Pharyngula

I just received this email from some communications group trying to publicize the virtues of the Democratic Party. It had the opposite effect on me — I am appalled. It’s the usual Democratic strategic inanity of pushing to ape the Republicans instead of even trying to be a party of progressive ideas, so they’re going to promote futile religious bullshit at their convention. This just makes me furious.

DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION TO HIGHLIGHT DIVERSE COMMUNITY OF FAITH LEADERS WORKING TOWARD COMMON GOOD

First-Ever Faith Caucus Meetings to be Held at Democratic Convention

Invocators and Benedictors to Include Pastor Joel Hunter, Rabbi David Saperstein, Sister Catherine Pinkerton, Reverend Cynthia Hale, Archbishop Demetrios, Cameron Strang

Plus Coloradans Polly Baca of Greeley, CO, Reverends Kang of Aurora, CO

Interfaith Gathering to Open Convention Week on Sunday, Aug. 24th, featuring Local Clergy Imam Abdur-Rahim Ali, Rabbi Steve Foster, Reverend Lucia Guzman, University of Colorado Student Kathryn Ida

DENVER – In keeping with Barack Obama’s personal commitment and the commitment of the Democratic Party to put faith in action, the Democratic National Convention Committee (DNCC) and the Obama for America campaign today announced that the 2008 Democratic National Convention will recognize the tireless efforts of those in the faith community working
toward the common good.

“Senator Obama is a committed Christian, and he believes that people of all faiths have an important place in American life,” said Joshua Dubois, Obama For America Director of Religious Affairs. “He’s proud to work with the Democratic National Convention Committee on a Convention that fully engages people of faith in dialogue, celebration and prayer. We are honored that so many religious leaders are reaching across partisan and ideological lines in this Convention to address the values that matter to Americans.”

“Democrats have been, are and will continue to be people of faith – and this Convention will demonstrate that in an unprecedented way,” said Leah D. Daughtry, CEO of the DNCC. “As Convention CEO and a pastor myself, I am incredibly proud that so many esteemed leaders from the faith community will be with us to celebrate this historic occasion and honor the diverse faith traditions inside the Democratic Party.”

Each night of the Convention, the official program will begin with an invocation and end with a benediction delivered by a national faith leader or an individual who is active in their local faith community. Among the group selected to deliver these opening and closing prayers are a Republican pastor of a leading Evangelical church in central Florida, a major young Evangelical leader, a nun from a diocese in Cleveland and a Methodist couple, both ordained ministers from Arvada, CO.

National leaders from a range of denominations will host the Convention’s first-ever Faith Caucus meetings during the week where they will discuss bringing people of faith together to address some of the most pressing issues of our time.

On Tuesday, August 26, the Faith Caucus will hold two panel discussions – “Common Ground on Common Good,” an opportunity to discuss finding common ground on the moral issues of the day, and “Faith in 2009: How an Obama Administration will Engage People of Faith.” On Thursday, August 28, the Caucus will convene for “Moral Values Issues Abroad,” a panel on how the faith community can work together to address pressing moral issues around the world, and “Getting Out the Faith Vote,” a session on how to appropriately engage communities of faith in the 2008 election.

In addition, a first-ever Democratic National Convention interfaith gathering will kick off the week, bringing delegates, elected officials, local residents, musical guests and spiritual leaders from many communities of faith together for a unique gathering. In addition to keynote remarks, the program will include readings from diverse religious texts, prayers and musical selections.

There are more details that follow, with day-by-day announcements of invocations and benedictions and meetings led by people like the vapid Jim Wallis, that I’ve cut off. You don’t want to go, anyway.

I am particularly annoyed by the claim that “Democrats have been, are and will continue to be people of faith” — which I take as a declaration that I can’t be a Democrat. I notice, too, that the roster of speakers is nothing but a list of religious con artists, people of dumb, blind, pointless faith, with no representation from the people of reason. I can understand why, though.

