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Religious Right

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See, big business is kind of Communist: they want a powerful state organizing things in their long-term interests. And the guys that came into power with Newt Gingrich in 1994 are a somewhat different breed… they're people who want money tomorrow, they don't care what happens to the world two inches down the road, they're deeply irrational. And they're totalitarian: despite what they say, they in fact want a very powerful state, but only to order people around and tell them how to live, and to lock them up if they step the wrong way, and so on, a national security state, basically.
Noam Chomsky[1]

The "Religious Right" (often derogatorily — yet accurately — referred to as the "religious wrong") comprises voting blocs of religiously motivated right-wing conservatives such as American conservative Christian voters or the Hindutva movement in India.

In the US, the term is often used interchangeably with "the evangelical vote", but many "evangelical" voters are actually Roman Catholic and not all evangelical Protestants vote with the Religious Right.[2] The religious right helped propel George W. Bush to victory in the 2000 and 2004 presidential campaigns. Fears that Bush might lose the support of the religious right hung over his administration; these fears led to Bush creating the faith-based initiative. By 2004, Bush was the unofficial leader of Christianity for U.S. Christians[3] (and a fitting one at that, seeing as how he was infamously gullible and unable to tell fact from fiction). McCain and Romney never were able to claim that mantle.[4]

Since its support for Bush, the Religious Right continues to play an important role in the U.S. Republican Party. Many Republican politicians, such as former Senator Rick Santorum, have explicitly identified themselves as religious conservatives. Indeed, the modern Republican Party is a coalition between religious and business conservatives, in roughly equal parts. However, this political power has proven highly — potentially fatally — damaging to Christianity as a whole, especially after the election of Donald Trump, as it's causing the more judgmental and fascistic side of Christianity to increasingly define the religion, resulting in a marked decline in church-attendance and religious belief since younger, less conservative generations are increasingly associating the religion with hypocrisy, bigotry, and other flat-out evil values.[5][6]

In India, the religious right is mainly concentrated around the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which can be considered a more extreme social conservative — but (sadly) far more popular version of the Republican Party.

Many members of the Christian rightWikipedia do not follow the beliefs of the Bible, instead cherry-picking verses from Leviticus that "prove" their points. Some members full-on reject the more perceived "liberal" aspects of Jesus and the Bible, and make their own, convoluted version of the Bible.[7]

Give me that old time religion[edit]

Religious outfits which have historically achieved power, influence, understanding, and integration with secular authorities often help to uphold existing structures and moralities in a conservative fashion, particularly because they themselves have become "part of the old".

Think established churches in ancien-régime Europe, or theocratic Buddhism in olde-time Tibet, or mythically righteous pilgrims in colonial Massachusetts.[note 1]

But when things change, the remnants of the old faiths may start looking back to an alleged golden age when everyone feared the gods (or at least feared the faithful) and exercised self-censorship behaved themselves accordingly.[note 2]

Fast-forward to today[edit]

The Religious Right in the United States of America in the 21st century represents, to a large extent, a reaction to several different Supreme Court decisions regarding the right to privacy and the separation of church and state. Two stand out in particular:

  1. The Court’s extending the right to privacy to include abortion in Roe v. Wade (1973). Before Roe v. Wade, the religious groups that now form the Religious Right were often liberal on abortion.[8]
  2. The banning of school-mandated prayer in Engel v. Vitale (1962).

These two issues, along with the issue of government posting of the Ten Commandments, have come back to the courts repeatedly, with mixed results: adding a few restrictions to abortion, a complete absence of sponsored prayer in schools, and taking down all new Ten Commandments monuments. This has led to a certain amount of hostility to the judiciary among many in the Religious Right — witness events like "Justice SundayWikipedia" (2005-2006) and its sequel, where federal judges were denounced as anti-Christian.

It is disputed whether or not these cases were actually the cause of the rise of the religious right. Some point out that the 1971 Southern Baptist Convention endorsed abortion rights and repeated this support after Roe v. Wade.[9] In fact, Evangelical Christians had been fairly liberal on the issue, whereas conservative Northern Catholics had been the main opponents of it.

