Relying on Faith Instead of Facts Brought Moral Calamity

How religious zealotry led the United States into a twenty-first century crusade.

As Madeline Albright’s comment clearly articulates, in principle there is such a thing as a just war. The conditions are seldom met, however, and this is no accident. Naked aggression is almost always dressed up, with varying degrees of plausibility, to look like the furtherance of a cause that is at least arguable, so defending innocent people from such aggression –- which has to be the basis for any just war –- is seldom as clear-cut a grounding as the principles of just war demand.

Moreover, as Albright also points out, even a war initiated with just intentions can be betrayed by conduct of war that violates principles of morality.

It is this, more than anything else, that utterly disqualifies the fiasco in Iraq as a candidate for just war. Saddam Hussein was an extraordinarily evil dictator, and the world is well rid of him, but the steps taken by the USA to accomplish this –- unilateral, arrogant, and shockingly ignorant about local conditions –- have brought shame on the nation.

They have also been stunningly counterproductive. Respect for America has plummeted worldwide, a dangerous development both for us in America and for those around the world whose well-being and security is partially protected by American support for principles of freedom and equality.

Our declarations of good intent are now deservedly regarded with cynicism by our friends and suspicion by those who desperately depend on us. Inflating these declarations with religious rhetoric about God being on our side is nothing less than obscene, however sincerely these protestations of faith may be uttered.

Nothing has done more to discredit religious faith in recent years than the self-righteous overconfidence with which our leaders have “listened to God” instead of listening to the knowledgeable secular advisers who have warned them, repeatedly, of the follies they were embarking on.

Defenders of religion are eager to point out that the motivation for this war was not religious, in spite of President Bush’s blunder in calling it a “crusade,” but they must admit that the administration’s faith in faith over faith in facts has probably been the principle cause of the moral calamity that now confronts us.

 

Lead image courtesy of Nestor Lacle.

Daniel C. Dennett
Written by

  • Canyon Shearer

    God is not on our side. It is our sincere hope that we are on the side of God; for God’s is the side of right.To say that correlation equals causation is just to add one more of thousands of Mr. Dennet’s fallacies in reasoning. If our ‘neighbors’ no longer have the respect they once had, perhaps it is because religion has fallen from their lists of important items, they have left morals up to the people.In this country, first we said, “We don’t need God, as long as we still have His laws, we’ll be ok.” Now that the country is in ruin and sliding downward quicker every day; we have decided that we don’t need God’s laws either.Those laws are the laws of morality, summed up perfectly in the 10 Commandments. The 10 Commandments read as follows:I think it is clear to read down these that Europe(our former allies) as well as the United States have broken each and everyone of these a Billion times over. No, America is not on the side of right, but rather on the side of wrath.So are her citizens, for those laws apply directly to them; proof positive because they are written on the heart of every man, woman, and child, and even Mr. Dennet.Without those laws, without following those laws the country has failed and will continue to fail. For the country, as was the way of Rome, the punishment is annihilation. For citizens, the punishment for breaking those laws is everlasting punishment in Hell.Fortunately for man, God saw fit to save the wretchedness that is the human race from destruction, came to the earth, born of a virgin, lived a perfect sinless life and was hung on a Cross to pay the wage that every human being, past, present, and future, had amassed on themselves. Through the death of Jesus Christ was the fine paid for the transgressions against God’s law; but because God is more powerful than anything, even death, He rose from the grave on the third day and delivered your soul from Hell.In order to receive the Gift of Everlasting Life from God, repent of your sins, and put your trust in Jesus Christ. God will save you from your sins, not because you are a good person deserving of life, but because you are a bad person saved by a Good God who loves you despite your failings.Once your soul is saved, then we will worry about saving the collective soul of the USA; and eventually the world.

  • Realist

    Professor Dennett,I would add that the whole motivation for the war was based on the government lying to the people.Canyon wrote:Morals have always been and will always be up to the people. This has been true in all cultures and at all times in history. People wrote all of the religious books and people must always accept or reject religious books according to their understanding of reality and interpret them according to their values.Religion fell off my list because it got pushed off by other more important items that have higher value to me, in particular: honesty, love of truth and consideration for other people.

