Militant Atheism in the Idaho GOP

I don’t normally think it useful to focus on the random utterances or actions of random wingnuts, particularly at the state legislative level. But occasionally you just have to call them on distinctive forms of folly or hypocrisy. Check this out from the Spokane Spokesman-Review:

Coeur d’Alene Sen. John Goedde, chairman of the Idaho Senate’s Education Committee, introduced legislation Tuesday to require every Idaho high school student to read Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” and pass a test on it to graduate from high school.

When Sen. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, asked Goedde why he chose that particular book, Goedde said to laughter, “That book made my son a Republican.”

The Idaho solon allowed as how he wasn’t serious about pursuing this legislation. But he needs to be held accountable for it, anyway, and by that I mean his constituents should be abundantly aware their senator is robustly endorsing for consumption by children a book that preaches atheism as relentlessly (and no one in the history of literature has been more relentless than Ayn Rand) as capitalism–indeed, the author thought the two were indivisible.

I don’t have a copy of Atlas handy (like most people, I read it as an adolescent, though not as a school requirement), but here’s one quote from John Galt’s famous radio address:

[I]f devotion to truth is the hallmark of morality, then there is no greater, nobler, more heroic form of devotion than the act of a man who assumes the responsibility of thinking…. the alleged short-cut to knowledge, which is faith, is only a short-circuit destroying the mind.

“Faith is a short-circuit destroying the mind” is probably not a motto Goedde’s going to put on his bumper stickers next time he runs for re-election. But if you know any God-fearing conservative folk in Coeur d’Alene, be sure to share with them the news their senator thinks that’s an important lesson for their kids.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.