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Michael Gerson’s Moral Advantage

Picasso GuernicaI’m not surprised that Michael Gerson, who reportedly coined Bush’s Axis of Evil framing, would conclude that atheists are inherently incapable of answering the more interesting moral questions merely because they lack an objective basis for discerning good from evil, whereas those who believe in a God have the advantage of knowing that God handed them the only objectively correct answers. After all, Gerson believes that the self-righteous religious fundamentalist who initiated aggressive war against a nation that never attacked or threatened us, a war in which hundreds of thousands have been killed or maimed and millions more turned into stateless refugees, was acting for moral reasons and sincere when he claimed that God had ordained him to do this.

But it strikes me as odd to claim as a moral advantage the inability to see that what his President has done (and Gerson has justified) in his God’s name is, on moral grounds, only barely distinguishable from the acts of the crazed religious zealots who, in Allah’s name, flew airplanes into the Twin Towers, except for the fact that the Christian had enough firepower to kill 100 times more people than the Islamists. Both slaughtered innocents while claiming to have objective, divine truth on their sides, although admittedly neither of them checked with the Pope to make sure they were answering to the true faith. Perhaps we should start a 30-year war to settle this.

It shouldn’t take a confirmed non-believer to call out Gerson’s argument for the dangerous nonsense it is. And on that point, what was the Washington Post thinking? Are we now to conduct religious wars in the nation’s media? If it’s okay to argue on WaPo’s editorial pages that atheists have a shaky moral foundation, why not have a no-holds barred battle between the Methodists and Mormons about what Jesus was doing after the resurrection, or perhaps we should resolve, once and for all, the question of Jesus’ or Mary’s divinity or the chemistry of transubstantiation, with Fred Hiatt as referee?

Gerson is right in noting that religious beliefs were important to many of the theistic founding fathers. But unlike Gerson’s Presidential hero, they understood clearly the critical importance of this . . .

Congress shall make no law . . . respecting the establishment of religion.

. . . whereas Mr. Bush is anxious to use the White House to fund his favorite sects if he thinks it will help Republicans win elections.

Photo: Picasso’s Guernica, from Wikipedia.

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John has been writing for Firedoglake since 2006 or so, on whatever interests him. He has a law degree, worked as legal counsel and energy policy adviser for a state energy agency for 20 years and then as a consultant on electricity systems and markets. He's now retired, living in Massachusetts.

You can follow John on twitter: @JohnChandley