One Subject Voters

20 October, 2008

Sometimes I’m slow.  And not just while trying to run.  For instance, it took me about three days to process a conversation I had with a ‘friend.’  She is a committed Roman Catholic and, when it comes to most social issues, rather liberal — for instance, she wants higher taxes on the rich so the nation can afford programs for the poor (in other words, socialism (or at least that’s what McCain and his psychophants (intentional misspelling) call it)).

Back in late September, the Bishop Martino ordered all the priests in the Scranton Diocese to read a letter in church (see the article in the Times Leader).  In short, the Bishop told his flock that the only thing a Catholic voter should consider in the voting booth is abortion.  No other policy matters.

So how does a liberal Catholic deal with this?

I asked her about the letter.  “Did your priest read it in church?”

“Yeah.  He had to.”

“So, what did you think of it?”

She thought for a moment, then answered, “It really pissed me off.  But it also made me think.”

“Think about what?”

“Does abortion trump all?” 

“Does it?” I asked.  “Who will be more likely to help the poor?”


“Who will be more likely to fund education?”


“Who’s got a real health care plan?”


“Who will, hopefully, get us out of Iraq?”


“Who not will invade yet another country?”


“You do realize that McCain keeps bouncing back and forth on abortion?”

“But he chose Palin as a running mate.”

“So who are you gonna vote for?”



“Because if I don’t vote for McCain, I go to hell.  The bishop said so.  I agree with Obama on just about everything.”  She paused for a few moments.

I added, “Except abortion?”

She nodded.  “Except abortion.”

“So your gonna vote for a senile war-monger who will steal from the poor and give to the rich just because your priest tells you to?  You do realize this is America, right?  You can vote for whoever you want.”

We talked for another fifteen or so minutes, and she kept coming back to the same stumbling block.  The only political question her bishop and her priest care about is abortion.  And the thought of disagreeing with her spiritual leaders scares the hell out of her.  Literally.

I look at the McCain/Palin signs in yards and wonder:  how many McCain/Palin supporters are one issue voters?  How many of them are voting based only upon abortion, or race, or tax cuts for the rich, or deregulation, or anti-environmentalism, or global-warming-denial?  Okay, I admit that past the first three or four, probably not too many.  I really wonder how many single issue voters are out there.  I have looked closely at polling questions (not all, I admit — I have a life and a job).   The one-issue voter is a glaring omission.  It is never asked.

I am an atheist (if you don’t believe me, look at the title of the blog).  I view the world through full-blown naturalism.  If there is a natural explanation, god is not needed.  It means that I deal with evidence.  And I can change my mind if the evidence points me in a different direction.  It also means that, when making a decision in the voting booth, I can look at the totality of a candidate’s positions.  I am not constrained by the monomania of irrational thought.  I do not have to make a choice between ‘hell’ and voting my conscience.

I did not change her mind.  I did not convince her to say, effectively, “Fuck you, I’m going to vote my conscience, not yours.”



  1. You can only hope that there are as many people out there that will NOT vote for McCain because of how he and Palin stand on abortion. It is not the only reason why I’m voting for Obama, but it is one of several reasons. By the way I do believe in God and mine is female and multiracial.

  2. Liajo: Welcome to my blog. I have talked to many people over the years and the number of one-issue voters can be counted on two hands (well, two hands and one foot, maybe). Every single one-issue voter I have ever met has been voting Republican. I think this is because conservatism presents all issues in black and white. Liberalism is all about the gray areas.

    Congratulations on being able to rely on your own conscience rather than having one supplied for you. Bravo.

  3. Sounds like a threat to me. “Do it my way, or you will be punished”

    Isn’t that coercion, is that legal?

    The real tragedy of this is that instead of casting a vote the way the voter feels, they may simply not vote at all.

    There would be outrage if the church hear directed people how to vote. They’re much more subtle. I do wonder if they actually told the faithful who to vote for, or if they simply told them to question their ‘values’ and vote for someone who was anti-abortion.

    In Australia, if you don’t vote, you get fined. In the US if you don’t vote, you get Bush.

