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It sounds so wrong, if you're not one of the faithful:
We no longer have to wait a whole day for Newt Gingrich to flip-flop, because now, while fear-mongering during a speech at a religious conference, he did it in one sentence:
"I have two grandchildren: Maggie is 11; Robert is 9," Gingrich said at Cornerstone Church here. "I am convinced that if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America, by the time they're my age they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists, and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American."
I know, it sounds like he contradicted himself. Watch out for those religious atheists! But really, it's calculated to appeal to this audience, on several levels.

First is the "Christian or Hell" dichotomy. It's right along the lines of "Us and Them" and the Right is holding daily radio shows on who exactly "They" are and why we can never consider them part of "Us".
If you're evangelical or fundamentalist, the two terms "atheist" and "Islam" mean exactly the same thing:

* NON-CHRISTIAN
* HELL-BOUND
* DOOMED TO THE DEVIL

Basically the formula is this: If people don't say "Jesus" in every sentence, you can be sure that these people are UNGODLY. And that equates the Unitarians with the Satanists. It says it doesn't matter if your only heresy is replacing your "prayers" with "daily affirmations" -- out comes the pointing finger of judgment! Shame! Shame on you to the end of your days!

The War on Christmas is the same thing. If you don't say "Merry Christmas" every time, you're REALLY saying go to hell with those other secular people! Might as well be saying "Hail Satan"!

The second interpretation of this Newtism is: Christianity is the only guardian of our uniquely American morality. If we don't prop up Christianity in every office of our government, then it will be replaced by a moral vacuum, which only Islam could rush in to fill. ("Godless Communism" was what we had to be vigilant against, in earlier versions of the same argument.) Atheism is impossible, in this world-view. You must answer "what religion are you?" and you CANNOT answer None of the Above because everyone will erase that answer inside their head and instead check one of the other religions for you -- which one doesn't matter, because if you are following ANY of the other religions, that makes you one of "Them".

Either way, it's patently anti-intellectual. Which makes it so shocking coming from a semi-retired professor. It grants equivalency to two different terms, and guarantees that if you're someone who loves language, you will be stuck explaining that "atheism" and "Islam" are opposites, before addressing the rest of the argument -- which of course makes you out to be nuanced. Heh, heh, heh.

Of course, you have to believe that you could learn a thing or two about morality from a serial adulterer who could never keep just one iron in the fire, and is on record as having fooled around during the Clinton investigations. Stay classy, Newt.
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Joe Engledow

September 2016

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