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E Pluribus Unum
for all faiths and for none

by Michael Shermer, Dec 20 2011

Foreigners could be forgiven for thinking that America is fast becoming a theocracy. No fewer than three of the remaining Republican candidates (Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, and Michele Bachmann) have declared that they were called by God to run for the country’s highest office. Congress recently voted to renew the country’s motto of “In God We Trust” on nothing less than the coin of the realm. And this year’s Thanksgiving Forum in Iowa (co-sponsored by the National Organization for Marriage) featured most of the major Presidential candidates competing for the title of God’s quarterback.

Rick Santorum, for example, in the course of denouncing Islamic Sharia law, inadvertently endorsed the same as long as it is a Christian on the Judge’s bench: “Unlike Islam, where the higher law and the civil law are the same, in our case, we have civil laws. But our civil laws have to comport with the higher law.” Not content to speak in such circular generalities, Santorum targeted his faith: “As long as abortion is legal—at least according to the Supreme Court—legal in this country, we will never have rest, because that law does not comport with God’s law.” God’s law? That is precisely the argument made by Islamic imams. But Santorum was only getting started. “Gay marriage is wrong. The idea that the only things that the states are prevented from doing are only things specifically established in the Constitution is wrong. … As a president, I will get involved, because the states do not have the right to undermine the basic, fundamental values that hold this country together.” Christian values only, of course.

The historically challenged Michele Bachmann minced no words when she declared: “I have a biblical worldview. And I think, going back to the Declaration of Independence, the fact that it’s God who created us—if He created us, He created government. And the government is on His shoulders, as the book of Isaiah says.” A Bachmann administration would apparently consult the Old Testament for moral guidance because, she pronounced with her usual hubris born of historical ignorance, “American exceptionalism is grounded on the Judeo-Christian ethic, which is really based upon the 10 Commandments. The 10 Commandments were the foundation for our law.” Really? Where in our laws does it prohibit belief in gods other than Yahweh, ban the manufacturing of graven images, forbid taking the Lord’s name in vain, bar us from working on the Sabbath, require us to honor our parents, and interdict the coveting of our neighbor’s house, wife, slave, servant, ox, and ass? Even the notoriously difficult to follow 7th commandment is not illegal, much to the relief of candidate Gingrich.

Surely the pluralism of America’s religious diversity is what makes us great. Not so, said Rick Perry: “In every person’s heart, in every person’s soul, there is a hole that can only be filled by the Lord Jesus Christ.” But don’t politicians owe allegiance to the Constitution? Alas, pace Perry, no. “Somebody’s values are going to decide what the Congress votes on or what the President of the United States is going to deal with. And the question is: Whose values? And let me tell you, it needs to be our values—values and virtues that this country was based upon in Judeo-Christian founding fathers.” You mean the values and virtues of the atheist Thomas Paine and the Deist Thomas Jefferson, the latter of whom rejected Jesus, the resurrection, and all miracles as nonsense on stilts, and yet who nonetheless insisted on building an impregnable wall protecting religion from the encroachment of state abuse?

Finally, the erudite Newt Gingrich was more specific in his plan to bring about a Christian nation through legal means, starting by redacting the 14th Amendment: “I am intrigued with something which Robby George at Princeton has come up with, which is an interpretation of the 14th Amendment, in which it says that Congress shall define personhood. That’s very clearly in the 14th Amendment. And part of what I would like to explore is whether or not you could get the Congress to pass a law which simply says: Personhood begins at conception. And therefore—and you could, in the same law, block the court and just say, ‘This will not be subject to review,’ which we have precedent for. You would therefore not have to have a Constitutional amendment, because the Congress would have exercised its authority under the 14th Amendment to define life, and to therefore undo all of Roe vs. Wade, for the entire country, in one legislative action.” If the 14th Amendment can be averted on a technicality, what about the others?

If you are a Christian, of course, this is the mother’s milk of nursing privilege. Power to the (Christian) people. It’s the oldest trope in history—religious tribalism—and it’s being played out in the land of liberty. So it is prudent for us to educe that other national motto found on the Seal of the United States first proffered by the founding patriarchs John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson and adopted by an Act of Congress in 1782: E Pluribus Unum—Out of many, one.

How many make up our one? There are 300 million Americans. Gallup, Pew, and other pollsters consistently find that about 10 percent of Americans do not believe in God. That’s 30 million Americans. That’s not all. A 2008 study by the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) revealed that between 1990 and 2008 the fastest growing religious group in America were the “Nones,” or people who responded “None, No religion, Humanistic, Ethical Culture, Agnostic, Atheist, or Secular” in the survey. Remarkably, this group gained more new members (19,838,000) than either Catholics (11,195,000) or Protestants (10,980,000), and totals 15 percent, or 45 million Americans.

Read that number again candidates! If you are elected President of these United States are you really going to dismiss and openly refuse to represent 45 million people living under the same Constitution as you? And that’s just the Nones. Tens of millions more Jews, Mormons, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Baha’i, Jains, Taoists, Wiccans, New Agers, and other law-abiding loyal Americans—many serving in the armed services protecting our liberty—are non-Christians who hold the same dreams and aspirations for what this country has to offer as do Christians. In fact, at most Christians comprise 60–76 percent of all Americans, which means that somewhere between 72 million and 120 million U.S. citizens are non-Christians no less deserving of representation in this democracy.

