An atheist praising Christianity is like a man biting a dog: It's news. Atheist Sarah Elizabeth "S.E." Cupp's book Losing Our Religion: The Liberal Media's Attack on Christianity (Harper, 2010) is attracting second looks because it's a pro-Christianity book by an atheist. Cupp, 31, is a regular guest on FOX News shows and a much-read blogger and columnist: She was a classically trained ballet dancer, graduated from Cornell, and enjoys fishing, target shooting, and NASCAR races.
Earlier this year you earned a master's degree in religious studies at New York University, but I gather you made it up as you went along? I did, I made it up. You could design your own curriculum. I did a comparison study on the devotional practices of sports fans and the religious faithful, and that's what I got a degree in. I call it religious studies.
Now you work with FOX. You must be good because you're not blonde. Or cosmetically enhanced. It's true. They all look alike. But I know most of them, and they are great people. It is a good place to work. It might look easy, but it's not.
Mike Huckabee works there and wrote the introduction to your new book. Did he try to evangelize you? Everybody does. Every time I'm on Sean Hannity it's "S.E., what do I need to do? You're too smart for this, way too smart for this." There are a lot of Christians at FOX, and they are lovely and nice, and I always think, "How nice that someone is thinking about my soul." Really, it's lovely.
Losing Our Religion is well-written but puzzling: As an atheist, why are you making statements about media bias similar to those made by conservative Christians? It's inarguable. All you have to do is have eyes to see that MSNBC and The New York Times are absolutely threatened by Christian America. They're threatened politically. They're threatened ideologically. And it's not just attacks, it's lies. They're lying about the genesis of our American beliefs. They'll tell you, "Oh, the Founding Fathers weren't Christians, they were atheists." That's crazy. It's a lie, it's a total lie.
You note that they're wrong about the First Amendment. You have people saying that the whole point of the freedom of religion clause was to say that you should be doing religious things in private. That's an absolute lie. The Founding Fathers wanted you to be free to be a public Catholic, to be a public Protestant. The liberal and secular media turn that around, imploring you to be faithful in private and to take religion out of the public sphere. That's simply not why this country was created.
Many atheists see Christianity as intellectually inferior and see themselves doing a public service by enlightening people. Why don't you see it that way? They're proselytizing. I don't believe in God but I'm not mad at Him. I don't think He's dangerous. It's a really unenlightened view to think that 95 percent of the world doesn't know what's going on, but that I am part of the 5 percent of the world that doesn't believe in God and knows the truth. For atheists to pretend to have all the answers while religion is on the fringe is not only incredibly presumptuous but a lie.
Sigmund Freud saw God as an illusion. Do you think that, or do you think He's there and you just haven't noticed yet? I don't have kids, haven't lost a parent yet, don't know what kind of curveballs life is going to throw me. I don't know how I'm going to feel tomorrow. It's really arrogant to say that I'm right and you're all crazy, that I'll always feel this way and the book is closed and you're delusional.
You're very complimentary to President Bush and his allusions to a Higher Power. If the Higher Power doesn't exist, isn't he a nutcase? It doesn't exist for me. I fully believe it exists for him.
You're saying that subjectively it exists for him, subjectively it doesn't exist for you. So objectively, do you think there's a God? No.
So if President Bush acted in certain ways because of his belief in something that doesn't exist, doesn't that sound like making policy decisions based on belief in the Easter bunny? No, because when you say you're a Christian, there's a value system implied. You may not live up to it, but the attempt is there, and I can look at it and understand your worldview. There is none of that in atheism.
When you say that you might be a sinner, is that subjective or objective? My values are probably very close to yours. They're Judeo-Christian values. We all agree that murder's not great. . . . But don't we define murder in different ways, depending on our values? We do. But I think we agree at the end of the day that murdering people for no reason, not in self-defense but in cold blood, is bad.
What about very tiny people? Doesn't it depend on our definition of people? Yes.
So how universal are your values? Well, we all have caveats-cultural, logistical, legal-but I think that people generally have the same impulses.
Moving on-I was struck by your answer to a question about death. You said that death was a peaceful thing to you, that the idea of nothingness was a very peaceful idea. That's unusual. I don't think anything happens. I'm not worried about judgment. Frankly, life is really hard. The idea that it will end at some point, that this trial will end, is reassuring. The only thing that scared me was I wanted to be published before I die. Once my book got published, huge sigh of relief.
It was important to you because . . . I wanted to leave a legacy, and that was the kind I wanted to leave. For some people it might be having children, or having money, or making contributions to causes. For me, I wanted to at 25 feel like I'd left something in print that captured my beliefs at the moment. That mattered to me a lot. More than anything else.
Tim Keller wrote a book called Counterfeit Gods. Can you make an idol out of publishing books? Oh it was, it was a golden calf. Absolutely. I feel like a good person to a large degree. I feel like I'm good to my family, like I'm charitable, like I give back to my friends. That was the one area I felt like I hadn't done what I wanted to do, and I was afraid to die before I had the chance to do it. So having that put aside, knowing I had a book out there, was a relief, and I could focus on other things that are important to me.
If there were a God, would He love you more because you'd published a book? Oh I hope not. This was for me. It was a reward for 10 years of school and hard work and sacrifice and not doing some of the things that my peers did, and a private acknowledgment of hard work and discipline. It meant something to me. I was proud of myself.
You'd really like to believe in God? Oh yeah.
What kind of God would you like to believe in? A benevolent God but a challenging one. Someone who challenges you to a fight but is rooting for you to win. That's who I'd like to imagine God is, someone who wants you to be your best and is going to push you to be your best, but is unconditionally going to be there for you when you fail. That sounds great. That sounds amazing. I'd love that.
What comes to mind when you think about Jesus? I've seen some really great movies about Jesus. I collect religious kitschy objects, so I have a lot of Jesus dolls around the house. When I think about Jesus, I think about one of my dolls. It's terrible.
Listen to Marvin Olasky's complete interview with S.E. Cupp.