However, that changed when the Carter administration (1977-1981) pushed to end the last vestiges of segregation at private schools by having any private (most of them Southern Christian) schools that had expanded under segregation to prove it was non-discriminatory in its practices to maintain its tax-exempt status. As many Baptist leaders had been some of the last influential defenders of explicit white supremacy, partly thanks to their relative independence from the larger political system because they only have to answer to their own congregation and partly thanks to the fact that Baptist churches were one of the few Southern institutions that weren't pressured to desegregate, this energized Southern Evangelicals into aligning with conservative Northern Catholics in the name of opposing an "Anti-Christian" government.[10] Abortion, porn, and other weird pet peeves of the religious right were taken up later as issues to align two religious groups who had not before hated each other.

Consider the case of Judge Roy Moore of Alabama. After a few failed bids for a judgeship, he was appointed to a local judicial position in 1992. He began every court session with a prayer and placed a small plaque of the Ten Commandments in his courtroom. In 1994, the ACLU threatened to sue, until they saw that the issue was increasing Moore's popularity across Alabama. They did eventually sue, but the case was thrown out "on a technicality". In 1999, Moore entered as a long-shot candidate for Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, with the backing of the Christian Family Association. With the publicity of his former suit, he beat a sitting justice for the position.

On 1 July 2001, Moore used his power as Chief Justice to install a three-ton monument to the Ten Commandments (specifically the Protestant version of them, of course) in the lobby of his courtroom. Shortly thereafter, a lawsuit was brought to remove it. Though thirty-four justices ruled against Moore, and not a single one for him, he has become more popular in Alabama than ever. The rest of the Alabama Supreme Court had him removed from the Court, and because of his new-found popularity, he ran for Governor of Alabama in 2010. He came in fourth place. He again ran for the Chief Justice position and won the election in January 2013. He was thrown out again in 2016 for refusing to grant same-sex marriage licenses, after which he tried to run for Senate and lost in Alabama, of all places.

The Worm Turns[edit]

Legislating morality has been the primary GOP platform ever since Karl Rove became a campaign manager for Dubya in the Texas gubernatorial race of 1994. Rove's great vision was that of a country evenly divided between conservative and liberal, so that any marginal advantage he could get would equal a win. He chose to ally with the religious right to get that advantage. The slight boost they gave the Republicans allowed them to sweep into Texas and then into the presidency. The problem is that the religious right expected results.[11] Because the fiscal conservatives who ruled the Republican party were not really interested in legislating on social concerns — because they knew the religious right were on the losing side, electorally speaking — that led to the creation of factions within the party who demanded complete adherence to both fiscal and social conservatism, and so on to Ted Cruz.

Social movement or collection of interest groups?[edit]

It is difficult to study this phenomenon because it is difficult to determine what constitutes a “religious right”, and whether it is a social movement or a collection of interest groups. Most material does not address this question; however, Catherine Lugg argues that “The Christian Right” does not totally belong to either category.[12] She argues that “social movements” are made up of people kept outside of the political process, whereas the Religious Right is made up of people who are full citizens, and are in fact courted into the political process from the beginning. At the same time, they engage in behaviors which are more similar to that of a social movement than interest groups, which are famous for being non-disruptive. The Religious Right has a long history of disruptive demonstrations, at abortion clinics and Republican meetings. She says that, in the end, the best way to describe the religious right is as a “cultivated collection of interest groups”, that occasionally compete with each other, but generally collaborate. While Clifton often refers to the Religious right as a social movement, he agrees that it is more useful to study it in terms of a group of related interest groups.[13]

Interest groups that make up the religious right can be defined by two important criteria. One is that these groups have an explicit connection to conservative religion or “religious values”. The second, more important condition is that these groups promote government intervention to enforce or legitimize these values. This is usually done by lobbying for anti-abortion legislation, the posting of religious documents in public, and lobbying against pro-“gay rights” legislation.

Power of the religious right[edit]

Overall analyses of the political power of the Christian right organizations are hard to find. Even analyses of particular facets or organizations are difficult to come by. The few works collected here have all taken different facets of the religious right, either different strategies used by them or different areas of policy of importance, and studied those. In the end, they show a slightly contradictory image, one of both power on some levels, and complete powerlessness on others. In particular, Lugg and Clifton found areas of Christian right strength,[12][13] while Wald and Corey below (and to a lesser extent Clifton) found areas of Christian Right weakness.[14]

Lugg’s work is useful for showing one area where the Christian Right has long had most of its victories: education. Lugg’s conclusion is that the Christian Right has great influence in this field, and even their judicial losses turn into “minor moral victories” and have helped train activists for bigger fights.

