Sean Faircloth – Attack of the Theocrats

March 05, 2012

A common goal of freethinkers, humanists, skeptics, and atheists is to preserve Thomas Jefferson’s “wall of separation” between church and state. But we haven’t always been successful in this area—help from the courts notwithstanding—or at beating back the steady advances of the religious right.

How can we do better? Our guest this week has a new book on the topic, and just as important, a new way of thinking.

His name is Sean Faircloth, the director of strategy and policy for the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. Before that, Faircloth served five terms in the Maine Legislature and went on to serve as executive director for the Secular Coalition for America. He’s author of the newly released book Attack of the Theocrats: How the Religious Right Harms Us All and What to Do About It.

Links Mentioned in this Episode

This is point of inquiry from Monday, March 5th, 2012. 

Welcome to Point of inquiry. I’m Chris Mooney point of inquiry is the radio show and the podcast of the Center for Inquiry, a think tank advancing reason, science and secular values and public affairs. And at the grassroots. 

So we want to advance secular values in public affairs. How do we do that? We have often failed to make progress in this area. And we need to make much more. My guest this week has a new book on the topic and just as importantly, a new way of thinking about it. His name is Shawn Faircloth and he’s the director of strategy and policy for the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Science and Reason. Before that, Shawn served five terms in the Maine legislature and went on to serve as executive director for the Secular Coalition for America. He’s the author of the newly released book Attack of the Theocrats How the Religious Right Harms US All and What to Do About It. Sean Faircloth, welcome to Point of Inquiry. Great to be talking with you. 

It’s good to have you. You know, I’ve meant to have you on ever since I saw you give a really awesome speech here in Washington, D.C. And I’m sorry, I’m forgetting the date and the occasion, but I was thinking I gotta have him on. And now you’ve got a book out which gives us absolutely perfect timing, attack of the theocrats. So we’re gonna we’re going to have a good talk about that and what it means for for secular strategy. 

I want to start with your story, though. Interesting background. You were a legislator in Maine for a decade, and then you went on to become an advocate for secular policy change at the secular Coalition for America. But as a legislator, you must have had to deal with all kinds of issues besides church and state. So how did you figure out that this was how you were going to focus? 

Well, it was something that evolved over time to where now I feel an intense passion for it and now work for the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science as their director of strategy and policy. But sort of beginning of that journey in some ways was I was always pretty much a secular person. I went to Notre Dame for undergraduate, interestingly enough, and and was very much steeped in sort of Irish Catholic heritage. But while I was in the legislatures, when things started to change for me regarding this concern, I saw that the religious right, even up in Maine, which is not the same thing as Alabama, but yet you’d see that the religious right had a lobbying presence in our state capital. They were steadily there, especially in the committees on which I served. I served six years on the Judiciary Committee, which has before it under its jurisdiction. Things like sexual orientation, discrimination issues, women’s reproductive issues. So the type of topics that draw religious right comment on a regular basis. And I found as I was sitting at our little horseshoe for the committee that the religious right would impliedly they would use the word moral law and they would imply that the position I took or even not so much implies directly stated my viewpoint on these issues. Equality for gay people and pro-choice, that that position was against the moral position, which I found grating. And over time, I just wondered, well, where somebody representing our viewpoint, which I still think is rather the majority viewpoint unnecessarily, that the majority of Americans aren’t religious, but that the vast majority of Americans really do believe in a strong separation of church and state. Yet the level of intensity for advocacy for that in the political realm is minimal, to say the least. Not one time in 10 years does anyone ever come up to me and say, you know, Sean, I’m lobbying on behalf of, I don’t know, American Humanist Association or CFI or anyway, these other groups. And I saw the need and you know, how they have the prayers at the you know, the legislative sessions. And as things get busy late in the legislative session, sometimes we’ll just have a politician do it. They don’t have clergy scheduled or something. 

So one time I did a prayer and my prayer was Walt Whitman and Susan Jacoby and Einstein. Yeah, well, and then there were a couple of notes to the speaker about, hey, that’s not a real prayer. But they were right, I guess, far with me. 

