showcasing religious stupidity (Creationism museum, haha what? and soon to be Creationism theme park). We certainly don’t need an additional mistake of electing someone that sympathizes and actively endorses fundamentalist beliefs. This is….2012?

  5. Akira on January 29th, 2012 6:33 pm

    Religion should have no place in Politics, I feel there is a theocratic movement within the GOP that seeks to make the United States into a Christian dictatorship, that would persecute athiests and non christians, and homosexuals based on Bibical morals and views. this view may not be the view of most republicans, but it might be how many right wing christian conservatives thinks.Since in some states Christian Creationists are trying to take over the education systems, to force religious vies on School children and brainwash them against science and reason.The less religion in the government, the better our society will be. After all if a christian government in europe had never existed in the middle ages and repressed science, we would be far more technologically advanced society now. Religious Politicians hold our species back from our true potential.

  6. Empty Suits on January 30th, 2012 2:47 am

    Religion shouldn’t be as pressing into politics, but the author (who I think commented below) proved herself wrong.

    The text:
    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech,

    Hence politicians can speak about it, debate it, etc. Literal interpretation (the kind you must take if you are pro-gun control) means that religion is on the table for discussion, and if that’s what the GOP wants then let them have their cake.

  7. Edan Samson on January 30th, 2012 5:39 pm

    Great article. Spot on. Very clear, concise and unbiased. Represented both sides very well, something you never see from regular media.

  8. Ben on January 31st, 2012 1:19 pm

    “Your interpretation was naïve, not my article. You completely miss my point. This liberal would like to direct you to the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, one of the actual founding principles of this nation. It states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Religion has no place in politics, simple as that.”

    Your interpretation of the Constitution is just plain wrong, and I’m not sure you know what “establishment” means. A politician’s reason for believing whatever they do (whether this stems from religious belief, past experience, or anything) has literally nothing to do with the government imposing a certain religion on people. You are saying that no religious person should be in office because their beliefs come from religion and that is an infringement on the First Amendment (you are 100% wrong here). That’s not what the First Amendment was about at all and that is very clear (or should be). If, however, the politician somehow made it so that he forced people to become his religion (say his prayers, make it the state religion, etc), that would be breaking the First Amendment.

    Talking about your religion in the public sphere and why you believe the things you do is not against the law.

    Please educate yourself before you write articles.

  9. Bill Foster on February 1st, 2012 12:12 pm

    I have to agree with Bill and Ben…on another note, this “journalist” would be better off taking a professional high road, rather than lashing back with a childish and defensive remark such as “Your interpretation was naïve, not my article.”

    Ms. Sparks, if you get offended so easily by responses to your your published works, you may want to consider other avenues of expressing your opinion, such as a personal blog that does not allow commentary. But, as long as you enjoy the fruits of being published in print and on the internet, you need to show more a little more professionalism.

    Look at the comment boards on Boston.com, where it is extremely rare that one of the Globe’s journalists will ever comment on comments. Why? because they already had their say.

  10. Dan Lancaster on February 1st, 2012 12:18 pm

    Hannah Sparks says:
    January 29, 2012 at 3:50 pm
    Your interpretation was naïve, not my article. You completely miss my point. This liberal would like to direct you to the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, one of the actual founding principles of this nation. It states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Religion has no place in politics, simple as that.
    =====
    Hannah:

    You are either misinformed or misguided…the Establishment Clause was intended to prohibit the federal government from establishing a national religion. There is nothing in the Establishment Clause which even suggests that religion or faith has no place in politics.

    I also find it entertaining that while you reference one part of the First Amendment (commonly referred to as the “Establishment Clause”), you conveniently forget the other parts of the First Amendment which give all of us, including politicians, freedom of speech.

  11. Brian on February 5th, 2012 10:31 pm

    As a Christian, what really bothers me is that greedy, immoral, power-hungry Republican bastards never get called out for the fake Christians they are. I mean, come on, does anyone really think that God told Perry or Bachmann to run for president? And do you really think that THEY believed it when they said that? Of course not. They were lying and they knew it. When you have people whose political platform is based on greed, selfishness, giveaways to the rich, bigotry and warmongering, and yet somehow claim that they believe in a God of love and peace, it is obvious they are liars and frauds. Rather than telling them to keep their religion out of their campaigns, you should be calling them out on these lies.

  12. Dan Lancaster on February 6th, 2012 12:02 pm

    @”Brian”…

    Funny, no Christian I know would use the language you did to describe anyone, let alone politicians. My guess is that you are no mare than another plant to write stuff, see if it sticks, and if sticks, yet another jab at Christians.

    As a Christian, perhaps a re-reading of the Bible is in order.

  13. Jason on February 6th, 2012 3:59 pm

    “In God We Trust” was popularized 1860’s, and first appeared on our coins in 1864, and “One Nation, Under God” is from the Gettysburg address, although today we are probably misusing the original meaning of the expression.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m against mixing religion and government, those rights were pushed for by those who suffered religious persecutions by many governments, such as the Baptists. But to claim the country didn’t have a Christian character till the 1950’s shows a real lack of knowledge of U.S. history.

