Sen. Obama's Appeal to Faith
Obama said... "we cannot abandon the field of religious discourse. ... In other words, if we don't reach out to evangelical Christians and other religious Americans and tell them what we stand for, Jerry Falwells and Pat Robertsons will continue to hold sway."
Obama coupled his advice with a warning. "Nothing is more transparent than inauthentic expressions of faith: the politician who shows up at a black church around election time and claps _ off rhythm _ to the gospel choir."
At the same time, he said, "Secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering the public square."
As a result, "I think we make a mistake when we fail to acknowledge the power of faith in the lives of the American people and join a serious debate about how to reconcile faith with our modern, pluralistic democracy."
Obama mentioned leaders of the religious right briefly, saying they must "accept some ground rules for collaboration" and recognize the importance of the separation of church and state.
But the right to practice one's religion must be balanced. Just as feminism that ignores men and the gender roles they are forced into (and other roles that they are privileged to have) is incomplete, just as racism is not the problem of black folk and must also include whites and mass education, so the right to practice one's religion must be balanced by the right to be FREE of religion. There is no reason why if I need rape counseling or a meal for my child or help with my taxes, I must go to a Baptist, or any, church. There is no reason why as a non-believer I must live under laws that govern the faithful. I have lost something if I feel bombarded by not only religious messages and slogans but religious thinking, rules and condemnation. I dare any atheist or agnostic to be open about his or her lack of faith and walk away unscathed. (In the US.) Atheists are assumed to be devil worshipers and anything else people of faith think they themselves are not--if people of faith are loving and kind, non-believers are hateful and sadistic; if people of faith care about "life," non-believers hate "life"; if people of faith love America, non-believers are traitorous, treasonous, hateful scum. Democracy shouldn't end where faith begins. Sen. Obama is right that religious faith must find a way to reconcile with a "pluralistic democracy." And part of that democracy is secular. Democratic thinking is itself secular. Most faiths urge their followers to believe, among other things, that their group is the most favored by God and other groups are condemned or just on the wrong side of righteousness. Democracy assumes we all have the same rights that should be enforced and honored equally. Faith demands belief in things without any empirical evidence or logic. Democracy depends on empirical evidence and logic. Yes, I do believe there is an inherent lack of logic in religious faith. (So does Sam Harris--see "An Atheist Manifesto" at Truthdig.) I would not believe my husband is Russian without evidence. Religions generally ask one to believe things in spite of physical evidence, in spite of inductive or deductive reasoning. There is also an inherent nosiness, a need to regulate the behavior of others and watch them as your God/god watches the faithful. Who I fuck in private does not wreck my neighbor's life or jeopardize a Midwesterner's salvation or "weaken" the institution of marriage.
And Sen. Obama, if we non-believers are to give people of faith their props, their due, their dignity, we, too, should be allowed ours. I should not have to avoid medical procedures because people of faith believe that conception equals the creation of a soul. My daughter should not have to learn in some abstinence "sex ed" course in school that girls have less libido than boys, who just can't help themselves, and it is up to her to remain virginal and enforce chasteness and purity, for herself and all boys around her, and save herself for the ultimate roles of wife and mother. In a democracy, I should be able to love and share my life with who I want regardless of what some think their Bible says. Allowing religious faith does not equal being ruled by religious faith. I have no interest in living in a theocracy like Iran or Saudi Arabia. I like wearing what clothes I like, driving, voting, using birth control, getting advanced degrees and running my bitchy mouth.
tag: Sen. Barack Obama, religion, Sam Harris, An Atheist Manifesto