10 Reasons Why Atheists Should Still Vote for Obama
even though he has been Christianing it up


As tough as it usually is to get atheists to agree on anything, you would still think that, after the last eight years, we would at least all be able to agree on the urgent need to get the Republicans the hell out of the White House.  But alas, it is not so.  Over the last couple of months, there have been rumblings in the atheist blogosphere from certain of us who think that Democratic candidate Barack Obama is too Christian — or, at least, has started making too much use of Christian rhetoric — and have been threatening to stay home on November 4th.  I understand your feelings, and I understand the need of any bloc of voters not to feel as if they are being taken for granted…  But I’m afraid I really must insist that you vote for Obama anyway.  I realize your blogotime is precious, so as a gesture of good faith — er, good science — I’ve managed to rein in my all-consuming need to hear myself type, and marshaled my arguments in the form of a brief and efficient Top Ten List, in lieu of one of my trademark exhaustive TLDR-fests.  Enjoy, and please forward/link/Stumbleupon/Digg or whatever you need to do to bring this to the attention of atheists you think might be contemplating sitting this one out.

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1.  The Whole Reason He Had to Christian It Up Is Because of That Stupid Shit Where Rednecks Try and Say He’s Muslim.  Really, this should have been obvious to people who are as smart as we are.  If there were a rumor that you were, say, really sexist, you would probably make more of an effort to say feminist things whenever gender issues came up.  You wouldn’t necessarily lie and say stuff you don’t really believe; you’d just be more likely to go out of your way to emphasize certain aspects of your worldview, whereas under different circumstances, you might not have gone out of your way to emphasize them.  Because there are a ton of morons (12% of the country at last count, to be exact) who think Obama is Muslim — because they’re, you know, racist — he has had to go “Hey, by the way, have I mentioned I’m Christian lately?” more times than he otherwise would have.  If you are pissed that he has had to do this, blame the moron racists, not Obama himself.

2.  By Staying Home, We Would Be Doing the Same Exact Thing as Women Who Are Pissed That It’s Not Hillary.  Remember how, throughout the whole primary, we always followed up our cheers for Obama with frank stipulations that we would personally track down and tar-and-feather any and all women who didn’t vote because it wasn’t Hillary?  Well, then why is it okay for us to suddenly talk about not voting just because the candidate isn’t a member of our little group either?  He’s still the candidate who represents our interests.  Suppose Black people had not voted for JFK in 1960 because he wasn’t Black.  Nixon would have won, and then there would have been no Civil Rights Act.  You vote for the person who is going to make things better for your group, even if he/she is not a member.  Us being pissed that Obama is not an atheist would be just as stupid as women being pissed that he’s not a woman.  In fact, it would be even stupider if we did it, because women at least came really close this year, so it’s not like their hopes were unrealistic.  On the other hand, since there’s obviously no way that an avowed atheist — or even an enthusiastic secularist — could possibly be elected president anytime soon, us taking our ball and going home this year would be more like if women had not voted because no candidate was a woman in, say, 1924.

3.  We Have to Accept a Division between What Our Pundits Can Say and What Our Politicians Can Say.  One thing the Right seems to have grasped a bit better than we have is the whole “division of rhetorical labor” thing.  You never have the people who are actually running for stuff say the real hardcore shit.  For example, the Right doesn’t have George W. Bush actually get up there and say “fag” — they have Ann Coulter say “fag” to rev up the base, and then Bush says something that looks moderate by comparison.  That way, he benefits from what the nut-jobs say but can’t get blamed for it.  Similarly, we cannot expect Liberal politicians to actually get up there and say “the Bible is a crock of shit, you dumbasses.”  We say that, and then they say something moderate.  That’s how it works… you dumbasses.

4.  There’s a Very Good Chance That This Meme Was Started by Christian/Republican Trolls, and If It Works They Will Laugh at Us.  To return to the Hillary-supporters analogy, you know how, when there are people in comment threads who claim to be Liberal women who aren’t voting, we instantly go “Oh, whatever, that’s obviously a DeceptiCon troll?”  Well, what makes you think that a lot of these supposed atheists who aren’t voting aren’t the same thing?  You know at least some of them are — which means that, if McCain wins, and the next day there is even one atheist blog on the whole internet saying “I didn’t vote for Obama because he talked about Jeebus too much,” the Religious Right will copy/link it to holy hell and laugh their asses off at us.  If that should happen, then I am going to blame some of the people in this room, and then I do not forgive.   

5.  Oh, and You Know How We Have Such a Boner for Pointing Out Logical Fallacies?  Well, It Turns Out that an argument saying you should decline to support a solution that is clearly better just because it’s not perfect is, in fact, a logical fallacy.  It’s called the Perfect-Solution Fallacy, or Nirvana Fallacy.  This doesn’t mean that there’s never a good reason to abstain from voting — it is certainly possible for circumstances to arise in which both candidates are ethically/philosophically intolerable to us — but clearly Obama is not intolerable.  He supports all the same shit we do; we just think it would be even awesomer if he made fun of religion.  But he doesn’t.  Deal.

