Monday, June 19, 2006

More thoughts on Ann Coulter

Jeff, Denis and I had a very interesting discussion about Ann Coulter this weekend on the Non-Prophets this weekend. I'd say it lasted a solid half hour, and Jeff gave me a new perspective on what her motives might be in naming the book "Godless".

In her latest train wreck of a column, Coulter complains that people aren't getting properly offended by the central thesis of her book.

My book makes a stark assertion: Liberalism is a godless religion. Hello! Anyone there? I've leapt beyond calling you traitors and am now calling you GODLESS. Apparently, everybody's cool with that. The fact that liberals are godless is not even a controversial point anymore.

To Coulter, "godless" is a worse insult than "traitor." And she's frustrated that this isn't what bothers people.

Jeff Dee wrote a blog entry a year ago that addresses what this issue is all about. Like many things I write, some of this post is a wholesale ripping off of ideas that he gave me.

First of all, the reality. Most atheists do in fact vote Democratic. It's simply a fact... somewhere around 70-80% of the atheist vote went to Gore, and then to Kerry.

But of course, most Democrats are godful. Not all Democrats are atheists; many are liberal Christians, or wiccans/pagans/new agers/whatever. This reflects that fact that Democrats are actually a highly diverse coalition of people and interests. The godless and the laid back religious form one issue oriented segment; then there's gay rights advocates, pro-choicers, environmentalists, pro-science people, anti-war people, civil rights pinkos, and so on. Many times these interests converge, but not always. Democrats have varying individual agendas and tend not to move in lockstep. Being "liberal" on one or several issues is no guarantee that you'll agree with the rest of the party platform.

This is as contrasted with the Republican party, which by and large demands complete loyalty on all issues. Sure, they have the "enrich the rich" big money guys on one hand and the very poor rural theocrats on the other. But the poor rural theocrats have also been persuaded to believe that eliminating the estate tax is in their interest; while the big money guys regularly use hyper-religious language to woo the rural theocrats. In short, Republicans have managed a kind of cohesion that Democrats don't have.

Ann Coulter's nasty routine tries to drive a wedge into the already tenuous alliance among Democrats. Liberal Christian Democrats are driven to say "We're not Godless, you mean lady! Look how much we love God!" And then they try to find ways to make the Democratic party more overtly religious.

Then what happens? It alienates the atheists, of course. We atheists -- who make up a not insignificant fraction of the party's base -- see that the Democrats are starting to pander to the religious left, and we get discouraged, and the votes start to fall off.

THIS is what Coulter and her ilk are really after. Internal rifts in the Democratic party. With the last two elections being won by less than five points, a chunk of 10-20% of Democrats becoming convinced that there's no difference between the parties could ensure Republican victories for a long time to come.

If Democrats were smart, their reaction to being called Godless would be one of unambiguous solidariy with atheists. Easy for an atheist to say, right? But they don't have to agree with our position. They could say, "You know, most of our party are not godless, but we gladly accept people of all religions and no religion. We understand that there are differences among individuals, but we celebrate those differences." The people who find "godless" to be an automatic insult will avoid the Democratic party, but they already do that anyway.


  1. I wonder if the best approach is simply to ignore her. I really like the response you ended with, but I'm not sure we should let her suck us into more conflict. Of course, such stupidity is tough to ignore - just look at how much time we spend discussing religion!

  2. It's tempting to just go with the ignore tactic. However, I am with PZ Myers on this one:

    "I've been hearing the same argument applied to creationists for about 25 years. "Ignore them and they'll go away," or "Serious scientists don't pay attention to the lunatic fringe," they say. We tend our little gardens, and we don't worry about what the crackpot next door is growing in his. But hey, have you noticed something?

    Neglect doesn't work."

  3. Darrell3:33 PM

    I could almost believe that Ann Coulter works for Carl Rove. She seems to thrive on doing whatever she can to keep culture war going strong, which is what the Bush administration is all about. She, and any others that foment culture war, need to be opposed. Pragmatic people that hope for a better future for this country, and the world, need to step up and find effective ways to oppose the radicals currently in power who seem to be trying there damnedest to turn the clock back a few centuries.