Jonathan Engel, J.D. is the President of the Secular Humanist Society of New York. Here we talk about the case of Elizabeth Newman.
*Interview conducted on September 14, 2020.*
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: So, what is going on with this Newman case?
Jonathan Engel: It is very interesting. There is this woman named Elizabeth Newman. She worked for many years in government. She is a pretty high-up individual in the Department of Homeland Security. In April, she quit. She cited a reason as the Trump Administration not taking the most serious internal terrorist threat as a threat, which is white supremacist terrorist violence. She said, ‘I couldn’t get anyone to take it seriously. So, I quit.’ She has been vocal about it. I don’t know if she is writing a book.
I have see her on T.V. She spoke eloquently, ‘After a while, I had a to leave. Right now, I feel as if I have to sound the alarm. This government, as I know from being inside of it, doesn’t take it seriously.’ Then she was asked about Trump. They asked, ‘Did you vote for Trump?’ She said, ‘Yes.’ I am shocked about this. I am curious as to how many people support this guy. She didn’t fit the profile of a Trump supporter. She seemed generally reasonable, concerned about the public, intelligent, educated.
I was wondering what about the next question. They asked, ‘Why did you vote for Trump in 2016?’ Because there were so many things known about Trump in 2016. The settlement of Trump University for fraud to settle civil suits. It was known about the Central Park five young men who were accused of a heinous crime and then were exonerated with DNA evidence. Trump still wants them executed. We knew about that. We knew about the pussy-grabber-in-chief. We knew about all this.
How did somebody like Elizabeth Newman, a seemingly intelligent and decent person, vote for Trump? By the way, she says that she will vote for Biden in 2020. When asked, ‘Why did you vote for Trump in 2016?’ The first words out of her mouth and afterwards, ‘I was raised in a Christian household.’ She went on to talk about how he was supported by all the Evangelicals, ‘I don’t believe in abortion. I’m pro-life.’ The fact that the abortion rate has been going down steadily under democratic presidents didn’t influence that much.
It was almost as if this intelligent woman had a switch in her head called “Religion.” When the switch went on, critical thinking went out of the window. Trump supporters have this hate, ignorance, and xenophobia. I don’t like it. I see what it is, though. But it is the people who say, “I voted for Trump in 2016, but, now, I see it.” It is interesting to see. I am glad Elizabeth Newman is saying she is going to vote for Biden.
But again, I see her voting for Trump. It is as if the religion switch was turned on and the critical reasoning switch went off in her head. I don’t think that we look carefully enough at how religion turns off people’s critical thinking. If you believe in miracles, and if you believe in that kind of stuff generally, then it can hinder your ability to believe in science and the evidence of what you see.
I hope there are lot more people like her around who have seen the debacle Trump has been and will change their votes, but there are still a lot of people who for religious reasons will continue to support him. I think it is an existential struggle for the world, which is the ability to rely on science and reasoning being inhibited by people’s taught religious beliefs. They get these from the time they are little children. It is hard for them to give this up.
Jacobsen: John, thank you.
Engel: Thanks, Scott, see you next week. Take care.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.
*Associates and resources listing last updated May 31, 2020.*
Canadian Atheist Associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular Alliance, Centre for Inquiry Canada, Kelowna Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists Association.
Other National/Local Resources: Association humaniste du Québec, Atheist Freethinkers, Central Ontario Humanist Association, Comox Valley Humanists, Grey Bruce Humanists, Halton-Peel Humanist Community, Hamilton Humanists, Humanist Association of London, Humanist Association of Ottawa, Humanist Association of Toronto, Humanists, Atheists and Agnostics of Manitoba, Ontario Humanist Society, Secular Connextions Seculaire, Secular Humanists in Calgary, Society of Free Thinkers (Kitchener-Waterloo/Cambridge/Guelph), Thunder Bay Humanists, Toronto Oasis, Victoria Secular Humanist Association.
Other International/Outside Canada Resources: Allianz vun Humanisten, Atheisten an Agnostiker, American Atheists, American Humanist Association, Associação Brasileira de Ateus e AgnósticoséééBrazilian Association of Atheists and Agnostics, Atheist Alliance International, Atheist Alliance of America, Atheist Centre, Atheist Foundation of Australia, The Brights Movement, Center for Inquiry (including Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science), Atheist Ireland, Camp Quest, Inc., Council for Secular Humanism, De Vrije Gedachte, European Humanist Federation, Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations, Foundation Beyond Belief, Freedom From Religion Foundation, Humanist Association of Ireland, Humanist International, Humanist Association of Germany, Humanist Association of Ireland, Humanist Society of Scotland, Humanists UK, Humanisterna/Humanists Sweden, Internet Infidels, International League of Non-Religious and Atheists, James Randi Educational Foundation, League of Militant Atheists, Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, National Secular Society, Rationalist International, Recovering From Religion, Religion News Service, Secular Coalition for America, Secular Student Alliance, The Clergy Project, The Rational Response Squad, The Satanic Temple, The Sunday Assembly, United Coalition of Reason, Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics.
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