2/20/2007

The unspoken prejudices

In the ever-prolonged buildup to the 2008 presidential elections, there has been much discussion over whether Americans are "ready" for a female, African-American or Mormon president. A mid-February Gallup poll reveals some surprising trends and, unfortunately, some not so surprising ones.

The poll question was as follows:

"Between now and the 2008 political conventions, there will be discussion about the qualifications of presidential candidates -- their education, age, religion, race, and so on. If your party nominated a generally well-qualified person for president who happened to be [see below], would you vote for that person?"

The following percentages of respondents answered yes when the following words were plugged into this equation:

Catholic: 95%
Black: 94% (!)
Jewish: 92%
A woman: 88% (I was surprised that this was lower than "black")
Hispanic: 87%
Mormon: 72% (Consider that evangelical Christians make up about 25% of the electorate, and this number makes some sense)
Married for the third time: 67% (Uh-oh, Rudy)
Seventy-two years of age: 57% (Big uh-oh, McCain)
A homosexual: 55% (sadly, I'm surprised its even this high)
Atheist: 45% (infuriating but no surprise)

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

Er, atheism is a radically aberrant belief. It's wildly outside the normal range of human notions. It unnerves many and is off-putting to most.

I myself would not be comfortable with an atheist president. In fact, I would never vote for any man who is an avowed non-believer.

--Phil

Jeff Hudecek said...

Why?

From what you've written so far the only reasoning I can deduce is "Well, because they're different."

You'll have to give me something more than that Phil. Unless we start using the same justification to disallow all minorities from taking office.

Jack said...

We'll see. Polls like these are more likely to show that people feel they are not prejudiced to the poll taker, than whether they will actually pull the lever for a candidate.

Jack

Anonymous said...

The president should represent his nation. We are a (Judeo-)Christian nation. Thus the president should be Jewish or Christian. I could imagine accepting a Hindu or Muslim or Buddhist or what have you at some point in the future: at least they have felt the trembling of the divine presence, even if they haven't yet deduced its correct origin.

But an atheist? No. I cannot trust a man who has forgotten his soul to remember always the well-being of his people. He and I are on distinctly different (yes, there's the nasty d-word again) plays fields, and I wish it to remain that way.

When some of us say "God bless America", we truly mean it. I fear that He would no longer bestow his Providence upon us if we were so wicked as to lift one who denied altogether the possibility of His existence to supreme office.

--Phil

Jeff Hudecek said...

What's this nonsense about President's representing their nation? We aren't a nation of old, rich, white men.

Patrick Boyle said...

"I fear that He would no longer bestow his Providence upon us if we were so wicked as to lift one who denied altogether the possibility of His existence to supreme office."

I honestly don't think you believe this and that you're saying it to be contrarian. If you do believe it, you deserve to be laughed at.

Chris said...

In response to Phil's comment, presidents should represent the nation and themselves by their actions. Ethnicity and religious background is not something which should (although, it does) represent this nation. If the president wanted to represent America, he or she would have to be be both sexes, have a plethora of cultural backgrounds, speak several languages, and be, at least partially, an undocumented immigrant. He or she would also meditate, pray or worship at several different churches or temples throughout the week. And also be an atheist or agnostic, too. This is the 21st Century -- who cares what color or sex the president of the united states is. Forget this traditionalist, "thus our president must be Jewish or Christian" rhetoric. Those are just the echoes of a less-than-accepting society which unfortunately is still embedded in the American mind.

The only way it's going to change is if we stop asking, "Are we ready?"

Anonymous said...

"Ethnicity and religious background is not something which should (although, it does) represent this nation."

I don't see why it shouldn't -- at least to a certain extent. People like to know that they are led and represented by men with whom they have share spiritual, ethical, and intellectual ground.

"If the president wanted to represent America, he or she would have to be be both sexes, have a plethora of cultural backgrounds, speak several languages, and be, at least partially, an ndocumented immigrant."

Well, obviously we know two very different Americas.

"Forget this traditionalist, "thus our president must be Jewish or Christian" rhetoric."

Tradition is a good thing. In fact, it's a great thing. It binds us to our heritage and provides a comfortable, familiar, and well-tested vehicle for progressing cautiously into the future. It's one of the most valuable compasses we have.

A quote I like from Michael Oakeshott: "...to prefer the familiar to the unknown, to prefer the tried to the untried, fact to mystery, the actual to the possible, the limited to the unbounded, the near to the distant, the sufficient to the superabundant, the convenient to the perfect, present laughter to utopian bliss."

