Jennifer Michael Hecht and Ron Reagan Talk Atheism in Politics on ‘Hardball’ December 29, 2013

Jennifer Michael Hecht and Ron Reagan Talk Atheism in Politics on ‘Hardball’

Jennifer Michael Hecht, one of my absolute favorite writers, recently appeared on MSNBC’s Hardball, along with fellow atheist Ron Reagan, to talk about her article in Politico Magazine about atheism as “the last taboo” in American politics. Though it’s a brief segment, they took a serious look at the “poison pill” problem we all presume atheists would face in political contests, particularly in regard to the presidency.

Michael Smerconish was the guest host, and it was encouraging to hear him so eager to, as he put it, “test the hypothesis” that an avowed atheist would be effectively barred from high office in the current political climate. As Hecht says in the segment, the culture is just crawling its way out of the religious tensions associated with the Cold War (“godless communism” vs. American Judeo-Christianity) and 9/11, and that the time really has come for nonbelieving politicians to make themselves known.

Do yourself a favor, if you haven’t already, and read Hecht’s book Doubt: A History. It’s wonderfully written and deeply enlightening.

As a side note, I discussed Hecht’s article and its subject matter at length on Wisconsin Public Radio’s The Joy Cardin Show last week, and atheists’ precarious place in American politics is the subject of my short Kindle book.

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  • islandbrewer

    Wow, the host actually did a decent job there.

  • $925105

    The frontrunner is Hillary Clinton? I didn’t know the primaries have already started. Thanks media for choosing the candidates for us.

  • TCC

    Some polling has already been done for 2016, perversely, and yes, Hillary is considered the frontrunner based on those (as well as what the pundits think).

  • living in DC, it became very clear to me that most politicians are atheist or even just “meh” on the question of religion. BUT they go thru the motions whenever there is a camera pointed in their direction. even the bible thumping pols turn into heathen party animals who break every commandment they can, when off camera. nobody important goes to church on a regular basis unless that’s part of their schtick and/or campaign season and fundraising time.

    people should google Rev, Moon and that crazy “kings and prophets” ceremony he does in DC every now and again. i’m blanking on the name of it, but it’s totally whack. and not at all what most american christians would think of when they think of right christian ceremony. a lot of republicans, who otherwise profess “normal’ american evangelical belief attended and participated in them over the years.

    while there surely are some normal, believing politicians out there who sincerely believe what they say about religion, far too many are just pretending.

  • tinker

    Yes, what a wonderful contrast to Bill O’Really?.

  • tinker

    I think that it is funny when they say that *whatever* percentage of Americans would vote for a ‘qualified’ candidate when apparently qualified simply means Republican or Democrat.

  • I am also a Hecht fan, and strongly recommend her Doubt book.

  • Jeff

    Relax, there is no conspiracy there (Fox new bulletin or not). Simple phone polls or surveys were taken, guess who’s names came up first? Can’t be any worse than when Michelle Bachmann lead the polls in early 2008. Didn’t really affect the outcome, did it?

  • Brian T Hall

    their was only one piece she missed, and that was the internet… overall I agree with islandbrewer that she did a good job…

  • Smerconish supporting secular. Wow. He went from a Republican talking head to a sane individual. Good for him.

  • $925105

    Amazing how much better Hardball with Chris Matthews is when you don’t have Chris Matthews on the show.

  • Keulan

    That was a surprisingly decent segment. I guess I’ve watched too many clips of Fox “News” contributers demonizing atheists. I’m not used to seeing a calm, rational discussion about atheism in politics.

  • ahermit

    I’ll second that. Hecht’s “Doubt” is one of the best books on unbelief around. There should be a copy on every atheist/agnostic/secularist bookshelf.

  • $84687101

    The segment included Adams in the list of Presidents with “atheistic tendencies”, which is odd since everything I’ve ever read about Adams says he was extremely religious. I can see the argument with regard to Jefferson, and what she says about Taft suggests the same, but Adams? The Politico article doesn’t actually claim that Adams had atheistic tendencies though, so maybe this was just a bit of television producer’s gone wild? Hecht’s claim seems to be that Adams was a strong advocate of religious freedom, and I think that’s accurate, but not that he had atheistic tendencies. Does she make that claim elsewhere?

    Otherwise it was a good segment.

  • coolmind

    Atheism is myth understood.

  • Mark Cagnetta

    “Doubt” was one of my conversion books. It is informative, interesting, well-written, and funny. Love Jennifer!

  • Andy

    Yeah, I’m a big fan of Smerconish. Used to listen to him during lunch in Indy until the station got changed to sports broadcasting (ugg.)

    He is the most well-balanced and reasonable political talk show host I have heard. Hope he continues to grow in popularity. We desperately need some sane voices in our political discussion.

  • JenniferMichaelHecht

    I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved — the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced!
    — John Adams, letter to Thomas Jefferson

    What havoc has been made of books through every century of the Christian era? Where are fifty gospels condemned as spurious by the bull of Pope Gelasius? Where are forty wagon-loads of Hebrew manuscripts burned in France, by order of another pope, because of suspected heresy? Remember the Index Expurgatorius, the Inquisition, the stake, the axe, the halter, and the guillotine; and, oh! horrible, the rack! This is as bad, if not worse, than a slow fire. Nor should the Lion’s Mouth be forgotten. Have you considered that system of holy lies and pious frauds that has raged and triumphed for 1,500 years?
    — John Adams, letter to John Taylor, 1814

    There’s tons more. In a letter to Jefferson he asks Don’t you think the world would be better off with no religion? (paraphrased as remembered) and Jefferson agrees, with a few caveats.

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