And it was sort of a turning point. My mind was thing. I really see the viewpoint as one that needs to be asserted more strongly in the public policy realm. 

So let’s talk about, you know, and you got a little bit of this in the book. What is it like to be lobbied by Christian conservative? I mean, you said that they’re secular. Folks were not organized. They were not there. They were not contacting you. The people who work on the you more were Christian conservative. So they are organized. That’s one thing that I hear all the time, is that they operate in a very organized strategic fashion. Anything else that really sort of stands out? 

I mean, what’s that experience like? 

They have an outsized effect even in a state like Maine. They have a, as you say, an organized strategic, an outsize effect. Now, ofttimes in a place like Maine, my viewpoint or the more secular viewpoint would ultimately prevail. But by my analysis, their percentage of the population was much smaller than their impact. So they really played above their weight class. And again, this is Maine. So when you contrast that with, say, what it must be like if you’re a politician in Kansas or, you know, other areas of the country where the religious right influence is more significant, where they do have a more significant population base, it’s dramatic. And I also tie it to a historical trend. I see that somewhere in the late 60s, early 70s, the religious right really started to look around and see if they lacked influence in American society. And to their credit, I guess you have to say they organized where they were running people for the city council, the. State legislatures, the school board. That level of politics and ultimately end up with the president not too long ago who is talking about the Book of Revelations as pertains to his Iraq policy. So that’s been effective and there’s been nothing like that. And that’s something I really emphasize my Brooke. And something I want to see is that sort of nuts and bolts organizing for the secular movement. 

And another thing that I think is the most striking thing to me about the book and also when I first heard you talk, I’m like a light bulb goes off in my head is you talk about approaching the broad body of what we might call church and state issues in a different way with a different focus. And that is, if I could summarize it, then you can you can say I’m wrong or something. But I mean, you say you want to focus on actual harms to people in the stories of harm rather than abstractions or symbols like, you know, under God in the Pledge of Allegiance. I guess you think that and I I agree. It seems like these are the things that are going to move people more to realize what’s at stake. 

Right. And just so you know, I mean, I’m an attorney before I was an elected official. I certainly, you know, served as an assistant attorney general for my state and did prosecution familiar with all the legal issues. And if I were a judge, I would certainly rule to remove, say, I don’t know, a major from public property. Certainly, if there were equal representation for other groups who I certainly am sympathetic with the secular position on on a purely intellectual legal basis. But my thinking on this is more political strategy. And yes, you’re right that from a political strategic point of view, you can sort of energize your own slice. And my viewpoint is that we’ve energized our slice, if you will, the sort of true activists, non theists, whichever, you know, atheist humans, whatever term you want to use. They’ve been sort of plowing that field for the last 30, 40 years or so. And that does energize a certain band of people. But I would say it’s a relatively small slice of the national demographic pie. Whereas in my book, I catalog instance, Esther, after instance, of issues where children are hurt. Of course, we know about gay people, but really tying it to the religious issue. Things like land use planning. Some of the areas of tax law that haven’t got as much attention but really grab money from our pocket. So I tried to bring it down to human concerns in a way that really even secular people are less aware of than some of these symbolic issues, much less the general population being aware of it. 

So let’s have an example of those. I mean, you have people being denied emergency contraception because of idealogue pharmacists. 

You’ve got kids at religiously privileged daycare who suffer or are mistreated or even in some cases. I guess you’ve got some deaths there. 

