Gingrich’s Atheist-Islamic America: Selling the Drug of Fear Kenneth M.

Montville

In a recent speech given to a congregation of Evangelical Christians in Texas, Newt Gingrich explained that he has a fear of the coming America—“a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists.” But what does that even mean? This is a perfect example of the sort of nonsense put out by the far right. The former Speaker of the House most likely has no fear of this, holding a PhD means he probably understands how that statement is an oxymoron. To put it plainly, an atheist state cannot be dominated by theists. There is little doubt though that Newt chose these words very carefully, peddling fear the way a drug dealer who doesn’t sample his own product would. He knows that the Evangelical Congregation will react well to such rhetoric. The words Secular and Islamic have become the new slogans for the right when they want to incite panic. They are deployed in discussions only when one side wants to slander the position of the other. It come about because Secularism and Islam are presented as unAmerican, as if no real American could ever be a secularist or Muslim. This flies in the face of many great Americans who were just that—secular or Muslim. The founding fathers, Jefferson, Paine, Franklin, Adams, and Washington were all secularists. Thomas Jefferson, on top of owning a copy of the Qur’an; promoting the separation of Church and State; and being a generally irreligious person, rewrote a version of the New Testament which eliminated any and all supernatural events. Thomas Paine was a proponent of freethought and atheism writing works such as The Age of Reason as well as being a leading figure in both the American and French Revolutions. Benjamin Franklin was an outspoken opponent to religious dogma once stating in a letter to George Whitefield, But I wish [Christianity] were more productive of good works, than I have generally seen it; I mean real good works; works of kindness, charity, mercy, and public spirit; not holidaykeeping, sermon-reading or hearing; performing church ceremonies, or making long prayers, filled with flatteries and compliments, despised even by wise men, and much less capable of pleasing the Deity.1 John Adams expressed in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, “I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved—the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced!”2 Finally, George Washington was far from the bible thumping conservative Christian the religious right portrays him as. Though he would infrequently attend mass with his wife he would always leave before communion. When Rev. Dr. James Abercrombie, rector of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, approached him on the matter Washington admitted that it must be distracting, apologised and ceased attending at all.3,4
1 2

Franklin, Benjamin. Works, Vol. VII. Letter to George Whitefield. p. 75-6. Adams, John and Howe, Randy. The Quotable John Adams. p. 190. 3 Sprague, Rev. William. B. Annals of the American Pulpit. Vol. V. p. 394. 4 Wilson, Rev. Bird. A Memoir of the Life of the Right Reverend William White. p. 196-7

What of the famous Muslim Americans? Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress; André Carson, a Muslim congressman from Indiana; and Ahmed Zewail, Nobel Prize laureate in Chemistry are all Americans who do not represent the cookie cutter mold of John Walker Lindh or John Allen Muhammed used to scare Americans into voting for the party of fear, a party that is so called “tough on terrorism.” In short it was secularism, not Christianity, which formed our nation and it takes a wide brush to paint all Muslims as wanting to tear down the traditions, laws and heritage which make America the nation that it is. These comments made by the former Speaker of the House are used strictly to ignite anger toward his political opponents. They are meaningless semantics devoid of context. They this year’s “birther” claims, Glenn Beck’s Stalinist-Maoist-Nazi witch-hunt, and Sarah Palin’s “drill, baby, drill.” Nothing more than buzzwords and catchphrases employed to gain a following of people too ignorant of the political process to understand an actual political platform. These words are for the people who elected George W. Bush over Al Gore because he seemed more likable, rather than more experienced and a generation who advocate for a Palin presidency in 2012. People who can be scammed into thinking that a secular atheist nation dominated by militant Islamists could possibly exist are no different than those who think that suffer from any other unreasonable delusion. It is one thing to be critical of government, or anything for that matter as a fine tuned critical faculty allows us the ability to distinguish what is and is not genuine; it is another thing to have irrational grievances based on unsubstantiated claims. If Gingrich were to lay out his actual political platform, sans any Tea Party jargon or right wing rhetoric, it would be much less appealing to his base of religious right voters. His constituents and supporters would see him and his party for what they are, greedy old men seeking power at the expense of the less fortunate citizens of the United States. Gingrich, a Roman Catholic, has little vested interest in Evangelical Protestants—let alone middleclass America—aside from his own political aspirations and his nonsensical fear-mongering proves just that.

Copyright © 2011 Kenneth M. Montville All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. No part of this publication can be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.

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