It's too bad that "Contrarian" is already taken as the name of a standing column in Time, because contrarianism has been Michael Kinsley's default setting for decades. During his years as one of the hosts of Crossfire, Kinsley regularly dismissed pro-lifers with a Frenchman's wave by insisting that they either should advocate jailing all women who had abortions or they lacked the courage of their convictions. In this week's Time, Kinsley complains about the prominence of Godtalk. Did you know that candidates are now "required to wear their religion on their sleeve"? Kinsley neglects to name the villain who is requiring this, or the penalties that candidates must pay if they wear their religion elsewhere on the body.
By Kinsley's lights, even the saintly Mario Cumo is guilty -- not just of pandering to believers, but of lying to them:
Catholic liberal politicians since Mario Cuomo have said they personally accept the doctrine of their church but nevertheless believe in a woman's right to choose. This is silly. There is no right to choose murder. Either these politicians are lying to their church, or they are lying to us.
By the end of his column, though, Kinsley's indignation reaches its -- well, as he might call it, its logical conclusion:
The patina of age may explain why Jesus' walking on water is easier to believe than [Joseph] Smith's golden plates and magic glasses. But it doesn't go far in justifying the distinction. For me, any candidate who believes in the literal truth of the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Book of Mormon or the novels of Jane Austen is probably too credulous to be President.
Then again, Christopher Hitchens keeps insisting that he's unable to find anyone -- even in the gothic Deep South! -- who really believes in the basic doctrines of Christianity, such as Jesus' virgin birth.
I think we now have the killer question for the next YouTube debate on CNN.