…is asked by Christopher Hitchens in an article about Texas Governor and presidential hopeful Rick Perry in Slate Magazine : “Does the Texas governor believe his idiotic religious rhetoric, or is he just pandering for votes?”
I have the same question, and to me, maybe because I am naive and just can’t fathom that anyone in 2011 could seriously pray for rain in the hope that it might actually, you know, rain, the answer is that the person in question is really just pandering to a mob of undereducated religious fundamentalists in a quest for votes and financial support. Hitchens seems to agree :
I happened to spend several weeks in Texas earlier this year, while the Lone Star State lay under the pitiless glare of an unremitting drought. After a protracted arid interval, the state’s immodest governor, Rick Perry, announced that he was using the authority vested in him to call for prayers for rain. These incantations and beseechments, carrying the imprimatur of government, were duly offered to the heavens. The heavens responded by remaining, along with the parched lands below, obstinately dry.
Perry did not, of course, suffer politically for making an idiot of himself in this way. Not even the true believers really expect that prayers for precipitation will be answered, or believe that a failed rainmaker is a false prophet. And, had Perry’s entreaties actually been followed by a moistening of the clouds and the coming of the healing showers, it is unlikely that anybody would really have claimed a connection between post hoc and propter hoc. No, religion in politics is more like an insurance policy than a true act of faith. Professing allegiance to it seldom does you any harm, at least in Republican primary season, and can do you some good. It’s a question of prudence.
I think all these clowns, whether it’s Glenn Beck, Michele Bachmann or Perry (funnily enough, the only one who is staying relatively silent on the god front is the crazy Mormon Mitt Romney), are playing a silly and cynical game by pandering to the vote of the extreme religious right in the hope of gaining votes and donations for their run for President, but the damage done to American society by these prayer rallies and claims that hurricanes and earthquakes are in fact a reminder from god to his chosen tribe the Americans, namely that they should vote Republican at the next election, is in fact much bigger than any small advantage gained through advertising your fervent belief in, and appeal to a supernatural deity who according to these religious demagogues watches the Super Bowl wrapped in an American flag drinking Budweiser.