These victories all come in from lobbying local leaders, in this case school boards, to change curricula. This particular study is a case study of one county’s decision to include a class on the Bible as history, using a curriculum and text developed by a Christian right organization, the National Council on Bible Curriculum in the Public Schools. The school board had a majority of members who belonged to the Christian Coalition. When the ACLU sued, Pat Robertson's American Center for Law and Justice gave representation to the school board. A compromise was reached by the judge, but in the end the school board ended up having to give up more than the outraged parents. Overall, though, the Christian right won a victory, because the “Bible as history” courses were soon adopted in 67 other school districts in Florida. This shows that they are much more successful with strategies involving grassroots organizing than with legal strategies.

This is, overall, consistent with Brett Clifton's analysis.[13] He sees three possible means by which the Christian Coalition could influence the Republican Party, and he seeks to find out how well they do so. His research is devoted to policy expertise (which corresponds to an informational strategy), financial clout, and electoral mobilization (which both correspond to the “grassroots” strategy). To test strength in a given area, he surveyed local Republican Party heads and Christian Coalition heads, and did some in-depth interviews. These surveys and interviews focused both on overall influence and influence based on his three areas. His findings are that, because of both expertise and mobilization, the Christian Coalition has clout within the Republican Party, but that their fundraising is less important.

Somewhat disagreeing with this assessment are the findings of Kenneth Wald and Jeffrey Corey, who have found that the policy expertise quality is not so influential when Christian right activists are put into a place to actually create policy.[15][16][14] This is a case study, where several Christian right activists were put onto the 1997-98 Florida Constitutional Revision Committee. He found that, despite the fact that they made up roughly one-fourth of the delegates, they experienced the least satisfaction and had the most of their recommendations rejected. (The commission was made up of, roughly, half Democrats and half Republicans, with the Republicans split in half between moderates and Christian Right activists.)

These studies are all very useful for helping show where the Christian right is strong. It seems pretty obvious that it is most strong in the mobilization and fielding of local candidates (for example, school boards), and not so strong at making policy decisions. However, none of these works studied changes in strength over time, nor are any of the methods applicable to studying it. Moreover, other than Clifton’s study, none of these were very rigorous. They are also, again excluding Clifton’s study, very focused in space and scope. If we are seeking a broader picture of the religious right, these studies contribute very little.

Repelling young and liberal Americans from church[edit]

Church, people have watched you be the last, hateful holdout in matters of gender equality, racial diversity, and sexuality; lagging behind almost everyone in the world in the kind of goodness you say you aspire to—and they are rightly leaving.
—John Pavlovitz[17]
The vices traditionally associated with Satan are driving his rise in popularity today, and this is a reason to panic. We should be concerned that such a massive portion of Christian culture has grown so corrupt that the Devil is becoming a symbol of virtue. To those who'd like to see young people put down their pentagrams, realize that Christian culture must first rediscover what it means to pick up your cross. Until and unless Christ ceases to represent greed, corruption, ignorance, violence, and hatred, many will continue to think it better to serve in Hell than reign in Heaven.
—Drew "Genetically Modified Skeptic" McCoy[18]

In the second half of the 2010s, the religious right were frequently spotlighted for their unwavering support for Donald Trump. Trump's character was such (twice-divorced, accused many times of sexual misconduct) that in theory a "moral values" voter would reject a candidate like him instantaneously.[19] But Trump won the Religious Right over by emphasizing the "culture war" and positioning himself as a muscular strongman against the "liberal values" the Religious Right despised. Consequently, white evangelicals not only overlooked Trump's flaws, but enthusiastically embraced him — Trump won the vote of almost 81 percent of white evangelicals in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.[19][20][note 3] Moral transgressions such as Trump's extramarital liasons with adult film actress Stormy DanielsWikipedia were dismissed as fake news by evangelical preachers such as Franklin Graham.[20]