It’s time for candidates and politicians to stop the God talk and start acting like true representatives of the people—all of the people. It’s time for the 45 million Nones to demand both respect and representation no less than any other American, and for presidential candidates, when asked about their religion, to reply something along these lines:

I understand why you are curious about my religious beliefs, but I am not running to represent only Americans who happen to believe what I believe about God and religion. I am running to represent Americans of all faiths, and even the tens of millions of Americans who have no religion. If elected, my allegiance is to the Constitution and my duty is to uphold the laws of this great land, which are to be applied equally and without prejudice to all Americans no matter their color or creed. I realize that some candidates and politicians pander to their religious voting block in hopes of gaining support by tapping ancient tribal prejudices, but that is not my way. I get why other candidates are tempted to appeal to those deep emotions that are stirred by religious unity against those who believe differently, but I am trying to do something different. If elected I fully intend to represent all Americans under my jurisdiction, not just those Americans whose beliefs I happen to share. I am trying to build a better America for all Americans, not some. The original motto of this country is E Pluribus Unum. It means “Out of many, one.” It means that we are stronger together than separate, united by our common belief in liberty and the freedom to believe whatever you want as long as it doesn’t harm others. As a candidate for the highest office of this noble nation my faith is in its people—all of the people—and what we are able to do together to make the world a better place to live.

76 Responses to “E Pluribus Unum
for all faiths and for none”

  1. Michael G says:

    I have a great deal of love for the the USA but when I read this sort of thing I’m glad to be an Australian. Here we have about 20% of population declaring to have no religion (according to compulsory census) and I read a recent survey (not sure of numbers) found that only about 20% of Australians declared that religion was an important part of their lives. That rings pretty true with my experiences. We’ve had quite a few Prime Ministers (the US equivalent of the President) who have been atheist and apart from a small group of evangelicals, nobody has really cared. Coming out as an atheist (at least in my experience) has never been a drama. Most of my friends and co-workers are well aware of my beliefs. Whilst I was bought up in a christian household my parents always encouraged us to make up our own decisions which I did and from an early age.

  2. laursaurus says:

    Michael, you should be writing campaign speeches!
    I don’t see the GOP winning the presidency in 2012. The key is winning independent votes, which they forsaking with this Holier-than-Thou competition. In addition to excluding non-Christians, they are also alienating nominal Christians, Catholics (except for maybe the pro-life platform), Jews, etc. Evangelical Christianity tends to be exclusive with it’s literal Biblical position. This is not just perceived as anti-science, but anti-intellectual. The Bible is a library of books, written by numerous authors, spanning centuries, and doesn’t translate flawlessly into English. A scholarly approach is essential to grasping the intended meaning of the text.
    So yes, they are making themselves look not only backward, but ridiculous. Don’t worry. Obama will be re-elected at the rate we’re going.

  3. Trimegistus says:

    Sigh. I’m forty-five years old. I’ve been voting since the election of 1984. In every single one of those elections someone has warned that the scary Republican Christians are going to turn this country into a theocracy. Hasn’t happened. What has happened is that anti-Christian activists have gotten more strident and bigoted. Oh, and political Islam has become a major force in the world. But it’s the scary Republican Christians we must watch out for. The Democrats tell us that every four years.

    This blog post is bullshit. Since Mr. Shermer is a fairly intelligent man, I assume he knows it’s bullshit.

    Why are you spreading bullshit, Mr. Shermer? More to the point, why are you repeating shopworn Democratic Party talking points?

    • Old Rockin' Dave says:

      I’ve been voting longer than you by more than a decade and have been aware of, and sometimes involved in, politics before that. If the theocrats, and that’s what these Dominionists and their ilk are, haven’t won yet, it’s not for lack of their trying. It’s because there are still people who stand up in active opposition.
      The evangelical war on America unfortunately lines up with powerful interests who stand to lose if what are painted as liberal programs gain ground; look to see where the most opposition to environmental regulation comes from, or the growing insistence that Jesus was a free-market capitalist who would have supported, I don’t know, maybe the privatization of Social Security, or whatever the money men want this week.

    • John K. says:

      Since Mr. Shermer provides very specific examples and you provide only a broad declaration, I find Mr. Shermer far more compelling.

    • tmac57 says:

      I don’t find the Republican candidates scary because they are christians. They are scary because they are pandering idiots.And,oh by the way,the last time I looked,almost all Democratics also identify as christian,so strawman argument .But that’s what we have come to expect from you.

    • MikeB says:

      Hi, Jackass.

      I’m a gay man who has been in a long-term relationship for twenty-six years, and we have zero rights as a couple in our state currently.

      The impediment: the Christian A-holes Shermer discusses.

      Go Cheney yourself.

    • Sheldon W. Helms says:

      What you fail to notice is that there WERE, in fact, a good many dangers with Republican Christianity throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Reagan (a puppet to the “Moral Majority”) avoided even so much as mentioning HIV/AIDS as it ravaged the gay community for the first few years. He was finally shamed into it by the media. Who knows what suffering could have been avoided if he had actually given a shit about gay men. Tell me THAT wasn’t the result of his Christianity (or at least that of his supporters).

      George W. Bush was also so hell bent on proving Christianity right that he regularly supported teaching “Intelligent Design” in our public schools “alongside evolution.” In other words, teach religious nonsense alongside real science.

      It’s sad that you think the take-away lesson in Dr. Shermer’s article is that the Republican Boogiemen are coming. The spirit of his article is in the last paragraph. Go read it again and see if there’s anything THERE that you can argue against. If so, you’re not even megálos, let alone trimegistus [sic].

