Gregory Prince Doesn’t Care About Freethinker-People?!?

In the Fall 2011 issue of Dialogue (44:3), Gregory Prince interviews Shaun A. Casey about religion and presidential politics in light of his recently published book, “The Making of a Catholic President: Kennedy vs. Nixon 1960.” Just one page in is this exchange:

Prince: When was the religion of the candidate first an issue? Was it Al Smith?

Casey: Well, I think it can go all the way back to 1800 when Thomas Jefferson ran. He was attacked as being an atheist. You see it crop up in American presidential elections from time to time.

Prince: But there, with Jefferson, you have what his religion wasn’t. When was the first time that a candidate was under attack because of the particular faith tradition that he embraced?

Correct me if I’m wrong here, but did Gregory Prince just suggest that if it’s prejudice against a nonbeliever, it doesn’t count as prejudice? Or is he saying that prejudice only matters when it is against a faith tradition, not a reason tradition?



I'm a college professor and, well, a professional X-Mormon. Thus, ProfXM. I love my Mormon family, but have issues with LDS Inc. And I'm not afraid to tell LDS Inc. what I really think... anonymously, of course!

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4 Responses

  1. TGD says:

    I don’t think he was just trying to say that at all. I think he just trying to get an answer about when the first time someone was attacked because of a belief not because of a lack of a belief.

  2. Seth R. says:

    Well yeah…

    No one frankly gives a toss what you DON’T believe. Atheists love to compare their beliefs to non-stamp collecting.

    So let’s all draw the proper conclusions.

  3. profxm says:

    TGD and Seth… I get what you’re saying.

    Two points in response. First, Jefferson wasn’t an atheist, but was accused of being one because of his beliefs – he thought the Bible was myth and re-wrote it, he disliked organized religion, etc. That seems like he was being attacked for his beliefs, but Prince doesn’t seem to recognize that.

    Second, why is the discrimination against Jefferson irrelevant to the discussion? This seems to me like privileging discrimination against the religious over discrimination against the nonreligious.

    Maybe this was an honest mistake by Prince and the real question he wanted to ask was, “When was the first time that a Presidential candidate’s specific religious affiliation resulted in prejudice?” But even that necessarily excludes presidential candidates with no religious affiliation as though their lack of a religious affiliation does not warrant discussion.

  4. Seth R. says:

    Well, the remark was sort of tongue-in-cheek profxm. I’ll freely admit you have a valid point.

    But anyway – Jefferson wasn’t an atheist. He was a deist. Not much of a distinction, but it does at least count as a positive belief about the universe rather than a mere stance of irrelevant disbelief.

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