  • Ba’al

    Canyon Shearer is blinded by his religion, and his version of the Ten Comnmandments is one of the strangest I have seen. The part about “Taking time out from the week to be thankful for this nation founded in rightousness” is not the way I have ever seen it! I suspect the native American perspective on the birth of this nation might be different — as would be the perspective of the people enslaved to work here. The actions of our country’s leaders have directly and indirectly cause the unnecessary death and grievous wounding of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Americans. The war was based on a lie, almost certainly in part on the irrational hatred of our president for one man, now dead. Based on the actions of a Born Again Christian, and his supporters, many of whom are no different from the Taliban except they buy into different prophets.

  • S. Landry

    Although correlation does not necessarily imply causation, it equally does not imply the absence of causation. Causation (or the lack thereof) must be implied from other sources (other than just the correlation). Canyon suggests that the decline in respect for the U.S. is “perhaps … because religion has fallen from (our neighbors’) lists of important items, they have left morals up to the people.” Prof. Dennett suggests this is because of the actions of the U.S., primarily our invasion of Iraq. Prof. Dennett’s suggestion is supported by a host of other data – opinion polls from these other countries, statements of politicians, the presence of protests against the U.S. policy in Iraq, etc.Canyon’s suggestion is severely illogical – how does one get from a lack of religion to a recent change in the amount of respect for the U.S.? It isn’t even clear to me what is meant by “leaving morals up to the people,” as if morals must be supplied by the governments of Europe and Canada.This seems to be a trend in Canyon’s posts, however. So intelligent at times, always passionate, but so dizzyingly nonsensical in the main. Then again, those with the beliefs of Canyon don’t seem to value reason. It may not be important for the arguments to make sense – that doesn’t stop them in any of their other beliefs. I would like to know where you obtained those 10 commandments – I have not seen them written in that way before.

  • TKH

    “All citizens and all governments are obliged to work for the avoidance of war.However, ‘as long as the danger of war persists and there is no international authority with the necessary competence and power, governments cannot be denied the right of lawful self-defense, once all peace efforts have failed.'” [The Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2308]Mr. Hussein (may God rest his weary soul) did not work toward the avoidance of war. He was a very proud dictator who wanted the world to believe he had powers he may not have had. He had a record of violence and mental irregularities. He was indeed an irreconcilable threat whether he did or did not have WMD. Just ask the millions of Iraqi’s and Kuwaities and Iranians and Jordanians and Israelites and Saudis and Egyptians and Turkish who feared just to live under or around his rule. Ask the many innocents he slaughtered because of his mental irregularities – because he could do this completely without any accountability whatsoever. He was clearly not fit to be in authority. He was clearly a threat who could not be trusted by his words. And, he had proven audacity to invade nations at the drop of a command – Iran and then Kuwait. Who would be next? He had record of sinister crime.Professor Dennett, I respectfully suggest that you are very quick to cast doubt on our own leaders (in whose eye there is a “splinter” compared to the “wooden beam” that was in Mr. Hussein’s. Suggesting how we fix the morality of a few of our own soldiers (on who we must depend to execute orders correctly) would be better than condemning the entire nation with one commentary.

  • Kevin

    Where, my fellow Christians, did you discover your unusual definition of the word “LIE.” Since we were told the same facts by Republicans and Democrats, Americans and Britons, coalition partners and enemies, how do you conclude that this information was a lie? Were Clinton and Gore, and Bush and Cheney, and Kerry and Edwards all lying to us? They all told us of the immediate threat of Iraq! Clinton took military action against Iraq based on this information!While we all seem to rush to condemn the ongoing war, let’s try to remember that we at least call ourselves Christians and should not judge the motivations of those with whom we disagree. The facts may or may not have been wrong, but there is NO evidence to suggest that it was a lie.

