With the 2012 presidential elections coming up, potential candidates for the Republican nomination are out and about testing the waters. We hear from the majority of them that they are considering running against the "socialist, Kenyan, secret Muslim." They just have to decide whether they have the support they need in order to endure the charlie foxtrot that is presidential politics. One way to get a rise out of your base is apparently to make outlandish claims that garner you media attention. Take Newt Gingrich for example. Speaking at John Hagee's Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Gingrich offered this dire outlook for his grandchildren, "I am convinced that if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America, by the time they're my age they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American." Umm, what?
Now, to understand how someone who is considering running for our nation's highest office could say something like that and be taken seriously, we have to understand the crowd to which he was speaking. John Hagee's church in San Antonio is one of the most influential mega-churches in the U.S. Hagee is known to have far-reaching ties in Washington and with Israel. The people who fill the pews at Cornerstone Church are probably far more likely to vote for someone who shares their Christian conservative values (at least vocally claims to share their values despite being on his third wife) than they are someone who may take a more moderate approach to their religion and politics. It is easy for the Newts of the country to stroll into that environment and make absurd claims like he did. Most of them probably didn't think twice about what he said because they have probably been filled with similar nonsense claims for years. Claims such as the frequently heard (at least on Fox News and out of the mouths of conservative Christian politicians and pundits) erroneous idea that Christians are a persecuted minority in the U.S.
So, what was wrong with what Newt said? First of all, this country is secular already. At least the government is supposed to be secular in nature. Second, while atheism/agnosticism is on the rise in the U.S. it is not even close to becoming a majority, especially with people like Newt Gingrich, Michelle Bachmann, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin out there spreading hate and falsehoods about secular Americans and our own national history. Third, what could he possibly have meant when he claimed that a secular atheist society would be dominated by radical Islamists? If it is dominated by radical Muslims, then it certainly is not a secular, atheist society. What he seems to not understand is that secular/atheist Americans are not just atheists in regard to the Christian god but all gods. I don't know of a single secular/atheist/agnostic American who is pro-radical Islam. As a matter of fact, I don't know anyone who is pro-radical Islam except those radical Muslims we hear about on the news. Secular Americans are just as likely to be opposed to radical Islam as fundamentalist Christians.
It is this ignorance that concerns me. It is this idea that if you are not a Christian, or you are not "Christian enough," then you must hate America and want radical Islam to dominate. You must want to do nothing but kill babies and take god out of America. You must despise America and you are, of course, an immoral, devil-worshiping criminal. You cannot have served in the armed forces because, as we all know, "there are no atheists in foxholes" and without a belief in god you would be a pathetic excuse for a service member. You're probably gay and want to marry your dog as well. You must lead a shallow, lonely, sad life with no fulfillment whatsoever. You have no meaning or purpose because you "don't believe in anything." This idea that the only valuable, caring, loving, compassionate citizens in the U.S. must be Christian is absurd. Yet, we hear it all the time from conservative politicians and pundits.
What Gingrich and his cohorts don't understand is that as long as we support our secular governmental foundation, radical Islam cannot be any more politically threatening than radical Christianity. They don't want Sharia law here in the U.S., well neither do I. However, our constitution already ensures that that cannot happen. I am honestly more concerned with conservative, fundamental Christians attempting to implement religious-based laws than I am Muslims attempting the same thing because there are countless examples of Christian politicians introducing religiously-based laws.
Gingrich is just trying to fire up his base and make it seem as though their way of life (the correct way of course) is under attack from the atheist/Islamist hordes. He is taking something they care deeply about and making it seem like it is being taken away from them by the godless savages. However, none of their rights are being violated or threatened. Nothing is being taken away from them. No one is telling them they cannot continue to worship the god of their choosing. No one is saying they cannot pray. No one is taking away their right to marry (and in Newt's case, divorce and remarry, divorce again and remarry). No one is saying they cannot indoctrinate their children in ancient myths and teach them that their ancestors used to cruise around on dinosaurs. They are not a persecuted minority, but the Newts of this country are going to do everything they can to make it seem that way so that they can be elected and continue to drag this country backward.
As long as Americans grant people like Gingrich a platform from which he can spew his nonsense, we're in trouble. The problem though is that people like Gingrich are a dime a dozen. If he isn't the Republican nominee, which I don't think he will be, there are countless other ignorant, backward thinking, history-altering, bible-thumping blowhards to take his place. Pay attention people, the ride is just beginning...