Of Fundys and Infidels
January 9, 2003 7:11 AM   Subscribe

A Party of Non-Belief? In the most religious country in the developed world, it would be difficult for any political party to grow strong without a large part of its constituency keepin' the faith. Yet the story of America's Culture Wars is not complete without an understanding of the Secularists fealty to the Democratic Party, and the role of Christian Fundamentalists in ensuring they'll stay there. (Sorry, your gonna have to scroll down and click on the article titled: Our Secularist Democratic Party)
posted by dgaicun (33 comments total)
the most religious country in the developed world

Vatican City, dude.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 7:15 AM on January 9, 2003

Or link out of the frame.
posted by botono9 at 7:21 AM on January 9, 2003

Permanent link, from their archives.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 7:23 AM on January 9, 2003

Note to self: political scientists are nearly always to the Right of Center (in my experience), and the authors gave this talk before having it published in Atlata, Georgia, surly not a bastion of liberal or Left of Center thinking.
The distinction is simply: GOP tends to be conservative and fairly religious people like to keep things as they are, or were, and thus support GOP. The Dems have generally stood for change (liberals) and that is not enticing for very religious people That said, there remains an issue for consideration: separation of church and state (used to be), and the fact that Dems in the South were religious but have become Republians and minority folks working into mainstream have switch to GOP--neo-conservatives with their many Jews; Hispanics with religious conservatisim increasingly voting GOP, etc etc

In sum: too much stuff here that doesn't register with me as correct or helpful.
posted by Postroad at 7:24 AM on January 9, 2003

the most religious country in the developed world

I, um, don't have a lot of faith in that statement...
posted by Foosnark at 7:35 AM on January 9, 2003

Postroad wrote: "...fairly religious people like to keep things as they are, or were...".

Whoa. Gross generalization there! One of the points of the article is that progressive members of religious groups think more like the secularists (emphasis mine):
Progressivists, in contrast, embrace a humanistic ethic drawn from reason, science, and personal experience. Progressivist moral rules are "loose-bounded," pluralistic, and relative to circumstance. This new cleavage cuts across the major American faith traditions and most denominations.
posted by tippiedog at 7:40 AM on January 9, 2003

My heart is beating fast, and I feel nauseous. One time I almost passed out when an Army recruiter was talking to me. That's how I feel now. This "article" offends me on many levels. I can actually feel my arms acheing, because reading this makes me feel like I need to inject heroin to make it stop.

So, I will bypass any thoughtful discussion of this article, and just make this snarky comment:

I prefer "Satan's Legions" over "Secularist Democratic Party" any day.
posted by son_of_minya at 7:44 AM on January 9, 2003

actually, it's been my experience that the conservatives are the new radicals, but not so much for a love of change but of a crusade to roll back progress a bit to a time when their religious agenda would be more easily digested.
posted by mcsweetie at 7:58 AM on January 9, 2003

My, what a subtle hatchet job that paper is! Straight-facedly quoting Bernard Goldberg, comparing weekly churchgoers with "organized secularists."

They say that secularists don't dare publicize their thoughts and feelings about religion, "lest they be alone," yet these secularists apparently are organized and powerful.

They say secularists are hostile to religion, and back up that assertion with poll results. Yet they are silent on the opposite phenomenon. If secularists don't proclaim their lack of religious beliefs "lest they be alone," doesn't that mean that fundamentalists are hostile to secularists? Based on their quote from Tocqueville, they seem to understand that hostility to secularists predates hostility to fundamentalists. Why, then, focus only on hostility to fundamentalists? After all, isn't it understandable that secularists would feel hostile to people who have felt hostility to them for centuries? They seem to think secularists should accept the hostility against them, but to feel no hostility toward fundamentalists.

No mention of how the Christian Coalition persuades fundamentalist church leaders to hand out "who to vote for" election brochures on church steps two days before each election day. Where do the secularists meet by the millions each week, and how do I hand out election brochures to them?