  • S. Landry

    Even if you cede some sort of special responsibility on the U.S. to ensure that all countries have upstanding and non-dangerous leaders, we do not have the military capability to remove all the leaders we find unpalatable. Even if we did, the policy of pre-emption is dangerous. Apart from the increased likelihood of us being wrong (Iraq is a case on point), how do we justify our pre-emption while stating others are not free to do the same thing? For example, once we leave, how could we condemn Iran for invading Iraq if Iran starts saying “Iraq is trying to make nuclear weapons!” With regard to our leaders (and as a veteran), I find the incompetence of the leaders of this country shocking and unacceptable. Read the book “Fiasco” if you’re interested in finding out what went wrong here – the blame permeates from the White House to the upper levels of the military. The rank and file soldiers generally do their duty – they follow lawful orders of those above them in the chain of command. Our elected leaders (of both parties) shirked good advice (just ask Gen. Shinseki) and violated scores of settled principles for the conduct of such a war, and it has cost good men and women their lives. That to me is more than a “splinter” in their eye.

  • Paul Young

    Dan Dennett – once again spot on clear and concise thinking.Canyon Shearer – a bad case of the virus and accordingly, utter theodrivel!

  • BGone

    Canyon, the great judgment of Father God complete with Jesus is on the first, as you get there page. Just scroll down until you see Satan in a 3,000+ year old picture.

  • Joel Wheeler

    Canyon – You are not allowed to simply decide how to interpret the ten commandments at whim. Especially when it seems as though you’re making this up off of hearsay. Have you ever personally read that useless paperweight? Which set of ten commandments are you using? I’m fairly certain that P2P sharing isn’t mentioned in the Bible (It’s been a long time since I wasted the effort to read it). Don’t let lust govern your life? I’m pretty sure it says THOU SHALT NOT COVET something or another. Your neighbor’s ass or maybe his wife…This list demonstrates what is probably the most important point out there from the opposition: Our morality does not come from the bible. People pick and choose what they follow, and what they don’t, and they interpret whatever they want out of wherever is most convenient. People need to understand that our morality comes from somewhere other than that useless book. Oh, and just so you know, I was an atheist in a foxhole.

  • Anonymous

    Dennett says: “Defenders of religion…must admit that the administration’s faith in faith over faith in facts has probably been the principle [sic — hey, he was in a hurry] cause of the moral calamity that now confronts us.”Dennett then proceeds to substantiate his startling assertion. He offers airtight argumentation and evidence.Not. Oh, he would have, I’m sure, if the article had not got truncated somehow. Surely he would not leave that assertion just hanging there. Surely he would not just count on readers sharing his ignorant prejudices. Surely he would respect readers’ intelligence enough to explain himself.Surely he would tell us who these “defenders of religion” are, and why they “must” say anything at all. He would tell us who in the administration he means. He would define “faith in faith”. He would walk us through the causality he imagines, and provide some rational basis for such a conclusion.And then perhaps Dr. Dennett could explain why we ought to bother giving his post any more thought than he himself did.

  • TKH

    Professor Dennett – I must agree that our leaders (anyone for that matter) must not loosely use expressions like “I listened to God” especially if they are not sincere with this expression. However, understand that our good leaders, according to what all Christians are instructed to believe [Romans 13], are acting as agents of God.We [knowledgeable Christians] must be very careful about laying criticism on our nation’s leadership – especially the President. Criticizing our President could be greatly offensive to God who we must faithfully believe is very active in our day-to-day government (as he is in our own lives). Who else would you thank for our great prosperity and our position of responsibility in sustaining peace and prosperity throughout the world? If you are not praising our President, then you may be dismissing the completely gratuitous work of God the Father in our lives.We must support our President. And, we must thank God that we have such talented and inspired and selfless individuals like George Bush who are willing to subject themselves to the tremendous criticisms from unloving people like us who are so willing to cast doubt and blame on these loyal agents while we ourselves are unwilling to step up to the plate and take on some of the responsibilities ourselves. Let’s stop casting blame and start helping the President obtain peace through mutual charity.

  • TKH

    “BGONE” – it is well known that Satan is the “father of all lies”, practicing deception and deceit, draining people of hope, bringing them down into despair. You’ve been discovered.

