By HonestDiscussioner

Religion, Philosophy, Politics, and anything else I'd like to talk about


Monday, September 9, 2013

S.E. Cupp is a Terrible Human Being

Reposted due to a Blogger error.
CuppI am generally somewhat reserved in my criticism of individuals as persons. I generally prefer to address their arguments and statements rather than their characters (though believe me, the former is coming as well). However there comes a time when an individuals actions become so clear, so regularly and uniformly exercised, that I find it fair and reasonable to draw a conclusion about their character. Sometimes it is a positive conclusion, and other times it is like the one I will attribute to Ms. Cupp throughout this post.

Thanks go to Kropotkin over at The Humble Empiricist blog for pointing this out (on Facebook, not her blog). Recently Ms. Cupp declared that an atheist would not have any chance of winning a presidential election. That, by itself, isn't too terrible of a statement on its own. It may even be an accurate statement in today's political climate, though I'd be remiss if I did not point out how many had similar beliefs towards a President of African American descent as recently as 2007. However she later goes on to say “And you know what? I would never vote for an atheist president. Ever,”.

Ms. Cupp herself identifies as an atheist, making the statement certainly worthy of note. She gained fame for claiming to hold this philosophical position while also advocating that the liberal media unfairly attacks Christianity, actively advocating that said media is consciously marginalizing and persecuting Christians. Her arguments were mostly cherry picked and her defense of them ineffective in my opinion, but that is for another blog post.

It should be rather surprising to someone that a person can identify with an intellectual and\or philosophical position and yet not want to see such a person in power under any circumstances. Perhaps this, by itself, wouldn't demand a direct accusation against such an individual's character, but certainly it would at least warrant some suspicions of their motives. She doesn't stop there, however, and gives two rationals. Let's go over them and see how they would lead to the conclusion that one should never vote for an atheist under any condition:
“Because I do not think that someone who represents 5 to 10 percent of the population should be representing and thinking that everyone else in the world is crazy, but me.”

“The other part of it — I like that there is a check, OK? That there‘s a person in the office that doesn’t think he’s bigger than the state . . . I like religion being a check and knowing that my president goes home every night addressing someone above him and not thinking all the power resides right here… Atheists don’t have that.”

I've heard some fairly terrible rationalizations for positions before, and while I can't say this wins the award for absolute worst, it's certainly worthy of a nomination. Take the first attempt at a justification, in which Ms. Cupp assumes anyone who is an atheist believes all theists are crazy. While I can certainly point to some example of atheists who do believe just that, to broad brush all of us in that way is completely unfair, not to mention demonstrably false. I certainly don't think all theists are crazy, perhaps mistaken on certain issues, but everyone (myself included) is going to be mistaken on one issues or another. Since everyone is going to be wrong about something, to argue elected officials must agree with the majority of the population on everything would disqualify every last person from office. Also, keep in mind that atheists may one day be the majority, so would Ms. Cupp then state that she could never vote for a religious person? Would the same people that agree with her now agree with her then? If so, then none of them could vote for anybody as her second statement would still apply to atheists.

Speaking of her second statement, where she claims she wants people in power that have a check on themselves and that she wants those that don't believe they are bigger than the state, my question would be to ask why is that something only a religious person can have? Why must an atheist believe they are bigger than the entire government? Ms. Cupp isn't describing an atheist at all. On top of that, there is a legal check on a President. The President is not a King, and while some may argue that certain presidents who have been in office over the past few decades have acted like one, they are certainly not omnipotent wielders of all government power. They have other elected and appointed officials to contend with, as well as popular opinion if they want to be re-elected (or they don't want their party to be harmed). Even without the legal check, there is nothing to say that an atheist could not truly believe that he or she answers to the people they govern rather than only to themselves.

Hopefully I've explained well enough why these are terrible rationalizations, but I've yet to defend or support the title of this post, namely that Ms. Cupp is a terrible human being. I would like to submit that Ms. Cupp is clearly attempting to do everything she can to put down atheists and marginalize them in society, which is ironic considering it is exactly what she accuses liberals of doing to Christians. As an atheist, it is likely expected that I will support these accusations with facts and evidence, and I will do just that. To that end, I have many options. I could cite the various quotes that attempt to argue that atheists need to step aside in favor of religious views. I could cite how she criticized President Obama for admitting that nonbelievers exist within the United States and how if you are referencing a group of believers it is entirely inappropriate to reference those that don't believe in the same breath. I could even point out how she claims that she one day hopes to be a person of faith despite being an atheist now. However I think the best evidence exists right in her first rationalization of why she'd never vote for an atheist. That line, that all atheists assume all theists are crazy, is a clear indicator that Ms. Cupp is entirely dishonest.  Think about the implications of what she is saying. She counts herself as an atheist, but would only vote for a theist, of whom by her own definition she believes are all crazy. If she doesn't believe all theists are crazy, then her entire point is undone because clearly atheists aren't forced to consider all believers crazy. This is exactly what someone would do if they claimed affiliation in a group for the express purpose of criticizing the group without being labeled biased or hateful. The only other explanation I can think of is that she has the highest level of tolerance for cognitive dissonance I've ever witnessed, but that seem to be an unlikely explanation from my vantage point.