Secularists tend to want to live as they wish, without bluenoses telling them how to conduct their lives. Fundamentalists tend to want to control other people. Why, then, do the authors of this paper believe that secularists are more hostile than fundamentalists?
posted by Holden at 8:23 AM on January 9, 2003

the most religious country in the developed world

I, um, don't have a lot of faith in that statement...

Among Wealthy Nations …

Also, as an extra, some NOVA statistics about Faith in America.

(PS- Israel and the Vatican City excepted)
posted by dgaicun at 8:49 AM on January 9, 2003

I prefer "Satan's Legions" over "Secularist Democratic Party" any day.

You know, I'm currently reading Milton's Paradise Lost, and I just have to say that Satan seems like a pretty cool guy.

Also worth checking out: Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. Good reading.

</gratuitous thread hijack>
posted by dilettanti at 9:16 AM on January 9, 2003

How many national currencies have the words "In god we trust" printed on them? Isn't that strange for a secular nation?

I know the complete quote (not printed on the bills and coins) is meant to say: "In God we trust, all others pay cash"; but even that way is still very confusing ...
posted by magullo at 9:34 AM on January 9, 2003

One need read no further than here to start seeing where the BS is emanating from:

60 percent of first-time white delegates at the Democratic convention in New York City either claimed no attachment to religion or displayed the minimal attachment by attending worship services "a few times a year" or less. About 5 percent of first-time delegates at the Republican convention in Houston identified themselves as secularists, a figure that had not budged for 20 years.

The authors just lumped the number of non-religious and "holiday" faithful in together with the Democrats and compared them just to the number of avowed "secularists" within the Republican party. It doesn't take a statistician to see that the authors simply fudged their data to make it look like the Republican party was massively more secular that the Democratic party by simply asking two different questions of the first-time-delegates. One could say "somewhat" more secular, based on 40% Democratic party delegates who attend services once-per-month or more vs. 66% of republican party delegates, but the authors obviously exagerrated the levels of casual secularism with the Democratic party and downplayed the level of secularism within the Republican party.
posted by deanc at 9:40 AM on January 9, 2003

> Where do the secularists meet by the millions each week

posted by jfuller at 10:06 AM on January 9, 2003

An endorsement on the top banner from William Bennett! What a clue as to where this comes from.

First, fundamentalists of all stripes suck.
Second, this is a rag created to support one thing, the Republican party.

Now, let's imagine the policy positions of the fundies as opposed to the positions of ...say...Jesus, shall we?

Subject: Prayer in Schools, the Pledge of Allegiance and our currency.
Fundy-Publican position - We need more of this in our society!
Jesus position - When you pray, go to a private place and pray, not like the hypocrites who pray loudly and long on the public corners.

Subject: War on Iraq
Fundy-Publican position - We must attack and kill these Islamist before they can do something.
Jesus position - Prince of Peace, do unto others as you would have them do unto you, turn the other cheek, forgive seventy times seven times.

Subject: Televangelists and Right Wing Moralizers
Fundy-Publican position - These are "men of God."
jesus position - Who is your neighbor? Why those most despised by the "keepers of the faith (Samaritans)!" Those who seek praise, honor and wealth have their inheritance now on earth while those who serve others instead will have their inheritance in heaven.

And on and on and on. I am the nofundy, hear me roar.
posted by nofundy at 10:12 AM on January 9, 2003

The Bible is not my book and Christianity is not my religion. I could never give assent to the long complicated statements of Christian dogma.

Speech, Chicago, Illinois, July 10, 1858 - Abraham Lincoln

I do not find in orthodox Christianity one redeeming feature.

Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear...

(from The Life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson)

If God made us in His image we have certainly returned the compliment.



Quotes for freethinkers

Quotations that Support the Separation of State and Church
posted by y2karl at 10:50 AM on January 9, 2003

Being no bigot myself, I am disposed to indulge the professors of Christianity in the church that road to heaven which to them shall seem the most direct, plainest, easiest and least liable to exception.