  • BGone

    TKH – Is the end of time at hand, Jesus on His way?1) Jews must return to their homeland.Your’re not suggesting?When you hear the raptures then looked to be beamed up, slightly after all the stars fall from the sky.I believe it. I beleive it. Like I said, I believe it. Do YOU believe it?

  • Ba’al

    TKH,Was that last comment a form of satire? If so it is genius, especially your notion that criticizing the talented George Bush is offensive to God, and how we simply must Praise Him. Dubya that is. In the unlikely event that this is NOT satire, and you are serious, please let me know where you got these ideas, what schools, what church? Where? When? I suggest travel would be good for you.

  • dodger

    to anon,what i said was, “many deeply religious christians see this war in Iraq as part of a larger struggle between Islam and Christianity.”(i love quoting myself; i often ponder that there may be someone, somewhere who doesn’t know my opinion)i think i’ll stand by that. it doesn’t deny that there are many, perhaps most, religious folks who oppose the prez’s policy and who don’t view the conflict as one between islam and christianity. there are also those, i mentioned the neo-cons, who support the war for completely different reasons.what i said was, and is, that those who support the president and who do see this in apocalyptic, religious terms are disproportionatley evangelical christians (and thus deeply religious by definition). this doesn’t seem to be a new correlation and i’m not sure where the controversy here is, but i’ll try to keep an open mind.

  • dodger

    thanks, anon.you forced me to go back, re-read my previous posts, give it a hard critical look, and i still think that i generally agree with myself.fairly or not, the president is seen as someone who is motivated by his religion. the war in iraq does not reflect well on that faith-based foreign policy and has been rejected by most. and in a larger context, i think that many are beginning to recall why the ‘secular’ space was invented in our history to begin with. it’s to protect us all.

  • Anonymous

    Dodger,Thanks for your thoughts. Now I understand the origin of your nickname, and it’s apt. Like most of us, you’re extremely generous in giving yourself the benefit of the doubt and in calling your own balls and strikes. Only human.Not sure what you mean by “deeply religious”, but let’s assume it means someone who adheres conscientiously to a particular set of beliefs and practices that he regards as important to his daily life and/or eternal destiny.I don’t see how you ascertain that in a telephone poll. Asking a respondent to identify himself as “evangelical” or otherwise is an entirely different question. “Evangelical” refers to a set of beliefs, not the intensity of belief or practice. Thus “evangelical” is not a synonym for “deeply religious”, or vice versa. Not all deeply religious Christians are evangelicals, and not everyone who calls himself an evangelical is deeply religious (for that matter, it turns out that many who identify as evangelical are not, based on their actual beliefs). It also must be said that race often trumps evangelicalism in opinion surveys, with black and white evangelicals diverging. In any case, evangelicals are a distinct minority of Christians.You offer two new formulations of your premise:FIRST: “those who support the president and who do see this in apocalyptic, religious terms are disproportionatley evangelical christians.”I’m happy to concede this point if there is clear and convincing evidence. Perhaps you can point us to the specific Pew studies that inform your position. The only relevant Pew report I found in a very cursory search says this:”Evangelical Christians have a unique perspective on what values should guide U.S. foreign policy. They are more likely than any other major demographic or political group to believe that following moral principles should be a top priority ­ (86% of white evangelical Protestants hold this view). And they are by far the biggest proponents of following religious principles. Fully 55% of evangelicals say this should be a top priority. This compares with 33% of the general public and 27% of non-evangelical Protestants.”Evangelical Protestants place a great deal of importance on a compassionate approach: 62% say this should be a top priority in conducting foreign policy, compared with 54% of the general public and only 48% of non-evangelical Protestants.”Hardly apocalyptic.SECOND: “fairly or not, the president is seen as someone who is motivated by his religion.”I do appreciate this bit of candor. Subscribing to a conclusion because it is popular, irrespective of evidence (“fairly or not”), is not the approach I had assumed you advocate.

  • Peter M.

    I am pretty sure that Bush said at one point that God told him to invade Iraq.That shows how dangerous the man is. I think Mush, I mean Bush (that started out as a typo) has deep seated mental problems.