6.  Isn’t Our Position Supposed to Be That You Can Believe Whatever You Want, as Long as You Keep It Away from the Law?  Yes, I know, privately, for ourselves, our position is that religion is unjustifiable in all circumstances, even if someone is only religious under their bed with all the lights off.  I am not saying we should not believe this.  It does, however, seem to me like a good public policy would be for us to say that, as long as you can avoid forcing your religion on people, we will somehow manage to restrain ourselves from driving up your ass about it.  Does Barack Obama actually believe that Jesus of Nazareth literally rose from the dead after three days and walked around nodding ’sup to people?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Who gives a shit?  As long as Obama doesn’t want stuff to this effect to be taught in school, doesn’t hold positions that require faith in stuff to this effect to agree with or understand, and doesn’t think that people who believe stuff to this effect are better than people who don’t — which he clearly doesn’t — then you might as well be arguing that you shouldn’t vote for someone because he has shitty taste in movies.  You may very well be right about him having shitty taste in movies, but you know what else — who cares?  Our prescription that The President Is Not a Religious Official needs to cut both ways.  That’s right, it’s Mixed Metaphor Day, and prescriptions cut things now.

7.  If You Have to Think of It as Voting Against Sarah Palin, Fine.  Self-explanatory.  When this meme started, the Religious Right had no dog in the fight, and now they do.  If McCain/Palin takes it, the fundies will be dancing around yelling “We won! We won!” (well, the ones who are allowed to dance, anyway).  On election night, either James Dobson, Pat Buchanan, and Jack Chick will be happy, or they will be sad.  I choose to try and make them sad.  If you choose to make them happy, I don’t see where you get off thinking that you are more of an atheist than I am.

8.  You Can’t Be “Progressive” If You Never, Ever Win, Ever.  I seem to see the most bitching about Obama’s professions of Christian faith coming from the type of Liberals who like to use the word “Progressive” instead of “Liberal.”  But there’s a difference between “selling out” and simply “declining to fuck yourself directly in the ass.”  Yes, it is just as annoying to me as it is to you that the Democrats have to keep spouting rhetoric about being “people of faith.”  And yes, in a sense, taking a harder line on religion would make them a more “Progressive” party.  In another, more accurate sense, however, it would make them an “always lose 538 electoral votes to 0” party.  You might as well vote for Nader if you’re going to argue stuff like this.  And by “vote for Nader,” I mean “come to my house so I can kill you.”

9.  Aw, Come On, It’s a Black Thing, Just Leave It Alone.  Am I saying that you should vote for Obama just because he’s Black?  Of course not.  Am I saying that the fact that he’s Black should make you less pissed about the Christianity?  Yes, actually, I totally am.  It is a more-than-fair point that the African-American Christian tradition is a different organism altogether from the type of Christianity that pisses us off.  It is inextricably tied up with the Civil Rights Movement, and it is largely thanks to the continued influence of African-American Christians that people in this country are aware that it’s even possible to believe in God and be a Liberal at the same time.  Despite being more authentically pious than just about everybody else, Black Christians still somehow manage to refrain from blowing up abortion clinics, picketing gay funerals, and waging loony juntas against local school boards over sex education and evolution.  Having this type of Christian as the nation’s most prominent Christian could go a long way to making a lot of the other Christians chill out a little.  Would it be even better if they stopped believing in God altogether?  Sure.  But between “chilling out” and “nothing,” I’ll take chilling out — and if you wouldn’t, then this kind of belies the alleged concern for people that supposedly informs your distaste for religion.  Yes, Obama’s rhetorical style is very deliberately and conspicuously informed by the rhythms of Black American gospel tradition.  You know what else?  This is a big part of why he's such an enthralling speaker.  Yes, when Obama wins, the celebrations in many Black communities will very pointedly include a lot of explicitly Christian rejoicing and whatnot.  But you know what?  They have had to deal with so much bullshit over the years, I say let them have it.  I’m not going to look an African-American in the eye and say “Sure, I could have voted for your guy, and he could have won, but I said screw it because you’re not ditching Christianity fast enough” — not because I’m scared, but simply because even I am not that big of an asshole.  Religious communities that have been fucked with beyond all comprehension in the recent past are a tricky issue — you know how we, um, kind of tend to go easy on Jewish people?  Same thing.

10.  As Smart People, We Have a Responsibility to Protect Everyone Else.  Being an atheist means more than just bursting into comment wars bellowing “Ha, ha! I’m smarter than you!” (not that doing this is not awesome, but still).  As the only people who see the world as it really is, we have a responsibility to that world.  We simply do not have the right to sulk in our tent while the ships burn, just as adults who are responsible for children do not have the right to act like those children, no matter how much they might want to, even if the children do it first.  Barack Obama becoming President of the United States would be better for the world than John McCain (and, quite possibly, subsequently Sarah Palin) becoming President of the United States.  It would mean more widespread social justice, less unnecessary suffering, and greater happiness for a greater number, both in America and the broader world.  We are the teachers of the rest of humanity whether we want the job or not, and whether it takes another hundred years to teach them or another thousand, we have to teach them either way.  To punish them for not learning fast enough would be not only senselessly cruel, but counterproductive even from a self-centered point of view, since the ignorance, poverty, and misery that would be tolerated and increased by continued Republican control of the United States would serve both to extend and intensify the religiosity of the human race.

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    In conclusion, don’t freaking not vote for Obama just because he says Christian stuff now and then, dumbass.  This would not make you more principled, or more atheist, than the rest of us — you will simply be the one asshole who screwed it up for everybody, and every other atheist/secularist will hate you for the rest of your life.  Now, the risk when dealing with atheists, as usual, is that we tend to enjoy being different so much that the prospect of being singled out this way is very likely an inducement to some of us…  But you know what?  Let’s let that shit go for once.  Let’s just win for a change.  Ideally, yes, “win” would mean an atheist president.  But I don’t see an atheist running.  All I see is someone that the Religious Right wants to win, and someone that the Religious Right doesn’t want to win.  The guy they don’t want to win is Barack Obama.  Case closed.

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