Sally Quinn is as entrenched at the Washington Post as anyone could be. That comes with being Ben Bradlee’s wife. But she is a continuous source of embarrassment for the paper. Consider this segment from her latest column:
This is a religious country. Part of claiming your citizenship is claiming a belief in God, even if you are not Christian.. We’ve got the Creator in our Declaration of Independence. We’ve got “In God We Trust” on our coins. We’ve got “one nation under God” in our Pledge of Allegiance. And we say prayers in the Senate and the House of Representatives to God.
An atheist could never get elected dog catcher, much less president. (Democratic Rep. Pete Stark of California is a nontheist but doesn’t talk much about it).
Up until now, the idea of being American and believing in God were synonymous.
Let’s split this up.
This is a religious country. TRUE
Part of claiming your citizenship is claiming a belief in God, even if you are not Christian. FALSE
We’ve got the Creator in our Declaration of Independence. TRUE
We’ve got “In God We Trust” on our coins. TRUE
We’ve got “one nation under God” in our Pledge of Allegiance. TRUE
And we say prayers in the Senate and the House of Representatives to God. TRUE
An atheist could never get elected dog catcher, much less president. (Democratic Rep. Pete Stark of California is a nontheist but doesn’t talk much about it). CONTRADICTORY, BUT MOSTLY TRUE
Up until now, the idea of being American and believing in God were synonymous. FALSE
This is an unholy logical mess. Let’s begin with the problem that we don’t know what Sally Quinn is trying to prove. I thought she was trying to say that you can’t be a U.S. citizen or get elected to office unless you believe in God. But she isn’t really saying that. She acknowledges that Rep. Pete Stark is a “non-theist.” Does she acknowledge that we have Buddhists in Congress who are also non-theists? How about the Democratic senate candidate from Hawai’i? Mazie Hirono is a non-practicising Buddhist who was born in Japan. She’s way ahead in the polls. Uh-oh. She’s an American citizen. She might even wear a flag-pin!
Why does Quinn say “until now” believing in God and being American were synonymous? What changed? Has anything changed? Who changed it? Is she even correct that religious belief has been synonymous with being an American? I think you have to strain pretty hard to make that true, and what you’re left with is something a lot different from what I think Ms. Quinn means.
Is is okay to believe in Providence but not in the divinity of Christ?
“The Christian god can easily be pictured as virtually the same god as the many ancient gods of past civilizations. The Christian god is a three headed monster; cruel, vengeful and capricious. If one wishes to know more of this raging, three headed beast-like god, one only needs to look at the caliber of people who say they serve him. They are always of two classes: fools and hypocrites.”- Thomas Jefferson
“The Bible is not my book nor Christianity my profession. I could never give assent to the long, complicated statements of Christian dogma.”- Abraham Lincoln
“I do not believe in the divinity of Christ, and there are many other of the postulates of the orthodox creed to which I cannot subscribe.”- William Howard Taft
Imagine any presidential candidate making those comments today. Of course, they all professed a belief in some kind of higher power, so this doesn’t technically negate Sally Quinn’s point. I just think it shows that the country hasn’t been led by orthodox Trinitarian Christians for much of its history. This country has grown more conventionally religious, not less.
Sally Quinn obviously thinks this is a good thing, but we still don’t know why she wrote this column. It appears that she wrote it to congratulate Mitt Romney for mentioning our Creator in the debate and to criticize the president for failing to do so. But we can’t even tell if she offers this opinion as dispassionate analysis or because she personally needed the pat on the head.
She says that an atheist can’t be elected dog-catcher in this country, and she makes it sound like that is a good thing. If she said the same about gays or women or Latinos or Jews or Mormons, would we find her approving tone acceptable? Why is it okay to pick on atheists in this way? When Mitt Romney brought up our Creator in the debate, he did so in part to stress the importance of religious freedom. Was he wrong? Should atheists be barred from holding public office?
There are a lot of atheists in this country, and that has been true for our entire history. I just don’t get how they can in any sense be denied their American citizenship or their place in our culture.
Ms. Quinn could have just said that pandering to religious feelings in a debate is a smart and effective tactic and Romney helped himself when he remembered to do it because this is a very religious country. That would have been straight-up analysis. If she wanted to say she is happy the country values religion so much, that would have a valid expression of her opinion. But, instead, she just vomited up a Jackson Pollack-style logical argument that is needlessly insulting to millions of Americans who did nothing to harm Sally Quinn.