Religion

The Audacity of Agnosticism

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Over at The American Spectator, Sean Higgins argues that Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) is an agnostic. He notes that in his memoir, Obama pointedly says he did not have a religious epiphany at the moment he became a member of Rev. Jeremiah Wright's congregation; additionally, Obama was raised to view religion as a cultural thing, rather than a source revealed truth. Higgins closes with this: 

His Republican opponent [for a Senate seat in Illinois] was the bombastic, erratic and quite possibly insane black conservative Alan Keyes. Obama crushed him in the general election, but says it was harder than it looked.

"[A]s the campaign progressed, I found him getting under my skin in a way that very few people have. When our paths crossed during the campaign, I often had to suppress the rather uncharitable urge to either taunt him or wring his neck," Obama writes.

How did Keyes do this? By questioning Obama's Christian faith.

"Christ could not vote for Barack Obama," Mr. Keyes once said, "because Barack Obama has voted…in a way that it is inconceivable for Christ to have behaved."

It touched a nerve in Obama and he was by his own account tongued-tied, irritable and tense during their debates. Keyes prodded Obama on the question of biblical literalism.

How could Obama believe the Bible's proclamation that life was sacred and yet support abortion rights, Keyes would ask? Obama gave "the usual liberal response" about separation of church and state.

"[Y]et even as I answered, I was mindful of Mr. Keyes's implicit accusation—that I remained steeped in doubt, that my faith was adulterated, that I was not a true Christian," Obama complains.

Well, it wouldn't have annoyed him that much if Keyes wasn't onto something.

Whole thing here.

I'm not convinced the "real" Christians can't be pro-choice, but I do think Obama's candidacy is forcing a discussion of the intersection of religion and politics that is very interesting and relevant to figuring out how pols govern.

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  1. Obama crushed him in the general election, but says it was harder than it looked.

    No it wasn’t. Once Ryan’s custody hearing papers were given to the media the race was over. Keyes was an afterthought.

  2. More like the audacity of opportunism and making connections.

  3. Well, it wouldn’t have annoyed him that much if Keyes wasn’t onto something.

    So, if I tell Sean Higgins’ boss that Sean has been raping children, when he sputters an angry denial to said boss to defend his job I can say “you wouldn’t be so annoyed if I wasn’t on to something!”

  4. But often we are told that we should not use a person’s religion as a piece of evidence by which to judge their character, because for many people religion is a cultural thing and not a set of ideas they have calculated as their own, and often reflects an inherited belief and not something chosen in a moment of insight.

    Is this author saying that’s not true, and that this does not apply to “real” religious people?

  5. “Christ could not vote for Barack Obama,”

    The appropriate response to this statement would be to jab (a la stooge “Moe”) two fingers into Keye’s rapidly counter-rotating eyeballs.

  6. The fact that, IIRC even TallDave voted for Obama tells me what he stated is absolutely correct.

    Thats the reason I thought Obama was a lightweight who would melt in a real race under real scrutiny. I was horribly wrong.

    Beating the Clintons is very very impressive.

  7. “Christ could not vote for Barack Obama,”

    Duh. Jesus wasn’t an American, despite what you may have heard.

  8. Christ never talked about abortion, but He did condemn the death penalty with utter certainty. And it’s interesting how most of these so-called “Christians” have no problem with capital punishment, and have no problem with violating many other tenets of Christ.

    As Nietzsche said, the one true Christian died on the Cross.

  9. The one class of people that I must admit I reserve irrational hatred for is Agnostics. I call them “the faithless”; fuckers can’t leap into life one way or the other (Kierkegaard style) ain’t got no reason to live.

    (Am I kidding? What do you think.)

    On the other hand, the only person who can really know the fundamental religious persuasion of a person is that person himself. If Obama says he’s a Christian, I believe him (ditto Clinton, McCain, etc.). If he isn’t in his heart, that’s between him, possibly his pastor, and whatever imaginary God there is.

