Are You Lying?

Karl Rove is an agnostic who manipulated the Christian Right for political gain, charges PBS commentator Bill Moyers. Rove, a self-described observant Episcopalian, labels the charge a “drive-by slander.” In a defense of Rove, Fox News’ Chris Wallace asserts that Moyers is guilty of lazy journalism:

If you want to find out about someone’s religious beliefs, a good first step might be to ask him. If you had talked to Rove as I did, you would have found out he reads a devotional every day, and the biggest charitable contribution he ever made was to his church.

The video clip has been widely touted as a “smackdown” but I think its demonstrates naivete more than anything else. The criticism makes little sense in view of the very issue in dispute. Rove was accused of misrepresenting his religious beliefs. If he would be willing to do that, he’d also be willing misrepresent every fact relevant to his beliefs. He could be lying about the devotionals and the contributions. Or he could be praying and paying to maintain a façade of faith in pursuit of another agenda. I suppose one could ask him as him if he were lying about his faith, and if he denied it further inquire if he were lying about lying – and so on and on. But that is not the sort of infinite regress that generally comes to rest upon a foundation of truth. It’s lies all the way down. It’s puzzling that Wallace would rely on anything Rove said to prove his point, given that in the missive to which he was replying, Moyers clearly announced that he did not “take [Rove's] every word as gospel.”

There is a tendency to take people’s accounts of their religion at face value. To “question” a person’s faith is often met with the same indignation as questioning their patriotism. But faith, patriotism and indignation can all be feigned. And while it may be true that people who might lie about lesser things are truthful when it comes discussing what they hold sacred, that presumption only applies to people who do in fact hold something sacred. If they don’t, they might have no compunction at all about saying they do.

But if Wallace is naive, Moyers is just ridiculous. He’s a self-described agnostic who has built a career on doing exactly what he condemns Rove for. He promotes the liberal Christianity of the Democratic party, a faith so cynical as to be self-mocking. It was epitomized by Howard Dean’s embrace of Jesus in the last election cycle, and you can expect a group hug in the months to come.

15 comments on this post.

  1. Jennifer:

    All of this focus by Christians on the victimization of Christians. These men are politicians. If any of us is mindlessly handing them our votes, then we get what we deserve.

    Caveat Emptor is the rule for us all. What makes Christians so special that they are above doing their homework.

  2. Melissa:

    Nice post my raving friend!! I read that article about Howard Dean’s “embrace of Jesus.” Not surprising. Of course, a true believer realizes that using God for their own vain pursuits is not going to carry any weight; at least not with a perceptive and intuitive believer. Bush is successful because he is genuine. He doesn’t use his faith for his own vanity. He proclaims his faith honestly as a testament of how great GOD is; now how great HE is or or what he would like to promote. He doesn’t promote his agenda; he promotes God’s. That is what puts him in such a distinguished class with “classy” presidents like Lincoln, Reagan, and some of our most beloved founding fathers. You wouldn’t be able to include many modern democrats, if any, in that elite group!!

  3. "Q" the Enchanter:

    There’s an interesting bit of hearsay on this topic from Christopher Hitchens: “Karl Rove is not a believer, and he doesn’t shout it from the rooftops, but when asked, he answers quite honestly. I think the way he puts it is, ‘I’m not fortunate enough to be a person of faith.’”

  4. PhillyChief:

    Frankly, I think every politician should just openly embrace Jesus. I mean full on bible thumpin’ yell it from the mountain kind in order to get elected then go do whatever they want. I’d prefer every xtian realize that every politician, regardless of party, will simply play them like a cheap fiddle at a drop of a hat. I want them to learn this lesson so they finally get disenchanted and stay the hell out of politics for good.

  5. Lucy Muff:

    Politician what lies about THE LORD cannot be trusted not Lie abut all other things and so should NOT to vote for them

  6. Godthorn:

    Melissa, Lincoln was agnostic, if not atheist. Like most of our presidents, he knew the value of “God.”

  7. PhillyChief:

    That’s my point Lucy, they all exist to exploit your beliefs to get elected. Read Kuo’s book and see what the Republicans have done. Better all of you just don’t vote.

  8. PhalsePhrophet:

    “The amusement becomes indignation when a candidate has to lay claim to belief in an imaginary sky god to better position themselves to a voting public who overwhelmingly prefers this delusion over none at all.”

    This was part of my response to a column by Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of National Review Online, that appeared in Sacramento Bee’s 8/31/07 editorial pages entitled “Politics Sinful Use of Religion”. She uses the article to slam Democrats in Louisiana for using religion to hit a republican under the belt who had converted from Hinduism to Catholicism. Oddly, she never mentions anything about the Republican use of religion to further their goals.

  9. PhalsePhrophet:

    Atheist philanthropist Robert W Wilson gave a record breaking 22.5 million to the church. Does that mean he his religious, or do you also have to read a devotional every day to qualify?

  10. Naaman:

    Melissa has (hopefully) hit the proverbial nail on its head. People of authentic faith will be able to sense the authenticity of a politician’s faith, and we are not easily deceived by the phonies. Personally, I don’t agree with everything that Dubya has done (and I’m not as big a fan as Melissa seems to be), but I have a lot of respect for his faith. He’s the real deal. In contrast, John Kerry is NOT the real deal, and he deserved the defeat he got.