  14. Sam Gross on February 6th, 2012 4:02 pm

    The G.O.P would do better without religion entering the conversation. It allows for easy swipes at someone, and pretty much is an Ad Hominem arguement.
    The thing is that the candidates for presidency will say ANYTHING to get the Christian voting block. They are not religious; they are shells of people filled with a projection of what the Christian voting block is looking for. What do you expect though from a party that is so vain that they care more about making sure Obama loses then the welfare of the country.
    The G.O.P primary was a circus of unqualified candidates. Where are the smart Republicans with doctorates who can run? If my party included Palin and Bachman, I would create a new party.

  15. Ed Cutting on February 8th, 2012 12:28 am

    Hannah — facts matter.

    The First Amendment was NEVER intended to prevent government from having an official church, John Adams was married to a minister’s daughter, don’t ever forget that.

    The Puritan Church, which became the Congregational Church (which then became a left-wing wasteland) was the official taxpayer-supported church of Massachusetts until 1855. The First Amendment (and the Constitution) took effect in 1789, some 66 years earlier. How could this be?

    Simple, the First Amendment was that CONGRESS shall not, and thus John Adams’ Massachusetts got to remain Puritan.
    Virginia got to remain kinda Anglican and the other states (Maryland Catholic, Pennsylvania Quaker, etc) got to remain whatever they wanted to be.

    Amherst once had five Congregational churches — do you know why? In order to become a town in Massachusetts, you had to show that you could (a) build a church, (b) support (financially, via the property tax) a minister and his wife, and (c) had a minister willing to move to your to-be-town.

    North Amherst, East Amherst, South Amherst, they were all going to split off much as Amherst itself split off from Hadley — much as Danvers wanted to split off from Salem which is part of what caused the witch hysteria of 1691-2.

    0h and one other thing — I have met Michelle Bachman, the woman is not stupid.

  16. Anon111 on February 8th, 2012 1:30 pm

    So glad you mention that Ed. ATTENSHUN EVERYONE, because Ed has personally met and verified that Michelle Bachman is not stupid, we can all stop calling her a religious idiot. Sorry Ed, I simply cannot take anyone who believes that a zombie will come back to the land seriously. Having spirituality, fine. Preaching and ushering a zombie to come back to planet Earth…? This is…..2012? Where are your facts now?

  17. Ed Cutting on February 15th, 2012 1:21 am

    A zombie will come back to the land?

    I spent a whole weekend with what could be described as “her” people and there wasn’t one mention of zombies. Not one!

    Now if you happen to be referencing the Second Coming of Christ, not only do I believe that will happen, but over half the country does as well. WELL over half the country if you get outside of the 18-25 year old demographic. And if you put it in the language of the Jews, well they believe he is coming too, they just say it a different way.

    AND B. HUSSAIN OBAMA ALSO BELIEVES IT. As does the Rev. Wright, or at least his theology does.

    Yes, Michelle Obama comes from a part of the country where they take religion seriously — where they quote Biblical verse the way we quote — Oh, Rap music lyrics. But I don’t think she is much into zombies…

  18. Anon111 on February 16th, 2012 11:39 am

    Ed, I don’t have to spend a weekend with Bachman to learn about her conservative religious beliefs from past speeches available on the internet. In one particular speech she 1) praises an anti-gay ministry and 2) ushers the second coming of Christ.
    That’s great that over half the country believes in something that cannot be substantiated. The majority of the the Earth’s occupants once believed the Earth was flat, and that the Earth was the center of the Universe. A staggering amount of the American people also don’t accept evolution, contrary to over a century of rigorous scientific investigation. Just because a majority believes something is true, doesn’t make it true. I would expect that a reasonable human being would express sincere doubt and caution on matters that cannot be physically substantiated.
    I really don’t care that some liberals also happen to believe in a second coming. That doesn’t alter my position.

  19. Bero Karmichael on February 17th, 2012 4:41 pm

    As a life-long Republican (admittedly more sympathizer than voter)I think removing god form the Party conversation is a good notion. I do not wish to see god removed from the nation, not a bit. Only the Party. I think that secularizing the Party could move our nation into a healthy two-party balance. Right now I think Jesus is saving souls but destroying the Party. Also as others have observed, god seems to do really weird things to people’s hair.

  20. Jeremy on February 22nd, 2012 11:23 am

    The “religious right” and it’s relationship with the GOP is fairly new, occurring only after Reagan brought Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and their kind into the party. They are (and were) demagogues, plain and simple, decreeing hate under the guise of God. Do I believe bringing the flock into the party was politically motivated? Absolutely.
    Interesting enough, we go back to JFK, and we see fear disseminated from the republican party regarding Kennedy’s Catholicism. A popular scare tactic involved the idea that if JFK became president, we would become One Country Under the Roman Pope.

  21. knight4444 on July 25th, 2012 5:56 pm

    Michele bachmann sane???????? anybody that believes that I’ve got a bridge in Brooklin I’d like to sell you! The republican party screwed themselves with the southern strategy in the 70’s and now those fake, phony christians are trying to control the gop!!! Oh well I’m just glad the republican party is dying! 37% are over 65 yrs old THANK GOD they’ll be gone soon

  22. knight4444 on July 25th, 2012 5:59 pm

    Dan lancaster you sound foolish! what did Brian say that was so unchristian?? you just didn’t like him telling the truth!! grow up dan!!

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