29 July 2008


It is a shame that I've had to wait so long to see Democrats excited about an election--an election we have a wonderfully good chance of winning--only to be biffed in the face by my party at the same time. As the country makes a swing to the left, the Democratic party is making a swing to the right--the evangelical right, that is. It's not that I think while they are consciously appealing the the religious they are simultaneously consciously dissing the godless. In fact, I'll say that they have no idea that dissing the godless was even possible since no one gives two shits about what the godless think anyway. Only people whose opinions are respected by others can truly be offended.

Case in point: The Secular Coalition for America sent the following letter to Democratic National Convention CEO Leah Daughtry, the Pentecostal minister who will be leading the interfaith service the party has chosen to open the convention with:

Dear Rev. Daughtry:

I am very concerned about the Interfaith Gathering at the upcoming Democratic National Convention.

This event is described as a "unity" event to stress the "big tent" nature of the Democratic Party; however, I have received complaints by people who identify as atheist and humanist who feel that this event excludes them as full participants in the convention.

Is this event open to Democrats who do not hold a god-belief? I assume your answer is yes, but I would be very interested to know how you plan to make the nontheist community feel welcomed. Without an inclusive plan you will make nontheistic Americans feel like second-class citizens at the convention.

If you have not considered this issue, I would be very interested in talking with you or the coordinator of this event to offer suggestions on how our community could be included. I can be reached at 202-299-1091 or by e-mail.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Now, check out this AP article (emphasis mine):
The request befuddled Leah Daughtry. The experienced political hand in charge of planning next month's Democratic National Convention — a self-described "black chick from Brooklyn" and ordained Pentecostal minister who keeps a Bible in her purse — didn't know what to tell the atheists.
- - -
Before her was an angry letter from a secularist group that wanted to know whether atheists would be on the podium.

"Atheists speaking at an interfaith service ... does that work?" Daughtry asked this week. "I don't quite know. But they're part of the party, you treat them with respect. I'll give them an answer."

Befuddled? Angry?? Did that sound angry to you? I won't even address the 'angry' part save to say that it's obvious that 'have a nice day' coming from an atheist sounds like a death threat to the ears of the faithful. I can explain the befuddlement, though. I strongly suspect it is as I stated above: this woman had no idea she even had to consider the godless.

Here we have a convention and a service that is supposed to bring everyone together...except the godless, because we don't count. She is clearly surprised that we, the godless, would even be interested in being included. Her view, like the view of many faithful folks, is that atheists are sad, isolated people who quiver in fear at the very thought of 'God' and who are so far out of the mainstream and society that we wouldn't even want to be included--that we have so much self-loathing that we wouldn't expect to be treated fairly in the first place. 'What? Aren't you guys busy eating babies and worshiping Darwin and Dawkins to play 'functioning-tax-paying-member-of-society'?'

There's your befuddlement. Now, she goes on to say that we must be respected, as members of the party. Note, we aren't to be respected for who we are or our lack of faith, as those with faith should be respected for no other reason than they have faith. It's 'well, they're registered so we have to listen to them *sigh!*.' So, she promises an answer, and here it is:

That will be reflected in the interfaith service — which may or may not include an address from an atheist but will be open to anyone regardless of belief or political party, Daughtry said.

"For me as person of faith who has made God first in her life," Daughtry said, "it is symbolically important that the first thing we're doing is coming together as people of faith to celebrate our faith traditions and to ask the blessings of God on us as we undertake this great civic responsibility."

The answer is no. No. The answer is 'well, what we'll do during our long faithful service is mention briefly something 'heartfelt' about those 'with and without faith,' emphasis on 'with' and 'without' murmured as low as possible in hopes that no one hears it. You will not have an address. We won't go that far. You're lucky to get a 'without faith' mention."

We can show up to watch people celebrate their faith, but we shouldn't expect to be able to celebrate our reason.

And even going that far is ridiculous anyway. The 'service' should be one massive presentation with representation across the board, from the faithless to the faithful, from the gays to the straights, from women and men, from every shade of color we can find. It should have nothing to do with religion specifically. To open the convention with this sends a clear message to me--my party is becoming the party I've despised all these years. This is a shame because, if over the next few years I see a massive shift in the 'values' of Democrats, I don't know where I could turn politically and still reasonably have a voice in this country. Don't give me some crap about Independents or the Green party because you and I both know neither stands a chance in hell (sic). My party has been hijacked by folks who make "God first in their lives." I don't want this in politics. I want the country first. I want citizens first. All citizens.

I repeat, she says: "it is symbolically important that the first thing we're doing is coming together as people of faith to celebrate our faith traditions and to ask the blessings of God on us as we undertake this great civic responsibility."

It is symbolically important. It is a huge symbol of the anti-atheist sentiment so popular in this county. It is as much a message to the godless that we don't matter as it is to the faithful that they're beliefs rule the day and no one can say 'boo.' It's an intolerable message of rejection and disrespect of the godless all too characteristic of this country and the Democratic party--our last reasonable hope of having a political voice that could actually be heard--is falling lock-step into the hate that the Republicans have had a monopoly on for so long.


  1. I was pointed to this post by a friend.

    I don't quite understand the trust of your argument.

    It is symbolically important. It is a huge symbol of the anti-atheist sentiment so popular in this county.

    I certainly understand wanting your beliefs included in an inter-faith gathering.

    But how does a faith gathering symbolize anti-atheism? This seems similar to the idea that an Irish pride parade is anti-Italian, or a gay pride parade is anti-heterosexual.

    The Democrats have long ago lost me as a member, but I don't see how a faith gathering is anti-atheist.

  2. This isn't supposed to be a religious convention--it is a political convention. If this was a gathering of the faithful for no other reason than having fun with their faith, then I wouldn't care. I wouldn't think twice about it. But this is a political convention highlighting faith when many constituents are faithless and we're supposed to be enjoying a separation of church and state. It is noninclusive, it is anti-atheist. I don't even want us included; I would much rather it didn't take place at all and they concentrated on, oh, I don't know, politics.

  3. Great post on a topic I have heard too little of. I have noticed this shift to pull those ever so important religious voters. We will see this religious theme play out over the next few weeks seeing as VA Gov "I am so religious" Kain being a front runner on the Obama ticket. I understand the need to pander to the religious for votes, but I do have issues with it going too far. The Convention should bring the whole party together as best they can, this is just a lame political gimmick. I may be liberal(ish) but I sure as hell not a Democrat. They don't want my vote.

  4. I understand the need to pander to the religious for votes, but I do have issues with it going too far.

    This is where I am. Fine, pander. I don't like it, but I understand it. This service to open the convention is going way too far.

  5. I wonder how much of the problem was Daughtry vs. how much was the AP reporter. I completely agree with your analysis and am glad to see this story receiving more attention.

  6. I suspect it was a little bit of both--a case of Daughtry's statements being bad enough and then made worse in context by the AP reporter.