    • jeffb says:

      Since you are 45 years old, you are old enough to have read the Bible and familiarize yourself with its contents and themes. So by now you should know (but apparently you don’t) that the “culture war” between religious and non-religious persons in America finds its source in THE BIBLE. It comes from the writings and sayings attributed to Peter, Paul, John, and Jesus in the gospels and the epistles (and they, in turn, may have borrowed the concept from a sect of Jews called Essenes around the 2nd Century BCE). The early Christians adopted the language of warfare against unbelievers in all times and places and put it in their Bible. It is there that we atheists are derided and insulted for being fools, evildoers, pigs, dogs, and liars, etc.

      So how dare you accuse atheists of being strident and bigoted. Many of us are merely pushing back against the codified bigotry of the idiotic and supposed-god-breathed Christian scriptures! Christian doctines have enslaved humans wherever it has reached, and we atheists will not stand idly by to watch it continue here. Maybe a full-blown theocracy hasn’t materialized here, but it could. For example, after Constantine declared tolerance for Christians in 312 CE it took only 68 years for Chrisians to outlaw non-Christian belief and practices throughout the empire under Theodosius in 380 CE (please read Charles Freeman’s book “381 A.D.” for an excellent history about that period). Unbelievers have every right to be angry (if you prefer to use that buzzword) because the hate and bigotry imposed by Christianity around the world is intolerable! (not to mention all the physical and mental suffering it causes as well)

      So please don’t cry that we atheists don’t pat you on the back and congratulate you for your hate-filled Bible doctrines. Give up the poor-persecuted-minority bullshit, PLEASE! It’s a lie! If you really are opposed to bad manners then you would first thrown your Bible in the trash and remove the plank from your own eye! I have catalogued a nice collection of hate-speech in the Bible that you can read right here:

    • feralboy12 says:

      I’ve also been voting longer than you, and the Republican candidates have been telling me at least since 1988 that I’m not a Real American. This is despite having been born here, living my whole life here, voting, paying taxes, serving on juries, and having a father who served in WWII. It gained momentum with G.H.W. Bush questioning the patriotism of liberals, those who believe in civil liberties, support the ACLU, regard the Pledge of Allegiance as useless parroting, and has been steadily getting worse. In 2008 Sarah Palin went to some little town in West Virginia and told them they were the “Real Americans.” And now, with 2012 around the corner, we have (originally) half the Republican candidates claiming to have been instructed to run by God, and at least three who want our laws to comport with “God’s Laws,” despite the fact that the first amendment gives me the right to violate half of the Ten Commandments. Politicians around the country rush to re-affirm “In God We Trust” on our currency, post the Ten Commandments in government buildings, call for Days of Prayer and the like, all while the economy flounders.
      Prominent politicians state very clearly what their plan is–and what, you don’t believe them? When should I start worrying–the day they slam my cell door shut?

  4. Old Rockin' Dave says:

    The Christians who are making the most noise today are forgetting that Christianity is a very big umbrella, containing literally thousands of variations, many of whom detest at least some of the others.
    What are we to make of an evangelical who claims to speak for Christians? Many Protestants speak of the Roman Catholic church as “the whore of Babylon”. Issues divide the Roman Church from the various flavors of Eastern Orthodox. I could easily spend the day listing all the contentions among Christian churches and sects.
    If some day they get their “Christian nation”, the infighting will begin within short weeks and will probably end up in a shooting civil war – nothing has made for longer and bloodier wars and intractable centuries-long resentments after those wars than religious differences.

    • Janet Camp says:

      Thanks Dave and well done!. I’ve been voting since 1972, and I can only hope that it’s people like you and me who have prevented the christians from getting their theocracy.


      Gingrich is particularly worrisome as he puts a thin veneer of (faux) intellectualism on his musings. It also worries me that so many blue-collar, white, evangelicals find ways to contort the messages of the New Testament into such racist and undemocratic talking points as are heard from the motley bunch of GOP candidates.

      It is also weird that someone as well-educated (and had an anthropologist for a mother) as Obama would be a true believer (and something tells me he isn’t). I’m not equating belief with intelligence, per se, but there must be some correlation, no?

    • tim says:

      Christianity is a very big umbrella,

      EXACTLY. And they use that as a political tool to claim that the majority of people are Christians, therefore they all agree with them.

  5. Childermass says:

    Thomas Paine was not an atheist. Go read his works if you have any doubt.

    Let me grab a book of his writings off the shelf. Here is how it starts…

    “Religion has two principal enemies, fanaticism and infidelity, or that which is called atheism. The first requires to be combated by reason and morality, the other by natural philosophy.
    “The existence of a God is the first dogma of the Theophilanthropists [a religion Paine co-founded].”


    “Contemplating the universe, the whole system of creation, in this point of light, we shall discover, that all that which is called natural philosophy is properly a divine study. It is the study of God through His works. It is the best study, by which we can arrive at a knowledge of His existence, and the only one by which we can gain a glimpse of His perfection….”

    Some bad science:

    “It is because motion is not a property of matter, that perpetual motion is an impossibility in the hand of every being but that of the Creator of motion. When the pretenders to atheism can produce perpetual motion, and not til then, they may expect to be credited.”