    That said, there are an awful lot of shallow Christians in our country. Sad, but true. And it’s not a Right-versus-Left divide, either. There are shallow Christians in the evangelical megachurches, just like there are shallow Christians in the all-but-dead liberal denominations. Getting in the door of a church is easy. Surrendering your entire life to God is hard. Christians who are not deeply rooted in the faith may well be snookered by the politicians who are trolling for votes among the pews….

  11. Godthorn:

    Dubya’s “the real deal,” alright, and his performance should be a lesson to all “believers” about taking advice from “God.”

  12. Naaman:

    By your heavy use of quotation marks, I’m assuming that your comment was sarcastic, and you are not a fan of our current President. Fair enough, it’s a free country. Heck, you and I might even agree on a few of the mistakes that Dubya has made.

    That said, Dubya’s mistakes belong to Dubya, not to God. His faith doesn’t make him a perfect President. No sensible person would claim otherwise. I believe that Dubya’s faith makes him a better President than he would be without it. He has a clear and consistent sense of Right and Wrong, which our country desperately needs. ‘Tis better to act out of principle — even if one must apologize later — than to remain paralyzed and indecisive while one’s enemies have a free hand.

    CS Lewis explained it very clearly in Mere Christianity, and I’ll try to summarize his explanation. Unbelievers expect Christ to make us perfect. As soon as a Christian does something wrong, those same unbelievers then pounce on the mistake as “proof” that Christianity is false and Christians are hypocrites. But that’s not a fair standard. God never promised to make me perfect in the here-and-now, but rather in eternity. Meanwhile, I am still a flawed human being, just like anyone else, and I will still make mistakes. The proper proof-test for Christianity should be this: “Are Christians better people than they would be without Christ?”

    Please note that the test is not “Are Christians better people than atheists?” That proof-test would also be unfair. An individual atheist (such as TRA himself) might be much more intelligent and kind than an individual Christian. Many factors go into a person’s temperament, including environment, education, genetics, and so on. Faith is only one part of the equation. A jerk with Jesus might still be a jerk, but hopefully his faith is making him less of a jerk than he would be otherwise….

    So, the proper question about Dubya’s performance is not simply “Is he a good President?”, but rather “What sort of President would he be without his faith?” Only that answer can ever give us any insight into the role that faith has played in the Bush Presidency.

  13. Godthorn:

    Naaman, to address your concluding remarks first, without his faith (meaning the support it generated) Dubya would not have been president. And whether his either irrational stubborness or downright stupidity can be laid totally to his faith, we have testimony from Bush himself that it is at least partially to blame.

    No, neither Bush’s nor anyone else’s mistakes, or wisdom, or anything else are attributable to any “God.” Religion, on the other hand, has convinced a myriad of fools that they think and act with divine, inerrant certainty. Religion does not enhance human morality or intelligence; it distorts the first and stultifies the latter.

    I do not deny that many people are made better people as a result of their faith, and I have no wish to rob such people of their basic beliefs. What I rail against is the propogation of myth and superstition, the lies and influences of religious organizations, and charismatic religion-spouting charlatans.

    I put truth above all else, and there is too little truth in the “Truth” of religion.

  14. Choobus:

    CUNT

    you know who you are

  15. Naaman:

    Godthorn wrote:
    Naaman, to address your concluding remarks first, without his faith (meaning the support it generated) Dubya would not have been president.

    That’s an interesting theory, but I’m not sure that it’s directly related to Dubya’s personal relationship with Christ. Basically, you seem to be claiming that believers voted for Dubya simply because of his faith. If that’s your argument, then I disagree with you … sort of. Kerry spent a lot of time talking about his faith in the 2004 campaign, and it didn’t help him much. Democrats are trying to “get religion” for 2008, and I’m not convinced that they’ll be helped either.

    I think that Dubya was elected for two reasons:
    1) America is a center-right country on the national level, so conservative candidates have a built-in advantage.
    2) The Democratic alternatives in 2000 and 2004 were weak candidates.

    No, neither Bush’s nor anyone else’s mistakes, or wisdom, or anything else are attributable to any “God.” Religion, on the other hand, has convinced a myriad of fools that they think and act with divine, inerrant certainty. Religion does not enhance human morality or intelligence; it distorts the first and stultifies the latter.

    On the contrary, any wisdom that you (or I) possess comes from God. Without the gifts He gave you, you would not be able to question His existence. Ironic, eh? However, I know that this is an atheist blog, and I don’t want to start a never-ending flame war, so I’ll stop now. Let’s just say that we disagree here, okay?

    I do not deny that many people are made better people as a result of their faith, and I have no wish to rob such people of their basic beliefs. What I rail against is the propogation of myth and superstition, the lies and influences of religious organizations, and charismatic religion-spouting charlatans.

    I find these statements to be utterly fascinating. In the first sentence, you seem to accept that religious faith can improve people. In the second sentence, you “rail against” certain characteristics of some religions. The combined meaning would seem to imply that there might be a faith which is acceptable to you. However, if you’re an atheist, wouldn’t all non-atheist faiths be equally false? What is your reasoning for claiming that bogus faith can improve someone’s life?