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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sam Harris on Sarah Palin or, When Atheists Attack

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Sam Harris has a really good article on the dangers of Sarah Palin as the GOP's VP nomination: When Atheists Attack.

I disagree with him that her convention speech was "most effective political communication I have ever witnessed", but I think the rest of the article is quite good.

One of my biggest concerns about her has been her utter ignorance on anything other than field dressing a moose, and Sam points this out:

Her relative ignorance is guaranteed on these fronts and most others, not because she was put on the spot, or got nervous, or just happened to miss the newspaper on any given morning. Sarah Palin's ignorance is guaranteed because of how she has spent the past 44 years on earth.

She scares me, not because, as the right has tried to convince us, that she's a new kind of feminist and we are afraid of strong women, but because she is not only ignorant about most, if not all, matters of political importance in our country, but seems to revel in that ignorance, as do her supporters.

I'm completely flummoxed by the stance that anyone would not want the most intelligent, educated and prepared candidate possible in the White House, whether it's in the West Wing or the East Wing. Her "you can't blink" stance terrifies me. The first and second most powerful people in the work have a responsibility to "blink" and make considered, informed decisions. The McCain/Palin ticket has amply demonstrated that they prefer to make last minute decisions based on what they already "know" to be true. This kind of thinking, it seems to me, comes from a religious background. Not that we atheists are immune to our own biases, but the shutting down of intellectual curiousity, the tendency to reject evidence that disagrees with your personal beliefs, and the sense that differing points of view are always wrong seems to be linked strongly to conservative religious belief.

Rampant hypocrisy in the conservative camp seems to me to also be linked to conservative religious beliefs:

Many writers have noted the many shades of conservative hypocrisy on view here: when Jamie Lynn Spears gets pregnant, it is considered a symptom of liberal decadence and the breakdown of family values; in the case of one of Palin's daughters, however, teen pregnancy gets reinterpreted as a sign of immaculate, small-town fecundity.

I don't believe that cognitive dissonance is limited to the religious right, but it does seem to be much more pravalent, and is in fact a core part of bringing up children in a conservative religion. It just amazes me that they don't see the hypocrisy, but I guess at this point, it shouldn't.

Of all the things Sam says about her, this frightens me the most:

Her supporters know that while she cannot afford to "talk the talk" between now and Nov. 4, if elected, she can be trusted to "walk the walk" until the Day of Judgment.

With McCain and Palin already demonstrating how easy lying comes to them, I suspect that we won't hear much about Palin's extreme religious views until it's too late (if they win).

I just hope our nation starts seeing past the lies and cover-ups soon.