Pharyngula

Amy Sullivan’s bad advice

Amy Sullivan is not one of the people I want advising the Democratic party…unless, that is I suddenly decided I wanted to be a Republican, and was feeling too lazy to change my voter registration. She’s got one note that she plays loudly over and over again: Democrats need to be more religious. Why? So we can get more religious people to vote for our candidates, and so we can steal the Republicans’ identification as the party of faith.

Nationally, and in states like Alabama, the GOP cannot afford to allow Democrats a victory on anything that might be perceived as benefiting people of faith. Republican political dominance depends on being able to manipulate religious supporters with fear, painting the Democratic Party as hostile to religion and in the thrall of secular humanists. That image would take quite a blow if the party of Nancy Pelosi was responsible for bringing back Bible classes—even constitutional ones—to public schools.

By golly, she’s right! If the Democrats led the way in abandoning the principle of separation of church and state, if we institutionalized the teaching of Christianity in our public schools, and if we out-preached and out-prayed the Republicans and put up bigger crosses ad bigger flags in our front yards than they do, we’d win!

Let’s keep going with this. If we also pandered to big business more and did things like endorse strip-mining national parks and ditching those annoying safety regulations in the work place, we’d get more money and could fund bigger, bolder PR campaigns. Why not? Sullivan is simply endorsing the strategy of racing to the (religious) right, with the winner being the one who gets there the fastest and the farthest. Screw liberal and progressive values—all that matters is winning.

And it’s so easy. If we embrace faith-based policy, we can just ignore that hard reality stuff and believe whatever we want. For example, Sullivan seems to buy into that abstinence nonsense:

A sign that Democratic leaders are beginning to get it is the plan—promoted by leaders such as Harry Reid and Hillary Clinton—to lower abortion rates by preventing unwanted pregnancies. Full-throated support of this effort, and a recognition that abstinence education plays a role in lowering teen pregnancy rates (along with birth control), puts Democrats alongside the majority of voters on this difficult issue, and it is especially appealing to moderate evangelicals.

Well, our current abstinence programs don’t work and people are
urging that the programs be abandoned. Birth control works, abstinence programs don’t. That’s one difficulty, that awkward suggestion that we should be on the side of programs that actually accomplish something. For another, it’s delusional thinking to believe that the reason abortion is such a hot-button issue is because of some desire to help babies: it’s mainly about controlling women and controlling sexuality. I would like at least one political party in this country to be willing to say that sex is fun and an important part of being human. Two sets of prissy prudes shaking their withered fingers at me and vying for leadership is just too much to take.

Kevin Drum is smart enough to recognize what he’s being asked to do, but doesn’t seem to be willing to think about what it means.

Religion has been a big topic in liberal circles for a while now, and I have to admit that I always feel a bit like a bystander when the subject comes up. It’s not like I can fake being religious, after all. Still, no one is really asking people like me to do much of anything except stay quiet, refrain from insulting religion qua religion in ways that would make people like Brinson unwilling to work with us, and let other people do the heavy lifting when it comes to persuading moderate Christians to support liberal causes and liberal candidates. That’s not much to ask, and Amy makes a pretty good case that it would make a difference.

Yes, Mr Drum, that’s correct: we freethinkers are being asked to sit down and shut up and stay away from politics, and allow the evangelicals to shape the party. Let’s let both political parties be vocally religious and give up the whole idea of a secular America.

Not much to ask, huh?

No thanks. I’ve got another suggestion. How about if we reassure the evangelicals that they will always be free to worship as they please, there will be no interference by the government in their religion, but that in a nation with so many different religions floating around, we must and always will be a secular state and religion must stop interfering in government. Your belief in Jesus or Odin or the FSM is not a qualification for service in government (nor is it an obstacle), and isn’t even a testimonial to the quality of your character. The small-minded bigots who would like to see the non-religious effectively disenfranchised are not the solution to the Democratic party’s problems: they are the problem.


I’m not alone in this opinion—Atrios picks up on some of the same things.