And, no, Pat. I'm not joking. And you may consider such sentiments absurd, but they were accepted without argument by our founders and, well, most Americans until quite recently.

--Phil

Anonymous said...

"Why is it that, next to the birthday of the Savior of the world, your most joyous and most venerated festival returns on this day [the Fourth of July]?" Is it not that, in the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Savior? That it forms a leading event in the progress of the Gospel dispensation? Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social compact on the foundation of the Redeemer's mission upon earth? That it laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity." --John Quincy Adams

OMG JOHN QUINCY ADAMS WAS A DUMB CHRISTIAN LUNATIC!!

--Phil

Patrick Boyle said...

Phil,

"And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerve in the brain of Jupiter. But may we hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with this artificial scaffolding, and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this most venerated reformer of human errors."

Jefferson was a deist not an atheist, but he was certainly no Christian and would not have passed your religious test.

"I fear that He would no longer bestow his Providence upon us if we were so wicked as to lift one who denied altogether the possibility of His existence to supreme office."

The notion that some creator god will smite our nation or fail to "bless" it if we displease it is a laughable one, simply. It should belong to those who feel that AIDS is god's punishment for sin, not to a thinking college student.

Anonymous said...

: "...to prefer the familiar to the unknown, to prefer the tried to the untried, fact to mystery, the actual to the possible, the limited to the unbounded, the near to the distant, the sufficient to the superabundant, the convenient to the perfect, present laughter to utopian bliss."

This statement, without trying to, makes a pretty solid argument for the folly of religion. "Tried to the untried." Hmm, what would you call scientific method vs. the fantasy of religious doctrine, ala creationism. "Present laughter vs. Utopian bliss." sounds like a perfect metaphor for rational thought vs. belief in the heavens.



MC

Anonymous said...

Jefferson was outside the consensus of the day. He's a difficult case in that sense.

Plus, "deism" was an upper class intellectual cult. Its influence has been exaggerated by modern day secularists to the point that school children are no longer taught the Biblical and theological roots of our Revolution and first and second governments. It's a pity that they learn only one dimension of our history.

And I never said anything about smiting. God needn't send a disease to punish us for ignoring His will. The absence of His grace is tragedy enough.

Plus, godlessness will always have its unintended consequences. Consider how AIDS first exploded in America. It was a direct result of homosexual promiscuity. The bath houses and all that. The plague is no longer exclusive to that community, but it was therein that it initially gained serious momentum.

But see, God didn't "cause" the problem. Mmm? The *absence* of God and the failure to live His word did.

As a final note, it's sad and insulting that you find religion and intelligence so incompatible. Ultimately, it says a lot more about you than me.

Patrick Boyle said...

"As a final note, it's sad and insulting that you find religion and intelligence so incompatible. Ultimately, it says a lot more about you than me."

It's not that I find "religion" and intelligence incompatible. I do, however, find a view of religion which thinks that the invisible creator in the sky will be angry if we tolerate homosexuality and godless legislators to show a lack of intelligent thought.

It's silly and stupid on its face and that's a position I will not apologize for.

Anonymous said...

You're using ridiculous strawmen, Pat.

The Christian god is not "invisible." He doesn't live in the sky.

You're trying to diminish a great faith by making it seem as childish as possible.

--Phil

Patrick Boyle said...

"The Christian god is not "invisible." He doesn't live in the sky."

Then where is he? From where does he dictate human events and punish nonbelievers?

Anonymous said...

He's present everywhere, though I suppose His "dwelling place" is Heaven.

And he doesn't punish nonbelievers. He is all loving and wouldn't hurt one of His children, children made in His image. We hurt ourselves. We are our own worst enemies. By falling away from His grace, we make ourselves suffer. And He doesn't dictate human events, though He has foreknowledge of them.

What is this, anyway, Catechism class?

--Phil

Jeff Hudecek said...

Phil, if the Christian God exists and is real, why hasn't "H"e been omnipresent in writings of human history? Why do other religions exist? Why am I born with no inherant knowledge of such a God? Why have "H"is words been modified over 2,600 times in the past two thousand years alone (versions of the Greek New Testament)? Why does "H"e remain ellusive when so many falsely claim to know "H"is word?

