I’m sure Ted Cruz isn’t the only candidate vying to be United States president to think this, but thankfully such bigotry isn’t usually voiced. However, as Cruz is mainly relying on the evangelical Christian vote to get him votes in the Republican primary race, making such statements won’t do him any damage with that constituency.
He made the statement at the National Religious Liberties conference in Iowa last Friday (6 November). According to the Christian Science Monitor, Cruz stated:
“Any president who doesn’t begin every day on his knees isn’t fit to be commander in chief of this nation.”
Personally, I find the idea of a commander-in-chief making his or her decisions via prayer really scary. We’ve already had that, and almost all Cruz’s compatriots, not just the Democratic ones, recognize that was a disaster. I am, of course, talking about the presidency of George W Bush.
In the weekly newsletter from the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, the response to Cruz’s the comment was simply:
Wow. Talk about having things backward.
Atheists aren’t well thought of in the United Stated. I’ve posted a few of these statistics before, some as recently as last weekend, but they bear repeating. According to a 2014 Pew survey, when asked if they would vote for an atheist, 40% of USians said they wouldn’t.
The figure of 40% though, is the best it’s ever been in the United States. The question has been asked periodically since 1958, with the following results:
As can be seen, it wasn’t until 2011 that the “Yes” I would vote for an atheist line started to stay above the “No” I wouldn’t line. In New Zealand we’ve had atheists prime ministers continuously since 1999, from both major political parties. I’ve no idea of the religious affiliation of most candidates in our parliament. Unless their beliefs (or anything else about them) are going to make an otherwise capable politician ignore the laws of the country, they are irrelevant.
This view is fairly standard in modern New Zealand. We’ve had many LGBT politicians (well, only one transgender, but she’s still the only one in the world), and many religions, cultures, disabilities and ethnicities are represented, and not just at a token level. Maori and New Zealand sign language are official languages along with English, and Maori is spoken in the chamber on a regular basis with translation constantly available.
Veteran’s Day (the US equivalent of ANZAC day) was yesterday – 11th November. Thus I feel it appropriate to post this meme that has been making the rounds at least as long as I’ve been on Twitter:
The attitude of Ted Cruz is clearly not atypical, when a former president feels it’s okay to express such vile bigotry.
I subscribe to a number of on-line publications in order to try and keep my knowledge of what’s going on in the world up-to-date. One is a Christian publication. Because of that I got an invitation to donate to Ben Carson’s campaign back on 30 September. (This is probably illegal as I’m not a US citizen, but there’s no danger of me donating, and if I tried I assume my attempt would be blocked.) The last sentence of that e-mail finished with the words:
Together, we will once again be One Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
This idea that the United States is one nation Under God is one that has been pervasive in the current GOP primary. Ben Carson has also written a book called A More Perfect Union: What We Can Do To Reclaim Our Constitutional Liberties, and is currently promoting it. It’s a #1 bestseller on Amazon, which shows the popularity of the idea that the country is favoured by God.
Indeed, many US states have laws that require people to be Christian in order to hold government office. These laws are illegal under the US Constitution and if anyone challenged them in court, they would win. However, the current likelihood of an openly atheist candidate winning an election in these states, particularly the southern ones, is somewhere around zero.
A study reported in USA Today in 2011 showed that USians antipathy towards atheists related to an opinion that they are morally lacking and simply not trustworthy.
“It’s pretty remarkable,” said Azim Shariff, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Oregon and a co-author of the study, which appears in the current issue of Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
The study, conducted among 350 Americans adults and 420 Canadian college students, asked participants to decide if a fictional driver damaged a parked car and left the scene, then found a wallet and took the money, was the driver more likely to be a teacher, an atheist teacher, or a rapist teacher?
The participants, who were from religious and nonreligious backgrounds, most often chose the atheist teacher.
The study is part of an attempt to understand what needs religion fulfills in people. Among the conclusions is a sense of trust in others.
“People find atheists very suspect,” Shariff said. “They don’t fear God so we should distrust them; they do not have the same moral obligations of others. This is a common refrain against atheists. People fear them as a group.”
I find it quite shocking that a rapist is, on average, considered more trustworthy than I am by the US population. That kind of ignorance shows why we atheists need to speak out where we can, so others know we’re not scary. In fact, studies show that, on average, we’re less scary than the rest of the population.
There has been some push-back on Cruz’s comment, even in Christian publications. Hopefully that means that the rise in atheism, and the greater knowledge of what it is, means that comments such as Cruz’s are becoming less common and, more importantly, less acceptable.