  10. for many people religion is a cultural thing and not a set of ideas they have calculated as their own

    *dream sequence*

    “Good evening. Thank you all for coming tonight, and for supporting my candidacy. I understand some of you have been hearing some… disconcerting things about me, recently. My opponent’s Noise Machine has been spreading crude, vicious, rumors about me again.

    “I’m going to tell you the truth, tonight; I was, for a time, a member of a Satanic cult. And I have to say, the whole “human sacrifice” aspect is totally overblown.

    “But I never really believed a lot of that stuff; I was really only seeking a feeling of community, and to establish a social network in the Santa Cruz business community. And- I’ll tell you something else- those Death cultist chicks are totally uninhibited, if you know what I mean.

    “So, let’s keep our focus on the future, and with your help, I can make this country a better place for Beelzebub.”

  11. Colin,

    The N-word again?

  12. <threadjack>

    How big a drink does this call for?

    </threadjack>

  13. The N-word again?

    Thus spoke Zarathustra.

  14. If anything Obama’s response shows a general Liberal angst and ambivalence about religion. Many of them want to wrap themselves in the mantle of “faith” (either real or affected) but find the trappings that go along with it highly distasteful. Whatever intellectual arguments one may have with religion, or particular religions, I think there is often an intensely aesthetic component to the positions one holds. I read the comments here on H&R, and very often they are as much about the aesthetics as the substance, even when the writers claim to be dealing with the substance.

    I am religious myself but intensely dislike American Evangelical protestantism because I find it gauche and crass, even when I might agree with some of their practical positions on issues. This dislike of the trappings probably leads me to reject some of their positions for no other reason than that I simply don’t like the practitioners.

    Obama is expressing the question of “what if they’re really right and their religion, which I find so crude and unappealing, really is right? What if being a true Christian means I have to act like the kind of people I find distasteful?” I agree that it shows a lack of conviction, but it is understandable given the absolute failure of the Left to articulate a contrary view of religion that is more aesthetically appealing.

  15. What Shem said. That’s such a BS myth that if someone gets mad at being accused of something then the accusation must have something to it.

  16. fyodor,

    I blame Han solo for that meme.

    “I must have hit her pretty close to the mark to get her all riled up like that, huh, kid?”

  17. How big a drink does this call for?

    Dude, the Rockwellians are mad about me, too?

    Despite the claims of the holier than thou crowd, all human beings harbor some prejudices. These include elitism, yokelism (see comments by Ayn_Randian on the Hit & Run blog to see what I mean)

    Bwa ha ha…yes, I am prejudiced against the black-helicopter, “fleet-footed thieving blacks” crowd. Too damn bad. Yokeltarianism is full of FAIL.

    I think this article calls for a three-martini lunch!

  18. see comments by Ayn_Randian on the Hit & Run blog

    Where’s my reference? What, A_R is a bigger jerk than me?

  19. AR Lew has a vendetta against you now! Cool!

    Were any other commenters referenced?

  20. Well, it wouldn’t have annoyed him that much if Keyes wasn’t onto something.

    Uh, yeah, devout believers never get annoyed when people say their faith is phony.

    Sort of like how patriotic people don’t get annoyed when people say they hate their country, or how faithful spouses don’t take offense if they’re accused of cheating.

    What is this guy, eight years old? “LOL, I touched a nerve, didn’t I LOL!”

  21. Colin,

    When did Christ “condemn the death penalty with utter certainty?” Granted, Jesus was pacifistic, but He never seemed to have a problem with civil authorities carrying out the law justly.

  22. Hey joe, congratulations.

    Your party isn’t owned by a slime bag pander bear.

  23. Cesar,

    That’s very gracious, but not exactly correct.

    Hillary DOES own the party.

    We’re just not real big on property rights.

    😉

  24. joe,

    You’re only the fourth one to make that point.

  25. Son of a BITCH!

    They single out a commenter to show how non-libertarian this site is, and it’s Ayn Randian?

    WTF?

    >:-0

    Jerks.