If they actually invited an atheist to join in the “dialogue, celebration and prayer”, he would be obligated to rebuke the assembled crowd. The dialogue would consist of informing them all that the United States has a secular government, the Democrats are obligated to fill the role of a secular party, and there should be no place for superstitious nonsense in the hard work of governing. There is also nothing to celebrate. Our country has been wracked by an assemblage of idiots ruling in the name of greed and god, and the time has come to restore rational Enlightenment values to the United States of America, not return to benighted medievalisms, and that people of faith ought to confine their silly hobbies to the halls of their churches and keep them out of the state. As for prayer … what a waste of time and effort and imagination. Take your useless pleading to a nonexistent and unresponsive deity and go hide away in shame and do it in private — it’s the equivalent of masturbation, only it provides an even lesser sense of accomplishment.

People of faith are welcome to contribute to politics. In order to do so, however, they will have to get off their knees, unclasp their hands, and do something productive. Enshrining the prating rubbish of the religion racket as an important element of secular administration, as Obama seems to want to do, is a catastrophic betrayal of good government.

And that’s why they haven’t invited any godless rationalists to their party of pandering to fools.

Comments

  1. #1 CalGeorge
    August 22, 2008

    Great job, Democraps.

  2. #2 Rob
    August 22, 2008

    This is minor compared to the official platform of the Texas GOP.

  3. #3 netflicker
    August 22, 2008

    As if masturbation is a bad thing?

  4. #4 gdlchmst
    August 22, 2008

    I can’t help but feel the evangelists are doing a better job of moving the Overton’s window than we are.

  5. #5 Ducklike
    August 22, 2008

    So, will there be any Atheist speakers at this event?

  6. #6 The Science Pundit
    August 22, 2008

    I see nothing wrong with masturbating to the gods and goddesses of secular society.

  7. #7 Lucas
    August 22, 2008

    I’m afraid compromises like this may be the only way to make any progress towards a more rational society. Many analysts argue that not talking about religion is partially what cost Democrats in 2002 and 2004. If a perfectly rational political party can’t get anyone elected then what good is it?

  8. #8 Alex
    August 22, 2008

    It’s really shitty that in order to get elected into a governing role, kowtowing disguised as tribute must be made to individuals and organizations that actually think deities and magic are real. Wow.

    We must work harder to find ways to get the populace out of these crazy, inept, unproductive belief systems. Perhaps model our efforts after more successful secular societies.

  9. #9 protocol
    August 22, 2008

    Are you surprised (given the Democrats’ betrayal of most other progressive positions they, seems now, pretended to hold)? Also PZ I happen to know a lot of religious, but genuinely progressive democrats who are equally disgusted with the party (for similar reasons; they abhor piety and religiosity being made into a spectacle). It seems that our options in November boil down to selecting between two giant coils of turd and voting for the relatively less stinky one.

  10. #10 Annie
    August 22, 2008

    In trying to be all things to all people, they are proving to be nothing much to many.

    Daughtry, the Dem CEO, is an evangelical pastor – daughter of one, too.(The New York Times did quite a long bio on her)

    Obama/corporate Dems are simply Goldwater/Eisenhower Republicans.

    Meanwhile, the Constitution lies bleeding from a fatal wound no divine intervention will miraculously cure. That restoration and recovery will only come about with the will and resources of elected legislative and executive branch representatives who actually operationalize it and remove the harmful signing statements and legislation (PATRIOT Act, for starters) that are eviscerating it.

  11. #11 thepetey
    August 22, 2008

    On one hand though it may help to pull some of the “fence sitters” away from the lunacy of the neocon party

  12. #12 Rayven Alandria
    August 22, 2008

    Nauseating. I hate the Democraps and the Re-pubic-ans. Ok, that’s an unfair generalization. I hate the parties, but I’m sure there are decent people within each party…somewhere.

    The push to embrace religion in politics makes me quite ill. What happened to this country? The Separation of Church and State means nothing to most people. It is tragic.

  13. #13 wÒÓ†
    August 22, 2008
  14. #14 Physicalist
    August 22, 2008

    I certainly agree, but it’s been clear for the past four years that this was going to be the Obama strategy: try to recruit some religious wingnuts over from the Republican side. It’s a strategy that has pluses and minuses.

  15. #15 Raelyf
    August 22, 2008

    PZ for President? The real problem is, since atheism is not represented in the running parties there’s no need to cater specifically to them. There is no fear of alienating atheist voters by professing to be a party of faith as there is no alternative; an atheist voter who refuses to vote for a ‘party of faith’ has no one to vote for.

