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Via Talking Points Memo, I’ve come across a story I still find almost unbelievable. It happened at the “Values Voter” debate for Republican presidential candidates that took place last week in Fort Lauderdale.

This event was skipped by the major candidates, Rudolph Giuliani, Fred Thompson, John McCain and Mitt Romney, which left seven minor candidates who spent the evening attempting to one-up each other in competing for the Republican base. If you, readers, have ever wondered about the roughly 25% of Americans who still support George W. Bush, look no further: this debate provided a raw glimpse into the furious, fanatic heart of what remains of the party and its distorted carnival-funhouse-mirror worldview. Inflammatory anti-Islam rhetoric, anti-gay rhetoric, denunciations of the judiciary, and calls for constitutional amendments to ban abortion and gay marriage were the order of the night. Several of the candidates, in wording more suitable for a church revival meeting than a political debate, spoke at length of how they converted to Christianity and how much they adore Jesus.

But these grotesque panderings were not the highlight of the evening, amazingly enough. That designation rightfully belongs to another event which took place at the opening of the debate, and fortunately, it was filmed. The video, posted at Right Wing Watch, simply has to be seen to be believed. In what is best described as a seething rant set to gospel music, the Church of God Choir from Springfield, Ohio sings an altered version of “God Bless America” – but rather than calling for God’s favor, the rewritten song bitterly reviles America for all the sins it has supposedly committed, and denounces us as unworthy to receive God’s blessing. I am not in any way making this up. Right Wing Watch has the video, and here are the lyrics:

Why should God bless America?
She’s forgotten he exists
And has turned her back
On everything that made her what she is

Why should God stand beside her
Through the night with the light from his hand?
God have mercy on America
Forgive her sin and heal our land

The courts ruled prayer out of our schools
In June of ’62
Told the children “you are your own God now
So you can make the rules”
O say can you see what that choice
Has cost us to this day
America, one nation under God, has gone astray

In ’73 the Courts said we
Could take the unborn lives
The choice is yours don’t worry now
It’s not a wrong, it’s your right

But just because they made it law
Does not change God’s command
The most that we can hope for is
God’s mercy on our land

The non-response to this event in the mainstream media showcases the shameful double standard of the country’s pundit class. If a Democratic debate featured an altered version of “God Bless America” denouncing America for its misdeeds, Republican spokesmen blast the party to high heaven on every media outlet in the land, and the chattering sycophants of the press would have a field day over how this proves that the Democrats are too radical and extremist to be elected and how badly this will damage their political fortunes in 2008. Instead, from the conventional media, there has been silence. This does not excuse the Democrats for their own lack of fortitude in standing up to George W. Bush so far despite an enormous popular mandate, but it does show how progressive politicians must fight an uphill battle in a media landscape that is still strongly tilted against them.

This also shows that the religious right, for all their phony claims of patriotism, does not like or admire America at all. The only thing they desire is an America obedient to their beliefs and ideals, a country that has become a right-wing Christian theocracy with themselves as the rulers – one where women’s bodies are the property of the state, where gays and nonbelievers are second-class citizens by law, and where the government draws up mandatory religious exercises for schoolchildren and other captive audiences. If they cannot have this, they angrily reject and attack the nation as a whole; their affection for America is solely a function of whether it bows to their demands. If it will not, the religious right in all its arrogance has no hesitation in threatening all the rest of us with divine retribution from their angry, mythical god.

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DAYLIGHT ATHEISM Adam Lee is an atheist author and speaker from New York City. His previously published books include "Daylight Atheism," "Meta: On God, the Big Questions, and the Just City," and most...