Sunday, July 12, 2009


On Francis Collins and double standards

PZ Myers gets at least one thing absolutely right as he joins the criticism of the appointment of Francis Collins as head of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Dr Myers dismisses Dr Collins as a “lovable dufus with great organizational skills who’s [sic] grasp of the principles of science is superficial.” He goes on to add that his pushing of Christianity can’t be a reason to reject him, because “we’re in big trouble when we start using a religious litmus test for high political positions.” And then...

Oh, wait...we already do that. You know if someone with equivalent prestige and administrative credentials was even half as vocal about atheism as Collins is about Christianity, there’s no way she would even be considered for this appointment.


That is so true. We have our own “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” policy for atheism, these days.

It used to be the case that one’s religious beliefs fairly rarely came up in public discourse. JFK’s Catholicism was notable, but only because he was the first Catholic to hit the presidency. But that Catholicism wasn’t paraded in front of us weekly, he didn’t cross himself at the end of every speech, and no one really worried about our getting a Catholic Attorney General, as well, when brother Robert was appointed and confirmed.

It used to be the sort of thing one did privately. Religion was one of the topics polite people didn’t discuss with others who might be of different persuasions.

But now, public figures are held under suspicion if they don’t say, “God bless,” enough. According to several surveys, people would sooner have leaders who are Moonies than ones who are atheists — atheism is the single worst characteristic from the point of view of the “average voter”.

PZ Myers is absolutely right about that: atheists who speak out about it remove any hope of entry to high political positions. And that puts our country in big trouble.

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