  16. #16 Mat
    August 22, 2008

    Among the group selected to deliver these opening and closing prayers are a Republican pastor of a leading Evangelical church in central Florida

    Central Florida Evangelicals?! Oh good… the area of Cracker Gate is speaking at… wait a republican is speaking at the DNC… quoi?

  17. #17 Mike
    August 22, 2008

    The Democrats and Republicans have never stood for anything like reason or truth. They stand for power, and power alone.

  18. #18 Marcus Ranum
    August 22, 2008

    That this would come as a surprise or a disappointment is a surprise and a disappointment.

  19. #19 Alex
    August 22, 2008

    I think the comment about masturbation wasn’t about making a value-judgment in the act itself, but suggesting that to actually get something productive accomplished in government, the emotional self-gratification of prayer is useless and non-productive. And I have to agree with the sentiment that the act of masturbation has always had more of a substantive reward than prayer.

  20. #20 Salt
    August 22, 2008

    I am appalled. It’s the usual Democratic strategic inanity of pushing to ape the Republicans instead of even trying to be a party of progressive ideas

    And that’s why they haven’t invited any godless rationalists to their party of pandering to fools.

    So, it would appear that one may include within any context of “progressive”, “godless rationalists”.

    Perhaps the Communist Party would be more to your liking PZ.

  21. #21 Matt Heath
    August 22, 2008

    How do USan party conventions work?
    Is any sub-group of the party with enough members invited to organize a fringe event? So there could equally be a rationalist sub-meeting if someone organised it? Or are the Democrats really coming out in favour of faith?

    If it’s simply a yay for religions” wing of the party hanging out talking about religiony Democrat things, it doesn’t seem a big deal to me.

    I think in Britain the Labour conference has always had side meetings of the Christian Socialist movement but also of the Labour Humanist Group (since the latter was founded) as well as factions built around more obviously political issues.

  22. #22 mothra
    August 22, 2008

    “. . .Our country has been wracked by an assemblage of idiots ruling in the name of greed and god, and the time has come to restore rational Enlightenment values to the United States of America. . .”

    Well said PZ! Unfortunately, while the time has come, the zeitgeist is a no-show.

  23. #23 Ubi Dubium
    August 22, 2008

    As irritating as I find this whole mess to be, I can’t say I think the Democrats are wrong in trying to appeal to the religious voters The Republicans have had a total lock on the evangelicals, and anything symbolic the Democrats do that weakens that lock is good. I am not so concerned with the image the candidate projects as I am with what that person will actually DO once in office. I think Obama is our best hope of putting a stop to the abuses of the Bush administration, but he can’t do that unless he wins. After reading Obama’s book and listening to him talk, I think he fully intends to strengthen the wall between church and state. If a prayer service at the convention can help win over enough of the religious voters to do that, then let them have it. As much as I dislike the attitude of “true believers”, we need to sway some of them if we are going to win this.

  24. #24 raven
    August 22, 2008

    Hopefully this is just politics. The Theorupublicans made a big mistake pandering to the wingnut Death Cultists. They weren’t going to vote for a democrat no matter who or what it was. So they could have broadened their base to include normal people and the reality based communities. Instead they ended up owned by extremists with brains the size of walnuts.

    The Dems have a solid base of those who dislike and fear the moronic Death Cultists of Bushco. Who would vote for Kermit the frog, Barbie, or the Easter Bunny rather than the GOP. So they are reaching out toward groups that are possibles rather than certainties.

    For the record, I don’t think much of either party. The GOP are in the process of wrecking the USA while the Dems. have lost their brains and lack any sort of competent leadership or vision. Playing the fiddle for Nero. This election is theirs to lose and they just might lose it.

    The usual, the lesser of two evils. Can’t entirely blame the parties, as someone once said, the people usually end up with the government they deserve.

    PS I really hope they are pandering to the theocratic fundie wingnuts. That particular group had inordinate control of the US government for 8 years and have nearly wrecked the USA. A fact not lost on anyone with at least 1 eye and half a brain. Even a lot of their members can see it and there is a serious backlash against them. If I got it right, the fundie star is falling fast.

  25. #25 Prof MTH
    August 22, 2008

    I actually kind of like Jim Wallis. He is a supporter of a strict separation of church and state, or, at least he used to be. He is equally critical of both the Democant’s and the Repugnants. He notes with great clarity how Repugnant economic policy creates inequality and how they refuse to recognize this fact. He notes how the Democant’s policy of throwing money at issues are only temporary band-aids and not healing treatments.

