A Sheep in Wolf's Clothing: The Illogical Atheism of S. E. Cupp

Recently, political commentator S. E. Cupp has been popping up on various media outlets in order to promote her new book, Losing Our Religion: The Liberal Media's Attack on Christianity. (She has been discussed here, here, here, and here on T|A. Feel free to add to the comments any discussions which I may have missed.) Her primary thesis is that the mainstream media is engaged in a collusive campaign with the political left to silence, persecute, and eventually eliminate the Christian majority of the United States. (I will fully admit that I have not read this book; my reading list of quality, educational material is currently too long for me to spare time for a questionable piece of opinionated nonfiction.) But a key element in every promotional appearance has been the irony of Cupp, a self-proclaimed atheist, writing a book about this alleged persecution of religion. Her atheism has been a key hook in her book tour and has garnered her much more attention than she would have likely received had she either professed Christianity or simply omitted her religious status altogether.

A description of the book from Simon & Schuster, Cupp's publisher:
From her galvanizing introduction, you know where S. E. Cupp stands: She’s an atheist. A non-believer. Which makes her the perfect impartial reporter from the trenches of a culture war dividing America and eroding the Judeo-Christian values on which this country was founded.
While it does not overtly figure into the book's thesis, Cupp's atheism is clearly central to the overall promotion of her book as she has attempted to imbue her assertions with automatic validity based upon her ideological platform. Of course, this in itself does not contradict her claim of atheism; just because someone is making money off of an ideological platform does not in any way invalidate the platform itself. (Although I suppose that a platform which promotes the benefits of voluntary poverty would be necessarily invalidated if used for profit. But I digress.) However, as I continued to watch various interviews with Cupp, I was repeatedly struck by the profound contradictions of her supposed atheism. It is these contradictions upon which I base my opposition to Cupp's misappropriation of the term "atheist." In the course of this essay, I hope to logically disprove Cupp's claim of atheism and thereby successfully escape the looming pitfalls of a "No True Scotsman" fallacy. S. E. Cupp's claim of atheism is illogical because she refuses to accurately label religious beliefs, presupposes the existence of a God, and exalts the worship of a higher power.

Mislabeling Belief

By refusing to label religious beliefs as delusions, Cupp is thereby insinuating that these beliefs are justified. (See 1:30 in this clip from Real Time with Bill Maher for a direct quote.)

  1. A belief which is not a delusion is a true belief.
  2. Cupp says that religious beliefs are not delusions.
  3. Therefore, Cupp says that religious beliefs are true beliefs.

One can claim any ideological label that they like. However, if their expressed ideology then contradicts the definition of this label, the claim of this label can said to be false. The basic definition of an atheist is one who does not believe in God. Cupp does indeed say that she does not believe in God, and therefore fulfills the basic qualification of atheism. However, one who does not believe in God must necessarily reject this belief as false;
if the belief is not rejected as false, then it is accepted as true and believed. A delusion is, by definition, a false belief. By refusing to label religious beliefs as delusions, Cupp is necessarily insinuating that these beliefs are true. Expressing that a belief in God is true is complete contradictory to the single tenet of atheism.

Presupposing God

Cupp's declaration that she does not believe in God "yet" but is open to conversion presupposes that there actually is a god in which to believe. (See 4:10 and 8:00 in this clip from CSPAN and 1:00 in this clip from The Sean Hannity Show for direct quotes.)

  1. If an eternal entity exists in the future, then this entity exists in the present.
  2. Cupp speaks of a future belief in the existence of God.
  3. Therefore, the subject of Cupp's future belief exists in the present.

By openly "aspiring to be a person of faith," Cupp is inferring that a belief in God is entirely possible but that she simply lacks it at the present moment. However, this is illogical; insinuating that there is an eternal god in which to eventually believe is logically the same as believing that something presently exists. If she sees a belief in a God as an eventual probability--or even just a possibility--then she is thereby necessarily saying that this God currently exists. Is there really a difference between saying "X currently exists" and "I believe in X?" Furthermore, there are additional difficulties presented by Cupp's continually proclaimed desire for beliefs which she herself claims to reject. At the very least, this represents severe cognitive dissonance as she is seemingly expressing a desire to be convinced of false beliefs. At its worse, her supposedly atheistic ardor for religious belief devolves into utter absurdity, as I will attempt to demonstrate in my next point.

Exalting Worship

Cupp extols the virtues of deriving guidance from a higher power which infers that either the concept of a higher power is true or that false beliefs are beneficial. (See 5:18 and 8:10 in this clip from CSPAN for direct quotes.)

  1. A beneficial belief is a true belief.
  2. Cupp says that the belief in a higher power is beneficial.
  3. Therefore, Cupp says that the concept of a higher power is true belief.


Even if she stills claims that she does not believe in the concept of a higher power, she is then saying that false beliefs are a beneficial. At this point, her entire platform devolves into absurdity. If false beliefs are just as beneficial as negative beliefs, then what is the point of truth? Cupp's entire thesis to her book is that the "liberal media" uses the distortion of truth to persecute religion. However, if she is genuinely supporting the possession of false beliefs, then how can she simultaneously bemoan a distortion of truth? If false beliefs are positive attributes, then truth is irrelevant and her entire platform is nonsensical.


Conclusion

I do not know whether Cupp's illogical atheism is the result of deliberate deceit, inadequate examination, or simple ignorance. Regardless, she wields the controversial banner atheism purely for the accompanying stigma. In reality, Cupp is abusing the perception of atheists as wolves while proclaiming a sheepish message that is palatable to her religious audience. Because of what I perceive to be clear financial motives in Cupp's book promotion media blitz, I am led to suspect that her claim of atheism is nothing more than a hook to sell a literary product. As I have said once before, I see Cupp's entire story as an utterly predictable prologue to her inevitably forthcoming "How I found Jesus" book and fundamentally antithetical to the entire position of atheism.

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Tags: atheism, bias, conservatism, cupp, e., foxnews, losing, media, no, opinion, More…our, religion, republican, s., scotsman, true

Comment by D R Hosie on June 27, 2010 at 8:04pm
She doesn't have to be overly bright, in order to recognize an opportunity to capitalize on the same kind of shrewd cynicism that Glenn Beck, and Ann Coulter (et al) employ to captivate and capture the hearts and minds, of their respective, and collective, audience members.

And unfortunately, in that world - one that subscribes to the notion that 1st liar doesn't stand a chance - I wouldn't go looking to have an intellectually honest discussion aimed at trying to nail down any of the finer points of whatever her own self-ascribed beliefs might be.

After all, if she can't Dazzle ya with the Details, she'll Baffle ya with the Bullsh*t. I'm willing to bet that's her true line of work.
Comment by Dan Ellis on June 28, 2010 at 3:12pm
Thank you very much for the post, Shine, and thank you, Johnny for featuring it.

Oh, how I despise this woman! S.E. Cupp recently displaced Sarah Palin at the top of my "Most Hated Republican Female" list (previous "winners" included Ann Coulter, Michele Bachmann, and Virginia Foxx). Though I completely disagree with her politics, it is her disingenuous proclamation of current non-belief in a God that rocketed her to the top of the list.

Her master's degree in Religious Studies from New York University would predicate that she is, by no means, an stupid Atheist, Galen. She is a fraud, pure and simple.

I predict that within the next five years she will write a new book on how she found faith in God. This will be followed up with a well-financed political campaign.

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