  • dodger

    hi jihad dude,nope, no expert, but i did observe two things on a trip to england last spring:1) there’s a large element of ethnic politics in the religious identity of british muslims. i have a suspicion that eventual assimilation (at least to the level of the more established hindu community) is the fate of most. but for now being young and muslim is almost as cool and in-your-face as being young and atheist/anarchist. for the older, established crowd, ethnic minorities are often hopped up on religion; note the rise in pentacostal christianity among american blacks.2) british muslims are as hypocritical as to doctrine as american christians. i had no problem scoring good weed in camden town from a pleasant north african lad who kept his stash in the local mosque. religious zealotry is like, so fourteenth century. except for people who like to blow things up, of course. for them, religion is like a drug, only more destructive.

  • Anonymous

    Peter M says he is “pretty sure that Bush said at one point that God told him to invade Iraq.”Peter, I wonder if you customarily believe things for which there is no evidence?President Bush has said precisely the OPPOSITE, and to date I have not seen anyone who makes the claim you do who actually produce any supporting evidence whatsoever aside from a wildly misinterpreted quote.

  • dodger

    jihadist,to clarify my comment, religion is often the most effective tool of resistence for any minority. as long as religious identity can be maintained, then almost any calamity from diaspora to genocide can be survived (think jews). on the other hand, american indians and enslaved africans were much less successful at maintaining any identity (cultural, linguistic, etc) at all once traditional religion was dumped (or forcibly suppressed more likely). so it’s not surprising that islam is a very effective tool to resist assimilation in europe and naked colonialism in the middle east. modernization largely sucks for those being modernized so religion plays one of it’s age-old functions of providing a locus of resistence.but religion is much less likely to prevail when confronted with no religion. absent the ethnic/political stresses mentioned, then religion often recedes almost completely out of sight. lots of jews in america are fully secularized. same for muslims, hindus, chritians, etc. and christian europe is largely secularized as well. religion, or at least fundamentalist religion, as a defensive social construct fails to survive either affulence or education.

  • BGone

    TKHOperation SAP, Satan Abatment Program is now in full swing. No more lies will be detected, liars prossecuted. We shall now embrace the lie, just cause.Satan’s role has been changed recently by the religious authorities, to protect the liars, just cause.

  • dodger

    thanks, Professor, for your ususal clarity on this thought-provoking subject.it’s certainly been apparant that many deeply religious christians see this war in Iraq as part of a larger struggle between Islam and Christianity. and it’s notable that the only support the president has left regarding his Iraq surge strategy (apart from a few crank neo-cons) comes from the evangelical community.odd thing is that in this ‘war’ a lot of ‘america,’ not to mention the world, seem to be AWOL. majorities approaching 70 per cent oppose this nonsense. and a lot of people blame the religious right. according to the guardian newspaper, almost 75 percent of brits think religion is a source of conflict. i don’t think the godly counted on this response to their ‘holy war’ mentality. but you can’t put the genie back in the bottle. even counting 9/11, most acts of terrorism in america have been committed by christians, often acting in the name of jesus as they attack an abortion clinic, for ex. islamic inspired terrorism is no different than christian inspired terrorism and americans will reject both. we don’t want or need an american taliban to respond to an islamic threat.it’s been gratifying to see this change in public perception. the Dover court case has been a body blow to the Creationists in their struggle with science, and the Iraq disaster has put the religious on the defensive politically. what a nice day it is today. gee, even the air smell fresher lately.

  • Shrubery

    TKH says: “We [knowledgeable Christians] must be very careful about laying criticism on our nation’s leadership – especially the President. Criticizing our President could be greatly offensive to God who we must faithfully believe is very active in our day-to-day government (as he is in our own lives).” The logical extension of TKH’s argument is that we must also not criticize anything anyone does (see “…as he is in our own lives…”), including murderers, rapists, evil dictators, presidents who lie about personal sexual encounters, and, ultimately, those of us who criticize the nation’s leadership.Failing to constructively criticize leadership, no matter where it resides, is a recipe for communal failure. This is especially true for a democratic nation.