    He is extremely critical of the Robertson and Dobson type persons of the Xtian community (as well as the pied piper prosperity theologians). Wallis claims that if you are a true Xtian then aiding the poor, sick, and homeless is to be your top priority (economic policy and social justice); followed by environmental policy (protecting the environment and global warming) to protect God’s creation. In his view, we are stewards of God’s creation–given charge over creation does not mean to abuse and destroy it how we see fit but to be good stewards of its care. (Of course I do not agree that the universe is god’s creation. He and I agree in sentiment but not in facts. We can meet and mutually act because of that agreement in sentiment.)

  26. #26 Prof MTH
    August 22, 2008

    I actually kind of like Jim Wallis. He is a supporter of a strict separation of church and state, or, at least he used to be. He is equally critical of both the Democant’s and the Repugnants. He notes with great clarity how Repugnant economic policy creates inequality and how they refuse to recognize this fact. He notes how the Democant’s policy of throwing money at issues are only temporary band-aids and not healing treatments.

    He is extremely critical of the Robertson and Dobson type persons of the Xtian community (as well as the pied piper prosperity theologians). Wallis claims that if you are a true Xtian then aiding the poor, sick, and homeless is to be your top priority (economic policy and social justice); followed by environmental policy (protecting the environment and global warming) to protect God’s creation. In his view, we are stewards of God’s creation–given charge over creation does not mean to abuse and destroy it how we see fit but to be good stewards of its care. (Of course I do not agree that the universe is god’s creation. He and I agree in sentiment but not in facts. We can meet and mutually act because of that agreement in sentiment.)

  27. #27 Epistaxis
    August 22, 2008

    PZ, you missed the big kerfluffle while you were away. The Secular Coalition for America, which you’ll see on the Colbert Report next week, asked for a more inclusive event and got a disappointing response.

  28. #28 Schmeer
    August 22, 2008

    This is why neither of the giant American parties deserves any votes. They have no interest in the Constitution, Rationalism, the Enlightenment or reason. Fuck them both.

  29. #29 Julie Stahlhut
    August 22, 2008

    I don’t know what’s making me madder right now — the bipartisan pandering to the religious right, or some of the purely secular arsitude going on in parallel. (Seven houses vs. one McMansion with a wine cellar? Fools, get a clue — if both of these guys didn’t have serious money, neither would be able to AFFORD a career in national politics. Can we talk about the war now?)

  30. #30 Ctrl-Alt-Del
    August 22, 2008

    Many analysts argue that not talking about religion is partially what cost Democrats in 2002 and 2004.

    Looks like fun. Can I try too?

    Many analysts argue that not drenching themselves with squid ink, shoving stalks of celery spread with Cheez-Whiz up their noses, moussing their hair with scrambled eggs and hopping up and down on one leg while singing Chumbawumba’s hit single “Tubthumping” is partially what cost Democrats in 2002 and 2004.

    [Crosses fingers and puts on C-Span]

  31. #31 800guy
    August 22, 2008

    Any election is a multiple choice test, the “correct” answer will not be on one of the choices on the score card, you will have to choose the “best” one. They have done the math & figured this will gain them more votes than they lose. Expecting Obama’s campaign to do anything else is just wishful thinking, we all know what the errors of wishful thinking are here @ pharyngula. You will do the rational thing & vote for Obama. So Obama’s press release will cost him very few votes.

  32. #32 Kseniya
    August 22, 2008

    Are we shocked? Not really. Pandering yields votes.

    Disappointed? Yup? Appalled? Kinda.

    Dismayed? Yes. Feeling like we’re being dragged backwards into the ocean by a hugr, centuries-old rusty anchor? Of course!

  33. #33 Jason
    August 22, 2008

    I have to agree with PZ, the surest way to see the end of progressive ideals in America is to have the Democrats constantly moving to the right, as if the Republicans were their role models. The more the Dems move to the right, the more disenfranchised the progressive base feels with the party, and ultimately the more irrelevant it becomes: if the democrats turn into ‘Diet Republicans’ (same policies, less sugar; and you can argue that they have already) then they will ultimately be irrelevant lackies to the American 1 and a half party system.