Yes. I mean, in extreme cases, in religious childcare’s, in certain states, they exempt religious childcare’s from the general health and safety laws that apply to child care is much more common. Are situations like neglect children left in their own feces for hours fly by night operations. But in some extreme cases, children, you know, lost track of. And when a couple of cases, children dying and certainly there are good religious childcare’s. I’m objective about this. There are excellent religious childcare’s. But it’s just any system where you have two sets of laws, one for secular, one for religious, there’s going to be neglect and abuse where you have lack of equal law and no law in some cases as to religious childcare’s. That’s just one example. I want to give another example. I think in some ways is sort of an economic driver for this, because I think even among those who are more progressively minded, some of this is not general knowledge. For example, not too long ago, Vice President Biden was asked, well, what about the Parsons’s exemption? Shouldn’t that be something that should be eliminated? And he said, well, that’s only a minor issue here. Remember, Joe Biden and I respect him and his knowledge and experience, but he came into Congress in 1970. Well, in 1970, there were less than one hundred megachurches net as a specific definition of having two thousand people who attend on an average Sunday in a fundamentalist precent church. There were less than one hundred of those back in 1970. Now there are hundreds and hundreds, thousands of megachurches. And they get this thing called the parsonage exemption, which it’s really remarkable. There’s no upper limit on it. So if you have a minister who has a really opulent home D portion of their income, that’s equal to the so-called fair rental value. Francis for Rick Warren, back in 1994, he tried to gouge eighty thousand a year out of it. The IRS came down on him and they said, no, prospectively. It’ll only be 70 something thousand dollars a year. That is it. Seventy thousand. Plus of his income was exempt from taxation. The thing of the kind of house you can have back then, you know, for seventy thousand a year. We’re not talking about the total price of the house we’re talking about. That’s how much he is paying per year on the home. And this is a setup that’s widespread. Robert Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral in Southern California went bankrupt. And it was the church that went bankrupt, by the way, that the Schuller family. They had about eight ministers there, about three of them just so happened. Funny coincidence happen to be relatives of Mr. Schuller. And we’re talking about people, some really opulent homes. So just one megachurch taking about eight ministers. There really is an economic driver here that people aren’t aware of. And when you think about the incongruity, it’s remarkable. I mean, if you’re the executive director of, let’s say, a nonprofit that helps poor babies with AIDS, there’s no similar, you know, parsonage exemption exemption or nonprofit exempt executive director exemption for the home of some struggling nonprofit. But if you’re a mega minister who’s out there, as they often do, saying, you know, women must be subordinate and gay people shall be discriminated against and preaching that from the pulpit, that person is the one who’s eligible for an exemption on as opulent his home as you can imagine, and often extremely opulent. And I think that motivation really drives a lot of these people. 

It’s an industry we need like we need another Buffett Rule for this or something like that. I wasn’t actually aware of this one, but that’s that’s pretty egregious. 

And so you focus a lot on the phrase you use a lot is religious bias or unfairness? You know, do you get the sense that that that resonates beyond the group of people that we all know and hang out with when we’re at the secular conferences or in that community? 

Well, I hope and think so. And I think that we need to get better at it. I mean, you’re someone who obviously I know has written quite intelligently on these issues. So I don’t need to convince you. But but one of the things that I think is remarkable is, for instance, this recent religious liberty phrasing is fascinating to me. I just gave a talk at the university, Notre Dame, where, as I mentioned, you know, that’s why I went to undergraduate and religious liberty was a catchphrase and a smart one, a strategic one that the fundamentalist president. 

Right. Has used in the past. But now the Catholic Church hierarchy is embracing it as well. And you can see it’s a strategic choice because it’s been noted on this contraception health care coverage issue. There’s already 28 states that impose this anyway. So in other words, the Catholic Church has already had to comply with this in 28 states anyway. So in a sense, they are they’ve already dealt with it. They’ve already been there and done that. But they’re making a strategic choice that using this framing of religious liberty works for them, despite the fact, as we know, that really what we’re talking about is not, you know, religious liberty for me. If if I as an individual, I don’t know if I believe in faith healing. And I want to deny myself as a Christian Scientist, let’s say, some form of medical treatment. Well, in my view, that’s your religious liberty and you’re in control of your own body. And if that’s what you want to do, that’s entirely up to you. But what they want to do is something quite different and that is affect other people’s lives, including people who come to hospitals who don’t know at the times they’re going to end up at these hospitals where they’re being denied care or people who don’t happen to be Catholic and might be employees who might be denied care. They’re a form of religious liberty is really I called sort of bullying where they say we want to impose ours on you, but use the phrase religious liberty to justify it. And so coming back to my argument, I want to go to that religious bias in law and the human impact. And also I think that we’re seeing a misuse of the term in that if it was true, a First Amendment right. If it was a First Amendment right of under the free expression clause. Well, as you know, you could go to court and sue and win. If that was your right under the First Amendment. The whole point is, with all the statutes I cite in my book, they’re not the result of that. They’re the result of politicians passing legislation that goes beyond First Amendment religious freedom and gives them extra privilege in law that does not by necessity exist under the Bill of Rights. 