Trump's presidency culminated in the 2021 U.S. Capitol riot, where a group of ragtag right-wing protesters stormed the Capitol building on January 6, 2021, in order to stop Joe Biden (the vote-winner of the 2020 U.S. presidential election, and ironically arguably the most religiously observant president since Jimmy Carter[22]) from being certified as president. Many evangelical preachers echoed Trump's bullshit that the election was fraudulent. Some evangelical preachers were even espousing violent rhetoric that sounded more akin to the rhetoric of the militia movement than the rhetoric of Jesus Christ.[23] Christian imagery such as crosses and ichthysWikipedia symbols were omnipresent at the riot, displayed alongside Confederate flags and Trump MAGA iconography.[24] In many ways, Christianity in America was, more than ever, less looking like a vehicle to preach the biblical virtues of the Gospel, and more like a masochist, militant vehicle to preach Republican political issues,[25][5] or even distasteful heretical concepts such as racism, militant white nationalism,[26] and apocalyptic holier-than-thou conspiracies (from the Rapture to QAnon) where the ideology was less "love thy neighbor" and more "us vs. them".[20] In short, at a time when houses of worship needed to lure their congregations back because COVID restrictions had broken attendance habits, the church's values looked completely and utterly anathema — and worse, stubbornly so – to both those it professed and, more damagingly, those of American youth, a demographic already likely to drop out of church upon flying the nest either because it clashes with work or because they moved away for college.[6] The result predictably appears to be a demographic that the church desperately needs to attract increasingly feeling unwelcome and gaining the impression that equality, intelligence, democratic values, and even basic human decency are considered un-Christian.

While this self-inflicted toxic image predates the Capitol riot and even the Trump administration, it's undeniable that Trump exacerbated it, and its consequences were apparent even while he was in office. Since the 1940s up to the early 2000s, GallupWikipedia surveys typically reported that roughly 2 in 3 Americans belonged to a house of worship.[27] On March 29, 2021, a Gallup survey showed that only 47% of US adults belonged to a house of worship — a decline of more than 20 points from 2000.[27] Research determined that one of the reasons for the decline, especially among younger people, was "an allergic reaction to the religious right" and its political conservatism. By heavily pushing politics, the religious right, and its wholehearted embrace of Trump, was pushing more and more people (particularly those with liberal political ideologies) into the "religiously unaffiliated" category.[28][29][6] As one pastor put it: "There are many reasons why young people are turning away from the Church, but my observation is, Trump has vastly accelerated that trend. He’s put it into hyperdrive."[30]

The Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) regularly reports on how Americans identify with respect to religious affiliation. Their 2020 reports a dramatic decline in the number of Americans who identify as "white evangelical protestants". Since 2006, the number of evangelical respondents has decreased from 23 percent in 2006 to 14.5 percent in 2020. The reports also notes that the evangelicals are dying off and losing younger members, reducing their influence to that of just another subculture.[31][32]

Theology[edit]

It was the result of having multiple pastors tell me, essentially, the same story about quoting the Sermon on the Mount,Wikipedia parenthetically, in their preaching — "turn the other cheek" — [and] to have someone come up after to say, "Where did you get those liberal talking points?" And what was alarming to me is that in most of these scenarios, when the pastor would say, "I'm literally quoting Jesus Christ," the response would not be, "I apologize." The response would be, "Yes, but that doesn't work anymore. That's weak." And when we get to the point where the teachings of Jesus himself are seen as subversive to us, then we're in a crisis.
—Former top SBC official Russell D. MooreWikipedia on how he came to believe that Christian nationalism is causing a crisis in the American church.[33]
Christians today tend to be the most un-Christlike people, and when even they cannot deny that Christians are behaving badly, they will tell you that they're only human and that of course they will fall short. But I'm not talking about perfection - not even close. I mean that they now embrace cultural values that are not only un-Christlike but the perfect opposite of Christianity. It's not about falling short; it's about being diametrically opposed. Christianity is supposed to be about love, forgiveness, acceptance, and having great concern for the welfare of others even at your own expense. But the Christianity being sold to us today is the antithesis of that.
DarkMatter2525[34]
Give Republican Jesus™ a try, kick a vagrant today!