    I dont think moving to the left will help either; America is too concerned with American Idol and not voting to notice the shift.

    I’m going to (and I’m not the first) argue that the Dems need launch merciless all out attacks on the Republican candidates, policies, and party. I want to see attack ads in Georgia telling people that Jesus is make beleive, John McCain is a fascist, and tax cuts for the rich are retarded. Even if they cant win, at least they might earn some points for fighting back, rather than this constant capitulation that will ultimatley ensure that the Republicans will capture all 3 branches of government in about 4-6 years.

  34. #34 Erp
    August 22, 2008

    Breakdown as far as I can figure

    Joel Hunter, Senior Pastor, Northland, evangelical
    Rabbi David Saperstein, Reform Judaism
    Sister Catherine Pinkerton, Catholic
    Reverend Cynthia Hale, evangelical
    Archbishop Demetrios, Primate, Greek Orthodox Church in America
    Cameron Strang, evangelical

    Polly Baca of Greeley, CO ??
    Reverends Kang of Aurora, CO, Methodist

    Imam Abdur-Rahim Ali, Northeast Denver Islamic Center
    Rabbi Steve Foster, Reform? Judaism
    Reverend Lucia Guzman, United Methodist
    Kathryn Ida, University of Colorado Student, Buddhist

    Reform Judaism and the Buddhism can be somewhat non-theistic and are probably at least willing to admit that non-theism is a valid and good position. I would be happier with a Unitarian Universalist given a fair number of them are outright atheistic and also given that they had two of theirs killed recently for being liberal.

  35. #35 Schmeer
    August 22, 2008

    800guy:
    Why not start punishing them for this kind of BS? If that calculation of votes lost vs. votes gained changes, then you may get positive results in your favor. Tell them you’re not voting for them, don’t vote for them, and support any 3rd party candidate that appears to be a rational secularist.

  36. #36 dubiquiabs
    August 22, 2008

    @Salt #20

    So, it would appear that one may include within any context of “progressive”, “godless rationalists”.
    Perhaps the Communist Party would be more to your liking PZ.

    Non sequitur!

  37. #37 Ctrl-Alt-Del
    August 22, 2008

    They have done the math & figured this will gain them more votes than they lose.

    Could we see this “math”? Or is this likewise a “matter of faith”?

  38. #38 Paul
    August 22, 2008

    “It’s the usual Democratic strategic inanity of pushing to ape the Republicans instead of even trying to be a party of progressive ideas, so they’re going to promote futile religious bullshit at their convention. This just makes me furious.”

    Then stop voting Democrat, for Jebus’ sake!!

  39. #39 alchemist
    August 22, 2008

    It’s all part of the “big tent” strategy… convincing people that you’re more alike than different, so that people aren’t immediately repulsed by ideas like …. “well I don’t know if I can trust someone who doesn’t share faith…”. I agree that it’s a silly idea (I’ve met way to many bad believers and good non-believers to follow such nonsense); but to many people that’s how they judge virtue.

    So you at least get the door open, and then hope they see something in the rest of your message. Unfortunately, a strong atheist message is not going to appeal to our general electorate for a long time.

    However, this plan is often helped by outside fringe groups (such as this one) pushing the logical, hard arguments that a “big tent” party can’t make. So keep up the good work PZ.

  40. #40 TomDunlap
    August 22, 2008

    Unfortunately, fools vote. If the Dems tell all theirs that they ARE fools, then they hand it all to the Rethugs. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

  41. #41 Marcus Ranum
    August 22, 2008

    quoth the raven:
    the people usually end up with the government they deserve

    How good do I have to be to get no government at all?

  42. #42 raven
    August 22, 2008

    quoth the raven:
    the people usually end up with the government they deserve

    How good do I have to be to get no government at all?

    In the quote, “the people” is an average or median or collective.

    If you are really good, you can always set up your own government of one. It helps to be independently wealthy and live in the middle of nowhere.

  43. #43 Ctrl-Alt-Del
    August 22, 2008

    Unfortunately, a strong atheist message is not going to appeal to our general electorate for a long time.

    So simply not explicitly excluding atheists (“Democrats have been, are and will continue to be people of faith”) is a strong atheist message? What would a weak atheist message look like?

