. If you don’t believe in God, then why would you think believers are “fortunate” for putting their faith in a nonexistent higher being? You wouldn’t. Yet Rove, for political reasons, must genuflect to the notion that religious people are morally superior to atheists. The line perfectly encapsulates the condescending and way Republican elites have manipulated religion.
Ross Douthat replies:
I don’t think calling religious believers “fortunate” is the same thing as calling them “morally superior.” I’ve heard plenty of atheists remark that they envy religious people their faith in God, an afterlife, the beneficence of the universe, or what-have-you. This sentiment isn’t universal, obviously (see Hitchens himself for a counter-example), but I think it’s perfectly reasonable for someone who’s convinced that life is a meaningless round of pleasure, pain, and Machiavellian campaigning that ends when you die to feel a little envious of people who believe something slightly more optimistic.
I see Ross’s point, but at the end of the day I think Chait’s right and it’s pretty condescending. By contrast, I think it’s not at all condenscending to say something like “I wish it were the case that my destiny were in the ends of a benevolent higher power.” I could use the help! But what Rove is different, and condescending, Rove is saying he wishes he thought the world were like that, but, sadly, he knows better. Ross is right that this is a fairly commonly expressed view, but it also seems like a clearly condescending one, designed to position the un-believer as the one willing to tell invoncenient truths while believers go about their merry way.