How Rick Santorum Would Reach Out to Conservative Atheists November 20, 2015

How Rick Santorum Would Reach Out to Conservative Atheists

Reader Justin Scott, who previously had a brief exchange with Sen. Bernie Sanders about religion, heard that Sen. Rick Santorum was coming to his area. So of course he had to attend.

And he used the opportunity to ask Santorum, a notoriously conservative Catholic, about atheism.

For example, why doesn’t Santorum try to reach out to atheists for their votes?

I can’t think of anything that I would say that… I wouldn’t say I don’t reach out to them. I just lay out principles. I think values and principles that are conservative, that make sense, that are best for society, best for our country and whether you’re a believer or not a believer, if you’re a reasonable person and you use your gift of reason, you can sorta see whether this is in the best interest of the state.

On the issue of family, I’m a big supporter of marriage and the family. Why? Because it’s best for society. Stable marriages in which children grow up in is, without a doubt, the best situation for a child to be raised in America.

You don’t have to be religious. You don’t believe in the sacrament of marriage. You don’t have to believe that marriage is a religious institution. You can believe it’s a civil institution, but it’s important for children to be raised by what I would say is the birthright, their natural mom and their natural dad in a stable and healthy home.

Does that reach out to atheists? I don’t know whether atheists or non-atheists would look at that issue any differently.

Yes, Rick. Believe it or not, heathens love families, too. Most of us just realize families don’t come in one particular mold. Children need love far more than they need their parents to have a particular set of genitalia. Single parents, gay parents, grandparents — all of them have the ability to give the child what Santorum thinks is so important.

Also: Non-atheists. I like that word. It’s like a triple negative or something.

Justin then asked Santorum what message he had for conservative atheists who may disagree with him on social issues.

I’ll tell them as I tell a lot of fiscal conservative Republicans: if your culture is crumbling, you can’t have you can’t have limited government. It doesn’t work.

If your family is disintegrating and that guy [pointing at the local police chief] is kept busier, you’re going to have more of these guys [police] around. And you’re gonna have more government programs… It doesn’t work.

You can be a fiscal conservative and say, “I don’t really care what goes on in the culture.” Good luck. Because culture dictates a lot. The fact that we have 40% of our kids being born in homes where there are no dads, and over half the kids in America are going to be raised without a father presence in the home, you can say that doesn’t matter to me, because all I care about is how much money you’re taxing me.

Well let me assure you it’s going to matter about your schools, it’s going to matter about the crime rate in your community, it’s going to matter about the drug addiction rate, it’s going to matter [for] a lot of things — it’s going to affect you.

You can say you don’t care, you may not care, but it’s gonna have an impact on your ability to have a limited government.

I’ll repeat what I said above. The problem isn’t that a dad isn’t at home. The problem is what often leads to that situation in the first place, whether it’s kids having pregnancies at a young age when they can’t bear the responsibility, or people trying to raise kids with very little money or support. But Santorum thinks having two gay dads is the problem that needs fixing.

Finally, Justin asked Santorum about whether his opposition to the separation of church and state would change if Muslims became the majority in our country and wanted their religious beliefs to infiltrate public spaces like schools and government buildings.

Santorum didn’t answer that question directly. Maybe he just misunderstood it. He ended up explaining the differences he saw between Islam and Christianity. Justin tried rephrasing things near the end, but it didn’t really work:

There’s not a wave of Islamism coming into America. There are some communities — because of immigration — that have become increasingly Muslim. And we’re seeing what happens.

We see this in Europe, for sure, but now you can even see it, it’s here, is once the Muslim population reaches a certain level, there is a desire to make the community a Muslim community.

And you can say, “Well, once the Christian population reaches a certain level, you make it a Christian community.”

What’s that mean? It means nothing, right, in America, because the values reflected in our Constitution are consistent with the Judeo-Christian ethic. They are not necessarily consistent with the Muslim ethic, and that’s the problem.

And the reason that it’s a problem is that Islam, unlike Christianity, is both a religion and a political governing structure. Why? Because Muhammad, unlike Christ, governed, ruled, and put forth a prescription as to how Muslims are to live, called Sharia Law. And Muslims, in one way or the other, throughout the Middle East in particular, are increasingly being governed by Sharia Law.

This orthodox or 7th century view of Islam is not just ISIS; it’s also Iran, it’s also Saudi Arabia, it’s Yemen, I mean, there’s more and more places that are. And even in places like Turkey, which has historically been, the last several decades of democracy, it has transitioned away from that and to more and more Sharia Law. So Sharia Law does not fit well with Democracy.

Why? Because, in Sharia, there is the law and there’s nothing else. It’s just how you execute Sharia Law, not how you change the law. There’s no reason for a Congress or Parliament to change the law, because all the laws you need are right there. It’s just a matter of how you enforce it. And so that is a fundamentally different culture and governing system than what we have here in America.

I know Ben Carson got in a lot of trouble saying “Well [Islam and Democracy] were incompatible.” In its purest sense, they are incompatible. Islam, in its 7th century version, is incompatible with the American Constitution because they don’t have certain freedoms, they don’t have certain rights, women don’t have certain rights. They are incompatible governing structures.

And so the question is: What is the practice of religion versus that religion being a political body and a governmental body? And that’s why you have to understand that Islam is different than all other religions in that regard and that religious freedom doesn’t extend to political Islam.

[Justin: You’re picking up on what I’m asking. What I’m getting at is: Does the rise of that Islamic extremism change or modify your position on the separation of church and state if Islam tries to infiltrate–]

No. Because you have to differentiate between Salvific Islam, which is their theology toward their salvation, and political Islam or governmental Islam. That is not protected by our First Amendment. That is not freedom of religion.

That is an assault on the basic civic structure of our government and is not protected by the Constitution.

Santorum seems to think all Muslims want to adopt Sharia Law. Which is nonsense. Most Muslims in America just want the freedom to worship without harassment. They like our democracy. They don’t want to push their faith on everyone else.

Maybe Santorum thinks they do because that’s what he would do if he had the power.

That said, I would offer the same Advice to Santorum that I would give to Democrats: There are millions of atheists in the country and many more who are just not religious. Politicians who don’t try to court them in some way — even Santorum — are missing out on a lot of votes and a lot of donations.

Santorum could easily make a case to conservative atheists for why his foreign policy ideas or economic goals are the best out there. I’m not saying the atheists would embrace him, but he’s not even bothering to do that. He’s campaigning on the strength of his religious conservatism as if Americans are voting for a Pastor-in-Chief. Even for a Republican, that seems extremely short-sighted.

I asked Justin if he came away with anything different. This is what he told me:

While I would never vote for him or anyone with similar views, I was rather impressed that he took my questions, didn’t get defensive, didn’t try to run and hide (although he did get up a few times for some food) and… genuinely answered my questions (although I didn’t necessarily agree with his answers). I walked away feeling that he listened to me and that, for one short meeting, he got to see what an atheist looks like… like a normal, tax-paying American who is as concerned for his country as everyone else.



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