  44. #44 Ctrl-Alt-Del
    August 22, 2008

    Unfortunately, fools vote. If the Dems tell all theirs that they ARE fools, then they hand it all to the Rethugs. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

    And more straw goes flying…

  45. #45 debaser
    August 22, 2008

    Separation of church and state is one area where non-believers and believers should be able to find common ground. Many religious people would be appalled to be forced to worship a different version of christianity than they already belong to, let alone a completely different faith. It is a good bit of consciousness-raising you can do when talking about religion and politics, religious people need to see that being able to choose also includes choosing no-religion, and is as imporant to include as being able to choose between methodist and pentecostal.

    Funny this mental masturbation session will probably almost univerally condem masturbation, and maybe even include prayer sessions to hoping to end “the sin of” masturbation. What a way to jerk people around.

  46. #46 gdlchmst
    August 22, 2008

    Then stop voting Democrat, for Jebus’ sake!!

    Unfortunately, that would tip the scale in favor of the worse evil. And I for one am not willing to throw the US under the bus just to send a message.

  47. #47 ildi
    August 22, 2008

    “and go hide away in shame and do it in private — it’s the equivalent of masturbation”

    Hey, why are you dissing masturbation? To quote Woody Allen: “Don’t knock masturbation; it’s sex with someone I love.”

  48. #48 Ctrl-Alt-Del
    August 22, 2008

    You will do the rational thing & vote for Obama.

    The arrogance is astounding.

  49. #49 Ctrl-Alt-Del
    August 22, 2008

    Unfortunately, that would tip the scale in favor of the worse evil. And I for one am not willing to throw the US under the bus just to send a message.

    Any functioning democracy requires at least two major parties or coalitions capable in principle of forming a legitimate government. Are you really claiming that America is a failed democracy?

  50. #50 bernard quatermass
    August 22, 2008

    “Perhaps the Communist Party would be more to your liking PZ.”

    Hoo-Ray! Someone is using the blanket term “Communist” (which they likely don’t understand) to cover any and all things they don’t like! Hoo-Ray for ignorant people exercising their right to free speech. Hoo-Ray for ignorance!

    Just remember: Dumb isn’t Free.

  51. #51 Siamang
    August 22, 2008

    Everyone, read what Epitaxis said. The Secular Coalition requested to attend and was denied. Further, a HORRIBLE op-ed ran in a denver newspaper that said that it was right that we were excluded… which brought up pol pot, hitler and said that atheists are mean and nasty and if we want respect we need to build some hospitals and schools. I’m not shitting.

    Friendly Atheist had the whole thing, but his site is borked right now.

    Read this article on huffpo:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ronald-aronson/the-dncc-unity-event-secu_b_119013.html

    The right wing interwebs are having a field day with this story…

    Which explains why friendly atheist might be borked right now.

  52. #52 clinteas
    August 22, 2008

    The way I see this from the distance of the southern hemisphere,the dilemma in the US is that while you should punish this sort of nonsense and pandering to religious groups by voting for a third party candidate,you really cant.

    The way the US political system is designed,with your option really just being whether to vote for warm or cold poop,any vote for a third party candidate is potentially a vote for the Republicans(see the 2004 election)which is even worse.
    I really dont envy you guys.

  53. #53 kermit
    August 22, 2008

    Ctrl-Alt-Del@43

    So simply not explicitly excluding atheists (“Democrats have been, are and will continue to be people of faith”) is a strong atheist message? What would a weak atheist message look like?

    “Praise Jesus!”

    Standards change…

  54. #54 gdlchmst
    August 22, 2008

    @Ctrl-Alt-Del

    Any functioning democracy requires at least two major parties or coalitions capable in principle of forming a legitimate government. Are you really claiming that America is a failed democracy?

    If you want to vent, go somewhere else. You have been polemical against people for things they did not even come close to claiming.

  55. #55 kermit
    August 22, 2008

    Siamang@51

    Further, a HORRIBLE op-ed ran in a denver newspaper that said that it was right that we were excluded… which brought up pol pot, hitler and said that atheists are mean and nasty and if we want respect we need to build some hospitals and schools. I’m not shitting.

    Indeed. And what about those non-believers in leprechauns? They’re real pukes! How many hospitals have *they built? And southpaws? I don’t know of *any schools or orphanages built by organizations of left-handed people…

    Yeah, that op-ed was pretty bad. We atheists are sooo rude.

