Thursday, May 30, 2013

Will you miss me when I'm gone?

I'm wondering how many of us are going to miss Michele Bachmann when she's gone. Or, If Bachmann did not exist, would it have been necessary to invent her? The same might be asked about Iowa's famously strident U.S. representative, Steve King. Perhaps even Bob Vander Plaats. Sorry, Voltaire.

For Democrats, Bachmann was too perfect. Not only did she come across quite often as just plain ignorant in ways that more astute politicians (or smarter people) would have avoided, but --- as she insisted --- God quite often spoke directly to her.

The Onion (it's satire, remember) commenced its spoofing report on the Bachmann decision this way: "Saying that it’s the Lord’s will, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann announced on her website Wednesday that she has decided not to seek re-election in 2014 because God wants her to earn millions of dollars working for a high-powered lobbying firm.

"According to Bachmann, God spoke to her directly after many days of intense prayer and ultimately told the exiting Congresswoman that there is no reason she should only make $174,000 per year when she could easily earn up to eight times that amount in the private sector."

Republican mamas use pictures of President Obama to scare the dickens out of their kids; Democrats had, among others, Bachmann. I'm going to miss her. 

More than likely, she'll end up with Mike Huckabee as a commentator on Faux News. But I mean, really, what thoughtful person watches Faux News?


Speaking of God, a new Gallup poll suggests that more Americans than ever before --- 75 percent --- believe that religion is losing its influence on American life. That's a higher percentage than even 1969-70 when the Vietnam War was causing massive dissent and all those godless hippies were running around loose in San Francisco with flowers in their hair.

God's perceived influence reached its most recent peak (when 71 percent perceived it) during 2001, shortly after the September 11 terrorist disaster --- hardly a ringing endorsement for the Almighty.

The statistics on influence have little to do with the overwhelming degree of religiosity in American life, merely reflecting what the perceived influence of that religiosity is. Somewhere between 75 and 80 percent of Americans still identify as "Christian."

But it is an interesting statistic, suggesting perhaps distress both among conservative religious types who have hitched their souls to politics and more liberal sorts, increasingly turned off by all those dire threats from the right involving God's judgment as more Americans endorse same-sex marriage and gun control. 


I watched an interesting interview the other day (which I can't locate now) with Stephen Fry, British actor, humorist --- and atheist (sort of). Fry expressed the opinion that measures of religiosity often are skewed because the questions asked --- usually of the three-option multiple-choice sort: "Are you a believer, an atheist or an agnostic" --- limit options.

That doesn't leave wiggle room for those who are "spiritual but not religious" and therefore forced to sort themselves into one camp or another. Or for that matter for those of us who are believers (with reservations) some days, atheists on other days and perhaps most often "don't-knows but not especially worried about it" in between.

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