Let me remind our listeners that Sean Berghaus new book, Attack of the Theocrats, How the Religious Right Harms US on What We Can Do About It is available through our Web site point of inquiry dot org. 

So but let’s face it, I mean, this is. Are we more organized to resist this stuff than we were before? I mean, you talk about secular community not being that influential in lobbying. And also, you know, is is changing the language going to be enough? Because, let’s face it, Democrats, Republicans alike, they sort of kiss up to the religious language, sort of kiss up the religious community. It’s hard for them to go against it. 

Right. There is no doubt that it is a tough fight. And I, I talk about, you know, it’s not a battle for a week against Tuesday. This is a battle over the coming decade. I really think that if we organize well, that by the year 2020, we can start to see real progress. And I think that’s perfectly legitimate. I mean, if you were the religious right back in the late 60s, early 70s, you would have said quite reasonably. Boy, this is an uphill climb. But they started to organize and pull things together. And I feel that the first critical step. Absolutely essential is that we take the various secular groups, small as they may be to some degree now, but just start to unify and talk about statewide conglomerations, maybe statewide conventions once a year in every state. And to refocus, because the lessons that I see with secular groups now, they’re there and they debate, quite understandably, they’ll debate about the merits of Darwin or the merits of whether or not to believe in God. All very valid debates on science and philosophy, but a lot of times not so focused upon between that and the skeptics in the pub where we just meet them a couple of beers is let’s have social policy change. And I think that with that it does it does two things is what it offers the opportunity for those currently existing to start to refocus on these policy issues that I talk about in my book. But two, I think it will actually help grow these organizations because I think there’s a fair number of people, and I have to admit, I myself might be included with that, that if I were given a choice between reading a book or going to a movie or going to a secular meeting where people sometimes discuss, you know, whether or not to believe in God or whether or not to agree with Darwin, I know what I think about those topics. So I’m not that drawn to it. That does mean those and draw some people say if you want to draw additional people who think say we’re going to hold a meeting and we’re also going to talk about how we’re going to affect our legislature, how we’re going to affect our federal elected officials, there’s going to be an additional group that’s going to start to be drawn into the process that hasn’t heretofore been as drawn into it. 

The problem here, of course, are we. It’s been a subtext in the conversation so far as we know, the religious right is unify. The religious right is organized. In your book, you also talk about how the religious right enjoys a kind of certainty that they’re right, that those of us who are a little bit more say critical thinking do not enjoy. We’re not so sure of ourselves. These things all go together. I mean, our community, the reason we’re disorganize is because we’re people. We like to try out new ideas, new things. Think things through. Have an argument. Move on to something else. We’re not sort of militantly into doing the same thing and pushing it nonstop year after year, making sure everybody’s on message. I mean, it’s psychologically now. We do. How are we going to get over that kind of hurdle? 

Well, first, I think you have put your finger on what I think is a key challenge in the nature of these groups and this type of personality. Whoever I want to offer what I hope is a strategy that has some real possibilities for success and really does have to do with public policy. I offer in my book a ten point vision of a secular America. And I’d be the first to say that any single one of these points is not enough to sort of change the psychology. But what I hope cumulatively and I give a speech online, people can find it on YouTube called Athie ism a new strategy. But what I hope to use the ten point vision as a tool for, if you will, is that it reframes our discussions not so much. And we think God doesn’t exist. And you’re wrong if you think it exists or we know that Darwin’s right and you’re dumb if you think he’s wrong, all of which are, you know, valid points to make. 


