Kerry Won the Atheist Vote. Should he be Ashamed?
Paul Kengor tackles that question over at BreakPoint:
While liberals complain about the religious vote that went for George W. Bush, they refuse to discuss—and perhaps happily accept—the non-religious vote that went for John F. Kerry. Which ought to be considered a greater liability for an American president: to receive the overwhelming support of devout Protestants and Catholics or to be backed by atheists? Which speaks worse? Don’t we have this backward?
Since Kengor is about to repeat the standard complaint that arrogant Northeast elites are contemptuous of red state religious folk, we shouldn't let slip his casual implication that having the support of atheists reflects badly on your character.
Fundamentalist Christians believe that they know for certain how to get to heaven, and where God stands on a variety of moral and social issues. They believe that people who think otherwise are, at best, the innocent dupes of Satan. At worst they are actively in league with him. This is not an exaggeration. Listen to their sermons and read their books if you think it is. There is no group in America more contemptuous of those who disagree with them. Remember that Bush was the one who thought it was just fine to make a campaign issue out of the fact that Kerry was from Massachusetts. To paraphrase Richard Dawkins, liberals are amateurs at arrogance.
We’re hearing plenty about President Bush’s huge advantage in the 2004 election from evangelicals, and (less so) about the extremely significant fact that Catholics who attend Mass weekly voted for Bush by 55% to 44%, which is a startling religious rejection of John Kerry, a Catholic. Yet, the one aspect of the November 2 vote that is being completely ignored is the behavior not of the most devout but the least devout.
The assumption here seems to be that Catholic voters should naturally want to vote for other Catholics. And upon what, exactly, does Kengor base his assertion that Kerry's loss of the Catholic vote represents a religious rejection of John Kerry. Perhaps Catholic voters, for whatever reason, thought Bush was better able to handle issues like Iraq or terrorism. That seems likely, in fact. They may have liked Kerry's faith just fine, but may have also believed that a candidate doesn't earn their vote simply by practicing their religion. What a thought!
After citing some exit poll data about where the atheist vote went, Kengor writes:
In other words, religious voters who won the day for George W. Bush in the 2004 presidential contest were countered by non-religious Americans who tried to win the day for John F. Kerry.
The agnostic/atheist vote was even larger in states where Kerry got the most ballots. In California, 24% of voters, almost one in four, said they never attend church, and they went for Kerry 63% to 34%. In New York , those who claimed no religion at all voted for Kerry by 78% to 19%. These eager atheists comprised 12% of New York voters, and they offset those Catholics in New York who favored Bush by 51% to 48%.
So, atheists were most prominent in the two bluest states. Hollywood and Manhattan made their presence known.
More casual stereotyping of hated geographic regions - Hollywood and Manhattan in this case.
Later he writes:
Liberals will maintain that Karl Rove revved up the religious vote for Bush. What they don’t want to realize is that they drove religious voters to Bush. Among the reasons were their relentless attacks on Bush’s faith. America recognizes that George W. Bush is not unusual religiously speaking, either by contemporary or historical standards. When Frank Rich and Maureen Dowd hammer Bush unceasingly on his faith, they merely preach to the choir, and unwittingly inform devout people of who is not on their side (and why they shouldn’t bother with the New York Times). The Democratic Party is paying a price by kowtowing to the liberal wing’s fear of faith, embrace of moral relativism, and support of abortion on demand.
First of all, no one, not Maureen Dowd, not Frank Rich, no one, hammers Bush on his faith. The hammering comes when Bush suggests that major policy decisions were made based on his perception of God's will, and not on any sober consideration of the facts. When Bush's advisors make snide remarks about the “reality-based community,” that's when you can expect thoughtful blue-staters to protest. If part of being devout is a belief that the government should be used as an instrument for promoting your religious beliefs, then devout people are quite right to view liberals as their enemies. But if being devout means taking the whole Bible seriously, and not just the parts about homosexuals or the parts that can be twisted to imply something about abortion, then the Democrats have plenty to offer religious voters.
Liberals have no fear of faith, but they do have a fear of mixing religion and government. As for morality, liberals believe that moral assertions must be backed up by something more substantive than a blinkered interpretation of the Bible. Since many fundamentalist beliefs can only be backed up in this way, Kengor naturally sees this as a threat. As for abortion on demand, I suspect that most liberals believe that abortion should be legal in many cases, but that some restrictions are legitimate as well. I've not seen any polling data on this however.
The fact, however, is that liberal Democrats will do neither, because they can’t resist. They are who they are, and they are contemptuous of those religious “morals” voters who beat them on November 2, who they view as stupid. That is a crass caricature born of willful ignorance, of not interacting with moderate to conservative Christians, of not visiting their websites and reading their publications—of never pausing to accurately inform themselves of those they ridicule.
Kengor believes that liberals cling to certain stereotypes about conservative Christians. He replies with a slew of vicious slurs and caricatures of his own. Lovely.
Speaking for myself, I have spent a ludicrous amount of time over the last four years reading conservative Christian books and websites, and attending their conferences. My view of the sort of Christianity that seems to hold sway over so much of the South and Midwest has gone way down as a result. Before moving to Kansas in 2000, I tended to view Protestant fundamentalism as an abstraction. But after reading the work of people like Hank Hanegraaf, D. James Kennedy, Norman Geisler, Tim LeHaye, James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Phillip Johnson, William Dembski and countless others, all of whom enjoy wide popularity in Evangelical circles, I can only conclude that their form of Christianity is based entirely on hatred towards perceived enemies. Their arguments are tissue-paper thin, but they are held with such certitude and expressed with such venom that there is no hope of convincing them of that.
There are no stereotypes in the world more vicious than those held by conservative Christians of anyone who dissents from their view of life.