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Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: The Wild West
Local Time: 05:22 PM
With conservative christians on the back foot the christian left takes charge, and it is pissing some people off
The Interfiath Gathering being put on by the Democratic Party on August 24th has upset a significant constituency of the Democratic Party. Not because the event is being held, but because, despite repeated requests for inclusion, no representatives of this group have been invited to speak at the gathering. Who is this constituency? The non-religious.
You may be asking, why would the non-religious want to attend an "Interfaith Gathering", and do they even have any business there anyway?
Firstly, of course the non-religious have business being there. When an organization begins to hold special events for specific "types" of people, this is called discrimination, and this is also a road that leads to the establishment of "in crowds" and "out crowds", "more valued" and "less valued" members, claims of equal that are really separate and not equal. Organizer Leah Daughtry has said that non-religious Democrats are welcome to attend, just not to speak. Apparently we can be seen but not heard. We are told that we can participate in someone else's agenda, but we have no voice of our own.
Secondly, there are many reasons why the non-religious community is very upset about this and why many in the community feel that it is very important to have a speaker at this event.
1) The Bush administration.
The past eight years have galvanized the non-religious community as millions of non-religious Americans have watched in horror as the "Religious-Right" (and we are very aware that the Religious-Right does not represent all religious people) has flexed its muscle in American politics, helped to twice elect a disastrous president, has made repeated attacks on American science education, on women's right to choose, on gay rights, and on the general civility of American political, social, and religious discourse. Give all of these things the non-religious community has overwhelmingly come out in support of the Democratic Party in 2004, in 2006, and now in 2008. Not only this, but the non-religious community is also now increasingly dismayed at the mixing of religion with politics and rightfully interested in making sure that any event such as this is not exclusive of their voice.
2) Building the "Big Tent".
The Democratic Party has said that it wishes to use events such as this to create a "big tent", but this very event is actually making the tent smaller. If we wish to build a "Big Tent" then we have to include everyone, and that includes the non-religious. Exclusive events such as this make the non-religious feel unwelcome in the Democratic Party. Given that non-religious is the second largest "religious identity" in America today behind Christian, this is not a good thing. There are more non-religious Americans than all religious American Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Wiccans, Native American religionists, Hindus, etc. combined. There are over 30 million non-religious Americans, a very significant number of people. The "Big Tent" cannot be built without them.
3) Non-religious still face discrimination.
This event is itself an example of the discrimination that we face today. The Democratic Party bills itself as the party of openness and acceptance and an advocate of civil rights, yet here we are facing discrimination. This despite the fact that many of America's leading civil rights advocates over the centuries have been non-religious, from Thomas Paine (a deist who was against organized religion) to Elizabeth Caddy Stanton (agnostic) to Margaret Sanger (No Gods, No Masters) to Albert Einstein (spiritual atheist and social activist in addition to being a brilliant scientist) and many more. Non-religious Americans have been at the forefront of social justice movements in America since the founding of the country and yet here we still are as outsiders in American politics and indeed American society. Surveys show that the non-religious are still the least trusted and most maligned group in American society, behind racial minorities, homosexuals, and all other religious minorities, yet roughly 1 in 5 Americans is non-religious and essentially everyone lives with, works with, and is friends with non-religious people in America whether they know it or not.
4) "Faith" and values.
Perhaps most importantly, this event was a perfect opportunity to help build bridges between the religious and non-religious community to achieve the harmony that the party needed. The non-religious community realizes that we aren't a majority, that we can't do it alone, that we have to share political space and power with religious partners. Furthermore, the vast majority of non-religious people have every desire to work with the religious community to achieve shared goals and to defend shared values. The non-religious work with religious people all the time, most Americans are religious, if we didn't have shared values and couldn't work with religious people we'd have an awfully hard time. Most non-religious people come from religious families, our parents are religious, are grandparents are religious, our children are religious, our friends, neighbors, and co-workers are religious.
While most non-religious of course do not have faith in a god (some believe in a god but not religion, again think Thomas Paine) many have faith in other things, such as humanity, science, America, freedom, ourselves, heck perhaps even our political party. And we certainly have values, many or all of which are shared with members of religious communities. Indeed we can even acknowledge the impact of religious traditions on our values. Certainly the social justice advocated in the Hebrew scriptures (Old Testament) and New Testament has been a powerful force in shaping Western society. We can acknowledge that even while not believing in the historical validity or supernatural claims of those writings.
What is public prayer if not a statement of values, beliefs, goals and desires to the community? Events such as this offer the religious a forum to express their desires, values, beliefs, and goals to the community, but give the non-religious no voice to share in the process.
5) Politics is about shared goals and deeds, not beliefs.
Politics, as any good theologian would acknowledge, is an earthly endeavor, an endeavor of "man". Politics is not religion, it does not require that those that we form bonds with and work with and cooperate with share our beliefs. What is important is that we share common goals, objectives, and actions. People, whether they be Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Wiccans, or atheists all have very different beliefs. Even within any given religion of course people have very different beliefs. We don't have to share the same beliefs in order to live and work together cooperatively, and to develop policy, to support political agendas, to elect people to office, etc. That is, after all, the entire basis of "secularism", a system that allows individuals to hold different personal beliefs without compromising their ability to cooperate in the formation and administration of a political system.
The message that we get from this Interfaith gathering, and the exclusion of non-religious representation from it, is that the non-religious are not trusted. Likewise, this now erodes trust within the non-religious community of even religious liberals and moderates. The non-religious community essentially assumes that this Interfaith gather is not a gathering of religious conservatives (although an Orthodox Rabbi is the lead speaker). The non-religious community assumes that this is a gathering of liberal and moderate Christians, Jews, Muslims, etc. Therefore we assume that we already have many shared values, and yet the message is that even a gathering of religious liberals and moderates won't have us and doesn't trust us. This certainly doesn't make for party unity. The non-religious community wants to be trusted by religious liberals and moderates, and we want to be able to trust them. This was an opportunity to build such trust and cooperation, but it seems that it will be missed.
Non-religious Democrats have the same goals and objectives as religious Democrats: Elect Barack Obama, end the war in Iraq, improve the American healthcare system, develop a more fair tax system in America, strengthen the American middle class and thus the economy as a whole, advocate for economic justice, advocate for social justice, advocate for women's rights, and advocate for religious freedom, which includes the freedom not to believe and the freedom of others to believe as they wish, without our politicians and government picking sides, choosing favorites, or using their power to impose their beliefs on others.
This is a big issue. If you are not aware, the fact that the non-religious are seeking representation at this event it has been covered by many news organizations, for example:
Non-religious is the fastest growing "religious" identity in America today, it's the second largest "religious" identity in America behind Christian, and we have watched in horror as the Bush administration has trampled the rights of Americans, has waged an illegal and unethical war, has ravaged our legal system, has undermined our economy, and has tarnished America's image around the world, all with the help of the "Evangelical Christian" vote and the "Religious-Right". We have seen the influence of religious leaders behind closed doors in the Republican Party and we certainly do not want to see that repeated in the Democratic Party. Thus, I hope you can understand the significant concern that the non-religious community has when it feels that its voice is being excluded in events such as this.
Coalition of Secular Voters
It's alright though, because democrats only include the good kind of religious influences.
Only one solution