George Washington in letter to Lafayette.
from George Washington And Religion
posted by y2karl at 11:17 AM on January 9, 2003

(PS- Israel and the Vatican City excepted)

and Iran, Afghanistan, India, Indonesia....
It's quite a claim to call America the most religous country in the world. If you only look at wealthy nations it's not a fair representation.

posted by Raichle at 12:03 PM on January 9, 2003

The most frustrating part of this piece, to me, is the notion that it's not fair that the media doesn't politically exploit the general hatred that exists for atheists, agnostics. They completely miss the point! Often times we hear moralizing over hatred for races, over homophobia, over certain religious intolerance (for Muslims. etc.), but I would submit that the most tolerated bigotry in America remains hatred of the irreligious. After all, how many openly Atheist political candidates ever won an election (I dare you to name one)? Now compare that to the numbers of openly homosexual candidates, etc., who hold public office. What other kind of minority group could you get away with vilifying in the manner of this article? I say none.

On preview: yeah Raichle only I said in the developed world.
posted by dgaicun at 12:21 PM on January 9, 2003

After all, how many openly Atheist political candidates ever won an election (I dare you to name one)?

Abe Lincoln?

OK, OK, he wasn't that open about it and you probably mean lately, anyway.
posted by y2karl at 12:42 PM on January 9, 2003

In the most religious country in the developed world

Jesus, a lot of hairsplitting over this part. Why don't we change it to "In a country as religious as this. . .", does that work?

On preview: Karl I'm pretty sure Lincoln was a Deist (the two are often confused). Vague references to God are political gold, and Lincoln would have had no trouble today.
posted by dgaicun at 12:51 PM on January 9, 2003

Pardon, me--that was supposed to be Abe Lincoln? And he was rather discreet about his beliefs, whatever they were.

Vague references to God are political gold, and Lincoln would have had no trouble today.

I disagree--he could never, never be elected today.
posted by y2karl at 12:55 PM on January 9, 2003

(Lincoln) could never, never be elected today.
Certainly not as a Republican. ;-)
posted by Holden at 1:02 PM on January 9, 2003

Well, the whole 'take em' back to Africa' thing might hold him back in the polls today, but I'm not sure if Lincoln's free-thinking would necessarily. Even Jesse Ventura managed to stay afloat after criticizing organized religion (though not coming out unscathed), but he promptly knew his place whenever the A-word was concerned. The two things are different enough to make a big difference to most of America.
posted by dgaicun at 1:14 PM on January 9, 2003

That was something he said early on in his career, dgaicun, his views changed radically after that.
posted by y2karl at 1:37 PM on January 9, 2003


Even Jesse Ventura managed to stay afloat after criticizing organized religion (though not coming out unscathed), but he promptly knew his place...

Thanks for the link. There's a hilarious -- and dead on-topic -- Trent Lott quote at the end of the third paragraph:

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) asked his Coalition audience, "Can you believe a governor of a state in America would say such an insensitive, bigoted thing?"
posted by son_of_minya at 1:43 PM on January 9, 2003

Was Lincoln a racist?

Lincoln’s views on race changed over his lifetime. While campaigning against Stephen Douglas in 1858, Lincoln on several occasions expressed his belief that fundamental differences existed between the black and white races “which, in my judgement, will probably forever forbid their living together on the footing of perfect equality....” He added, “I agree with Judge Douglas that he [the black man] is not my equal in many respects, certainly not in color — perhaps not in intellectual and moral endowments; but in the right to eat the bread without leave of anybody else which his own hand earns, he is my equal and the equal of Judge Douglas, and the equal of every other man.” (October 13, 1858).

As President, Lincoln’s views of equality broadended. He had previously favored colonization of freed slaves to Central America or Africa, but abandoned this idea by 1863, after tens of thousands of African-Americans had enlisted in the armed forces of the Union. On August 26, 1863, he lectured white antiwar Northerners that when peace came, “there will be some black men who can remember that, with silent tongue, and clenched teeth, and steady eye, and well-poised bayonet, they have helped mankind on to this great consummation, while, I fear, there will be some white ones, unable to forget that, with malignant heart, and deceitful speech, they have strove to hinder it.” Before the war Lincoln had stated his opposition to complete political and social equality, but in 1864 he proposed to the Union governor of Louisiana that the vote be extended to some African-Americans. In his last public speech, he became the first president to express public support for black suffrage, leading John Wilkes Booth (who was in the crowd) to respond, “That means n----- citizenship. That is the last speech he will ever make.”

