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Commentary: Secularists confused by the values voters

POSTED: December 9, 2012 12:30 a.m.

The Pew Forum recently found that 1 in 5 people claim no religion. There is a growing diversity of worldviews in this nation. In our present political landscape there is much distrust between “values voters” and secularists. Open communication is going to be all the more important for our democracy to survive. I hope to explain why many secularists find “values voting” worrisome.

Secularists are concerned by a growth in revisionist history from the religious right. Concerning history, we all know whoever controls the past controls the future, so the reliability of history books should be jealously guarded. Writers like David Barton, who isn’t a trained historian, have made careers of writing books with selectively edited quotes to make it look like our founders wanted the government to promote religion.

Secular historians have pointed out his misrepresentations for years and dismayed that he sat on the curriculum advisory board for the Texas School Board. Recently, however, Thomas Nelson, the world’s largest Christian Publisher recalled Barton’s best seller and very accurately named, The Jefferson Lies. They “lost confidence in the books details.” Barton’s works are now being called into question by his peer religious based writers.

Concerning science, secularists are of the opinion that the religious right is manufacturing controversies. One of course is the age of the Earth. Scientists, with zero controversy, have determined the age of the Earth to be around 4.5 billion years. People are free to reject what scientists say and have differing opinions. Also, as Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, people are entitled to their own opinions but not their own facts.

In what appears to be an effort to create controversy and doubt where none exists, groups like Answers in Genesis publish misleading articles. Perhaps the best example to date is when, using popular media as references as opposed to the actual research reports, AiG reported the discovery of organic molecules in fossilized dinosaur bone as the discovery of red blood cells in unfossilized bone. This lack of regard for scientific evidence when claiming to be scientific is quite disturbing.

I’ve seen AiG’s President Ken Ham speak. He surprised me with his candor when he admitted that their Creation Museum, which I’ve visited, wasn’t about proving creationism, but rather convincing people to believe in a literal biblical worldview. Proving something is true and convincing a person something is true are two very different things.

There simply is no controversy among geologists that the earth is about 4 billion years old, nor among biologists that evolution is fact and no not just a theory. The religious right appears not to trust scientists very much. This should come as no surprise since they support so many beliefs in opposition to those held by many members of the religious right.

This leads secularists to their greatest fear, that “values voters” are being manipulated by corporate interests.

Since the religious right already doubts scientists because of their stances on the age of the earth and evolution, corporate interest can easily convince them that scientists are lying about climate change, that pollution risks are exaggerated and that regulations are unnecessary.

Many secularists find it ironic that the many of same people who warn of the need to prepare for an impending rapture and day of spiritual reckoning ignore the need to prepare for the earth’s changing climate and a potential environmental doomsday.

The key to controlling the vote isn’t controlling the voters’ minds but their hearts. No issue is perhaps more emotional than that of abortion. Secularists themselves are split on the ethics of abortion. It’s a complicated issue and one that has evolved even within the conservative Christian community.

For example, in 1971 The Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution approving the legality of abortion to preserve the lives and emotional health of women. That view changed after the formation of the politically minded Moral Majority. The Moral Majority has morphed into a number of groups that anchor “values votes” with deregulatory policies.

To secularists it looks like “values voters” are being used by those who want to make the most profit possible in the short term while ignoring man’s charge to be good stewards of the earth. Somehow the pro-life movement, outside of the Catholic Church, appears to be wed with a movement wanting irresponsible tax cuts, reckless military spending, deregulation and environmental exploitation.

With that in mind can one not understand why secularists question what the real values are behind “values voting?”

Brandon Givens is a Gainesville resident and frequent columnist.


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