But that instead this takes a positive vision of really human rights. The template vision talks about these public policy issues. But instead of saying, oh, we can’t stand what the religious right is doing, although it’s implicit in that, we restate it in a positive form and say our vision of what America would look like if secularism were to succeed. And we talk about the advances that would be achieved if we really, you know, treated stem cell research like a space program, if we really made a concerted effort to be inclusive in society. And the other thing about the ten point vision that I offer is. That is fundamentally positive. And I think inherently their argument. I think it’s a valid one, but inherently the argument is we have religion, we must have morality. How can you be moral if you’re not religious and so forth? Is that it turns the tables a bit and we say, here’s our ten point vision of a secular America. All positive, all inclusive, all doing things that help people. And then it puts them on the defensive because we say, well, we’re offering this positive moral vision. And you religious people who are liberal, you can join us. We’d love to work with you. Glad to do it. But we’re offering this positive vision and to the religious right who is opposed to us, a safe seat. This is a positive vision we’re offering in challenging them on the issue of morality, which sometimes I’ve taken heat for saying this, but I feel like we need to start taking the word morality back because the religious right has managed to steal the word morality and have it relate almost only to sexual trivia versus using morality for a much broader and more noble set of ideals, which I hope and point vision offers. 

Let me remind our listeners again that Sean Third-Class new book, Attack of the Theocrats How the Religious Right Harms US All. What We Can Do about it is available through our Web site. Point of inquiry, dawg. Something else that just really stood out for me reading your book. 

And I guess it’s partly because of what I’ve been researching and writing about it in my own book. Is The Religious Right Misusing History? You know, I used to say, you know, Christian conservatives twist science and now I realize they twist everything, you know, it everything and exactly the same way, which is just to support what they really need to believe and what they need to have certainty about. 

So they’ve read. They’ve written a whole alternative history of America. And it writes them and the position of being the heroes, you know, the good guy. You know, the founders reflected our vision. And so we are in line with tradition. And the ancestors we worship are the ones we worship because they view the world. The way we do happens to be completely false, but incredibly emotionally satisfying for them, I have to think. And that’s why they’re, you know, where the Tea Party is, where the real Americans. My question is this. Do we. 

Do we get the same emotional satisfaction out of telling the story of James Madison, telling the story of Thomas Jefferson? I feel like we’re missing part of that drive in terms of drawing on the history, too. 

Well, it’s interesting when I go around and give speeches on this topic around the country. 

I do get a real positive emotional reaction to sections of my speeches and in my book, where I concisely summarize the values of the founders, the skepticism of the founders, the Enlightenment, views of the founders and their absolute adherence to separation of church and state. I think sometimes in the secular speaking world, there’s been a hesitancy to do that. We always say on the one hand, on the other hand. And so, you know, Thomas Jefferson, who owned slaves or all these other problems, which are all true and valid. But yet when I offer this full throated call, if you will, to say we need to reestablish the foundational values of our country. Usually people are really excited about that. And interestingly, I think most liberal religious people share and are excited about that as well. And I just don’t think we’ve done it enough. One thing that I try to do in my book is make it an easy tool box. So there’s one chapter about the founders that really runs through that in a concise way. So I’m hoping the readers can talk to their neighbors and friends, not as if they’ve read a 700 piece, 70 page tome, but they’ve got something they can easily use. It gets his point across. Another thing that I don’t think we’ve done as well. We’ve attacked and sometimes been pretty good at ridiculing some of the religious right viewpoints on terms of issues like the existence of God or that kind of debate. I have a chapter in my book. I call it The Fundamentalists 50, which is about 50 sitting members of Congress who make theocratic statements, some of which are so loony that they’d be funny if if it weren’t that these people have power, over 300 million Americans. But I don’t think we’ve done enough of that. There are people who richly deserve to be ridiculed for some of their religious thinking. And that focus from us and from the media generally often goes to the top of the ticket. Now, understand that, you know, let’s make fun of Rick Santorum or, you know, whether the church ever is the loony presidential candidate de jure. But there are members of Congress that say some of the wackiest things. And because they’re not at that top tier, one time people are know about it. And I think given that they actually are in office and hold power. It’s very important that we point these things out. And it also leads to that other key issue that I’m bringing forward in my book is that meanwhile, we’ve been worrying about whether Rick. Santorum becomes president, which I hope is unlikely. We’ve missed to some degree the fact that a bunch people like Rick Santorum already are passing a bunch of laws and legislatures and Congress around the country and that we have to do something about that. 

