August 30, 2008

Mixed Feelings About the DNC

My initial reaction to seeing that the Democratic Party had gone though with plans to hold a religious service at their convention was more than just disgust. I thought, "For the first time in more than 15 years, I can no longer consider myself a Democrat." I resolved that I would vote for Obama because I cannot bear the thought of the third Bush term McCain promises and not because I necessarily support what he claims to stand for. I figured it was time to change my voter registration to "Independent." I've been having second thoughts though, wondering if this is really the best way to get our message across to the party.

Whatever else one can say about the Democratic Party, they have been far more hospitable to atheists than has the Republican Party for the last decade. Of course, that really isn't saying much, is it? So great is the hold of Christian privilege in the United States that it seems perfectly natural for many to regard atheists as un-American.

The interfaith service was supposed to be about promoting party unity. And yet, this is the same service from which nonbelievers were excluded in spite of requests for inclusion. This was never about unity.

It is abundantly clear that the motive for this service was pandering to the so-called evangelical left. I disagree with this strategy, but I have to recognize that it was a strategy and that this was the goal. It may seem like the Democrats were trying to send a message that the Democratic Party wants nothing to do with atheists, but this was not what led to the service.

I'm not sure my initial, gut reaction to simply quit the party was wise. There really is strength in numbers, and if we atheists cannot learn to get along with one another and with progressive believers, I'm not sure we have much of a future. Perhaps a better approach involves trying to develop a large, visible presence within the party as a group that will not be ignored. I had hoped that the Secular Coalition for America could serve this function, but they seem to have relatively support even within the atheist community.

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