Religion is very clearly an attempt to create a coheasive set of moral values within a culture or structured group. We already have those in the form of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. I'd be as happy with a President who swore his oath to office on that document as I would with a President who swore in on a Bible (any version).

I'm not an Atheist fyi, I'm agnostic. I believe there's something else out there outside of our perception, but we have no idea what it is in our current state, and probably never will.

Patrick Boyle said...

"Religion is very clearly an attempt to create a coheasive set of moral values within a culture or structured group. We already have those in the form of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. I'd be as happy with a President who swore his oath to office on that document as I would with a President who swore in on a Bible (any version)."

While I would argue that the Constitution is a legal document rather than a moral one, I could not agree more with this sentiment.

Anonymous said...

"Phil, if the Christian God exists and is real, why hasn't "H"e been omnipresent in writings of human history? Why do other religions exist?"

Er, as far as I know, He has been reflected throughout history. Humanity has had awareness of the divine since day one.

"Why am I born with no inherant knowledge of such a God?"

I would argue that every human is born with an inclination towards knowing God. And He manifests His grace as we mature.

Now you may disagree with this, but you ultimately have very little proof for the contrary. (Not that my case is rock solid. We're both working on supposition and -- hah -- faith, when it comes to this one, right?)

"Why have "H"is words been modified over 2,600 times in the past two thousand years alone (versions of the Greek New Testament)?"

Well, let's get to the question behind that question. Your query supposes that He would only speak once or twice or what have you. I don't believe that. No Christian believes that. God's presence has not diminished and it never will. He communicates his will through human vessels still. In our human state, it is very difficult for us to understand His word. But we're working on it, and not doing too bad a job, I think.

"Why does "H"e remain ellusive when so many falsely claim to know "H"is word?"

Who falsely claims to know God? Am I supposed to deny that Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Neo-Pagans, whatever have legitimate insight into the divine? Well, I'm not going to.

Again, we are all sinners. In that state -- because of that state -- it is difficult for us to understand God. Cultural variables lead people to Him in different ways. Sure, I think there are degrees of legitimacy, but non-Christians aren't exactly going in the wrong direction.

"Religion is very clearly an attempt to create a coheasive set of moral values within a culture or structured group.

"We already have those in the form of the Constitution and Bill of Rights."

First, those aren't moral documents. Second of all, it was always the presumption of the Founders that Christian virtue would sustain the fundamental weakness of those secular documents.

"God governs in the affairs of man. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured in the Sacred Writings that except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it. I firmly believe this. I also believe that, without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel." --Benjamin Franklin

The Northwest Ordinence talks also makes the link between religion (read: Christianity) and republican governing explicit: "Religion, Morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind..."

It was George Washington who called religion the "necessary spring of popular government." And Adams echoed those sentiments, declaring: "[Statesmen] may speculate for Liberty, but it is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand."

"I believe there's something else out there outside of our perception, but we have no idea what it is in our current state, and probably never will."

That's just hippy-dippy BS, frankly. Like, "I'm spiritual, not religious." A load of feel-good, therapy culture filler if you ask me. If there is "something out there", and that "something" is an intelligent, creative force, why would it not communicate with us? And if you believe that is in fact a mover of any sort, why would He/it/whatever not want to express Himself/itself/whateverself to that which has been moved?

But this grows tedious.

Anonymous said...

The idea of swearing solely on the Constitution is ridiculous. The Constitution is a document concerned with the distribution of powers and rights. It speaks nothing of how to govern. It says nothing about wisdom or justice or righteousness or fairness or goodness. During times of trouble, our leaders have always turned to the Bible for counsel. Why? Because its one of humanity's few enduring texts, and it has sustained dozens of generations. Biblical language is even the framework for much of America's prized rhetoric -- Lincoln's "House Divided" speech, for example, is lifted from Matthew 12:25.

--Phil

Michael Corcoran said...

Jeff writes:

"I'm not an Atheist fyi, I'm agnostic. I believe there's something else out there outside of our perception, but we have no idea what it is in our current state, and probably never will."

I am not sure if you qualify as an agnostic as I understand it. And Agnostic things one cannot know, and may never know if there is a metaphysical or theological entity of some sort. You say you believe there is, you just don't know exactly what it is.

I mean its different from Phil, in the sense that he sees far less ambiguity, although concedes some unknowns.