  56. #56 ILYa
    August 22, 2008

    PZ.
    Did you just knock masturbation? Did you compare it to prayer? It’s like comparing such a useful functionality as defecation to prayer. Just because it’s grouse doesn’t mean it’s useless, you know that…
    How much rape and violence has been avoided due to masturbation. I am sure it outpaced prayer by far. I say bring masturbation to Middle East, prayer clearly is not doing very well there.

  57. #57 Ctrl-Alt-Del
    August 22, 2008

    gdlchmst@54
    If you want to vent, go somewhere else. You have been polemical against people for things they did not even come close to claiming.

    If your position is that the only choice for the the whole of the foreseeable future is between the Democratic Party and the complete ruin of the system (what I took “throwi the US under the bus” to mean), then you are claiming precisely that. The claim may very well be correct, but in that case the need to establish new parties to restore balance to the system could only be a matter of the utmost urgency.

  58. #58 800guy
    August 22, 2008

    Guys, don’t shoot the messenger, I’m just telling it like it is, how they arrived at the decision to do what they did, i’m not saying it’s “right”.

    I’m not telling you how to vote, although if what you want is better separation of church/state. Guess which candidate (that has a chance of winning) is your best choice. We’re stuck between a rock and a slightly less hard place.

    Obama can’t afford to give away any votes, in case you didn’t notice he’s black and has Hussein in his name. How many people are not going to vote for him for those two very bad reasons.

  59. #59 Ames
    August 22, 2008

    PZ, let’s talk practicality above aspirational dreams of a wholly secular union. The only way to get someone in office who respects the church/state line is to pander this way in the election. Make sure you’re watching the forest through the trees.

    Third parties, obviously, aren’t even an option, and anyone suggesting they are needs to grow up and realize that this election is make-or-break for America. It’s time for all liberals to fall into line.

  60. #60 PZ Myers
    August 22, 2008

    First I pissed off all the knitters. Then I annoyed all the Catholics. Now I’ve antagonized all the masturbators. My circle of enemies grows ever wider.

  61. #61 KillerChihuahua
    August 22, 2008

    #56: Grouse? Did you just compare masturbation to a bird? I’m sorry, I don’t get it.

  62. #62 Paul
    August 22, 2008

    If America wants to go that way I’m sure the Chinese will allow us to buy their amazing technologies and medicines in the future.

    Maybe we can pay for them by all the amazing stuff we’ll develop based on Intelligent Design.

    Pah.

  63. #63 Ctrl-Alt-Del
    August 22, 2008

    It’s time for all liberals to fall into line.

    Words fail me.

  64. #64 thelogos
    August 22, 2008

    Not too give much credence to the Doughy Pantload, but Sinclair Lewis said it best:
    “If Fascism Comes to America, It Will Be Wrapped in the Flag, Carrying the Cross”

  65. #65 withheld
    August 22, 2008

    @debaser #45

    Separation of church and state is one area where non-believers and believers should be able to find common ground.

    You’d like to think so, but the reality is different. I get email from my family (fw: fw: forward:>>> READ THIS!!!) that they are horrified that someone might try to take the Christianity out of the government. They only want the state to be separated from other churches. As long as the candidates pander to a wide enough variety of religions (wouldn’t want to exclude any group that votes in large numbers) people will identify with them.

  66. #66 withheld
    August 22, 2008

    @debaser #45

    Separation of church and state is one area where non-believers and believers should be able to find common ground.

    You’d like to think so, but the reality is different. I get email from my family (fw: fw: forward:>>> READ THIS!!!) that they are horrified that someone might try to take the Christianity out of the government. They only want the state to be separated from other churches. As long as the candidates pander to a wide enough variety of religions (wouldn’t want to exclude any group that votes in large numbers) people will identify with them.

  67. #67 Salt
    August 22, 2008

    You guys are hysterical, really.

    Why keep whining like little children? Get over it. If a political party which strictly represents your views, which appears to me to be encompassed within “secularly enlightened godless rationalists, progressive humanists / materialists”, is not available to your liking – form your own damn party and go for it. Show us your stuff. Come on now, give it your best shot, brights.

    But you really should stop whining like little spoiled tykes uninvited to a party they wish not to attend anyway solely because a portion of the fare is not their liking. Stop crying that others do not see it your way.

