It's starting to look as if Newt Gingrich will be the Republican nominee. If so, this might be the first time two non-believers ran against each other for President of the United States.


Oh, that's right: You still think Gingrich and Obama believe what's written in the Christian Bible. I understand why you think that. After all, both men say they believe in god, and they do churchy things. The trouble is that Gingrich and Obama both set off my non-believerdar. (That's like gaydar for non-believers.)

I'll bet if you did a test in which you showed volunteers pictures of believers and non-believers, the volunteers could do better than chance in picking out the non-believers.  That hypothesis isn't too wild. There have been studies  in which volunteers tried to identify political conservatives by photographs, and the volunteers beat chance.  And at least one study says women can identify gay men just by looking at them.

You could also walk into a room and pick out the person who is most likely to be good at math. You wouldn't be right every time, but if you saw a guy who looked like Dilbert, and a guy who looked like David Beckham, which one do you think could help you with your computer problem?

There's a hypothesis that the ability to believe in God has a genetic basis. That hypothesis is far from proven, but the smart money says there is some truth to it because most mental capacities have a genetic component. There's probably even a genetic basis for why my favorite color is green.

The skeptic in me takes with a grain of salt any study that purports to demonstrate the existence of gaydar or conservativedar or any other form of human radar. It's hard to design a test involving humans that doesn't have some leakage. And the people designing the tests might have agendas. So the strongest claim I can make about my non-believerdar is that it feels to me as if I can identify non-believers with an accuracy that is better than chance. But it's just a feeling.

Based on what feels like the power of non-believerdar, my assumption is that both Gingrich and Obama believe in the utility of belief while remaining skeptical of the details, up to and including the existence of a supreme being. In other words, I see them as pragmatists. If you plan to be a politician in America, you need to pretend you believe. Everything about Gingrich and Obama tells me they look for solutions that make sense within the context of what is proven and practical.

What does your non-believerdar tell you about Gingrich and Obama? Do you think they believe in the supernatural, or do they pretend they believe for practical reasons?

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Jan 23, 2012
babumiller: Actually, if you think about God rationally, having Him intervene in football games makes sense, if we can assume we are talking about the usual omniscient, omnipotent Christian portrayal of God.

Any event, even one as insignificant as a football game, has an impact on the world, for good or bad. A man, for instance, who is pissed off about his team losing starts a fight in a bar. That's bad, except for the guy who gets a tooth chipped, and when he visits the dentist to get it fixed, meets his future wife in the waiting room. 30 years later, their child invents a cure for cancer. Another man (in a different bar) whose team won is filled with the spirit of goodwill and buys a round of drinks -- and then one of the people who he buys drinks for goes out and kills someone in a accident.

The point is, the sum total of the good or bad caused by all things arising from a football game is unknowable to us, but not to God, who knows everything, past, present, and future. God is in the unique position of being able to judge exactly which team should win to bring the greatest good to the world, and also has the power to make that happen. Looking at it this way, not only should God care about football games, unless he is morally bankrupt he HAS to. After all, what you think about someone who has both the knowledge and the power to make the world better, but doesn't act?

So maybe God WAS supporting Tebow -- not because Tebow was professing his beliefs so vigorously, but because, for reasons unknowable to us, the Broncos winning was making the world a better place, in the balance.
+9 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 23, 2012
I think it was Michael Kinsley who once wrote that an American politician would rather burn in hell than admit to being an atheist.
Jan 23, 2012
I recently read that 42% of respondents believed that god had directly intervened to give Tim Tebow all those last minute football victories for Denver. Forty two percent. That is all i need to know about the American people and religion. I wish i could do a survey and ask what he did to make god abandon him before his work was done in the super bowl. Maybe god got busy with europe and haircuts.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 23, 2012
I will challenge the hypothesis that the ability to believe in God has a genetic basis. I believe it is environmental. If you are brought up in a family that goes to church and talk about god, you will be predisposed to believe in a god. If you are a child in an Islam family, you will have a set of believes, same for Buddhist. If you grow up in a family that did not talk about religion or god much, you will be predisposed to be a non-believer. And if there truly were a god, why is he/she having people fight over what they think their god wants which differs from others?

A god can be anything you want it to be. For some it is a religious item. For others, their god is science.

