Jewish Journal

Democrats don’t get ... atheism

by Brad A. Greenberg

August 21, 2008 | 3:15 pm

Since I voted in my first presidential election—in the year 2000—Christians have been kvetching about how Democrats just don’t get religion. In 2004 we were told so-called “values voters” were key to George W. Bush’s re-election. And this campaign season we’ve seen Democrats go way out of their way to prove they care about religious folk and that they get religion.

Their latest gimmick is the “first-ever faith caucus” that they invited to the Democratic National Convention next week. (Though one of their big gets, Cameron Strang, the evangelical publisher of Christian pop-culture magazine Relevant, pulled out of the caucus yesterday because he didn’t want it to appear he was endorsing Barack Obama over John McCain.)

But now, proving that for action in American politics there is a comical reaction, atheists are upset, and hell hath no fury like an atheist’s scorn.

But what about those Democrats who are not “people of faith?” Are they not invited? Or invited just to watch others pray? Should their own outlook not even be acknowledged?

If the Democrats are trying to strike unifying chords among their entire kaleidoscopic range of liberals, moderates, and progressives, it should be obvious that secularists cannot dare be left out of the “big tent” event, and that it should be about beliefs and values, not solely about religion.

Secularists remember all too painfully one of the most dramatic presidential addresses in American history. At the National Cathedral three days after September 11, 2001, the president’s speech so filled with religious language that it was virtually a sermon.

As he delivered it, Bush stood flanked by Jewish, Muslim, and Christian representatives, with no one invited to stand alongside them whose presence might acknowledge the existence of the tens of millions of secular Americans.

At this most important collective moment in the recent history of the United States, it was as if their president was telling them that they did not exist. The United States had become a nation of believers.

Yet one of the most remarkable implications of the data presented in the new Pew U.S. Religious Landscape Survey is that atheists, agnostics, secular humanists, and believers in an impersonal God or universal spirit—people who do not believe in God at all or who do not believe in a traditional God—will be a huge share, perhaps as much as 40 percent of Democratic voters in November.

Another Pew discovery: Two out of every three Americans say that their moral values do not come primarily from religion. In other words, whatever their faith, these are people who live largely or wholly secular lives.

First, this country has always been one of believers, just not one limited to believers. Additionally, atheists recently have made more of an attempt at being big-tent than Unitarian-Universalists. That number Ronald Aronson, who wrote the above op-ed and the book “Living Without God,” is really a stretch in that it includes many religious devotees who are uncertain of their God’s existence.

The Friendly Atheist further discusses this snub and points to an incredible op-ed from the Colorado Springs Gazette that compares Hitler’s vision for a Judenrein world to a billboard from the Freedom From Religion Foundation that stated “Imagine No Religion.”

Are you f—-ing kidding me?!

Since when are words on a billboard the equivalent of killing 6,000,000 Jews?

They go on to write about what would happen in a religion-less world — apparently, there would be more Pol Pots, more Stalins, far fewer charities, no Golden Rule, and we’d be rid of most hospitals and great universities.

As I read that, I wanted to respond to each point separately… and then I read the end of the piece:

Democrats will nominate a Christian gentleman who respects others. It’s likely they didn’t invite atheists to their faith service because they didn’t want embarrassing guests. Atheists might bring pseudointellectual proselytizers, who are intolerant, self-aggrandizing and rude. Atheists should fund universities and hospitals. They should feed and clothe starving kids. They should act more like Christians and Jews. If they do some of that — if they contribute to a diverse humanity — they might get better party invites.

I know you’ve heard this before… but you replace “atheist” with “Muslim” in that paragraph and lots of people would be out of a job.

Yeah, but, as everybody knows, only atheists—and Jews—eat Christian babies. (Speaking of blood libels—there’s a phrase I never expected to utter—Peter Manseau has a related excerpt from his new book, “Songs for the Butcher’s Daughter,” at nextbook.org. Will blog later.)

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Since launching the blog in 2007, I’ve referred to myself as “a God-fearing Christian with devilishly good Jewish looks.” The description, I’d say, is an accurate one,...

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