    All quotes from “The Existence of God: A Discourse at the Society of Theophilanthropists, Paris”

    And oh yeah, he explicitly says be believes in God in “The Age of Reason.” These are NOT isolated comments. Paine’s belief comes up again and again in his writings. What Paine opposed was organized religion based on revelation because of the corruption of the existing churches, the silliness of their doctrines, and because no one could double check the revelation so it could have affect only to the person it was revealed to.

    • poppsych says:


      Based on the quotes you provided it sounds as if Paine would best be described as a deist (i.e. lack of belief in organized religion and focus on natural phenomenon). So, my question for you is this: whether Paine was an atheist or a deist, how does this fact (in any way) deter from the main point that Dr. Shermer was making about the common, but erroneous, claim that the United States was founded on “Christian values”?

  6. David L says:

    God should have made up his mind before calling Perry et al. As it is, they’re splitting the “I’m for the annointed one” constituency.

    • Ed Graham says:

      If this God who chose Perry and the others decided to run for President, I’d have to vote against him.

  7. Trimegistus says:

    Being a skeptic means paying attention to facts and evidence, not emotional sloganeering.

    Fact: since 1980 Republicans have occupied the White House for 20 of 31 years.

    Fact: the United States has not become a “theocracy” and in fact the political influence of Christian groups has generally declined.

    Conclusion: Mr. Shermer’s argument is bullshit.

    • tmac57 says:

      Like Janet Camp,above,I have been voting since 1972,and from my perspective,I have never witnessed the amount of pandering to christians in the Republican party such as we have seen in recent history.There was a time when these matters were considered to be personal,not unimportant,but certainly not the front and center focus of a candidate’s platform,and open talk about formally making the U.S. into a christian nation,would have been political suicide.Now,it’s almost a requirement to be considered a viable GOP frontrunner.

      • Trimegistus says:

        The Obama administration is massively corrupt and incompetent, but the Democrats have dragged out the threadbare old straw man for another campaign. “The scary Christians are coming to GET YOU! AIEE!”

        You’re not a skeptic. You’re a sucker.

      • tmac57 says:

        The massively corrupt Democrats are coming to GET YOU! AIEE!
        (see how that works ? ;) )

      • Wrong says:

        I see your humour, and raise you “Oh no! THE SCARY CORRUPT TRIMEGISTUS IS OUT AND COMING TO GET YOU! AIIIEEEE!”

        Seriously Tri, you do need to 1) backup your assertions of corruption for anyone to believe them. 2) see that half of this stuff could be used to attack pandering by democrats too, and that would be your job. Unless you’re a religious wacko, which seems unlikely. 3) see that there’s a difference about being concerned about religious impacts in politics and saying that the Republicans suck. If you’ll recall, the change of the motto passed, and it wasn’t only Republicans for it.

    • MikeB says:

      “Fact: the United States has not become a “theocracy” and in fact the political influence of Christian groups has generally declined.”

      So then explain the speeches coming out of the pie holes of the current Republican crop.

      Maybe the real bullshit is that which comes out of Republican pie holes. All talk, no action.

    • Miles says:

      What specific claim of Michael’s is “bullshit”? You seem to be very interested in “facts”. Here are is another “fact”:

      Despite the “fiscally prudent” Republicans being in power for 20 or the last 31 years, government spending has more than doubled in those years.

      So much for Republicans being for “limited government”.

      I’ll ask again. What specific claim of Shermer’s is incorrect? Were any of his quotes wrong? Were any of his “facts” wrong? Can you point to a single claim of his that was false?

      • Again, that’s good, but Novella again, there, makes the mistake of thinking that cynicism and conspiracy thinking are rough equals when they’re not. Again, I can be cynical about government without believing in conspiracy theories. For instance, a member of Seal Team 6 has a book out refuting a number of details of Obama’s official story about the killing of OBL.

        Therefore, I could be cynical about Obama’s claims about how the operation went down, yet have no problem accepting that OBL was killed.

        Part of being a modern skeptic should include precision in language.

      • tmac57 says:

        Could you be cynical about the claims by the member of Seal Team 6?

      • I could be that, as well, yet not think it was part of a conspiracy.

        I could be cynical about how much campaign money Wall Street gave Obama in 2008 yet not be conspiratorial and think he was anointed by the Bildebergers.

        I could be cynical about Bush’s (and Rice’s, etc.) intellectual laziness during Bush’s 2001 summer vacation (i.e., that “President’s Daily Brief,” when he wasn’t faking reading thin Camus novels), and yet not be conspiratorial about believing he or Cheney blew up the Twin Towers.

        So, cynicism and conspiracy thinking’s degree of overlap is actually quite small.

        Ergo, precision in language!

      • Wrong says:

        Indeed. Precise language in your post would mean you would say “Skeptical about Obama’s claims about how the operation went down” rather than using the word cynical.
        And I don’t think that Novella there is saying that Cynicism and conspiracy thinking are the same. He’s making an example of a conspiracy theory formulated by cynical thinking.

      • Wrong, no, I meant “cynical” in that I would go beyond skepticism, saying Obama made the claims as he did for partisan political reasons. Just being “skeptical” would be to question the claims without presupposing certain motives.

    • Wrong says:

      Where does he argue that the coutry is becoming, or destined to become a theocracy? Strawman. He notes and bemoans the use of religion and religious voting blocs by politicians. That happens on both sides. It’s a pointless bit of pandering that distracts from the real issue.