Some modern commentors, applying the standards of late 20th century America, have claimed that Lincoln was a racist. These arguments distort Lincoln’s historical role; by the standards of his own time, Lincoln’s views on race were progressive but not radical. With the benefit of 130 years of experience since Lincoln’s death, Americans generally have come to accept much more egalitarian views. One can only speculate how Lincoln, given the same additional experience, would have moderated his own views.

posted by y2karl at 1:50 PM on January 9, 2003

Heh. I saw that too, Minya!

Karl: I was just being 'that guy'; Lincoln was a proggresive and great man. I thought that book was completely out of line, too.
posted by dgaicun at 2:07 PM on January 9, 2003

posted by dgaicun at 2:11 PM on January 9, 2003

The main article is flawed, because it completely conflates "secularists" with the religiously non-affiliated. In other words, a person who prays in the privacy of her own home, but doesn't belong to any church is viewed as equally "secularist" as a card-carrying member of American Atheists. However, the article is partially correct, because it understands that religious and partisan differences are related. The Democratic party typically has a base of voters who identify as Jewish or "no religion," while Republicans have a base among conservative Protestants. Mainline Protestants and Catholics are the swing voters in the middle, but have opposite tendencies. The liberal Protestants typically are fiscally conservative and socially liberal while the Catholics are fiscally liberal and socially conservative.
posted by jonp72 at 8:40 PM on January 9, 2003

Lincoln's Second Inaugural:

"It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces; but let us judge not that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has his own purposes ... If we shall suppose that American Slavery is one of those offences which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South, this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offence came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a Living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope--fervently do we pray--that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether"

With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in..."

It's a deep theological text, and I don't think Lincoln thought it was all bullshit.
posted by oddovid at 9:41 PM on January 9, 2003

The main article is flawed, because it completely conflates "secularists" with the religiously non-affiliated. In other words, a person who prays in the privacy of her own home, but doesn't belong to any church is viewed as equally "secularist" as a card-carrying member of American Atheists.

hmm...I do believe in a useful Secularist designation that can be applied to both those people. The authors try to convey that Secularism is irreligious, but in reality Secularism was founded by religious people, and is perfectly compatible with faith. In my mind Secularism is the natural manifestation, as through decisions and opinions, of a particular idea of morality. Fundamentalists believe that morality needs to be established externally (by law or authority), and Secularists believe morality is established internally (as by self-motivated reasoning). Martin Luther and the religious Reformation were probably the seed of modern Secularism, when faith started to become a personal discovery instead of a strictly forced obedience. Karl's quotes are good demonstration; before the Second Great Awakening Americans were largely Secular, and our Founding Fathers definitely were (Though many weren't Christian [Jefferson, Washington, Madison, etc.], and even fewer, if any, were Atheist, which didn't really have an intellectual foundation until Darwin).
This makes a lot of sense- because traditional religion was based on scriptural authority, the idea of separation of Church and State, the cornerstone of the American idea, really wasn't compatible with it. If scripture is mandate, then why shouldn't it be law? If scripture is mandate, then why shouldn't homosexuality be illegal? If scripture is mandate, then why should idolatry and false religions [Atheism, WitchCraft etc.] be permitted? These two ideas of morality have created a recognizable cultural divide, and help to determine people's political beliefs today on a wide range of (mostly) social issues such as homosexuality, Creationism and school prayer, and abortion. And we know how the two big political parties, roughly, feel about said issues.
posted by dgaicun at 10:02 PM on January 9, 2003

Yep Oddovid, Lincoln, like Hitler, was not an Atheist, but a Deist.
posted by dgaicun at 10:05 PM on January 9, 2003

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