While I am not an atheist exactly I often self identify as one. But the truth is, I can only base my life on what we know, and what we can support with evidence and logic. I mean I think there is no god. I am almost certain, 99.999 percent that there is no god. (Clearly Phil wouldn't support me for public office)

But I can't say that there is no God absolutely. It is worth noting that I can't disprove of the easter bunny, which I likewise don't believe in. You simply cannot prove a negative.

Richard Dawkins, who I very much admire, sums this up well in The God Delusion: He comes up with seven milestones, if you will, to measure where you are:

1. Strong theist: 100 percent probability of God: "I do not believe, I know"

2. Very High probability but short of 100 percent: "I can not know for certain, but strongly believe in God and live my life on the assumption that he is there."

3. Higher than 50 percent but not very high: technically agnostic, but leaning towards theism

4. Exactly 50 percent: Completely impartial agnostic" God's existence and non-existence are exactly equiprobable.

5. Lower than 50 percent, but not by much: Technically agnostic, but leaning towards atheism.

6. Very low probability, but short of zero De facto Atheist. "I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there."

7. Strong Atheist: "I know there is no God"

I, like Dawkins, rate myself as a 6 but leaning toward a 7. He writes: "I am agnostic only in the same way I am agnostic about fairies at the bottom of the garden" Or the Easter Bunny.

Interesting that he notes "I'd be surprised to see many people in category 7, but I include it for symmetry with category 1, which is well populated."

I think that says something about absolutism.

Anyway, I would be interested in seeing where you guys place yourself on this list. If I had to guess Phil would be close to a one, based on his most recent statements.

Pat I imagine is, like me a 6.9 or so. Jeff, I have no Idea.

Jeff Hudecek said...

Phil,

"That's just hippy-dippy BS, frankly."

Your intolerant hypocrisy is laughable.

"Er, as far as I know, He has been reflected throughout history. Humanity has had awareness of the divine since day one."

You "know" wrong. Show me the Sumerian awareness of the Christian God, the Navajo, the Egyptian, the Ancient Greek, the Ancient Persian, the Japanese, the Hindi, the Chinese, the PAGAN (I could go on).

"I would argue that every human is born with an inclination towards knowing God. And He manifests His grace as we mature.

Now you may disagree with this, but you ultimately have very little proof for the contrary."

Hooray logical fallacy. I can't disprove something exists before you've proven that it does.

"Well, let's get to the question behind that question. Your query supposes that He would only speak once or twice or what have you."

No, it suggests that man is the primary mechanism behind the Bible. I can't convince you of this without you losing your faith, however, so it's an argument we cannot really have.

"Who falsely claims to know God?"

If man A says God is about peace, and that God has told him this, when man B says he is a vessel of the Lord's vengeance, at least one of them must be lying. This occurs today between the violent religious and the humble. What I'm basically talking about is the fact that people who claim to know God often state contradictory messages. Historically, just look at Joseph Smith. Also Bush claims to have heard the voice of God, do you believe him?

"Again, we are all sinners. In that state -- because of that state -- it is difficult for us to understand God."

You do know original sin was invented by Augustine, right? If your argument is that original sin is what leads people to God, how did people go about that before Augustine came around?

"First, those aren't moral documents."

What justifies the creation of fair Laws if not morality?

Second off, the religious beliefs of the founding fathers have little to do with this discussion of the contemporary presidency. Unless of course you feel that Kennedy shouldn't have been elected President because he was a Catholic not a Protestant.
I could easily argue that Montesquieu was more important to shaping this nation than the Bible, but there's no way either of us can prove our position as we didn't actually know the inner workings of every founding father's mind.

Then again, they made church and state separate for a reason.

"If there is "something out there", and that "something" is an intelligent, creative force, why would it not communicate with us?"

What made you think I suppose it's an "intelligent, creative force"? I just think, quite fairly, we can only perceive so much of reality using our biological sensors. That's all, and it's a pretty sound assumption. Instead you chose to mock it, quite disrespectfully. I don't see a single point where I've shown equal disrespect for Christianity. All I've done is legitimately question your beliefs (if they are, in fact, not some form of role playing that you enjoy to be contrarian).

Anonymous said...

"You "know" wrong. Show me the Sumerian awareness of the Christian God, the Navajo, the Egyptian, the Ancient Greek, the Ancient Persian, the Japanese, the Hindi, the Chinese, the PAGAN (I could go on)."

Hold on there, partner. Now I didn't SAY "Christian God", did I? Hmm? Read what I wrote, not what you wish I wrote.