      Oh, and just in case you’re thinking that Shermer is some anti-republican type, remember, as a Libertarian, his views align with the right as often as with the left.

  8. DeLong says:

    Currently, I am reading “The Grand Inquisitor’s Manual” by Jonathan Kirsch. As I listen to the GOP candidates try to out do each other on Chrisitanity, I wonder which one will try to bring back the Inquisition as a domestic policy? Secondly, I’m sure one or two of them would shout “onward Christian soldier” in declaring war on those “other” countries when they start their modern day Crusades as their foreign policy. Based on their comments all rights to a fair trial, impartial judges and juries of your peers would be suspended to pursue the “higher” law of “their” diety. They seem to forget that Article VI, paragraph 3 of the U.S. Constitution states that “…no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office…” As a voter for 42 years, the more anyone brings up religion, the less likely it is that I will vote for that person.

  9. Loren Petrich says:

    Despite what the Religious Right seems to think, American Xianity is not absolutely homogeneous. However, the Americans Xians who disagree with the Religious Right are unwilling to state very loudly their belief that RR beliefs are heretical. Not even “The RR does not speak for me!”

    You don’t see large numbers of liberal Xians mobbing school-board meetings about creationism and yelling “The Bible tells us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go!!!” Or yelling at anti-abortionists that “God has given us sovereignty over our bodies and nobody can take that away!!!”

  10. Willy says:

    “What has happened is that anti-Christian activists have gotten more strident and bigoted”.

    Indeed, but then so have the christian fundamentalists, each being in large part a reaction to the other’s activities. Pretty much what one would expect, in other words.

    A equally significant trend that I have definitively seen personally among acquaintances is also born out by several recent surveys. This is the “leaving fundamentalism” that is increasingly happening among the young people (20-somethings) that were raised in fundamentalist families (some would say indoctrinated). What is more, they do not appear to be returning to faith as often happened in the past.

    Like most things, this probably has multiple causes. One is quite old and that is the principle that the best way to make a young person hate something is to force them to do it! What is new is the recent addition (by technology) of easy social networking. This is a role historically often filled by faith and church. That may be in the process of being mostly replaced by the easy tech-driven social interactions of today.

    Evangelicals beware – you are in danger of losing your numbers where it counts most – the young. Another (if somewhat different) example of science triumphing over religion?

  11. Doris D says:

    Mr. Shermer:

    Don’t you know, Christians have the TRUTH; you only have the truth. Therefore, they get to tell you what to do and believe.

  12. Miles says:

    One of the things that I hate about election years, is that everything is a package deal. I wish we could vote on issues instead of candidates. Every candidate has some position or issue that I really don’t like. I’ve never “felt good” about voting for anyone. Even as a libertarian, I won’t feel warm and fuzzy voting for Ron Paul, since I completely dislike his stance on immigration.

    It amazes me how often Democrats and Republicans alike want to increase the amount of power the President has, yet they shiver at the thought of a candidate they don’t agree with getting elected and obtaining that power. Why not drastically limit what a President has the power to do, so that every 4 years we don’t need to freak out thinking about what horrible things are going to happen if some crazy candidate get’s elected? I guess the fantasy that is going to fix all of our problems if they could just get elected and have the power to re-shape society is too attractive a dream to abandon for some people.

    • Old Rockin' Dave says:

      Here are a couple of things to think about if you want to vote for Ron Paul:
      I have never seen any libertarian attempt to counter the objections Professor Dutch raises here.
      And if you think the good Doctor Paul can walk away claiming he did not write or even read what was in his own newsletter, check this one out:

      • Miles says:

        “I have never seen any libertarian attempt to counter the objections Professor Dutch raises here.”

        How hard have you looked? I’d be happy to talk about any of the points raised in this paper. Considering the volume of different issues, I hope you understand why I’m not simply addressing each of them in this response to your comment. But if you want to pick any of those particular points to talk about, pick one and I’ll oblige. I have a feeling that most other libertarians would have the same attitude and be perfectly willing to “attempt to counter” any one of those criticisms.

        As far as your warnings that Ron Paul is a racist, well, that’s a different subject than talking about libertarian stances on political issues. I personally don’t know much about what Ron Paul’s thoughts and feelings were in the 80’s and 90’s. Maybe he was a racist, and if so, that would be unfortunate and I would expect most libertarians to distance themselves from him as a result.

        However, I hope you don’t fault me for wanting to see a bit more than the points brought up by political blogs on the Internet which have an obvious interest in “embellishing” the truth. I read through the links that you posted and didn’t find either one particularly compelling.

        I did find this statement on the 2nd blog to be quite funny though:

        “Saying this was debunked years ago, doesn’t make the truth above go away. The above facts debunk any supposed debunking from Ron Paul.”

        In other words: “Any facts which might prove me wrong, cannot prove me wrong, because my facts automatically invalidate any others that might prove me wrong.”

        As a skeptic, both of those blogs raised giant red flags for me on the bullshit meter. But I’m not going to claim that it is impossible that Ron Paul does, or did at one time, have a racist or prejudiced worldview.

        I do know that he spent a portion of his life giving free medical care to the poor. I bring that up only to point out that it would be interesting to know how many of his patients were black, and whether or not there is any evidence that they were treated any differently from white patients. I would find that kind of evidence FAR more compelling than these blogs.

