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Ask Jon 19 – Quelle Surprise


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Canadian Atheist

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2020/10/17

Jonathan Engel, J.D. is the President of the Secular Humanist Society of New YorkHere 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.


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


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