Back to your original question, I believe both of them believe they have to say they believe in a supernatural in order to win, and they are right. If one of them announced they were an atheist, their political career would be over in a second. That is real sad, in my opinion.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 23, 2012
The notion of "nonbelieverdar" is interesting, and I agree with your intuition regarding Mr. Obama
and Mr. Gingrich. Both also broadcast intense arrogance (IMO). I would like to comment about this from another viewpoint. Entertainers known as magicians are well aware that for an audience to properly experience a "miracle" it is a wise practice of the magician to sell his "belief" in the miracle during its presentation. If the magician does NOT broadcast his "belief" it tells the audience that what is happening is "BS". Now, if magicians can be trained to do this, and they are frequently described as "actors" creating the illusion of being a magician, then it is a skill that can be learned. Con-men and other sociopaths pick it up naturally, which brings us full circle to politicians . . .
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 23, 2012
Honestly, I think Obama might actually have been sincere in 2008, though I think that by now he's been the brunt of so many Christians' scorn, thanks to the Republican right, that he may have walked back from it at this point.

But I think Rick Perry was totally faking it.

Fun thought experiment.
-4 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 23, 2012
Yep, they're pretending. It's necessary for US politicians these days, but it's never been so transparent. Obama seems to actually harbor contempt for the very religion he claims to practice.
Jan 23, 2012
Few people are capable of either believing or disbelieving in God. Most simply form habits of behavior and habits of speech.
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 23, 2012
First off judging people by how the look is probably not a very savvy move for a presidential candidate.

Based on the fact that you make no attempt to back up your idea that Gingrich and Obama are non - believers based on any thing more than looks, it sounds to me that you like / respect them, but you can't square that with your own beliefs. So believing that they are non - believers rationalizes YOUR faith in them.
+18 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 23, 2012
Most are probably pragmatists. They are just good liars; that's part of their job.

Here in Canada, at least in the French part, we don't need leaders that are believers. Religion is never part of political debates or an election matter. We really don't care. Religion as been ditched in the 70s, and now our churches are mostly empty. Some are converted to condos in urban areas, or just demolished. Politics are about more important things than what we believe or not, and I hope you'll get there one day too. You waste too much time on those useless things...
Jan 23, 2012
I am looking for traits in them that would make we want to hire them for the job of President. I don't give a flying fart if they believe or not, it is not a job requirement in my mind. At their age, Obama and Gingrich have been exposed to the truth of the gospel, whether they choose to believe or not is none of my concern. I know this country thinks it's Christian and many people, if you hold a gun to their head, will SAY they are Christian, but the reality is in the ACTION people take. MAYBE 20% are Christian the other 80% ... not so much ... Gingrich and Obama? I don't care.
+6 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 23, 2012
I believe they are non-believers, but that may just be me projecting my belief system onto others.
Jan 23, 2012
wait...green?!? what kind of sick !$%* are you?

I assume all politicians will switch any belief they have in order to get a couple of additional votes. There may be some that won't switch their belief system, but I think those are the hard core believers - and I think they are unelectable because they seem crazy to the general public (fyi - you could put me in the believer camp, and even I look at people like Pat Robertson, etc as whackos) and thus unelectable. People like Newt, Obama, Bush, Clinton, etc would convert to Hinduism in less than a second if they thought it could get them more votes.
+11 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 23, 2012
Ironically (I being a Catholic priest), when I read your words, "...do they pretend they believe for practical reasons?", I naturally thought of believing for "practical" reasons to be a believer for their salvation! :-) I understand what you mean in your sentence, but the fact is neither one is fooling Christians or God by their pretense! Anyone who sincerely believes a politician, especially if they tout religion, is serious about their religion invariably ends up being duped by said politician - politics is too dirty for a sincere believer to succeed. Which is what troubles me about Santorum as well.
Jan 23, 2012
What is the rate of incidence of your non-believerdar and your dumb-assdar?
Jan 23, 2012
I'm disturbed by the fact that you claim to believe this is the FIRST time that it's happening!? Has your "Non-believerdar" been asleep for the past 20 years?
-4 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 23, 2012
And it doesn't help that people tend to distrust Athiests. I think I actually first of the study from Scott. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/30/study-explores-distrust-o_n_1120869.html
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 23, 2012
Obama never did. Gingrich probably did growing up, but no longer.
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 23, 2012
@EvanM: Addition: like the majority of people do. Most people never read or studied any religious book of their "own" belief, let alone that of others. Without that basic foundation, imho you're not a believer. The other part is that people consistently act against the rules of their own religion, which means you're a non-believer as well.

Believing has earthly benefits. My grandmother decided for me that I'm a catholic. I'm not, I'm an atheist. But sometimes its more convenient to pretend my birth-given religion then to fight it. I make it a habit to consistently avoid any debates on religion, since its a lost cause.
+26 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 23, 2012
Oh come now Scot, Gingrich clearly worships in a Supreme Being, -himself!
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