August 23, 2008

Democratic Party Fires Shot Across Atheists' Bow

I have made no secret of opposing the DNC's decision to include the first ever interfaith religious service at the convention in Denver tomorrow or to place it in the hands of a Pentecostal. I find it appalling that the progressive party would set aside the framer's clearly secular intent and embrace superstition and religious delusion. I am not at all swayed by the argument that the Democrats are simply trying to wrestle Christianity away from the Republican Party. This strikes me as the worst kind of pandering because it involves elevating the status of those who are more deserving of mockery than admiration.

At a time when the majority of Americans believe that religion should be kept out of politics, this is a desperate move by a confused party. I have heard the arguments that they are simply trying to reclaim the symbols of Christianity from the Republican party. This is a bad mistake because it betrays the progressive values the party espouses.

Sure, it has been frustrating to see how the Republicans have claimed to be the party of Jesus while increasing the gap between rich and poor, preaching hatred of gays, attempting to restrict the reproductive rights of women, and pushing theocracy. I do not blame Democrats for wanting to change this. But up until the 2008 campaign, I have generally admired the Democrats refusal to pander in this way. It has been a big part of what gave the party their appeal. With the DNC convention, however, they are in danger of losing that appeal.

Efforts by atheists to request inclusion at the service have failed, as have requests to halt the service altogether. Disappointing but hardly surprising. But it gets worse. We now have an unequivocal statement that we atheists have no place in the Democratic Party of 2008.

The Democratic nominee, Barack Obama, has said on multiple occasions that "secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering the public square." This should have put the secular community on alert. After all, we cannot afford another president who seeks to abolish the separation of church and state. What Obama needs to understand is that we are simply asking for the Constitution to be upheld.

But even Obama's confusion could not have prepared us for the shot just fired across our bow. Rev. Daughtry, the Pentecostal minister in charge of the interfaith service, made it clear from the beginning that she did not know what do to with nontheists. Never mind that the interfaith service has been promoted as a unity event. Daughtry now says,
Democrats have been, are and will continue to be people of faith - and this interfaith gathering is proof of that.
Clearly, the millions of atheists, agnostics, secular humanists, and other freethinkers who reject the notion of religious faith are not valued by the Democratic Party of 2008. So much for unifying the party.

As Atheist Ethicist points out,
In following this path, the Democratic Party is simply trying to show that it is faithful to American values. One of those values, as expressed in the National Motto, is, "If you do not trust in God, then we do not want to think of you as being one of us." There is no better way for the Democratic Party to show its support for this principle than to say as loudly and as publicly as possible to atheists, "If you do not trust in God, then you are not invited to be one of us."
Given estimates that up to 40% of likely Democratic voters in this election do not believe in the personal god of the three big monotheisms, it would seem that the party risks everything by alienating us. However, I suspect that this risk is illusory at best. They know that no political party is going to welcome us, and they may even be hoping that we will protest so they can say, "See we piss off those evil atheists too."

I agree completely with PZ Myers (Pharyngula) when he says,
People of faith are welcome to contribute to politics. In order to do so, however, they will have to get off their knees, unclasp their hands, and do something productive. Enshrining the prating rubbish of the religion racket as an important element of secular administration, as Obama seems to want to do, is a catastrophic betrayal of good government.
H/Ts to Stupid Evil Bastard and Bligbi

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