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There Are No Atheists in the White House

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With the New Hampshire primary fast approaching, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has tried to posture himself as the standard bearer of much of George Bush's foreign policy. He suggested that "We are doing God's work now, in my opinion, by keeping al Qaeda and Hezbollah from establishing a safe haven."

Domestically, Romney wants to overturn Roe vs. Wade. Yet, in 1994, when he was running for the Senate, he came out in favor of choice for women. Although he claims not to be dictated to by his church, he admitted to Mormon feminist Judith Dushku that "the Brethren" in Salt Lake City told him he could take that position, and that, in fact, he probably had to in order to win in a liberal state like Massachusetts. Pandering trumped religious belief.

Romney's opponent, Mike Huckabee, was one of three presidential wannabes who raised their hands during a Republican "debate" to signify that they didn't believe in evolution, although Huckabee admitted, "I don't know if the world was created in six days, I wasn't there." He has also said, "If there was ever an occasion for someone to have argued against the death penalty, I think Jesus could have done so on the cross and said, 'This is an unjust punishment and I deserve clemency.'"

Whenever anybody claims that God talks directly to them, I think they're totally delusional. President Bush is no exception. Not only was he told by his senior adviser, Karen Hughes, not to refer to terrorists as "folks," but Bush was also being prompted by God Him-Her-or-Itself. "God would tell me, 'George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq.' And I did." As if he was only following divine orders.

In July 2003, during a meeting with Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, Bush told the newly elected leader, "God told me to strike at al Qaeda and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did. And now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East."

Abu Bakar Bashir, an Islamic cleric and accused terrorist leader, has said that "America's aim in attacking Iraq is to attack Islam, so it is justified for Muslims to target America to defend themselves." That's exactly interchangeable with this description of Bush by an unidentified family member, quoted in the Los Angeles Times: "George sees [the war on terror] as a religious war. His view is that they are trying to kill the Christians. And the Christians will strike back with more force and more ferocity than they will ever know."

Apparently, religious bigotry runs in the family. Bush's father, the former president: "I don't know that atheists should be considered citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God."

And before him, there was Ronald Reagan: "For the first time ever, everything is in place for the Battle of Armageddon and the Second Coming of Christ." Not to mention Reagan's Secretary of the Interior, James Watt, responsible for national policy on the environment: "We don't have to protect the environment -- the Second Coming is at hand."

In 1966, Lyndon Johnson told the Austrian ambassador that the deity "comes and speaks to me about two o'clock in the morning when I have to give the word to the boys, and I get the word from God whether to bomb or not." So maybe there's some kind of theological tradition going on in the White House.

But if these leaders are not delusional, then they're deceptive.

And in order to deceive others, one must first deceive oneself until self-deception morphs into virtual reality. In any case, we have our religious fanatics, and they have theirs. In September 2007, on the eve of the sixth anniversary of 9/11, Osama bin Laden warned the American people that they should reject their capitalist way of life and embrace Islam to end the Iraq war, or else his followers would "escalate the killing and fighting against you."

George Bush once proclaimed, "God is not neutral," which is the antithesis of my own spiritual path, my own peculiar relationship with the universe -- based on the notion that God is totally neutral -- though I've learned that whatever people believe in, works for them.

My own belief in a deity disappeared when I was 13. I was working early mornings in a candy store in our apartment building. My job was to insert different sections of the newspaper into the main section. On the day after the United States dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, I would read that headline over and over and over again while I was working. That afternoon, I told God I couldn't believe in him any more because -- even though he was supposed to be a loving and all-powerful being -- he had allowed such devastation to happen. And then I heard the voice of God:

"ALLOWED? WHY DO YOU THINK I GAVE HUMANS FREE WILL?"

"Okay, well, I'm exercising my free will to believe that you don't exist."

"ALL RIGHT, PAL, IT'S YOUR LOSS!"

At least we would remain on speaking terms. But I knew it was a game.

I enjoyed the paradox of developing a dialogue with a being whose reality now ranked with that of Santa Claus. Our previous relationship had instilled in me a touchstone of objectivity that could still serve to help keep me honest. I realized, though, that whenever I prayed, I was only talking to myself.

However, I don't exempt my fellow atheists from ridicule. I criticize China's atheist leaders for banning Tibet's living Buddhas from reincarnation without permission. According to the order, issued by the State Administration for Religious Affairs, "The so-called reincarnated living Buddha without government approval is illegal and invalid." The regulation is aimed at limiting the influence of the Dalai Lama, even though China officially denies the possibiity of reincarnation. (I used to believe in reincarnation, but that was in a previous lifetime.)

China is a Big Brother, slave-labor-driven, human-rights-violator, Communist dictatorship, from which the U.S. borrows trillions, then proceeds to purchase "Made in China" American flags, poisoned food and leadened toys. America remains a living paradox, where our Congress and Senate eat grilled chickensh*t sandwiches for breakfast and our citizens are force-fed deceit and misinformation so that we can continue to fund inhumane and illegal activities -- even though the revolution was fought because of taxation without representation -- yet I live in a country where at least I still have complete freedom to openly condemn the government and the corporations that continue enabling each other to reek with corruption and inhumanity. I'm truly grateful.

"Thank you, God."

"SHUT UP, YOU SUPERSTITIOUS FOOL!"

Originally published in the ARTHUR blog.