The “Judeo-Christian” Lie

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Candace Owens is a moron who got famous by saying all the things white supremacists say but doing it while black. She started out by running a website making fun of Donald Trump’s dick, but that didn’t get her enough attention so instead she went on Infowars and started saying shit like “if Hitler just wanted to make Germany great and have things run well, okay, fine” and “something biochemically happens to women who don’t marry and/or have children”.

These efforts were rewarded with the white supremacist man who murdered 49 people in a New Zealand mosque saying that Candace Owens is the “person who influenced [him] above all” in his manifesto.

So, she has good reason to be a little on edge about, you know, white supremacists who mass murder people. I’m not implying she has any kind of moral conscience whatsoever, but she is walking a bit of a tight rope — she wants to be famous by inspiring and encouraging bigots, but not so famous that they mention her by name in their manifestos when they commit mass murder, because that’s the sort of thing that can make even Fox News rescind an invitation to be on a panel about the pros and cons of white nationalism or whatever.

That’s why last week when a man walked into a synagogue outside of San Diego and opened fire, murdering one woman and injuring several other worshippers, she was quick to Tweet her dismay:

“Horrified to hear about the shooting at the Chabad of Poway.”

Okay, good start Candace, good start.

“While I believe prayers are always necessary— the time has also come for us to openly discuss what I perceive to be a steady rise of anti-semitism….”

Great, yes! White supremacists need to be shut down, absolutely. Oh wait the Tweet goes on…

“… and anti-Christianity in this country.”

Hold on. Anti-Christianity?

Let’s take a moment to look at this shooting, the person who committed it, and his or her motivation. Ha ha, just kidding, no need to be inclusive here, the shooter was of course a white dude.

Let’s see, a quick Google search gets us this USA Today article: “California synagogue shooting: Suspect known as quiet, smart while authorities question if he was hateful”

I mean, okay, I know that crime solving isn’t always the easiest thing but I’m pretty sure he didn’t accidentally try to murder a bunch of Jews. I’m gonna go with “hateful” on this but let’s read on to be sure.

“Before Saturday, John T. Earnest was known only as a quiet, successful student and an accomplished pianist.

On Sunday, his church reeled, calling a special session to address the news…”

Whoa, hold on, his what now? His church?

“The suspect, a 19-year-old student at Cal State University San Marcos, is a part of a family known as regulars at the Escondido Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

The suspect’s father, John Earnest, is listed as an elder. Pastor Zach Keele said Sunday the younger John always came with his family but was very quiet.”

Earnest published a manifesto that specifically stated he should be labeled a “white supremacist” and “anti-Semite.” He loved Hitler and hated Jews, and he, like Hitler, was a Christian.

Much like Candace Owens, Earnest was concerned with an alleged rise in “anti-Christianity in this country,” and it’s part of what led him to murder someone.

Owens is pushing the old “Judeo-Christian” narrative, which she’s Tweeted about before:

“This country was built upon Judeo-Christian values.

The Left routinely mocks Christians, defends anti-semitism— and yet demands we all “shut up” about Islam. “

I’ll be honest, I never really thought much of the term “Judeo-Christian” values before I read this book by my friend David Niose, “Nonbeliever Nation.” In it, David points out that the term is often used by conservatives when talking about what this country was founded upon, and it’s wrong in many ways. For a start, obviously our country was founded on the principles of separation of church and state, but there’s an even more nefarious thing that I hadn’t considered before — they’re not saying that the country was founded on “Christian” values (although of course many do say that). The ones who say “Judeo-Christian” are attempting to conceal the fact that they really mean “Christian.” They’re hiding behind the Jews, using liberals’ disgust with anti-semitism as a shield to protect themselves. These aren’t just Christian values, they’re inclusive of Jewish values, too, and who would argue against Jewish values?? Nazis, that’s who!

In fact, as Niose points out in his book, not only was America not founded on Judeo-Christian values, but the idea of “Judeo-Christian values” didn’t even truly exist in that context until the middle of the 20th century. The short story is that after the Holocaust, many people of various faiths wanted to incorporate Jews into our cultural mainstream as an act of solidarity and to stop from “othering” the Jewish faith. The term “Judeo-Christian” reminded people that much of the basis of Christianity is shared with Judaism.

This term wasn’t universally accepted among Christians or Jews, with many Jews starting to feel more comfortable with the reality that their religious lives differed from that of many people in the US, like being able to say “Hey, I don’t celebrate Christmas and there’s nothing actually wrong with that.” So right away you can see that something that started as an effort of goodwill had some unintended negative consequences.

Those negative consequences are much worse today, because you have people like Candace Owens completely bungling the use of the term “Judeo-Christian” in several ways: first to imply that the Founding Fathers gave a flying fuck about incorporating the Christian OR Jewish faith into our country’s formation, and then even worse to imply that a Christian white supremacist gunning down Jews praying in a synagogue has absolutely anything to do with “anti-Christianity.”

Conservatives like Owens have a victim complex. They need to be the victim, even when they are actually aligned with the murderer. It’s insidious. It’s a way for them to appropriate the sympathy people have when they see the utter horror of the end effects of anti-semitism without ever actually experiencing even a sliver of the oppression that the Jewish people have experienced.

Lastly, the use of the phrase “Judeo-Christian,” once meant to be inclusive of a marginalized religious and ethnic group, now explicitly excludes other major groups — particularly, Islam. Conservatives like Owens use the phrase “Judeo-Christian” to identify with Jewish oppression while at the same time continuing to marginalize Islam, a religion that also shares a basis with Judaism and Christianity.

In fact, there are people who push for us to move from saying “Judeo-Christian” to Abrahamic, because Muslims often identify Abraham as the first Muslim, so all three religions include him as an important figure in their mythology. But if we start talking about Abrahamic values, we’re risking doing the exact same thing we did in the ‘50s — including Islam now at the expense of other religious and cultural groups, including my own. Atheists don’t necessarily adhere to “Abrahamic values.” I couldn’t give a fuck about Abraham.

My value system is the result of my education, and of reading great thinkers, and of thinking carefully about why I believe what I believe. And in my value system, unlike in Candace Owens, I believe that it’s wrong to murder people, even if they have a different faith, or a different set of physical characteristics, or even a different value system.

So this is my plea to you — don’t use the term “Judeo-Christian” to describe our society’s ethical beliefs, and correct people who do. Otherwise, charlatans like Candace Owens will continue to scam Americans into believing white nationalist talking points.


Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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