      • Old Rockin' Dave says:

        Okay, send me to a link that answers at least some of Dutch’s points. Let me see for myself.
        As to the quote, “Saying this was debunked years ago, doesn’t make the truth above go away. The above facts debunk any supposed debunking from Ron Paul,” the alleged debunking by Ron Paul is that he didn’t write those things and he didn’t know they were in the newsletter that he edited and sent out over his name. The evidence against seems pretty convincing. There are also many other sources that show the racism in the newsletter; some were in the article and others are easy to find.

      • Miles says:

        “Okay, send me to a link that answers at least some of Dutch’s points. Let me see for myself.”

        I offered to respond to these myself. I did not offer to do your Google research for you. If you are not interested in my responses, and would prefer to hear from specific libertarians, then you can do your own Googling. I’m not going to convince you of any of the positions anyway. So there is no way in hell I’m going to do the work for you.

        But as I said, I will be happy to respond to these myself.

        Let’s just take it in order and start at the very top.

        “If there is any area where the libertarian platform has been achieved, here it is. Beginning in the 1970’s a coalition of liberals and conservatives virtually eliminated involuntary mental treatment. Liberals felt that involuntary treatment was a violation of the patients’ civil rights, that patients were being warehoused in institutions, and that society needed to be “confronted” with mental illness by having the mentally ill in the midst of society. Conservatives had much purer motives: they simply wanted to save money. Most of the homeless persons we see sleeping in doorways, and every mentally ill person we see ranting on a street corner, is a product of de-institutionalization.

        You have to wonder why libertarians aren’t touting their greatest success more.”

        Where is the argument here? Steve Dutch doesn’t actually offer any kind of criticism. He just says “it happened” and “yo have to wonder why they don’t tout their greatest success more”. When he actually states that he disagrees with that position on mental health, and clearly states why he disagrees, I will be happy to consider his argument and respond.

        Moving on to abolishing the FCC…

        “Okay, now how are we going to keep track of who owns what frequency? Especially since radio waves reach across state lines?

        Suppose a large broadcaster simply starts blasting a smaller one off the air? And suppose the big guy has much greater resources for fighting a court battle than the little guy? Or is this maybe what libertarians want?

        This is a non sequitur, and a rather humorous one at that. Does the United States have a “Federal Digital Music Agency”? How about a “Federal Bureau of Bananas”? No? Well then how the heck do we manage to keep track of who owns their MP3’s and who owns what bananas?

        Creating a government agency to track the sales of some particular product (even non-material products like bandwidth or trademarks) is completely unnecessary and Steven Dutch provides no arguments explaining why it would be in this particular case.

        To sort out who owns what, you need documentation and a court system.

        Do you want me to keep going? These have been pretty terrible so far. Maybe you would like to pick out the arguments that you feel are particularly challenging and I’ll focus on those?

      • Miles says:

        So, I spent another 30 minutes looking into this “Ron Paul is a flaming racist” thing. I’m pretty comfortable with putting the rest of this in the dust-bin. Apparently, this was brought up back in 2008. Yes, a journal that was published from a foundation of his, which had his name on it, did have some racist remarks. The evidence that Ron Paul wrote any of it is pretty scant (“it’s written in first-person”, really? That’s your smoking gun?).

        I’ve seen a history of Ron Paul taking responsibility for not doing the job he should have done, screening the articles published at his foundation and stopping that nonsense from being published in the first place. He seems to be pretty open to talking about it, and openly accepts criticism that he should have noticed it and stopped it before it happened.

        Other than that, since these were dug up back in 2008, and multiple journalists have been looking for more sensational stories to publish about Ron Paul being racist, there hasn’t been a single instance of any first-hand evidence of Ron Paul making racist remarks, supporting racist groups, policies, etc., in all of his entire career.

        You would think that with so many investigative journalists that would love to find a hot piece of direct evidence that he’s a racist, something would have been found by now, but there just isn’t anything out there. His record has been pretty clear of anything like that as far as I can tell.

        Posting photographs of the journal itself, photoshopping a red arrow next to the “Ron Paul” in the title of the newsletter, and writing “see, its in the first-person!” on the document, is some pretty piss-poor evidence, especially when that is all you have.

        Do you find that kind of evidence compelling, Old Rockin’ Dave?

      • Max says:

        Latest evidence that Ron Paul wrote his newsletter.
        The 1992 edition cited the magazine Contemporary OB-GYN.

      • Dan says:


        I’m amazed if you really think that Paul let people he didn’t know write bigoted stuff and send it out under his own name, and never took the time to see what was in his own newsletters. If so Paul is one of the biggest idiots in the world. I suspect he does know who wrote his newsletters and is denying it because he is still close to them (lots of people think Lew Rockwell wrote some of the articles). When Paul was originally charged with this he simply said the quotes were out of context and didn’t deny writing them. Now he is trying to claim that he never even read them until it all blew up, and that his advorors wouldn;t let him tell reporters that he didn’t write the bigoted stuff. If he knew the quotes were out of context how can he then claim to have never read his own newsletter?

      • Miles says:


        I honestly don’t know what happened. As I said before, it may be true that Ron Paul was at one time a racist, and if that is the case, that is unfortunate. I agree that his explanations thus far have been laughably bad. I don’t begrudge the scrutiny that is thrown his way, especially as his standing as a GOP front-runner continues to solidify. I wouldn’t begrudge anyone distancing themselves from a Ron Paul vote because those newsletters and anemic explanations of them are uncomfortable to say the least.