  4. Bruce: Odd, though, that the term ‘values’ in the United States actually boils down to two issues: abortion and homosexuality. No other issues matter. Yet the churches (not all, of course) ignore the progressive teachings from the biblical myths and concentrate on these two subjects to the exclusion of all else.

    In Australia, if you don’t vote, you get fined. In the US if you don’t vote, you get Bush.

    Rolling On The Floor Laughing and Crying At The Same Time (ROTFLCATST as (((Girl))) would say it).

  5. If people are only able to consider a single issue when voting, then surely the trick is to make a different issue into the hot topic of the day. Hair, for instance. I think Obama’s hair is much nicer than McCain’s, all lustrous and glossy. That’s why he’s getting my vote (or would, if I were American).

    C’mon people – remember, that’s the hair that’s going to represent American values to the world! Do you really want that baldy twat in charge when you could have Obama’s stylish locks?

  6. Couldn’t she vote for Obama and then go to confession afterwards and do penance or something?

  7. Yunshui: But Obama’s hair isn’t mentioned in the Bible. Nor is Obama’s hair mentioned by the Pope. Between the Pope and the Bible, according to WAGPOOMA (wild-ass-guess-pulled-out-of-my-ass), about 60% of Christians believe that either the Bible, the Pope, or both cover every single eventuality for all eternity with unfailing moral rectitude and intellectual correctness. They are the conscience for Christians (and since the Bible and/of the Pope supply the conscience, the sheeple don’t need one). They tell how to vote (but, oddly, don’t actually mention the candidate names).

    Hanson: No. It is presented as a mortal sin. Letting them die of neglect is okay, but make sure they are born. Abortion bad. After they are born, whatever.

  8. I am an atheist (if you don’t believe me, look at the title of the blog).

    Thanks for clearing that up for me. 🙂

    Your friend obviously has the ability to think through issues and arrive at her own conclusions. But, the brainwashing she received in childhood continues to haunt her. This is one of the things about religion that pisses me off the most: people are compelled to shut down their minds and tamely follow the leader. I can’t blame her for not wanting to go to hell. Who would?

  9. Chappie: Thanks for clearing that up for me. Well, I figure some of my readers need a little more help than others. I’m surprised it was you. I figured Ric, but, as (((Wife))) has often said, I’m wrong.

    It’s depressing sometimes. An otherwise logical mind, fairly intelligent, with a big blind spot regarding anything her priest says. Maybe someday the cognitive dissonance will finally break through to the surface and she will deal with it.

  10. Well, Billy, Catholics are pretty clear on abortion. They cannot vote for any politician who is pro-choice. But there is no law in the church that says they must vote. I’d much prefer to not vote at all than to give my vote to McCain solely because he says he is pro-life, even while every other position he takes is contrary to church teachings.

  11. Mary-Lee: Welcome. I understand the clarity of the Catholic Church on abortion but, as you point out, his other stands are contrary. The choice you offer, that of not voting, effectively dissenfranchises large numbers of voters. The U.S. is already facing systematic dissenfranchisement (mostly of minorities) through challenges and intimidation. Wouldn’t it be more effective to vote the individual’s conscience as opposed to one forced upon the voter by an authoritarian church? I know, ain’t gonna happen (‘cept in a few cases).

  12. Billy, I need to apologize profusely. Today, in our local newspaper in Wilmington, Delaware, a Catholic priest wrote the following letter to the editor…

    It was stated here by Father Fahey (Oct. 22) that judges and politicians who support abortion legislation are automatically excommunicated by the Catholic Church.

    This is a personal opinion of Father Fahey’s. It is not the teaching of the Catholic Church.

    Archbishop Raymond Burke whose opinions were quoted in support lost his authority to excommunicate anyone, when he was transferred to his present position from the St. Louis Archdiocese.

    There are serious reasons for persons of faith to vote for and against, each of the presidential candidates.

    The Catholic Church requires its members to consider seriously all the issues, above all human life, and to make a conscientious choice, in their vote.

    It does not tell persons whom to vote for.

    The Rev. John Hynes

    Please show this to your friend, asap.

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