The Rise of the Godless Heathens

Bible draped in US flag
It's a big day for science and medicine. President Obama has removed the ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. Bush had banned the funding, kissing up to those who believe every fertilized ovum deserves a Social Security card. The Bush ban was -- not surprisingly -- based on a poorly thought out argument; that we shouldn't be destroying life to save life. But, even if you believed that a mindless collection of frozen cells constitutes "life," Bush's ban did absolutely nothing to save any of them. The embryos were created for in vitro fertilization and unused embryos are just discarded. All Bush managed to do was to keep those embryos from being used in research, not from being destroyed. Bush's ban didn't "save" a single embryo.

During a signing ceremony reversing Bush's executive order, Obama also signed a pledge to "restore scientific integrity in governmental decision making." Clearly, this is the first step toward an anti-human dystopia ruled by the cold hand of science.

When the controversy over stem cell research began, Republicans quickly took the position of the religious right. Embryonic stem cell research was the worst thing ever, the wanton destruction of human life by medical science gone mad. Some still believe this. "If an embryo is a life, and I believe strongly that it is life, then no government has the right to sanction their destruction for research purposes," wrote Sen. Sam Brownback in a statement.

But other Republicans are taking a different angle to criticize Obama. Speaking to CNN's John King this weekend, House minority whip Eric Cantor said, "Why are we going and distracting ourselves from the economy? This is job No. 1. Let's focus on what needs to be done."

That's right, what was once tantamount to widespread, state-sanctioned murder is now a distraction, Never mind that the time it takes away from "job No. 1" is roughly equal to the time Cantor took away from the same job to go on a CNN talking head show. This isn't some lengthy legislative process; Obama signs the order and it's all over with. This is really stretching the definition of "distraction."

I commented on this at the time. Allow me to quote myself.

[H]ow powerless has the evangelical right become that a top Republican can basically say, "Stem cell research? Pffft! Who cares about that?" It wasn't that long ago that Republicans were saying that the research was pretty much equal to a second Holocaust. Apparently, the Republican party no longer feels the need to kiss up to the religious right.

And Cantor isn't some pro-choice Republican. His pro-life voting record is as perfect as it's possible to be, earning a 0% rating from the National Abortion and Reproductive rights Action League and -- at the other end of the spectrum -- 100% from the National Right to Life Committee. But, at this moment in time, federally funding the destruction of embryos is just a "distraction."

In fact, if you think about it, you would've expected a GOP power vacuum to be filled by a religious leader with a flock of millions of guaranteed Republican voters. But that hasn't happened with this vacuum. That empty space has been filled by Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh talks the religious nutjob talk, but you get the idea that it's peripheral to him. He's a money Republican, the stereotypical fatcat -- complete with a big cigar and a mansion. The only reason he doesn't wear a top hat and spats is because it hasn't occurred to him. Rush Limbaugh tries to portray the image of the moneyed interests, the corporate boardroom, the wealthy bigwig. He's like the rapper who displays as much of his wealth as he can -- he's not just selling the entertainment, he's selling a lifestyle.

The power vacuum was filled by Limbaugh, not some religious figure, because the religious right is in disarray. And a new study shows that they're steadily losing their "culture war" against the forces of secularism.

[Associated Press:]

A wide-ranging study on American religious life found that the Roman Catholic population has been shifting out of the Northeast to the Southwest, the percentage of Christians in the nation has declined and more people say they have no religion at all.

Fifteen percent of respondents said they had no religion, an increase from 14.2 percent in 2001 and 8.2 percent in 1990, according to the American Religious Identification Survey.


"No other religious bloc has kept such a pace in every state," the study's authors said.

The largest bloc of what is usually called the "religious right" have traditionally been Baptists, yet there are now barely more Baptists in the US than there are those who claim no religion -- 15.8% of respondents said they were Baptist. "No religion" also outnumbered Jews, Mormons, Muslims, and Eastern Religions combined.

There is a steadily growing bloc of voters out there for whom all the God talk doesn't do a damned thing. As this group grows, the percentage of the nutjobs shrinks. And -- up until now -- it was the nutjobs that the GOP relied on most.

With "the base" steadily eroding, the Republican party is scrambling to find some footing. But they don't seem to have any idea who these people are. They oppose everything Obama and the Democrats propose and they do it in the hope that one of these issues will resonate with some new set of nutjobs -- this "Obama's a socialist" message clearly isn't getting the job done and the God talk doesn't work anymore.

Cantor can declare embryonic stem cell research a "distraction" all he wants, but it's a distraction that's already come and gone. He's going to have to find another one to complain about.

And don't bet against them finding something new to complain about. They're going to complain about everything in the hope that one of those complaints will get a big round of applause.

But they know that complaint isn't going to be religion-based. Those days seem to be over.



  1. Embryonic stem cells have racked up numerous failures. Why should we be spending government money on something that doesn't work when we have alternatives that have shown promise?

  2. It's so much more ethical to feed them to the maggots.
    Seriously Christina what is it that you are smoking that makes you always believe the exact opposite of the truth?
    I was seriously going to ask you how you could that Embryonic stem cell research has been a failure, but I've seen examples of your logic? before.

  3. It does work. Not perfectly but that's why it may be worth investing in. Of course, it's perfectly okay to be against stem cell research for ethical reasons but that's no reason to bend the truth about its potential (and actual achievements so far.)

    Mind you, scientists are working on other ways to get the same kinds of results - without the use of stem cells or embryos - which look very promising.

    That's how science works: You don't start with a fully working model - you work your way towards solutions. Saying (in this case wrongly, by the way) that you shouldn't invest in science, because certain forms of research haven't as of yet delivered the goods, is truly silly.

    Again, there's a perfectly reasonable ethical case to make against stem cell research but this one ain't it.

  4. I was just asking a question, Project Savior. No need to get angry.

    I'd offer some examples, but you've already said you don't want to see them and you likely won't believe them, so unless you tell me otherwise I'm not going to.

  5. Let's think of how many Americans are suffering from the ailments that can be cured and what this research can do for them. I'm sure everyone reading this knows someone important to them that is affected by one of these maladies. Research in the U.S.has not progressed since earlier this decade, cures are a very long time away and lets not even discuss the approval requirement by the FDA.

  6. I wasn't angry.
    But go ahead, try to find ANY scientific research done with federal funds that didn't pay for itself within a few decades.
    Even NASA, the very example of how to run a Government Program badly, returns every dollar many times over when their research goes commercial.

  7. Why with government money?

  8. This is turning into a discussion on the whole big science vs. independent research policy that the country grappled with in the 50s.
    A discussion I welcome, but it is a little large of a topic to do in these comment sections.
    I post a larger response on my site and Lefty Loony Liberals http://leftyloonyliberals.blogspot.com/ later today.