        I don’t find that evidence to be particularly “solid” evidence though that he is in fact a racist. If you dislike Ron Paul in the first place, as most left-leaning readers here likely do, then any evidence at all is just icing on the cake to justify that dislike. But if you were holding a court session and this was provided as evidence, I don’t think the evidence would be near strong enough to “convict” Ron Paul of being a racist.

        There are more reasons why I’m personally not very concerned right now about Ron Paul being a racist. Note that I qualify my view with “right now” because I reserve the right to change my opinion in the face of new evidence.

        Reason one is that over the past 20 years, Ron Paul has published several books, given hundreds of interviews and speeches, and has been talking about his views in great detail. And other than these newsletters, there hasn’t been a single hint of racism or bigotry in any of that material. Sure, it’s possible that he could still be a racist and just hiding well, giving an impression of just the opposite over 20 years of his career. I just don’t see it as very probable, and I certainly don’t see the evidence that does exist and any kind of proof.

        The second reason is his stance on political issues. He tends to side with issues that maximize civil liberties and minimize the kind of government control that promotes racist outcomes. One of the reasons that he is opposed to the war on drugs – and I might add, he is the only serious candidate that is opposed to it – is because the drug war unfairly and disproportionately targets black males. It’s hard to deny that decriminalizing drugs, even if you are against it, would go a long way toward giving millions of black males increased opprotunity to avoid prison and climb out of poverty. Not to mention his long-time position that the federal government shouldn’t be telling gays and lesbians that they can’t get married.

        Finally, I’m just not getting a “racist” attitude from the type of people who support Ron Paul. These are people who are worried about fiscal prudence, people who have a problem with presidents assassinating U.S. citizens and not having to explain the reason, people who don’t think we should be the worlds police force, etc. You may not agree with those issues, but I just don’t see groups of Ron Paul supporters spreading racist messages or endorsing bigotry in any way.

        So no, if I vote for Ron Paul, I wouldn’t feel like I’m supporting racism in a any way, nor would I worry that a Ron Paul administration would enact some racist legislation if elected into office. Are his chances of winning hurt because of the newsletters? Definitely. Has he made it even worse with the way he’s handled it? No doubt. Do we need to worry about segregation being re-inacted if he is elected? No, I really don’t think we need to worry about that.

      • Max says:

        You don’t see groups of Ron Paul supporters spreading racist messages?! He’s endorsed by Stormfront!

      • Miles says:

        “You don’t see groups of Ron Paul supporters spreading racist messages?! He’s endorsed by Stormfront!”

        Stupid Miles. I should have known that someone would find some group of bigots who think Ron Paul should be president and offer that as some kind of evidence that Ron Paul is a racist. It’s a bit like arguing that Stalin was an atheist, therefore, atheists are likely to support authoritarian, murdering dictators.

        But fair enough, let me re-phrase and be more precise. I don’t see the typical Ron Paul supporter spreading racist messages. I don’t see large majorities of voters who support Ron Paul’s platform supporting racist or bigoted agendas. I realize that there are bound to be individuals and small pockets of bigoted people who may support Ron Paul here and there, but those people do not represent the typical Ron Paul supporter.

      • Syd Foster says:

        Miles, you quote from Professor Dutch’s first section, and then ask where is the argument. That you have to ask just shows how lacking in humanity you must be. “The argument” is right there in front of you: the homeless people you see in their miserable dregs of a life are mentally ill people! The degradation to the quality of our culture by compounding their suffering, not to mention the quality of our street life, is an open wound to any decent human being. Washing your hands of them is not even good economics. Dutch doesn’t belabour that point because the point was made, if you had the common humanity to take the point.

        The next bit you address in a disingenuous way. You twist the point to introduce a ridiculous and inaccurate analogy involving bananas. The real point is that we don’t want to be at the mercy of the powerful vested interests denying us the means to communicate our ideas. Dutch makes a very clear case that someone such as Fox would gladly block the signals of a small independent radio station, if there was no regulation of the frequencies available to broadcasters. You just ignore this point, and start babbling about bananas. Not impressive.

        You obviously read the piece without actually taking it in. Too busy cooking up bogus responses, I guess. That’s not an adult approach. But I guess you don’t even know that.

        Before you insult me, that comment was not an insult. It was a sad reflection on the state of discourse in America today.

    • tmac57 says:

      Interesting idea about voting on issues. How would we manage the old ‘Tyranny of the majority’ thing in such a system? My guess is the Supreme Court would be very busy,given the level of ignorance that most of us have concerning constitutional issues. Might be a good way to encourage more participation and understanding of laws that govern our lives.

      • Miles says:

        I don’t know. I honestly don’t claim to have any well-thought out ideas to greatly improve the democratic system. More than anything, I was just pointing out my frustration that there never seems to be a “good” option when I go to the polls.

        I’m personally sick of having character debates about candidates. In the words of Milton Friedman:

        “…they think the way you solve things is by electing the right people. It’s nice to elect the right people, but that isn’t the way you solve things. The way you solve things, is by making it politically profitable, for the wrong people to do the right things.”

      • tmac57 says:

        Two things missing from Friedman’s pithy remark:
        First,how do you make it ‘politically profitable’?
        Second,who gets to decide what the ‘right thing’ is?
        The devil is always in the details.

      • Miles says:

        LOL. That’s…kinda…what…the…rest…of……about.

        Anyway, oddball comments aside, is there any particular arguments of Friedman’s that you would like to challenge?

