The Unpardonable Sin: Voting For Obama

You alone are to be feared. Who can stand before you when you are angry? From heaven you pronounced judgment, and the land feared and was quiet—

—the Book of Psalms

ear. Religion rules by fear. And lots of it.

Men,” Mark Twain wrote, “are more compassionate…than God” because “men forgive their dead, but God does not.”  And who wouldn’t fear a god who holds a grudge past the grave?

Or past an election.

James Dobson, who for years was one of the most prominent voices in conservative evangelical Christianity, suggested, during a solemn, I-can’t-believe-my-eyes, post-election discussion with other like-minded zealots, that God may have judgment on his mind:

It’s my speculation that America has turned its back on the principles that we have believed in for 230 years. And there’s a lot of wickedness that’s going on out there. Fifty-five million babies have been murdered, and we don’t think God sees that? 

Franklin Graham, who now runs his dad’s part of the Evangelical Empire, The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, explained to Newsmax how the election of Barack Obama may just move God to finish us off:

“In the last four years, we have begun to turn our backs on God,” Graham reiterated. “We have taken God out of our education system. We have taken him out of government. You have lawyers that sue you every time you mention the name of Jesus Christ in any public forum.

“What has happened is we have allowed ourselves to take God out of everything that we do – and I believe that God will judge our nation one day.”

And, “maybe God will have to bring our nation to our knees – to where that we just have a complete economic collapse” to do that, Graham said. “Maybe at that point, people will again call upon the name of almighty God.”

Fear. Do what God’s self-appointed spokesmen say or else.

It never occurred to Franklin Graham, of course, that we almost had a “complete economic collapse” under the God-fearing evangelical Christian George W. Bush, but perhaps that is because lately God has had a hard time communicating to the leaders of the Evangelical Empire.

Pat Robertson said in January the following:

I spent the better part of a week in prayer and just saying, “God just show me something,” and I’ll share with you—uh, some things I’ll share with you. I think he showed me about the next president but I’m not supposed to talk about that, so I’ll leave you in the dark…but I think I know who it’s gonna be.

We know now that Robertson thought he heard God say that Mitt Romney would be the next president. We know that because Robertson fessed up last week:

So many of us miss God. I’ll tell you, I won’t get into great detail about elections, but I sure did miss it. I thought I had heard from God. I thought I had heard clearly from God. What happened? What intervenes? Why? You ask God, how did I miss it? Well, we all do and I’ve had a lot of practice.

Oh, my. If God can’t make his message clear to Pat Robertson, what hope do the rest of us have?

In any case, in the context of God’s vindictive behavior toward his creation, or more narrowly, the American electorate who elected Barack Obama, I will bookend this piece with more Mark Twain, a famous excerpt from his Letters From The Earth:

I will tell you a pleasant tale which has in it a touch of pathos. A man got religion, and asked the priest what he must do to be worthy of his new estate. The priest said, “Imitate our Father in Heaven, learn to be like him.” The man studied his Bible diligently and thoroughly and understandingly, and then with prayers for heavenly guidance instituted his imitations.

He tricked his wife into falling downstairs, and she broke her back and became a paralytic for life;

he betrayed his brother into the hands of a sharper, who robbed him of his all and landed him in the almshouse; he inoculated one son with hookworms, another with the sleeping sickness, another with gonorrhea;

he furnished one daughter with scarlet fever and ushered her into her teens deaf, dumb, and blind for life;

and after helping a rascal seduce the remaining one, he closed his doors against her and she died in a brothel cursing him.

Then he reported to the priest, who said that that was no way to imitate his Father in Heaven. The convert asked wherein he had failed, but the priest changed the subject and inquired what kind of weather he was having, up his way.



  1. henrygmorgan

     /  November 26, 2012


    You have evoked the voice that I look on as authoritative in virtually all matters: Mark Twain.

    He wrote in “The Lowest Animal” the following:

    “Man is a Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion — several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat if his theology isn’t straight. He has made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brother’s path to happiness and heaven . . .. The higher animals have no religion. And we are told that they are going to be left out in the Hereafter. I wonder why? It seems questionable taste.”

    And from “Letters from the Earth.” my all-time favorite:

    “Man is the only animal that blushes . . . or needs to.”



    • Henry,

      Thanks for those timely Twain quotes. Who can’t love the guy? Religious zealots have made “a graveyard of the globe”? Who can say it better?