  • Anonymous

    Dodger says, “it’s certainly been apparant [sic] that many deeply religious christians see this war in Iraq as part of a larger struggle between Islam and Christianity.”You have no evidence for this. You’re merely indulging your ignorant hatred and prejudice. But it really gives you a nice warm feeling, doesn’t it?Don’t tell us you follow reason alone.

  • dodger

    hi anon,yep i do have, as you put it, an unusually ‘nice warm’ feeling of late. i put it down less to the ‘ignorant hatred and prejudice’ that you ascribe to me, and more to the results of several polls i’ve been looking over. that’s all, but thanks for caring.the latest pew poll breaks out the support for the war and the view of the conflict as a religious one. interesting results, and as i mentioned, it shows a general lack of support for the prez EXCEPT among evangelical christians. also, evangelicals support israel at a higher rate than the general public and are much more likely to view iraq and terrorism in a religous (christian v islam) context. don’t argue with me, anon, argue with america.and the guardian, a brit paper, just did a poll that reinforces what we all know: most europeans, except recent muslim immigrants, are godless heathens, and as soon as the immigrants get good jobs, they become pagans as well. gotta love that euro-trash; they may save us all yet.so yeah, i’m feeling a bit better about things, especially for the long haul. of course, since our delusional, religion-soaked president may be, even now, planning an unprovoaked attack upon one of several possible targets, i’m not feeling all THAT much better.

  • Anonymous

    Realist says, “It’s enough to be concerned about.”Concerned about what? Cultural insensitivity, maybe. Bad translations, definitely. Palestinian politicians? No more than usual.Status of original claim: Awaiting evidence, preferably credible.

  • also anonymous

    Please folks, stop trying to reason with canyon shearer, it’s not possible. Ignore him and perhaps he’ll go elsewhere to blather.

  • Anonymous

    Dodger, with respect, let’s stick to facts.

  • W. Stricklin

    To M. Avina:Dennett entitled his comments, “Relying on Faith Instead of Facts Brought Moral Calamity.” And if you think that I was wrong in my interpretation of Dennett’s contention, then would you please tell me what you think Dennett meant by labeling his comments as such?I believe that Dennett simply has picked up the popular political spin put forth regarding Bush’s outlandish and overzealous reliance on FAITH! And like most other political operatives (and I include those who label themselves as such as well as those who hide within the ivy-covered walls of academe), Dennett has reported FAITH to be what motivates and drives Bush’s actions as if this contention were based on FACT!I contend that Dennett should present information supporting his contention that Bush relies on FAITH as the basis of Bush’s actions, if this is to be the basis for Dennett’s conclusion. Instead, Dennett simply threw out the contention without any supporting evidence that this premise is based on FACT.(And M. Avian, if I understand your statement that you “believe this observation to be true,” then are you also making this statement on the basis of your FAITH in the correctness of the media reports regarding the subject and not on the basis of FACT according to what Bush has actually said?)I challenge anyone to show me where Bush has actually said he has based his actions on FAITH – or said that God is on his side. I can find numerous places where persons have said that they believe this to be Bush’s beliefs – but nowhere can I find that Bush has actually said that this is his position. In fact I can find where he has repeatedly denied that this is his belief!

  • Michael Avina

    Re: AnonymousI have, several times, and I am not choosing to read anything into it beyond what is actually there. Dennett does not single out Bush except for the unfortunate “Crusade” comment, and I think that it is clear to any reasonable person that this administration has been deeply in the pocket of, and beholding to the Religious Right. I believe [me, not necessarily Dennett] that the President does see the conflict in Biblical terms. An apocalyptic view of the world is a very scary proposition given the power the U.S. wields – especially in light of the “not ruling out” attacking Iran.M. Avina