  26. “The N-word again?”

    Of course the N-word was discussed by the H-word, who definitely influenced the S-word, as did the R(or M)-word, and the writings of the S-word definitely influenced Keyes. So even if the N-word was stricken from this line of thought, which it should, we should really be questioning if Keyes is an atheist as well. Pushing religion is not the same as believing in it.

  27. Of course, the whole point is missed by the Rockwellians: yes, we all harbor prejudices…but “Racism is the lowest and ugliest form of collectivism.”

    The fact that I keep beating the drum about this is that they seem to think that it’s OK to “think how you want, provided that viewpoint doesn’t become law”. Missing in that is that popularizing racist viewpoints will inevitably lead to collectivism.

  28. Joe, if the year were 2000 or even 2004 I would’v e been correct. Without the internet providing a fundraising base of millions of small donors he wouldn’t have gotten the cash he did.

    BTW, I knew it was over when one of the local political blogs I read (Not Larry Sabato) declared Obama to be the nominee despite the fact the guy who runs it has been a hysterical shill for Hillary since fall 2006. If he says its over, its really over.

  29. They single out a commenter to show how non-libertarian this site is, and it’s Ayn Randian?

    What can I say, joe? Internecine battles always seem to get libertarian blood up more than just some guy we all know is statist already… 😀

    I presume I was singled out so the Rockwellian/Randian squabble can proceed apace.

  30. Congratulations, Ayn_Randian, I envy your notoriety!

    But now the question has to be asked, why do you hate yokels????

    Although that said, “yokel” may be an implicitly pejorative term, in which case one might be somewhat obliged to harbor yokelism. Hmmmm….

  31. Jesus, what a whiner over there at LRC.

  32. Some folk’ll never eat a skunk, but then again, some folk’ll…

  33. If you have yokelism in your heart…let it out!

    YOKEL POWER!

    But now the question has to be asked, why do you hate yokels????

    Pop over to the comments of any “paleo” blog and it’s nothing but them dancing on the line of White Power Fundie talk:

    “Everyone KNOWS that libertarians are overwhelmingly Christian white males…so why is reason so concerned with homosexual sex / drug use / etc. etc.??”

    I don’t have time for that crap. Libertarianism is for everybody, and the only way to show people that is to dredge it out of the nativist crap in which it has been so very, very mired.

    Jesus, what a whiner over there at LRC.

    For reals. He should put his big-boy pants on…reminds of college students who whine about “bias and indoctrination”. Man up already.

  34. AR,

    Now go write a whole bunch of comments on Rockwell’s blog.

    Because, apparently, the comments that strangers write on your blog are a very reliable way to figure out the philosophy of the blogger. Or something.

    Cesar,

    I don’t know if the outcome would have been different in 2000 or 2004, but it is certainly true that the internet has changed the game.

  35. We ejukated yokels prefer the term “hillwilliam”.

  36. I just love a good yokeltard rant…

  37. Because, apparently, the comments that strangers write on your blog are a very reliable way to figure out the philosophy of the blogger. Or something.

    Yeah, I didn’t get that either. Obviously the kid doesn’t remember what it was like around here in say, 2002-2003…the Hit&Run comments of that era make Alan Keyes look sane.

  38. I blame Han solo for that meme.

    LOL, Mo, but I think it goes back a little further than that!

    I believe I read in any early Herman Hesse book something like, “You can only hate what you see in yourself.” Hesse was heavily influenced by Freud, and this may have been an interpretation of Freud’s “projection” thing. I don’t doubt that there’s a special kind of anger or angst stirred up by an accusation that you know or sense contains some truth; still, it rather contradicts common sense to think that’s the only reason an accusation can elicit a strong or negative reaction!

    But to mix the threads of thought on this thread, obviously the only reason Ayn_Randian is bothering to defend himself is that he knows in his heart that he really is a yokelist!!!

