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May 08, 2007

So Karl Rove Is An "Agnostic"

A few days ago I wondered whether Christopher Hitchens had accurately described Karl Rove as "not a believer." The answer seems to be yes. Christopher Schipper sends along this transcript of Wayne Slater on Fresh Air last September, talking about The Architect, his book about Rove:

SLATER: You know, I remember seeing Ralph Reed in Texas when Rove tried to bring him on board back in about 1998...Ralph Reed is an Evangelical Christian who was successful in bringing Evangelical Christians around for political ends. Karl Rove is just the opposite. He is, in fact, an agnostic. He has told--he told a friend in high school that he grew up in a largely a-religious household. He told a friend at the University of Texas, where some years ago he was teaching, that he would like to be a believer but he's an agnostic and he couldn't be otherwise. So Rove's approach has always been not that religion and the values of religion ought to have a place in our public policy, which is the message that he sent. Rove's approach is that Christians are a marvelously effective voter delivery system that can be rallied, motivated, energized, and delivered for the political candidate of your choice.

GROSS: Are you confident that Karl Rove would still consider himself an agnostic?

SLATER: I know that he felt that way two years ago. I don't know of any reason to think that he has changed that view. He certainly hasn't told me that he has. It's certainly possible. I think the evidence and the history is that he remains something of an agnostic, though he sees the Christians, and not just Christians but also orthodox Jews, to some extent, as a valuable voter source. With Rove, it's about winning. With Karl Rove, it's how can you put together a team and a constituency or a cluster of constituencies that delivers you 50 percent plus one of the vote? And that's what it's all about.

Thank you, world, for validating my world view!

Posted at May 8, 2007 08:27 AM | TrackBack

Hell, I am an agnostic too. But what do you mean by "validating your world view"? There are good and bad people in any professed stripe of belief, aren't there?

Posted by: En Ming Hee at May 8, 2007 08:57 AM

It validates my world view that Rove (and probably many people at the top of the Republican machine) are not religious themselves, but like the Christian right because they see them as well-organized, easily-manipulated sheep.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at May 8, 2007 09:14 AM

I too would like to know what conclusions you're trying to draw about Karl Rove's faith.

I am an atheist, and I think Rove is an amoral, reprehensible man who has done far more harm than good to this country by exploiting the divisive nature of emotional, irrational beliefs of voters.

Finding out that he is 'agnostic' gives me more respect for his intelligence if anything.

Calling attention to his religious beliefs (or lack thereof) in the context of it making him a bad person is disgusting to me. I hope you are not trying to draw the corollary that one must have a religious belief in order to act ethically & morally in life.

Rag on Rove all you want, but rag on him for the right reasons. If this is, as I first read it, an attempt to pander to the religious right, hoping they might question their support of Bush because his adviser isn't evangelical... Seems like the same "ends justify the means" tactic that Rove would be proud of.

Posted by: Mike at May 8, 2007 09:22 AM

HA! You clarified yourself while I was typing my reply. Thank you!

Posted by: Mike at May 8, 2007 09:28 AM

Jonathan, that Rove is an atheist is not surprising. The German soldiers marched into battle with their 'Gott mit uns' belt buckles and while the supreme leaders all pumped up God, country and motherhood and hearth to the hoi polloi the German leadership were all not terribly big believers themselves.

The leadership of the Repulsicans mostly do the talk, not the walk. Rove is an absolute hypocrite when it comes to any code of morality. Every time he and his minions have played the religion card (which is every time they shuffle the deck) he is doing it to manipulate the rubes.

The thing to understand is that while many in the Republican core believe, those who are pushing the agenda don't. Rove would probably eat fetuses if he could get away with it.

Posted by: Bob In Pacifica at May 8, 2007 09:35 AM

EVERY political machine gots a Karl of sorts, Someone who can get out the VOTE. (That's how Truman made it to the office, the Kansas City Democratic political machine, they could deliver 20,000 votes from a ward of 15,000 voters)Karl's religion, who cares, Karl's alive, who cares, Karl's still on OUR payroll, I care.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at May 8, 2007 11:49 AM

How convenient, now that the bloom is off turd-blossom he's an agnostic? I guess that explains how he's such a soulless machiavelli.

Posted by: linusbern at May 8, 2007 12:56 PM

Maybe there's a message here, eh? If the left (and I'm writing as an atheist myself) can get over its anti-religious bias, maybe it can deliver for once.

As much as I've tried and tried to find a logical way of becoming a Christian (mostly from growing up in a Irish-union-Catholic household), I can't. But I also recognize that the greatest American who ever lived-- Dr. King-- was a Christian. And his contributions to the American people amounted a whole lot more than Nietzche's.

I live by a quote of King's from the "Beyond Vietnam" speech Jon's linked to: "True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars need restructuring."

Find me an atheist who's said or--and this is important-- done it better.

Posted by: Sully at May 8, 2007 01:40 PM

My vote for "comment of the year" goes to Sully. There's more to this issue than just finding better reasons to hate Karl Rove.

Posted by: Whistler Blue at May 8, 2007 02:19 PM


Remembering the Good Book saying somesuch about judging a tree by its fruit, my guess would have been Satanist.

Posted by: bartkid at May 8, 2007 04:08 PM

Many people have bigotries Sully, including the left. Don't let that fool you into thinking only the religious can be truly compassionate or care about humanity. Primo Levi comes to mind as one example of someone who has had very valuable, compassionate things to say about the human condition while being an atheist. Others exist I'm sure.

There are very few people such as Martin Luther King, that we can not think of an atheist of similar prominence should not surprise us. Atheists are a very small percent of the populace after all. Also, given how important religion is to most Americans I doubt an atheist version of King COULD have been effective.

That Karl Rove manipulates religous believers while being an atheist makes him cynical. It tells us little however, about atheists in general (I am one).

Posted by: graeme at May 8, 2007 04:16 PM

Actually, I would name one agnostic (or near-agnostic) of prominence equal to MLK - Eugene V. Debs. (caveat: I'm not completely confident of the degree of his atheism.)

Posted by: Aaron Datesman at May 8, 2007 08:35 PM

Martin Luther King was certainly a Christian, but I think there is some question about whether he believed in God. I don't have a reference, but I think I got that impression from Taylor Branch's first book on King (or the first in the series, anyway - Parting the Waters, I think it was).

Posted by: Mike B. at May 9, 2007 11:55 AM