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May 15, 2005

Sunday Sermonette: The Father and the Son (Axis of Evil)

Guest post by Revere

Every preacher knows a little humor is a good thing, especially before you scare the shit out of everyone.

The Son: The British are American citizens:

"As young Americans, you have an important responsibility, which is to become good citizens."

George W. Bush, in a June, 2001, letter to British students at Oakhill College in Lancashire, England: but giving the benefit where doubt is due, we ask, had they been Americans, wouldn't they already be citizens? Quoted from Randy Cassingham, "This is True," 24 June 2001, via Positive Atheism's Big Scary List of George W. Bush Quotations

The Father: Atheists aren't:

The following exchange took place at the Chicago airport between Robert I. Sherman of American Atheist Press and George Herbert Walker Bush, on August 27 1987. Sherman is a fully accredited reporter, and was present by invitation as a member of the press corps. The Republican presidential nominee was there to announce federal disaster relief for Illinois. The discussion turned to the presidential primary:

RS: "What will you do to win the votes of Americans who are atheists?"
GB: "I guess I'm pretty weak in the atheist community. Faith in God is important to me."
RS: "Surely you recognize the equal citizenship and patriotism of Americans who are atheists?"
GB: "No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God."
RS: "Do you support as a sound constitutional principle the separation of state and church?"
GB: "Yes, I support the separation of church and state. I'm just not very high on atheists."

[Cross-posted at Effect Measure; revised title]


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Atheists...the last bastion (after gay rights) in the civil rights movement.

I think that quote is incredibly unfair to Bush. More recently, he said something along the lines of: "everyone in this country has a right to practice a faith, or not to." so the quote does not do justice to his recent views.

That quote of his was 17 years ago! I wouldn't want people to judge me on what I said a month ago, let alone 17 years ago.

I cannot stand Bush, but I cannot stand out of date quotes either. It is like when the Rupublican tried to paint Kerry as a flip-flopper: politicians are not gods, they are allowed to change their minds. ESPECIALLY over the space of 20 years.

Your comment is fair, in general, but IMO not in this case. Not practicing a faith is not the same as not having one. I, for one, do not believe he has changed his mind nor do I have evidence that he has. What I have evidence of is an incredible amount of Bad Faith from the Bush clan, including the father (who also lied like crazy; his son is just carrying on the tradition).

Most of us do not have the responsibility that politicians do for their political thought. Our behaviors and hypothesis have limited affects. We may espouse our philosphies, but they have relatively little impact on the world. But that is not true of a politician. They have a professional obligation to have and maintain particular postions, unlike amateurs. They also need to make clear the rationale for changes in their positions. That is a duty that the public and its citizens all too often fail to demand.

Has Bush41 shown any contrition, or even an improving trend in position, for his denunciation of athiests? For stating that they are anathema, that their citizenship is automatically voided (they are excommunicated) by their thoughts on the existence of a supernatural creator?

Just as freedom of speech does not exist if one is only allowed to echo the thoughts of the majority. Religious freedom does not exist if the individual is only free to follow a particular religion, or one of a prescribed set of religions, or "accepted" spiritual thought.


The right word might have not been "practice", since I cannot remember the quote exactly.

Be that as it may, I fail to see how not practicing a religion does not mean atheism. One might understand "practice" as going to church, and doing other observable things. But I would think that is grossly inaccurate of "practicing". If I believe in a god, and keep it to myself, but try to lead a life in accordance with the gods teachings, then how am I not practicing my faith? Even if I never talk to anyone about my god, or give overt signs of worship, surely I am still practicing my religion.


I do not think that you can hold politicians up to such high standards. People talk about politicians lying, using guile or other truth manipulating techniques precisely because if they change their minds they get cooked. To hold them to some higher standard is not realistic, and is what probably causes people to be so untrusting of politicians. Either you relax you standards or you let them twist the truth to meet your standards.
I prefer to truth.

Also, I fail to see how it is reasonable to expect such standards of politicians. They are, if anything, in a position in which they are probably wrong and pay for it more than normal people. They are not made of sturner stuff, but are slaves to induction, prediction and poor reasoning like everyone else.

Brendan: You have a better opinion of Bush41 than I do. Regarding "practice," I don't think he was being as subtle as you give him credit for (even though what you suggest isn't very subtle for most people). His son, certainly isn't at all subtle about it.

It is hard to see that anything has changed in this country to change his opinion since 1987. On the contrary, things have gone much more in the direction of that view. It is likely he was just being careful (and not very clear) so as not to create a distraction from the latest Bush zealot running for President. His response in 1987 was in an informal setting and probably took him by surprise. He gave an unguarded but honest response. Which is unusual, since he is a Big Time liar. IMO, of course.

Disclosure time: I'm an atheist, but I'm nonpracticing...

That's fine. I'm a practicing atheist and very observant.

I think the Bush from whom Brendan got the mitigating quote was 43.


Granted -- it is unlikely that many politicians will hold to such standards, especially if they wish to be elected.

But that doesn't mean that I have to forgive or forget their transgressions. Or slough off their statements of yore. My argument was really directed at the propriety of holding them to what they say, even if it was some time ago.

Spiritual atheist

I got the quote mixed up. The one about practicing religion is Jr, not senior.

I sincerely apologize.

Brendan: No problem. I don't believe the son, either.

George W. Bush, 11 January 2005:

"It's not your lack of religion that makes you enemy of the state, it's your lack of patriotism.
I think people attack me because they are fearful that I will then say that you're not equally as patriotic if you're not a religious person," Mr. Bush said. "I've never said that. I've never acted like that. I think that's just the way it is. "

Years ago (1978-80), I attended the same Episcopal church in Houston that Bush Senior did - my children and his grandchildren were in the same sunday school classes. I spoke with him on several occasions as we waited for the kiddies, and he struck me as just a typical WASP in religious matters - there at St Martin's to be seen, listen politely to a brief, comfortable garden variety anglican insipid sermon about how Jesus didn't REALLY mean it would be hard for rich people to get in to heaven, then back home for lunch with Barbara and a good laugh at all of the lower middle class wedding announcements in the POST. In short, I took him be living the same sort of Wittgensteinian "religious form of life" that I was - shallow and uninspired, but essentially harmless. No doctrine of "election," no "biblical inerrancy," and no "intelligent design" or "young earth" creationism. Eternal damnation was rarely, if ever, threatened.

Baby Bush, however,was no where to be seen at St. Martins back then. Jeb was, but not George. His religious fervor is, I surmise, of more recent origin. Nor does it take the form, apparently, of the family's historic commitment (if that is the word) to genteel episcopalianism - a faith which is characterized, as Simon Blackburn wickedly but accurately puts it, by "dread of superstition and of Rome, on the one hand, and low church anarchy and enthusiasm on the other." Judging by his recent race to DC to sign the Schiavo legislation, he is drawn to Rome and low church both - a neat trick, or theological schizophrenia?

I find it fascinating, actually, that it is from those two poles that accusations of opression of "people of faith" are most often heard. One rarely hears the Methodists, Episcopalians, UC of C, Eastern Baptists, etc, complain of being oppressed by anyone. And the fact that we "scientistic", liberal, humanist types are the ones who got those warring camps to stop burning each other (and thousands of women) alive in city squares seems to have been forgotten.

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