I said knowledge of the divine. Their own gods, though off base, were legitimate and respectable attempts to grasp what they knew to be a fundamental truth -- that there is a divine presence in the universe, and that man came therefrom.

If you misunderstood what I said before, I hope it is now clarified.

"If man A says God is about peace, and that God has told him this, when man B says he is a vessel of the Lord's vengeance, at least one of them must be lying. This occurs today between the violent religious and the humble. What I'm basically talking about is the fact that people who claim to know God often state contradictory messages. Historically, just look at Joseph Smith. Also Bush claims to have heard the voice of God, do you believe him?"

Sure. All people hear the voice of God. A good father always speaks to his children, right? Some just choose the respond the wrong way. Some do not listen carefully enough, or they understand and choose to follow the wrong path.

"You do know original sin was invented by Augustine, right? If your argument is that original sin is what leads people to God, how did people go about that before Augustine came around?"

No? Augustine clarified and codified a lot of Church doctrine (including parts re: original sin), but it is rooted in the Bible and has been a Christian mainstay since day one.

"Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned..."
—-Romans 5:12 (IIRC)

There are plenty of passages similar to that, too.

Anyway, even if you deny original sin per se, no Christian can deny that man isn't fallen. We all sin. We are all sinners. If that wasn't the case, Christ never would have had to come.

"Then again, they made church and state separate for a reason."

First of all, there was never originally such thing as "seperation of church and state." That phrase was popularized in the 30's or 40's by a particular SCOTUS ruling. It was lifted from a letter by Jefferson to a particular Baptist church during his presidency. And the point of his message wasn't that the Church would have no influence in the State or that morality is obsolete in government, but rather vice versa. They were afraid that the the State would begin influencing religion -- influencing and persecuting. They were all well aware of recent English history, of course...


"What justifies the creation of fair Laws if not morality?"

There is no such thing as a fair law without morality. To paraphrase Calvin Coolidge, man does not create law, he merely discovers it.

And, yeah, I'm being a contrarian for all 6 people who read this blog. Right.

Nah.

Jeff Hudecek said...

PS.

You've yet to show any logical reason outside of personal prejudice that an Atheist would not be able to capably carry out the duties of the Presidency.

Anonymous said...

"PS.

You've yet to show any logical reason outside of personal prejudice that an Atheist would not be able to capably carry out the duties of the Presidency."

Again, you're not responding to what I really said. I'm sensing a pattern here...?

I never said that an atheist would be unable to capably carry out the duties of the Presidency.

What I said was that I would not feel comfortable with him doing so. Why? Yes, because of what could crudely be called "personal prejudice." I like my leaders to represent my beliefs and ideals. That's the entire basis of democracy: prejudicing one man over another for reasons that are your own. I never said otherwise.

Jeff Hudecek said...

"Hold on there, partner. Now I didn't SAY "Christian God", did I? Hmm? Read what I wrote, not what you wish I wrote. I said knowledge of the divine. Their own gods, though off base, were legitimate and respectable attempts to grasp what they knew to be a fundamental truth -- that there is a divine presence in the universe, and that man came therefrom. If you misunderstood what I said before, I hope it is now clarified."

That still leaves Shinto and Zen Buddhism (among other Celtic and Native American sects, I'm sure). Second off, your initial response was directed at my comment "Phil, if the Christian God exists and is real, why hasn't "H"e been omnipresent in writings of human history? Why do other religions exist?" so pardon me for assuming you were referring to the Christian God and not a simple notion of the divine.

"Sure. All people hear the voice of God. A good father always speaks to his children, right? Some just choose the respond the wrong way. Some do not listen carefully enough, or they understand and choose to follow the wrong path."

Same faith comments apply here. We cannot argue about this.

"Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned..."
—-Romans 5:12 (IIRC)

Check the date of your version.

"And, yeah, I'm being a contrarian for all 6 people who read this blog. Right."

I wouldn't put it past you. ;p

"What I said was that I would not feel comfortable with him doing so. Why? Yes, because of what could crudely be called "personal prejudice." I like my leaders to represent my beliefs and ideals."

What I dislike about this sentiment is that it implies you would not vote for someone on the basis that they were an Atheist even if you viewed them as more competent than a Christian competitor. This type of thinking is dangerous, in my view, as by your own logic Atheism has nothing to do with how capable a President might be.

Also Mike, those 7 classifications don't really apply to me. Either that or I'd be a 7, since I believe all human religion is the product of psychological instinct.