Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Biblical Plague Vote

Back in my bachelor days, I briefly dated an obnoxious atheist. Maybe you know the type. It wasn’t that she didn’t believe in Gods; it was that anyone who did, as far as she was concerned, was guilty of a stupidity as gauche and embarrassing as backwoods incest. She would talk ad nauseum about how she just couldn’t see how anyone in the modern world could believe in anything as idiotic as God or the afterlife. She probably still does.

I would try to argue that religious faith isn’t a matter of intelligence, but of conviction. Believers don’t decide to believe after finding evidence of God in the lab; that would render faith meaningless. It has to be absurd or it isn’t faith. I was obviously a young Kierkegaard. But her mind was made up. “It’s so obvious that there’s no God; there’s no evidence of a God.”

She actually had the same tone of voice as an Armenian orthodox believer who I tried to date in High School. We would have very similar discussions, but with me trying to understand her faith, which I’ve never shared. “Of course there’s a God,” she would say. “We have the Bible; that’s our proof.” Ultimately, I decided that believers and atheists are living in two different realities, and that their experiences of the world are as dissimilar as a blind hearing person and a deaf seeing person’s might be.

I think I’m about as open to faith as one can be without actually believing in God. And yet, quite often, a believer will say something that knocks me for a loop; I just can’t understand their thoughts, even on an abstract basis. Clearly, that’s what happened when I read this Robert Novak column about certain American Christians who aren’t sure who they should vote for this year. Their problem stems from their belief that Barack Obama's candidacy is along the lines of a Biblical plague and they need to find God's candidate in order to defeat him.

I’m not even going to touch the racial politics here. However, to me, there’s something just way too bizarre about not only deciding that public figures represent Biblical plagues, but that you personally know which ones God likes and which ones are the plagues. I feel like the next step is deciding that God is leaving you coded messages in the phone book. After that, you’re pretty much just waiting for the neighbor’s dog to tell you which sinners to pick off with your rifle.

I understand that, if you believe, then everything in your life reflects your faith, including your vote. But, I can’t understand how a believer could think that God would care about something as petty and stupid as American elections, or any political elections. It just seems arrogant on their part; like thinking that God wants your favorite singer to win on American Idol, or those athletes who thank God for having won in a sporting event. I’d like to imagine that God has better things to think about.

The American marriage of faith and politics has been commented on ad nauseum as well, but it bears repeating how strange it is within the context of modernity. The only parallel I can think of in the Western world in the Modern era would be those nineteenth century nationalists who believed that history revealed God’s will based on which nations rose and fell. It’s no revelation, so to speak, to point out that many of these people in the US are basically Christian nationalists. But, the question is how in the world we ever got to the point that politicians and pundits are sitting around in some smoky room right now discussing how to capture the Biblical plague vote.


barahconnor said...

What I find most interesting is that this country was founded on a belief that everyone has a right to their own religious belief and that it should absolutely not be involved in politics. That seems in apposition to what we do now. I can understand how one might think that having faith and being devout is a marker of good character. However, in our government and our society, our relgious preferences no longer (or did they ever) prevent us from anything deemed sinful. In fact, it seems that it leads us to more sin..especially to lie to cover up the other sins!

Holly said...

I dated a Jehovah's Witness once, but we did a lot of drugs until he got better. That might work for atheists as well. Did you try mescaline? on the presidential candidates?

Rufus said...

Barahconnor: I'd imagine that Thomas Jefferson is spinning in his grave 24/7.

Holly: I'm all for it as an outreach program. Maybe in the church jello.