Has anyone in the Bush administration confided in you about being an atheist?
Well, I don’t talk that much to them—maybe people think I do. I know something which is known to few but is not a secret. Karl Rove is not a believer, and he doesn’t shout it from the rooftops, but when asked, he answers quite honestly. I think the way he puts it is, “I’m not fortunate enough to be a person of faith.”
It gets better.
In the next breath, Hitchens takes a little of the fire and brimstone out of the “believer in chief” as well.
What must Bush make of that?
I think it’s false to say that the president acts as if he believes he has God’s instructions. Compared to Jimmy Carter, he’s nowhere. He’s a Methodist, having joined his wife’s church in the end. He also claims that Jesus got him off the demon drink. He doesn’t believe it. His wife said, “If you don’t stop, I’m leaving and I’m taking the kids.” You can say that you got help from Jesus if you want, but that’s just a polite way of putting it in Texas.
So, “Bush’s Brain” is a non-believer, and Bush is a lukewarm believer at best.
I haven’t read Hitchen’s book (though it’s just earned a place on my “to read” list), so I don’t know where he got that information about Rove or Bush, but it adds an interesting brush stroke to the pictures of both men.
In Rove’s case, it makes him even more … well, I’m not sure if I want to finish that sentence with “intriguing” or “disgusting.” Here we have a non-religious man who reportedly attended the same Episcopal church as Valerie Plame, and was overheard boasting about “put[ting] churches in schools” during the opening of the Clinton Library.
Offstage, beforehand, Rove and Bush had had their library tours. According to two eyewitnesses, Rove had shown keen interest in everything he saw, and asked questions, including about costs, obviously thinking about a future George W Bush library and legacy. “You’re not such a scary guy,” joked his guide. “Yes, I am,” Rove replied. Walking away, he muttered deliberately and loudly: “I change constitutions, I put churches in schools …” Thus he identified himself as more than the ruthless campaign tactician; he was also the invisible hand of power, pervasive and expansive, designing to alter the fundamental American compact.
This is also the guy who pretty much orchestrated the Bush administration’s faith-based initiative to funnel tax-dollars to Bush’s evangelical supporters for the purpose of proselytizing. It’s worth noting, though that Rove was portrayed in David Kuo’s book (reviewed here) about the administrations cynical handling of evangelicals and the faith-based initiative as somewhat less than reverent in his support for the program.
Three days later, a Tuesday, Karl rove summoned [Don] Willett to his office to announce that the entire faith-based initiative would be rolled out the following Monday. Willett asked just how without a director, or plan the president could do that. Rove looked at him, took a deep breath, and said, ‘I don’t know. Just get me a fucking faith based-thing. Got it?’ Willett was shown the door.
Well, He got his “fucking faith-based thing,” alright, in the form of a faith-based initiative that’s little more than a government funded evangelical christian conversion cottage industry, not mention giving birth to an evangelical movement to Christianize the United States (in their image, of course) by law, that threatens to make it unrecognizable.
The Pat Robertson-founded Regent University School of Law has come under the media’s spotlight in recent days, as one of its graduates, Monica Goodling, has been placed at the center of the debate over the firing of U.S. attorneys. Many are finding that Regent’s influence and alumni placements in the current administration outpace its academic record and credentials.
As the Boston Globe recently reported, “But even in its darker days, Regent has had no better friend than the Bush administration. Graduates of the law school have been among the most influential of the more than 150 Regent University alumni hired to federal government positions since President Bush took office in 2001, according to a university website.”
“The infiltration of the federal government by large numbers of people seeking to impose a religious agenda — which is very different from simply being people of faith — is one of the most important stories of the last six years,” Krugman writes for the Times. “It’s also a story that tends to go underreported, perhaps because journalists are afraid of sounding like conspiracy theorists.”
Krugman continues, “But this conspiracy is no theory. The official platform of the Texas Republican Party pledges to ‘dispel the myth of the separation of church and state.’ And the Texas Republicans now running the country are doing their best to fulfill that pledge.”
…And there’s another thing most reporting fails to convey: the sheer extremism of these people. You see, Regent isn’t a religious university the way Loyola or Yeshiva are religious universities. It’s run by someone whose first reaction to 9/11 was to brand it God’s punishment for America’s sins.
Two days after the terrorist attacks, Robertson held a conversation with Jerry Falwell on Robertson’s TV show “The 700 Club.” Falwell laid blame for the attack at the feet of “the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians,” not to mention the ACLU and People for the American Way. “Well, I totally concur,” said Robertson.
He’s helped give us an Air Force Academy, for example, where holocaust jokes and PowerPoints about the Apocalypse are the order of the day.
“Their participation and promotion of this group is in direct violation of their oaths to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. One officer said that God, his family, and then the US were his priorities.
I ran into this “God First, orders second” attitude when I served in the USAF. There were people in charge of the communications facilities who felt that they should do what God and the Bible told them, not what their commanders said. And if God told them to do something to launch a nuclear holocaust, they would do it. Yes, they actually told me that.
… A 2004 survey indicated that half the cadets at the academy reported hearing religious slurs on campus.
One documented “joke” went like this: “Why do Jews make the best magicians? Because they can go into a building and vanish in a puff of smoke.” Jewish cadets complained about being called “Christ-killers” and being told that the Holocaust was revenge for the death of Jesus.
Cadets who declined to attend a Christian worship service reported being marched back to their dorms by upperclassmen in an exercise they called “Heathen Flight.” Official academy fliers, distributed on military grounds, promoted Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ. Seventh-day Adventist and Jewish cadets were denied the ability to worship on Saturdays.
Yet, he’s an atheist, or perhaps agnostic, though you could write off his church attendance as bowing to the reality that success in conservative politics requires some kind of public religious affiliation.
Also, here’s a guy who’s the brains behind what is arguably the most actively anti-gay administration in history, and the maestro of the Republican party’s viciously anti-gay legislative campaign, yet he also had a gay dad whom he reportedly loved very much, despite the fact that beneficiaries of Roves political efforts believe Karl’s dad is among those to be blamed for the 9/11 attacks.
Just thinking about all of the above has left me too tired to even try tying it all together somehow. I do wonder, though, if this news of Rove’s unbelief might add a few more conservative voices to the current calls for his termination.
Perhaps on moral grounds?