    Oh, and in case it wasn’t clear before: 🙂

  39. AR, it was really that bad? I’ve been lurking since 2004, started posting in ’06 and its always been true to me that even the trolls on here are better than the serious posters on 95% of political blogs.

  40. I think it’s interesting that our Rockwellian friend accuses Reason of caring too much about statements of racialism, and of betraying the “first principle” of libertarianism. Because personally, I’d say the first principal of libertarianism is individualism, which ought to pre-empt racialist statements of the sort they’re referring to.

  41. Cesar,

    There were Iraq and WOT-related flame wars that make yesterday’s joe vs. Montag battle look like a Care Bears tea party.

  42. I don’t really believe what the yokels believe. But damn, a couch on your front porch is a comfortable place to sip a Pabst on a summer night.

  43. AR, it was really that bad?

    Oh yes…it was the Wild West over here.

    I thought it was laughable that he would moan about reason “featuring” so-called “statists and anti-libertarians” when LRC still has (in their archives) the writings of Gary North…advocate of stoning homosexuals and Christian Reconstructionism.

    See more here.

    But damn, a couch on your front porch is a comfortable place to sip a Pabst on a summer night.

    Splitter! Everyone knows that REAL libertarians take a fine glass of Pinot Noir on the verandah 😀

  44. Let me see if I can get noticed by Lew, too:

    Hey Lew! The Confederacy was a criminal, conspiratorial and illegitimate regime that waged war against the people of the United States while enslaving a third of its own people.

  45. How big a drink does this call for?

    Actually, that’s a thread WINNER!

  46. But damn, a couch on your front porch is a comfortable place to sip a Pabst on a summer night.

    Splitter! Everyone knows that REAL libertarians take a fine glass of Pinot Noir on the verandah 😀

    Fricken hilarious! But oh man, do I really have to choose????

  47. Yokeltards like Lew Rockwell and Pon Raul are the reason that most people don’t take libertarians and libertarianism seriously.

    Seriously arguing the Cornfederate case is beyond reprehensible, yet it is cute in a quaint, racist grandfather sort of way.

  48. Congratulations, Ayn Randian! Given the purity, clarity, strength and carrying power of your voice, it surprises me not one bit that the Rockwellians should single you out as a shining example of yodelism. Yodel lady yodel lady hoooo.

    Why is everybody looking at me like that? Stupid yokel rubes.

  49. Actually, Drew, Ron Paul has been taken way more seriously by people outside libertarian circles than any libertarian since before Hospers ran in 1972.

    The real reason nobody takes libertarians seriously is because for the most part we are the lunatic fringe in a culture that loves the center.

  50. But damn, a couch on your front porch is a comfortable place to sip a Pabst on a summer night.

    Splitter! Everyone knows that REAL libertarians take a fine glass of Pinot Noir on the verandah 😀

    Liberals drink our sangria on the front porch, because that’s how the authentic Puerto-spanics do it. We know, because the pool guy at Club Med told us when we asked him if he could score some weed for us.

  51. Christ never talked about abortion, but He did condemn the death penalty with utter certainty.

    Uh, Colin, I may not be the best bible scholar, but I don’t recall any place where he condemned the death penalty, much less “with utter certainty.” You want to cite us chapter and verse on that? Or was that in the Gospel According to Fred or some other of the gnostic gospels?

  52. Seamus-The whole “turn the other cheek (and not just when it’s convenient, always)” thing, combined with the “let he who is without sin cast the first stone” thing can be read as pretty strongly worded condemnations of the death penalty. Even if they didn’t, I have to think that getting executed by the state would color one’s opinion regarding the practice, at least a little.

  53. I guess Weigel is going to replace prog with country, now that Dwight Yokel is in the house.

  54. Shem,

    Seems to me the death penalty would be un-Christian since it denies someone any chance for redemption. But that said, the two quotes you cite could just as easily be interpreted as being counter to any form of punishment whatsoever. So unless one were to go there, one could hardly say they condemn the death penalty per se. And just because JC was unjustly subjected to it doesn’t mean it’s unjust for anyone.

