You've found Father McKenzie. But are you really looking for Eleanor Rigby?

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

DON'T GET ME WRONG, SOME OF MY BEST FRIENDS ARE ... Professor Daniel C Dennett wants people to use the term "bright" as a happier euphemism for atheists, agnostics and other religious unbelievers. Sort of like "gay" as an alternative to "homosexual", etc. Unfortunately, the term "bright" is already in use. When applied to people, it means "[h]aving a clear, quick intellect; intelligent". And has done for, oh, several decades. (If religious believers sought to label themselves "clevers", DCD would be first to complain.) The equivalent term in Latin has other connotations.

This new Bright Power movement [no, wait -- that sounds too much like a laundry soap] says on its website that "[t]here is a great diversity of persons who have a naturalistic worldview. Under this broad umbrella, as Brights, these people can gain social and political influence in a society infused with supernaturalism."

But the Bright Ones may be waiting a while before they gain political influence in proportion to their numbers:

"[...] a Pew Religion Forum study [...] tried to assess which religions carried the most electoral baggage. When they asked people if they would be less likely to vote for someone because of religion, the big losers were not Jews or Catholics. Rather, the groups with the most political baggage were atheists, evangelicals, and Muslims. (Interestingly, many even atheists didn't like the idea of voting for an atheist.)"

-- "How Prayers Poll: Debunking myths about the religious right", by Steven Waldman, (Friday 10 October 2003).

NOT Jews or Catholics? That'll only last until the cinematic release of The Passion and Luther have caused outbreaks of synagogue-smashing and nunnery-burning across the Western world.

It's not surprising that voters would be prejudiced against supporting avowedly atheist candidates, possibly on Dr Samuel Johnson's principle that if someone believes there is no distinction between virtue and vice, then when he leaves our houses we should count our spoons. [UPDATE: No, I didn't mean to say that atheists are immoral. By the same token, a lot of Christians would not like to automatically vote for every fellow Christian ...]

But evangelicals? America is supposed to be Protestant-dominated. In theory, anyway. Hollywood is happy to show President Josiah Bartlett as a devout Catholic -- provided, of course, that he’s anti-death penalty and says nothing about abortion. Secular culture likes the “seamless garment” view, because it means you can’t ever deal with one problem unless you can solve them all at once. It also means that a government can't consistently ban partial-birth abortions if it doesn't also ban married couples from using contraception. In theory, anyway. But it’ll be a cold day in hell when Hollywood shows, sympathetically, a US President reading his King James Bible for guidance. Or if it does, it’ll only ever be because he’s decided God wants him to nuke Mecca so that Josh Hartnett and Halle Berry have to stop him.

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