On Karl Rove's Atheism

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this–Christopher Hitchens, author of the new book God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, outed senior Bush administration advisor Karl Rove as an atheist. Hitchens said in an interview with New York Magazine:

I know something which is known to few but is not a secret. Karl Rove is not a believer, and he doesn’t shout it from the rooftops, but when asked, he answers quite honestly. I think the way he puts it is, “I’m not fortunate enough to be a person of faith.”

See, I’m of two minds about this.

On the one hand, if it’s true, if Karl Rove is, in fact, a closeted atheist, that’s his choice and he shouldn’t be outed and certainly not in an “oh, by the way” sort of comment in an interview. If he wants to make a big deal out of it, fine. If he wants to make an admission like Representative Pete Stark and possibly be a role model to other atheists about professing their lack of beliefs, wonderful. But he shouldn’t be outed because Christopher Hitchens wants to move a few more copies of his book on atheism.

(Yes, I am using the terms “closeted” and “outed” in the gay sense. I’ve always used those terms in that way, as just as there’s a “sexual orientation closet” there’s a “religious closet.” People lock away the parts of themselves they know society will disapprove of. Hence, “closeted” and “outed.”)

On the other hand, I can’t escape the rank hypocrisy of Karl Rove masterminding the campaign strategy for Bush’s 2000 and 2004 Presidential campaigns by playing up Bush’s religiousness and playing to the theocons, the fundamentalists, and the Religious Right. The man who, more than anyone else, forged the impression of today’s Republican Party as “the God-Only Club” is himself a non-believer, one that wouldn’t be welcome in his own party if his non-belief was known.

I’m troubled. Frankly, I’m troubled. Partly it’s because I despise Karl Rove for hardened partisanship that the Bush Administration has practiced six years now. Partly it’s because I despise the post-9/11 message President Bush turned to time and again, a message that no doubt Karl Rove had a hand in crafting, that religion is the hallmark of a civilized people, thus excluding the many American atheists and non-believers from being “civilized.” Partly it’s because American atheists can use role models. Partly it’s because atheists shouldn’t be outed for their non-belief any more than a public figure should be outed on their sexual orientation. So these competing thoughts keep running through my head. It’s the hypocrisy, though. That’s what troubles me the most. That his career has been devoted to delivering, en masse, the votes of the very people who would despise him on a very primitive level. :/

Welcome to the Atheists’ Club, Mr. Rove.

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