Yeah, no, his his views are not at all on on mainstream for four Christian conservatives and for their ilk. 

I mean, I think what we’re homing in on some key themes here. I mean, you know, as secular movement hasn’t done, it’s like the same thing that one says about liberals, I’m afraid to say, hasn’t done emotion. Right. It’s been too intellectual. Too many facts and too few stories and too few things that move people. Therefore, it also hasn’t framed its issues. Right. And it hasn’t, you know, drawn the force of of tradition behind it the way the conservatives do instinctually, even if they’re they’re factually wrong. So it’s really it’s really a different way of thinking about secular advocacy. 

I guess I mean, I think that’s I you’ve pinpoint what I think is a really key issue that I talk about in my book. And it in my speech on YouTube, Athie ism, a new strategy is I’ve gotten, you know, gotten a fair amount of experience at this point, giving speeches around the country about secular issues. And I’ve heard people say to me, listen, that’s just an anecdote. Just to give you one example. And for those of your listeners who have heard me give speeches around the country, they mean definitely there’s a story to tell about this two year old girl, Omiya White, who attended a child care and she died in this religious childcare that was neglectful. And I’ve heard people say, well, that’s just an anecdote. And that is entirely correct. It is just an anecdote. However, unfortunately, it’s representative of a much broader problem. And I also tell a story of a girl named Jessica Krank, who was in a faith healing home, who had this hideous tumor, became a giant size on her shoulder, and then she ultimately died after a long, torturous illness. And again, that’s an anecdote. But when I give these speeches and tell the story of these two girls, people stop and they listen because it’s just so horrific. And then you can back it up later and say, and by the way, you know, in the case of the faith healing variation in laws, there’s 38 states with that situation. This affects a lot of people. And I think we need to be more bold in the secular movement about using anecdotes. Back it up with statistics. But bring that bold anecdote to the fore. 

Well, this is why when I heard you speak a man, a mental note. Get him on the show because he can communicate. I mean, we journalists know how this works. And I was I remember you. That’s the first time I heard you speak. And I remember you using exactly those stories or if not those stories, stories related to it. And I thought, OK, this is this is a different story than talking about the difference between the establishment clause and the free exercise clause and how that applies to a crash in the public square. You know, I mean, that stuff is just not doesn’t doesn’t get your blood flowing in the same way. So, again, I really appreciate this approach. The question is, let’s make it practical, though. This is what I I’m I’m here in Washington, D.C. I know how hard it is to do anything. 

What what can we hope, you know? Are there any things that we can actually strategically say, okay, that’s within reach to get a change there? Because let’s face it, President Obama is certainly not George W. Bush on these issues. But on the other hand, it’s hard to even get a lot of support from him. 

You’re right. President Obama has been, unfortunately, more timid than I would have hoped. As you probably know, on July one, 2008, President Obama pledged to with an executive order he doesn’t need. 

Congress has helped to do this. He could end proselytizing and discrimination in so-called faith based initiatives, which is really horrific stuff. I mean, it’s like we’re helping fundamentals. They had one situation where somebody was fired. This is with tax money, but fired from a faith based initiative where there were the wrong type of fundamentalist Protestants. But to me, that’s that’s wrong. And even with a fundamentalist president, I hope I’d speak out against it. So, unfortunately, President Obama has not followed through on his pledge. 

