Saturday, July 5, 2014

A Response To Senator Tim Begalka's Rant

Over at Dakota War College, state senator Tim Begalka went off on a rant. According to Begalka, being a "humanist and a feminist" equates to a belief that "one is all knowing and important, and God isn't." According to the senator, announcing one's belief in humanism means one is "mocking God." Humanists, he contends, condone " lying, cheating, and cover-ups" They also support a foreign policy that "coddles [and] empowers" Muslim terrorists "all the while ignoring and suppressing the torture, murder, and discrimination of Bible-believing Christians around the world." Begalka concludes with scripture: “Woe to those who call good evil and evil good.”

I don't want to put words in Begalka's mouth, a courtesy he did not extend to Democratic Secretary of State candidate Angelia Schultz whom Begalka blithely derides without a shred of evidence. The senator should, therefore, feel free to stop by and correct me in the comments.

Begalka strongly implies that faith in God is prerequisite to morality and effective public service. That view seems odd; James 2:19 states, "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble." One hopes that Senator Begalka would not vote for a Republican trembling demon over a human Independent atheist. (I'm trying to be kind and not force him to consider voting for a Democrat. Promoting such extreme cognitive dissonance might be dangerous.)

Begalka's list of grievances implies that he would consider himself a Constitutional conservative. If so, one wonders how he squares the view that only believers should hold office with the Constitution. Article VI, paragraph 3 states,
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States. [Emphasis mine.]
Scholar Stephen Prothero considers Atheism one the world's eight great religions, so banning atheists from holding elected office seems to violate the religious test clause.  Even if one discounts scholars like Prothero, Begalka is on shaky ground advocating support for only believers in God as office holders. One can be a Buddhist and not believe in any deity. A guy on a bar stool can scream that he wants no atheists in government. He has a First Amendment right to do so. An elected official ought to have more discernment as he undertakes the effort to support the Constitution. It would not be a large stretch in logic to claim Begalka supports a religious test. At the very least, one has more grounds for inferring such support from Begalka's words than he has for implying that Angelina Schultz actively mocks God and supports the murdering Christians based on the word "humanist."

Like Begalka I oppose torturing Christians. I oppose torturing anyone. Let's hope that nothing which can remotely be considered torture is going on at Guantanamo Bay and  that the United States is not rendering prisoners to governments who have no qualms about torture. That said, it's confusing why Begalka thought to include the subject in his rant. it's unclear what the South Dakota Secretary of State has to do with foreign policy about torture. The simplest answer would be that ranting rarely is conducive to logical thought.

Finally and most importantly, Angelia Schultz has never claimed to be an atheist nor has she said she supported impiety or atrocities committed against Christians abroad. Senator Begalka apparently believes he has the omniscience to know she possesses those beliefs.

Implying one is omniscient could be construed as asserting one is godlike. Were I Begalka, I would now go on a rant about hubris leading to destruction and the desire to be like God being the reason humans suffer and die. I'll forego that rant. Instead, I'll ask that everyone quit focusing on tweets and stop asserting candidates have beliefs that they likely don't hold. Again, Schultz said nothing about holding any of the beliefs or supporting any of the positions that Begalka accuses her of implicitly supporting

If everyone moves past minutia, the South Dakota Secretary of State race can be decided on the issues and the candidates' qualifications. An election held under those circumstances might qualify as a miracle and increase everyone's faith in God. At the very least, it will show that we're capable of treating our fellow humans with respect.

**Post originally read Angelina Schultz not Angelia Schultz. I apologize for the error

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