  • Michael Avina

    Re: StricklinM. Avina

  • On Faith producer Caryle Murphy

    “On Faith” is two months old. We are pleased at the large number of viewers who have visited our site to read and comment on the insights, views, and expertise offered by our distinguished panel of religious experts. For the most part, reader comments have lived up to our hopes that “On Faith” would become a forum for a “sane and spirited” discussion of religion, spirituality and faith, as described in our mission statement. Their comments have been thought-provoking and civil. But some comments posted to the site have been otherwise. Some have been insulting and abusive to panelists. It is one thing to disagree with and critique another person’s views. It is quite another to personally attack that person or a group of people with insulting words. Also, some commentators have steered online conversations into avenues that have nothing to do with the issue at hand. Strong believers in free speech that we are, we also firmly hold the view that strong criticism and disagreements can be effectively expressed in language that is not offensive. In fact, it is widely regarded as a mark of intelligence to be able to do so. We are respectfully reminding all those who will be posting future comments at “On Faith” to please not use language about others that you would not use if the person you are addressing were sitting across a table from you.

  • W. Stricklin

    Where is there any evidence that Bush believes he is acting on the basis of a message from God? Based on FACT, Bush uses bible, religious phrases, etc. less than other recent presidents, and one only has to check state of the union addresses, inaugural addresses etc. to determine this to be true. Dennett’s comments are NOT based on FACTS; rather they are based on Dennett’s FAITH that the political spin put forth by political pundits, the media et al. on what others have said that Bush has said is TRUTH. No where does Dennett cite statements or quotes made by Bush. Dennett presents no FACTS to support his FAITH regarding how wrong he considers Bush’s faith to be. (I am not talking about Bush’s actions which Bush acknowledges to be wrong to the extent a president should while still in office and still in the middle of a military action.) Instead, Dennett uses only the spin put forth by those who oppose Bush regarding what Bush reportedly believes. If one truly wants to find about FAITH and RELIGION of different politicians such as George W., Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, etc. – then a good start can be made by simply plugging the key words into GOOGLE (name, faith, religion). One will find pictures of Bill Clinton carrying his bible out of church Sunday morning on many occasions (and none that I have found of Bush of similar circumstance), sermons written and presented by Clinton, first-person statements about Clinton’s faith starting when he was nine years of age, – and an overwhelming amount of information regarding the importance of religion in Jimmy Carter’s life and his presidency. Bush is wrong – in my opinion – in the way he placed political operatives and strategists who used religion in his election campaigns. And Bush has talked about his speculations regarding his role or destiny in history. But this is not the same as Bush saying that he is on a mission given to him directly by his god. Anyone who is elected to the office of the president would undoubtedly have to ask themselves what their role, destiny, etc. is or will be – in history! This is not the same as saying that this person has said he believe that god spoke to him, gave him this destiny, and therefore is empowered because he is acting as an arm of the One True God – as implied in Dennett’s presentation. Dennett should use FACTS in support of writing about Bush – not FAITH in the words written by others.

  • Michael Avina

    Re: W. Stricklin:I have reread Professor Dennett’s posting, and I didn’t see that he directly said that the President said that he is listening to God – I believe this observation to be true, but that is my opinion. This attack seems to be a straw-man sort of tactic. Claim your opponent said [or implied] a particular point, and then demolish the straw-man. It is also, by the way, one of this administrations favorite tricks in responding to criticism.M. Avina

  • Anonymous

    M. Avina, go back and read Dennett’s last three paragraphs. His meaning is crystal clear.

  • Toby

    Where does Prof. Dennett get the idea that the invasion of Iraq was the result of “listening to God”?Perhaps he got this impression from the report that:”According to Abbas, Bush said: ‘God told me to strike at al Qaida and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East.”Apart from that, I don’t know where Prof. Dennett could be coming from. But here are some appropriate words of caution from Common Dreams (not a website known for its defenses of Bush):”Before you jump to any conclusions, remember that you are reading a translation of a translation of a translation. Mahmoud Abas does not speak English. Bush does not speak Arabic. If Bush said these words, or something like them, Abas heard them from a translator. Then Abas repeated them, as he remembered them a couple of weeks later, in Arabic. Some unknown person wrote down what he thought he heard Abas say. Then Regular, or someone at Ha’aretz, translated them back into English-or perhaps first into Hebrew and then into English.”(see There is plenty of room to criticize the decision to go to war without basing those criticisms on unsubstantiated hearsay.