    FWIW, my favorite Christian, Dostoevsky, was against it, even after his conversion to conservatism and rejection of the socialists he hung out with in his early days.

  55. I’m staying agnostic until I get first hand data about the afterlife.

  56. Actually, Drew, Ron Paul has been taken way more seriously by people outside libertarian circles than any libertarian since before Hospers ran in 1972.

    That’s not saying much for libertarians. I’d like to think that Milton Friedman was taken much more seriously than any other libertarian.

  57. fyodor-One can argue that death is a pretty big counter to the chance at redemption as well, but God still allows it to happen. Which suggests that either we all get a make-up test after we die or God really doesn’t mind the idea of not everyone having a chance at redemption.

    I was actually thinking that going through it would make JC wary of letting anyone else feel it. Since the laws of the religion are based on what he said, if he made an announcement that it shouldn’t happen, it wouldn’t.

    As for the quotes suggesting against any punishment at all, yes, as a matter of fact, they do. One of the more inconvenient aspects of Christianity, both from the “societal” and “winning converts of practical people” points-of-view, is the fact that Christ seemed to teach that Christians should believe and act as if punishment was God’s alone to mete out. Government was for pagans; tuning out and living for God was the proper attitude for Christians. It wasn’t until people realized that Jesus wasn’t coming back within a few decades that this attitude began to change.

  58. As for the quotes suggesting against any punishment at all, yes, as a matter of fact, they do. One of the more inconvenient aspects of Christianity, both from the “societal” and “winning converts of practical people” points-of-view, is the fact that Christ seemed to teach that Christians should believe and act as if punishment was God’s alone to mete out.

    Probably so. Radical dude! No wonder no one takes him literally except where it’s convenient to do so!

  59. Congrats, Randian! You join Gillespie, Sanchez, Weigel, Welch, and many others on the List Of Reasons Why Reason Is Going To Hell In A Handbasket.

  60. PC,

    OK, the S-word is Leo Strauss, everyone knows that, what about the others?

  61. Here’s an article on Jesus and capital punishment, for what it’s worth. The writer concludes that “There is no way the NT [New Testament] can be used to justify the abolition of the death penalty. How it should be applied and it what circumstances is another question”.

  62. Ayn_Randian wrote:

    smacky wrote:

    You can’t generalize all women as baby-makers just because some women choose to have children.

    I’m not; business [sic] are, and I don’t blame them for doing so. You can be disappointed in the societal expectations that a lot of women choose to accept; but equivocating the choice women make not to be as career-oriented as men to calling a woman “cunt” and “bitch” at work is not an expression of truth to the situation.

    Sorry, Ayn_Randian, but you’re still not going to receive the Egalitarian of the Year Award from me.

  63. Isn’t this just evangelical bigotry? I’m not Christian, but it seems to me that a basic tenet of the faith is that nobody lives up to it, nobody has perfect faith. Even St. Peter denied the man within hours of his crucifixion.

    Personally, I think Obama’s reaction was perfectly healthy — aren’t we all tempted by thoughts of taunting or wringing Alan Keyes?

  64. Footnote: [This quote from Ayn_Randian was offered as a justification on the topic of gender pay discrimination]

  65. Christ seemed to teach that Christians should believe and act as if punishment was God’s alone to mete out. Government was for pagans; tuning out and living for God was the proper attitude for Christians.

    The two aren’t mutually exclusive. What about the whole “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and unto God what is God’s” thing?

  66. Some folk’ll never lose a toe, but then again, some folk’ll…

  67. What about the whole “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and unto God what is God’s” thing?

    The other famous example is “Slaves, obey your masters.”

    Neither of those statements are an endorsement of taxation or slavery. They are instructions for people living under a certain set of political conditions to go along to get along politically, and concentrate on other things.

  68. “Over at The American Spectator, Sean Higgins argues that…”

    Oh really? And what does Tex Marrs have to say about it, while we’re busy surveying the output of inane nitwits?

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