And I don’t you know, albeit, you know, I know he’s made these tip tips of the hat in our direction. You know, the Cairo speech and the inaugural, it’s not been as strong as I would hope. 

Actually, it’s too easy to it’s just too easy for the other side to hurt him politically if he does that. You know, you attacked him. You attacked Faith. You attacked what? The Salvation Army. I don’t know what group it was, but, I mean, you know, it’s just it’s too easy to put him on the defensive on that kind of thing. And I guess it’s just political advisers are saying don’t go there. 

And to get down to your pragmatics for me, I always say as a tenure politician myself and I was majority whip. So, you know, part of my job would be recruiting candidates. And we were practical. You know, I would help candidates in liberal districts and help candidates in conservative districts and their situations would be different. And if you’re trying to build a majority, you address. Pragmatic. So I know how politicians think. And I always offer that really when it comes down to it. There are great, thoughtful politicians who most the time do things right on the merits. But in the main, politicians care about two things when somebody comes before them to ask for help. And there are two numbers. One is numbers of dollars. And the other is numbers of people. And if a lobbyist or whoever comes before them and they don’t represent a significant number of dollars or a significant number of people, well, you get the friendly. Thank you. Onto the next person without much response usually. That’s just how politics is. And so what we haven’t done and I think we can do it, but as we need to start diving in to organizing this movement, like I say, in every state and look, things I’m doing as director of strategy and policy with Richard Dawkins Foundation is I’ll go to every single state in the Union, do a grassroots rate training. Talk about organizing a statewide effort. Working with people on that basis. And then the other thing and I’d like to hold meetings and talk to people nationally about doing this is we need to start to build some financial base for involvement in politics. And that is a change, a culture change that needs to occur. Because until you start dealing with money in the political world, as unfortunate as that is, you’re not going to be a significant player. 

Ever increasing sums of money. There is a solution. 

It’s sad. But, I mean, even some kidding. 

No, I mean that that is the reality. And I think that throughout this interview in the book, you are grounded in reality, political reality. And we’re a group of people who like to listen to reality. It’s just that it’s it’s gonna be it’s gonna be in the trenches because that’s where it’s got. 

Yeah, well, that’s when you say about reality, it is funny because I think that are ironic because as much as I admire secular values and believe in them, I do sometimes wonder about our grounding in the secular movement to reality when it comes to political pragmatics. Like I often hear secular people say, well, just tell them, you know, send him this treatise or send him that. No, they’ll know they’re wrong or or just tell him how immoral they are because they’re such idiots and so forth. And there’s ofttimes a lack of sophistication in terms of how you’re going to have to interact with elected officials. But the biggest sophistication, as I say, is for me, we have to build the numbers of this movement. You can lobby till your face turns blue. But unless the lobbyist can say, yes, I’m going to email 20000 people tomorrow or more, the politician is not going to see that as particularly significant. 

And that’s ultimately the rub. 

Well, listen, Sean, it’s been great to have you on, and it’s great to know that someone is, you know, actually thinking about political strategy on behalf of the Second Amendment in the way that it has to be thought about, because the way everybody else is thinking about it. So thank you so much for your book and for being out there doing this. 

Thanks so much for taking the time. 

I want to thank you for listening to this episode of Point of Inquiry to join the discussion about today’s show, you can visit point of inquiry dot org. You can also send questions and comments to feedback at point of inquiry, dot org or reach us on Twitter at point of inquiry or on Facebook at slash point of inquiry. The views expressed on point of inquiry aren’t necessarily the views of the Center for Inquiry, nor of its affiliated organizations. One of inquiry is produced by Adam, Isaac and AMR’s New York, and our music is composed by Emmy Award winning Michael Wailin. 

Today’s intro featured Debbie Goddard. I’m your host Chris Mooney. 

Chris Mooney