      • tmac57 says:

        Where did you hear the rest of his talk…not in that clip I gather.
        I really only have a glancing familiarity with Friedman’s philosophy,so it would be hard to know what to challenge,but in any case,I am not up for a debate on Libertarian theory.It ends up like debates on AGW. Neither side will be able to advance much,and it will all end in tears I’m afraid. :(

  13. Stevie OneLeg says:

    Religion is a smokescreen that shields candidates from confronting real issues. It whips up certain interest groups, but in the end means very little, because nothing ever really changes.

    Government grows. Freedom fades. Debt increases, and the future gets bleaker with each new president.

    Real solutions are simply beyond the courage of the current leadership because we are being held hostage by the Party of Liars and the Party of Idiots.

    Every four years, I have my septic tank pumped in order that I may fill it with more shit. That’s what is happening here.

  14. Jim Shaver says:

    Michael Shermer for President! How about it?

    • MadScientist says:

      The first act will be to dissolve government – hmmm, is it better to have incompetent leaders or no leaders and no public servants?

      • Jim Shaver says:

        Mad, that’s a bit hyperbolic, isn’t it? So does this mean we won’t be able to count on your support?

      • tmac57 says:

        I don’t think Shermer has it in him to be in politics.Afterall,to be a politician,you have to at least FEIGN interest in what your audience has to say.

      • Wrong says:

        After reading comments like Trimegistus, or CountryGirls, or really, half the bickering, I’m not suprised that he avoids reading them and replying.

        Unless you like arguing (me) then these make a hostile and stupid place to inhabit.

    • Jim Shaver says:

      The campaign is not off to a good start…

  15. d brown says:

    Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the Republican party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them.
    Barry Goldwater (R) Late Senator & Father of the Conservative movement

  16. d brown says:

    “The Obama administration is massively corrupt and incompetent,” Tell us, what they did that was so bad.

  17. JeffreyJoe says:

    Kudos, Dr. Shermer. As an avid reader of your stuff since the late 90s, it is clear that time only makes your edge sharper.

    If you don’t mind, just a small but important point. It may not be iron clad statistical practice to infer that the 10 percent that make up the atheist population in reputable surveys necessarily translates to 30 million Americans. I highly doubt that these surveys, reputable as they may be, are representative of the entire population; rather they’d probably be representative of voting-age Americans.

    So, perhaps taking 10 percent of the American voting population may be a better inference?

    At any rate, even a lower figure would remain robust suppport for your position, especially because that lower figure will still be double-digits in the millions.

    All the best to you!

  18. Tim Morgan says:

    One factual error: Thomas Paine was not an atheist, and his most polemical work against religion, The Age of Reason, makes this screamingly clear. He was a deist who intensely opposed “organized religions,” if that is even a proper phrase. He was a vocal opponent of Christianity, as well as Judaism, Islam, and other religions, but he was not an atheist. Read the book: he believed in God (nature’s God, in fact, as did many other Enlightenment thinkers) and hoped strongly for an afterlife. The atheist impulse to have Paine associated with their cause really needs to be amended.

  19. Brian says:

    Sadly, no one could get elected with Michael’s speachette

  20. Zarabeth says:

    There are two big problems with the “Nones.”

    1. They do not get together as a voting block. Since their religious affiliation is based on having ‘no affiliation,’ they tend to not get together. There is no ‘flag’ to follow. They do not tend to get together and vote on a single candidate, which many of the other religious groups tend to do. As a result, they may make up 45 million, but many do not vote, and the tend to not vote together. Many will vote for the RELIGIOUS candidate, because they have an allegiance to that political party. For example, even if Michele Bachmann were the Republican candidate (which is unlikely), many atheists will vote for her because she is Republican, and because they will not vote for the Democrat regardless of who it is. Their VOTING affiliation has nothing to do with their RELIGIOUS affiliation, because they really have no religious affiliation.

    2. Atheists are the most hated group in America. Even now, many atheists do not jump at the opportunity to be ‘hated’ by others by pronouncing this publicly. Even Muslims and homosexuals, who are amongst the most hated groups in America (hated by the religious, primarily) are not hated as much as atheists.

    If the “Nones” had a central charismatic figure who they could band around…perhaps a figure that pronounced themselves as a ‘SKEPTIC,’ rather than as an atheist or agnostic, then they might be able to get together as a voting block.

    If that does not happen, then it won’t matter if a MAJORITY of voters are atheists. As the religious become fewer and fewer, they will band together as a voting block EVEN MORE, whereas the atheists will only band together if they realize that the religious kooks in our society are taking away their freedoms for religious reasons.

  21. Rich Wilson says:

    Ever since H. Con. Res. 13

    “Whereas if religion and morality are taken out of the marketplace of ideas, the very freedom on which the United States was founded cannot be secured;”

    Every time a politician asks me for my support (read: money) I respond with: “Sadly, I am forced to request affirmation that religion is neither a requirement for nor guarantee of morality.”

    I’m still waiting.

  22. Mildred says:

    Mormons are Christians fyi.

  23. Bob A says:

    What I find ironic if not disturbing is that if any normal person said “God told me to do…” you would likely be remanded for Psychiatric evaluation. On the other hand if you’re running for president, then it’s okay. George Bush said God spoke to him. If he really did, I don’t think he gave him such good advice.

  24. CW says:

    Good article. But let me echo Mildred’s comment above: Mormonism is a Christian denomination. The full name of the church is “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”