      And although I have heard that unbelievably clever “blushes” quote many times, I wouldn’t have known you got the reference wrong.  Your attention to detail is, I am sure, what helped make you such an effective teacher.



  2. henrygmorgan

     /  November 26, 2012

    Oops! The “blushes” quote is from. “Follow the Equator.” I’ve been out of the classroom too long. Henry


  3. It appears to me that a certain minority of the human population, Mark Twain included, are blessed or cursed, depending on one’s point of view, with a willful need to see the world as it is and not as they wish it to be. What will evolution make of us?

    Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction. – Blaise Pascal


    • It is often a curse, Jim, to feel compelled to “see” things as they are and not as we wish them to be.  In some ways, life was much easier for me when I saw things through the prism of religious belief.

      It is important, though, not to go too far and see through everything, that is to apply an unnatural and utter skepticism to all that we see. I never grow tired of quoting C.S. Lewis in this respect:

      But you cannot go on “explaining away” for ever: you will find that you have explained explanation itself away. You cannot go on “seeing through” things for ever. The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it. It is good that the window should be transparent, because the street or garden beyond it is opaque. How if you saw through the garden too? It is no use trying to “see through”  first principles. If you see through everything, then everything is transparent. But a wholly transparent world is an invisible world. To “see through” all things is the same as not to see.


      • I totally get C. S. Lewis on that, Duane, and it is a good one. He is appealing that people should resource common sense as they attempt to puzzle out the meanings of life, and I agree even though that is ultimately unsatisfying. I understand that Samuel Clemons lapsed so far into cynicism in his later years that he became a very unhappy man, and that is something I want to avoid.

        I see philosophy as a balance beam, cynicism on one side and abandonment to some untestable ideology on the other. The challenge is to keep one’s balance. 🙂


  4. “I am quite sure now that often, very often, in matters concerning religion and politics a man’s reasoning powers are not above the monkey’s.”
    — Mark Twain in Eruption


  5. “We have taken him out of government.”

    Perhaps God was never intended to be a part of government.

    “The Bible is not my book nor Christianity my profession.” ― Abraham Lincoln

    I have examined all the known superstitions of the world, and I do not find in our particular superstition of Christianity one redeeming feature. They are all alike founded on fables and mythology.
    —Thomas Jefferson

    “In no instance have . . . the churches been guardians of the liberties of the people.”
    – -James Madison

    ” The divinity of Jesus is made a convenient cover for absurdity.” — John Adams

    “The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason.” — Benjamin Franklin

    “All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.”
    —Thomas Paine

    “The church says the earth is flat, but I know that it is round, for I have seen the shadow on the moon, and I have more faith in a shadow than in the church.”
    –Ferdinand Magellan

    “The reason people use a crucifix against vampires is because vampires are allergic to bullshit.” ― Richard Pryor


    • HLG,

      Careful with that Jefferson quote. I know a lot of right-wing Christians who just adore TJ and many of them don’t believe he held such views on Christianity. I once was arguing with one of them and told them about my copy of the Jefferson Bible, which he fashioned by cutting out all the supernatural parts of the New Testament, including Jesus’ divinity and resurrection from the dead. No way, the guy said. No way there is such a thing as the Jefferson Bible. Show it to me, he demanded. I did. He shut up.

      And your Paine quote from The Age of Reason reminds me of how thoroughly that great man debunked the Bible and the claims of a literalist Christianity. What a book that is.

      Finally, quoting Richard Pryor on religion is absolutely brilliant.



  6. Well, a few quotes from the Christian Guide to Hypocrisy (the bible) that ought to quiet the self-righteous, bible-thumping right-wing nuts:

    Matthew 7:1-5 “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

    Matthew 6:1 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.“

    Romans 2:1-5 “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.”

    Psalm 55:21 “His speech was smooth as butter, yet war was in his heart; his words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords.”

    Peter 2:1 “So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.”

    Matthew 6:2 “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.”

    James 1:22-24 “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.”

    James 1:25-27 “But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

    Luke 16:13 “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

    Etc., Etc., Etc. . . .



    • Herb,

      Thanks for piling on.

      I want to call attention to one passage you included here:

      Matthew 6:2 “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.”

      Jesus can be interpreted here (interpreted by my extraordinarily political brain) as saying that the best way to help the poor, in terms of not taking personal credit for it or trumpeting your virtue, is “silently” through government social programs. Since all of us get credit for it, none of do.

      Jesus, read this way, was merely endorsing liberal governance!



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