Now let me be clear. I can't say for certain that Ms. Cupp is secretly a theist, at the very least because doing so would come dangerously close to the "No True Scotsman" fallacy. I see two possibilities, in either one she is pandering to a religiously conservative audience and doing what she can to bolster people of faith at the expense of atheists, and will likely publicly announce her conversion to Christianity in what is sure to be a lucrative deal for her (as Penn Jillette predicts). The only difference between the two possibilities is whether she truly does lack a belief in gods or not, and frankly that's the least relevant part of this. What is important, the reason I refer to her as a terrible human being is in either possibility she is actively undermining a specific group of individuals, many of whom are productive and helpful members of society, for personal gain. It is her motives, not her belief that draws my criticism. I'll take a person who honestly hates my guts over someone who pretends to dislike me to earn a buck.

If you don't believe me, however, and think it is possible that Ms. Cupp honestly holds all of those beliefs about atheism, let me make an analogy. Imagine someone claims to be a Bible believing Evangelical Christian, but they also say:

1. Christians are actively marginalizing atheists
2. That they hope they can get away from Christianity someday
3. Their values are all atheistic
4. They'd never vote for a Christian.
5. Stating that you don't believe Gods exists is fine in a public forum, but it is uncalled for to state that a God does exist in that same open public forum.
6. They encourage the country to be more atheistic
7. It is an insult to atheists for the President to put Christians on the same plane as them, or mention them in same breath.
8. When they hear about stories of people losing their faith and becoming atheists, they say "I love those stories, those are great stories."

. . . if they say all of those things, would you not be at least a little bit skeptical of their motivations?


  1. "Recently Ms. Cupp declared that an atheist would not have any chance of winning a presidential election."

    That's been the political science standard since Machiavelli. The upper class are generally non-religious, or at least are not constrained to act morally. The majority class is more religious by nature, more superstitious, and less effected by modern advance. A likely candidate has to be competent to converse in religious matters, and many people for a long time have thought that an atheist candidate, even one broadly agreed to be a moral man, an outstanding man, could never garner a wide coalition of support needed to win the presidency. I think her analysis is correct.

    "though I'd be remiss if I did not point out how many had similar beliefs towards a President of African American descent as recently as 2007"

    This is an extremely poor argument. Rational men do not hold to racialized notions against minority races, any more than they would hold nationalities in contempt, or any other such basic class. The religion of the man fully realized in adulthood is not something so basic as to be passed in the womb or at birth, and so the two share no resemblance.

    There are in a very few households left in this nation that there is a real question on the ability of an African-American to govern. They are in the rural south and very few otherwise. However, I'd suggest there is a huge number of voters that would question what an atheists basis for government might be, and whether he would be effective.

    Another critique is that S.E. Cupp values the contribution of religion and would like people to be more religious and celebrate it more and not less. This is not objectionable either. The way she sees it, being fiscally conservative, she probably sees well the amount of taxes that the religious pay and the broader consequences to religion and cohesion. A cohesive family unit teaches responsibility, self-restraint, making a clean living, taking care of one's children, civic duty. The most extreme at the other end (and notice I say only a small number) do not value any of those things. All else being equal, fine. However, the fiscal critique is many of these people expct others to pay for their lifestyles. Ergo, the cohesive family unit is a strong social factor in maintaining the strength of a society.

    "She will only vote for a theist".. I'm not suprised. She's a well known atheist, she probably has a lot of atheist friends. She probably knows better than most the excesses of atheism and the weaknesses of atheists. In her judgment, she believes a belief in a God, whether personal or impersonal, provides a je ne sais quoi to the office and governing.

    My science is motives. You've passed a lot of judgments on her motives but have not considered if they were pure. I've heard her interviewed for a long time, I never sensed impure motives on her part. My starting point is to ask if a person's motives are pure and how so? If this analysis fails because of a very apparent discrepancy, I can ask if there's evidence of malfeasance. Otherwise, I'll hold to the take that the person is promulgating the ideas they sincerely believe.