An atheist president? 270

Michael Medved opines that an atheist president would be bad for the country (, April 9, 2008). He gives three reasons. 

First: He (or she) would be guilty of "hollowness and hypocrisy" when state occasions oblige him to swear oaths or pledge allegiance to God or sing patriotic songs that praise God. Not so. For any atheist the god concept is a nullity, a mere syllable of sound. When an atheist swears an oath by or on anything, with whatever form of words, as long as he says he intends to tell the truth and tells it, he is in no way being hypocritical.  The form of the sworn oath is irrelevant to the intention of speaking the truth and to the understanding that breaking the oath is punishable by law. If tradition or convention requires a legally binding oath to be of the form:  "By hocus, by pocus, by holy smokus, I shall not lie",  then  that is the oath that an atheist may honestly swear. A conservative atheist values tradition. Many old forms are worth clinging on to for the sake of continuity and affection for old ways.

          Similarly, the Pledge of Allegiance  may be sworn by an atheist even though it contains the words "under God".  Again, as the word "God" is a nullity to an atheist, he cannot be offended by its mere presence in public oaths and pledges. Activist atheists schooled in the militant civil rights ethos of victimhood may pretend to take offense for political purposes, but that is expedient hypocrisy. Very often a reference to God is a way of expressing humility. "One nation under God" expresses the equality of the government and the governed by pointing to a higher authority (whatever it may be) above them both. It is essentially the idea of the rule of law.

           As atheist conservatives appreciate the formal traditions that pass down through the generations and which provide a sense of continuity with the past,  they can and almost certainly do respect old-fashioned customs of piety as part of our civic institutions and because they recall our history to us. How sad that "sensitivity" (that is to say, political correctness) prevents a rousing traditional hollering of "Onward Christian Soldiers" in times of war.  What a tragic loss it is that the Bible is not taught in schools. It is among the greatest of literary works, especially, among its translations, the King James version.  It contains beautiful poetry, much wisdom, some history, memorable tales, and it preserves myths which are milestones in the ever-unfolding drama of human thought.  It is extremely important in the culture of the West which is soaked in the Judeo-Christian inheritance.

Second: "Disconnecting from the People". Because the US is a religious society,  a leader who "touts his non-belief will give the impression that he looks down on the people who elected him". A weird argument.  Why should an atheist necessarily be so arrogant? One might suspect that deep down Medved himself thinks or fears that the atheist position is intellectually superior.

Third: "Winning the War on Islamo-Nazism".  Medved thinks one must have another faith – Christianity or Judaism? – to defeat aggression carried out in the name of Islam. My answer to this is that one cannot fight one irrationality with another irrationality. It is the pointless clash of virtual swords.  Fight the jihadists with real weapons until they are defeated.

           Medved believes that only a believing president can show "sympathy, not hostility, to the generalized value of faith".  Any faith? Would he extend his argument to include sects that practice human sacrifice? No, of course not. There is no such value.  A preference for rationality is a value, and a presidential candidate who demonstrated that he held it would get my vote.


By C. Gee


Posted under Uncategorized by Jillian Becker on Friday, May 16, 2008

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