  • bill

    Dear Canyon,THANK YOU. That was hilarious. I haven’t laughed so much in ages.

  • bill

    Kevin,It was certainly all lies. There’s a really useful document published by the British government prior to taking the decision to go to war called something like “The Case for War in Iraq” It is probably still available from the UK government website. I downloaded and read it the day it was published . There is no evidence supporting the existence of WMD’s in it yet my government (UK) voted to go to war on the basis of the document. Some very lazy politicians did not read it and chose to believe the lies and unfounded conjecture put forward by the war-mongers.

  • W. Stricklin

    Michael Avina,You defend all of Dennett’s statement and through out all of my argument on the technicality that Dennett did not say that Bush had said that god was on his side – as I suggested earlier..OK. I concede this point. Dennett did notuse these words in his posted statement…But now I ask you – or anyone else – to give me a quote from any statement ever made regarding the war where Bush has claimed or stated that he is acting on the basis of FAITH which is entirely the contention within Dennett’s statement.(And for the record, I consider Dennett to be one of the top individuals in the discipline of Philosophy of Mind. But in terms of the statement he posted re Bush’s acing on the basis of his faith alone, Dennett has his head in his duffle bag.)

  • Eric MacDonald

    Professor Dennett. I agree with almost everything you say (my reservations below). As a Canadian, I have to say I look with more and more alarm at a great nation that seems to have lost its way. And the Canadian PM seems determined to be led along by this blind cavalcade of faith based ignorance. Some people have spoken of the US as a rogue nation. That is probably too strong, but the truth is that from outside it almost looks as though there is no rational means of controling the way that America responds to events. When, on CNN, which tends to be critical of the administration, people like Pat Robertson are taken with apparent seriousness, as people with views worth considering, it is difficult to see what force rational discourse can have in relation to American foreign policy, let alone on its domestic agenda.As someone who has followed American politics with some interest over the last forty years, the present administration is, without a doubt, the most disastrous the nation has ever sufferred; and if religious faith continues to form the unimpeachable foundation of American politics – as it seems to do – is there any hope that the next adminstration will be an improvement? If there is a wall of separation between church and state, as the constitution says, and as Jefferson (and the other fathers of the nation) intended, then the very expression of religious faith in the context of campaigning for the presidency or congress should be called into question.One question that I do have. As I understand it, just war theory was originally expressed in a Christian context. I think we need to seek a sounder foundation. Indeed, the morality of war is one area that is sadly neglected by most contemporary ethicists. A place, surely, for someone to do some useful spadework.

  • Ian (South Africa)

    I’ve heard the call. I believe God wants me to run for president.Do I think faith will be an important part of being a good president? Yes, I do.Our priorities is our faith.I think you can judge from somebody’s actions a kind of a stability and sense of purpose perhaps created by strong religious roots. I mean, there’s a certain patience, a certain discipline, I think, that religion helps you achieve.When you turn your heart and your life over to Christ, when you accept Christ as the savior, it changes your heart.Now colour me gullible but I think these statements allied with those of the people Bush surrounds himself with and the people he uses as his personal and moral advisers tend to give one just an inkling of where his motivations and justifications come from. Think Boykin and his slavish religious praise for his master.

  • Anonymous

    Dear Canadian, South African, and Eurotrash friends:LOL

  • Anonymous

    free thinker,There is no such thing as a “Christian” God. There is only one God, who is love, who created man with the freedom to sin but also called to holiness.God does not merely “accept” every one of us, He loves each of us individually with an everlasting love.He does not merely “recognize” our human nature, He made it and He took it on Himself. He calls every one of us by name, and equally.So what was your point?

  • free thinker

    A tue loving God would accept you for your failings, rather than keep hamemring away at it.A true god would recognise that men is both fallible and yet morallty perfectible.A true god would accept one regardless of his faults, his race and even his faith.Funnt. That means I’m not referring tot he Christian God.