Most members of the religious right proudly self-identify as evangelical Christians, though most aren't actual fundamentalists. Although of many different denominations, their main theological priorities seem to be: keeping gay marriage illegal; restricting the rights of gays and lesbians; removing comprehensive sex education and the teaching of evolution from public schools; getting creationism, school-sponsored prayer, and abstinence-only sex education into those schools; also overturning Roe v. Wade and outlawing abortion (some want it banned under all circumstances, while others are willing to make exceptions for rape, incest, and possibly the mother's health). For some odd reason, they are also anti-environmentalist and anti-immigration (though Bush himself and some religious right leaders like Richard Land aren't). Caring for the poor, sick, and homeless is rarely mentioned.

Drew "Genetically Modified Skeptic" McCoy, a former evangelical Christian who became an atheist in adulthood partly because the extreme teachings he received caused exposure to actual science to cause a crisis of faith and led to his family falling for Young Living's bullshit,[35] explored increased Satanic imagery in entertainment in 2023 and, while not specifically naming the Religious Right, argued that the kind of theology the Religious Right espouses was responsible. He noted that the traditionally Christian virtues of charity, peace and justice, wisdom, and love and mercy have increasingly been replaced with the traditionally Satanic vices of greed through the prosperity gospel; violence through abuse scandals and mishandling thereof; ignorance and deception through evangelical embrace of President Trump leading to swathes of Christians falling for QAnon, anti-vax rhetoric, 2020 election denial, and other conspiracy theories; and hatred and cruelty through religious bigotry, especially queerphobia and the anti-"woke" moral panic, and the popularity of horrible people like Matt Walsh who mock liberal and queer teens for existing and spread rhetoric that causes harassment and violence.Wikipedia In other words, the Religious Right is causing what Christ and Satan represent to invert, leading to Satan being seen as a symbol of rebellion against a warped, increasingly fascistic Christianity that has become anathema to its own traditional virtues and embraced the worst version of itself.[18] McCoy is not alone in noticing that right-wing preachers are turning Christianity into its own antithesis; Russell D. Moore,Wikipedia a preacher and former Southern Baptist Convention official who split with the SBC over their support for Trump, came to the same conclusion after hearing stories of congregations dismissing the Sermon on the MountWikipedia — a summary of the literal fucking teachings of Jesus Christ — as "liberal talking points" and "weak" because Jesus' teachings emphasized compassion, a value incompatible with the Religious Right's "cut down their groves" mentality, above all else.[33]

In short, Jesus would despise these evil hatemongers, even before discovering how badly they've tainted his image.

Religious Right in other countries[edit]

Not even countries outside of the United States are free from the religious right:

  • Tadeusz Rydzyk, a Polish fundamentalist Catholic priest.
  • Jarosław Kaczyński, a Polish politician and a leader of a Polish conservative party "Law and Justice."
  • Jean-Marie Le Pen, a French politician and almost a fascist, and in some ways, worse than any person from America since he proudly and openly admits his racism, and denies the Holocaust.
  • Christine Boutin, noted for brandishing a Bible in the French National Assembly.

In Australia, the Christian Right dominate in much of northern Queensland (birthplace of Ken Ham), and the infection has also spread into parts of suburban Brisbane as well. It is also rather prevalent in suburban Sydney, New South Wales, particularly in the western parts of Sydney. The Religious Right is also prevalent in South Australia, particularly in suburban Adelaide, as well as parts of Western Australia.

In the UK, most right wingers are only vaguely Christian (i.e. Church of England), but there have been a few extremists opposing abortion, sex education, gay rights, etc, such as Catholics Ann Widdecombe and Jacob Rees-Mogg.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. Not that things must go that way — witness early Islam's warpath, disrupting Middle Eastern society, or William WilberforceWikipedia and liberation theology fomenting social progress in Latin America.
  2. Those who didn't were not permitted to remain around to spread their unwholesome skepticism for long.
  3. Ironically, Trump privately despised the Religious Right. Though he felt some kinship with the most obvious hucksters, such as Prosperity Gospel preachers.[21]

References[edit]

