Saturday 11 February 2012

Illustrating a bad influence in American politics — BBC Radio 4

Beyond Belief, BBC Radio 4's discussion programme about faith matters, was this week about the Republican nomination for US presidential candidate. Here's the blurb from the Radio 4 website:
What role does religion play in the race for the Republican nomination for the White House?

Ernie Rea is joined by Bob Vander Plaats, head of "The Family Leader" pressure group, Boo Tyson from "Coalition Mainstream" and Dr Alexander Smith from Huddersfield University. Together they assess the influence of the Religious Right on Republican politics, and whether Americans might be ready for a Mormon president.
Some of the talk was sensible, and some was just idiotic. The dire straits of America's so-called "separation of church and state" was amply illustrated by this final exchange in the programme's closing minute, when host Ernie Rae asked each of his guests the same question:
ERNIE RAE: Do you think that a publicly declared atheist could win the presidency at this point in time?

BOO TYSON: No. No I don't, and I think you would be hard pressed to win "dog-catcher" for County Commissioner, much less be the president of the United States, who takes an oath with "under God" in it, and on a Bible.

ALEXANDER SMITH: I suspect not. No. And in fact interestingly, I mean, Ron Paul, who we haven't talked about in this discussion, is probably the closest candidate you could come to who might be described as something of an agnostic. But you know, he's trailing well behind, and obviously isn't much of a prospect.

BOB VANDER PLAATS: I certainly hope not. For us to say that an atheist could lead this country, I sure hope we're not at that point. If we are, I believe God would have every right to remove his blessing from this country.
That last response is precisely what's wrong with religious influence in American politics.

The audio of this programme is available for streaming until the end of the century (or thereabouts):