Full disclosure: I am a moderately observant Conservative Jew (Conservative is a denomination of Judaism, not a political leaning). Having said that, the bandying around of the term faith is disingenuous. Religious people are supposed to be honest–at least, that’s what I was taught.
We hear all the time expressions like “people of faith”, “faith-based groups”, and “faith-based approaches” [to sex ed, for example]. Of course, “faith” doesn’t mean faith at all, but religion. After all, the secular humanist Albert Camus had great faith that there would always be those who armed only with “a dreadful hope” would oppose injustice. So it’s not really about faith per se, but religion. Despite all of our zaniness, many Americans are still uncomfortable with the overt intrusion of religion into government and politics, particularly when it’s someone else’s religion. So instead of religion, the conservative Right says “faith” because it sounds innocuous and eccumenical, when it is anything but.
And regarding religion, only certain politically correct Christian sects need apply: no uppity, librul First Amendment-lovin’ Jews wanted, for instance. Essentially, the word faith is a canard: it is being used as a proxy for foisting politically and socially conservative Christian ideology onto those who reject it. The irony is that those who use the word faith the most often are those who have very little faith in the judgement and integrity of their fellow citizens.
What’s most maddening is when ‘progressives’ and Democrats start caterwauling about how the left disregards ‘people of faith.’
You know, people like Rep. John Lewis. Or observant Jew Rep. Henry Waxman. Stupid, irreligious Democrats! Not only are the wailers reinforcing this erroneous stereotype, but they are providing legitimacy to the use of the word, when what should be said is religion. Personally, I see nothing wrong with saying the word religion. I’m not troubled by religion, I’m not afraid of religion, and I recognize that religion has always played a role in American politics, for good and evil. But by using the generic term faith, we lend legitimacy to ideas that are, at best, controversial (if not outright hatemongering). Many religious people think hating gays–and that’s what the gay marriage ‘controversy’ is all about–is immoral. Many religious people think that denying material reality when it contradicts Biblical literalism is foolish. Many religious people think that the Blessed Fetish of the Fetus is antiethical to their religious beliefs.
That’s why the Mad Biologist denigrates the term ‘faith based‘ (to the chagrin of at least one reader). The use of the word faith has little to ‘faith’ and everything to do with a ‘religious’ ideology that I personally find abhorent (note: if this sounds intolerant, I don’t care. Falwell, Dobson, and the damn rest should not be tolerated. They were on the wrong side of history when they used religion to oppose civil rights, and they are on the wrong side of history now too).
So let’s call religion religion, and crazy ass fundamentalism crazy ass fundamentalism. Stop giving these guys ecumenical cover. They don’t deserve it.