  1. Chomsky, Understanding Power p. 392, The New York Press (2002).
  2. Religion and Politics in the United States: Nuances You Should Know
  3. Alan Cooperman and Thomas B. Edsall, "Evangelicals Say They Led Charge For the GOP", WaPo 11.8.4; Page A01.
  4. Brody, Ben, "Ted Cruz Says Obama Won Because Evangelicals Stayed Home. Is That True?", Bloomberg (3/23/15, 9:53 AM PDT).
  5. 5.0 5.1 "The Trump presidency was a catastrophe for American Christianity" by Sean Illing, Vox, 2021 February 3
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Losing their religion: why US churches are on the decline, Adam Gabbatt, The Guardian, 22 Jan 2023
  7. Otten, Tori (2023-8--10). "Christianity Today Editor: Evangelicals Call Jesus 'Liberal' and 'Weak'". The New RepublicWikipedia. Retrieved 2023-09-15. 
  8. Religious Right Has Distorted the Faith, NPR
  9. goplifer (March 29, 2014). "How Protestant Evangelicals shifted their abortion stance". 
  10. goplifer (January 31, 2015). "Evangelicals and White Supremacy". 
  11. Americans United For Separation of Church and State, "Bush Adviser Rove Tells Religious Right That Agenda Will Be Reality"
  12. 12.0 12.1 Catherine A. Lugg, The Christian Right: A Cultivated Collection of Interest Groups. Educational Policy 15(1):41-57, January 2001.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Brett M. Clifton, Romancing the GOP: Assessing the Strategies Used by the Christian Coalition to Influence the Republican Party. Party Politics 10(5):475-498, September 2004.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Kenneth D. Wald and Allison Calhoun-Brown, Religion and Politics in the United States. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2018. ISBN 9781538105122.
  15. Kenneth Wald and Jeffrey Corey, The Christian Right and Public Policy: Testing the Second Generation Thesis. Gainesville, Florida: Department of Political Science at the University of Florida, 2000.
  16. Jason Deramo, Secular America: Why Religion Still Matters in Shaping the Debate. Archived from Methodist University, June 2022.
  17. John Pavlovitz, 13 Jan 2023 Tweet
  18. 18.0 18.1 Satan Is Becoming More Popular Than God. Here's Why by Genetically Modified Skeptic
  19. 19.0 19.1 "White evangelical support for Trump goes beyond his policies, supporters and historians say" by Shayna Freisleben, CBS News, 2020 November 2
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 "False Idol — Why the Christian Right Worships Donald Trump" by Alex Morris, Rolling Stone, 2019 December 2
  21. "Trump Secretly Mocks His Christian Supporters" by McKay Coppins, Atlantic, 2020 September 29
  22. "In Biden’s Catholic Faith, an Ascendant Liberal Christianity" by Elizabeth Dias, New York Times, 2021 January 23
  23. "The Religious Right’s Rhetoric Fueled the Insurrection" by Peter Montgomery, American Prospect, 2021 February 8
  24. "Trump's Christian supporters and the march on the Capitol" by Harry Farley, BBC News, 2021 January 15
  25. "Trump's conservative Christian support flows from a specific perspective on issues of church and state" by Michael Coren, CBC News, 2020 October 27
  26. "American Christianity's White Supremacy Problem" by Michael Luo, New Yorker, 2020 September 2
  27. 27.0 27.1 "U.S. Church Membership Falls Below Majority for First Time" by Jeffrey M. Jones, Gallup, 2021 March 29
  28. "The Christian Right Is Helping Drive Liberals Away From Religion" by Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux and Daniel Cox, Fivethirtyeight.com, 2019 September 18
  29. "'Allergic reaction to US religious right' fueling decline of religion, experts say" by Adam Gabbatt, Guardian, 2021 April 5
  30. "The Cost of the Evangelical Betrayal" by Peter Wehner, Atlantic, 2020 July 10
  31. Michelle Goldberg, The Christian Right Is in Decline, and It’s Taking America With It. The New York Times, 9 July 2021.
  32. Diana Butler Bass, America is no longer as evangelical as it was -- and here's why. CNN, 12 July 2021.
  33. 33.0 33.1 "Russell Moore on 'altar call for Evangelical America'", NPR, All Things Considered, 2023 August 5
  34. Politics is Destroying Christianity, DarkMatter2525
  35. This Is Exactly Why I'm An Atheist by Genetically Modified Skeptic