    The democrats, even the republicans, have not excluded you. You have excluded yourselves.

    Posted by: kermit | August 22, 2008 12:47 PM
    We atheists are sooo rude.

    Matter of fact, many of you are.

  68. #68 Siamang
    August 22, 2008

    Here’s what I’m doing.

    I’ll hold my nose and vote for Obama if it’s close.

    But for the last few presidential elections, I’ve given hundreds of dollars in donations. I’ve given (what for me is generous) donations to Kerry, Gore, Dean and the Democrats congressional campaigns.

    Not this year.

    Hit em where it hurts… at the money coffers.

    This year, it’s all going toward the fight for marriage equality, Doctors Without Borders, Amnesty, etc.

    Sorry, Religious Bigots, you just told me, once again, that I’m not welcome in your party because of my beliefs. This needs to end right now. This is not Thomas Jefferson’s Democratic Party.

  69. #69 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    August 22, 2008

    Let’s see – the best way to try to fix the party is to stand outside and wail, right? Another way is to be involved at local levels and continue to push and push and push to fix it. It’s just a collection of people, after all.

    That DNC thing is irritating especially since Daughtry is clueless as to why those loner atheists would object. She is befuddled.

    It’s because there hasn’t been a voice inside the party to explain things to the DNC.

  70. #70 Bubba Sixpack
    August 22, 2008

    Yes, the dim Dems are determined to follow the Repubs off the edge of the cliff.

    Why would the “opposition” party want to claim the mantles of “reality-challenged” and “faith-based government” for themselves? Are they really this stupid?

    I already know the answer, so I was pretty stupid for asking it just now.

  71. #71 ThirtyFiveUp
    August 22, 2008

    “And that’s why they haven’t invited any godless rationalists to their party of pandering to fools.”

    PZ’s train has jumped the track here.

    McCain must not win this election. Two sets of fools are definitely poised to reject Obama; those who think he is muslim and those who think he is an uppity n****r. No hope for the latter. But maybe the former can be converted.

    Think of the Supreme Court nominations.
    Kitzmiller vs Dover redux, anyone?

  72. #72 Ctrl-Atl-Del
    August 22, 2008

    Third parties, obviously, aren’t even an option,

    I’m sorry, but this isn’t at all obvious to me. Please explain why the U.S. can never have any but the two extant parties, particularly if the Republicans no longer capable of forming a legitimate government.

  73. #73 Salt
    August 22, 2008

    Posted by: PZ Myers | August 22, 2008 1:10 PM
    First I pissed off all the knitters. Then I annoyed all the Catholics. Now I’ve antagonized all the masturbators. My circle of enemies grows ever wider.

    Being socially autistic does have its consequences.

    Enjoy!

  74. #74 gdlchmst
    August 22, 2008

    Salt obviously has no understanding of politics. Go suck on a lemon, Salt.

  75. #75 Ctrl-Alt-Del
    August 22, 2008

    Kitzmiller vs Dover redux, anyone?

    You do recall who appointed the judge in that case?

  76. #76 ndt
    August 22, 2008

    I imagine the Democratic leadership is quite pleased about this. A growing number of Americans seem to think that the job of elected officials is to provide moral leadership and emotional inspiration. The more the voters pay attention to that, the less attention they will pay to the real job of elected officials, actualy governing. This is what the leadership of both parties wants, for the voters to ignore the actual laws that are being passed and how they are actually being enforced. They can finally finish implementing the corporation-friendly imperialist government they’ve wanted for so long without the voters even noticing or caring.

  77. #77 PZ Myers
    August 22, 2008

    Right, Salt. Like being so socially autistic that one cannot even recognize a comment obviously made in jest.

    Now go away.

  78. #78 Erik A. Kruger
    August 22, 2008

    Right *on* PZ!!! The problem is two-fold, however (or so it seems to me). 1. The mainstream skeptical community is pretty conservative; 2. The mainstream “liberal” community is not particularly skeptical.

    As far as no. 1 goes: even though I can applaud Penn & Teller, for example, when they make fun of stupid religious beliefs, they have also used their television show to “ridicule” the idea of global warming. Michael Shermer, Daniel Dennett, and Sam Harris have all made wacko “libertarian” laissez-faire statements of various sorts, and the last of these has several times made almost parodically right-wing negative comments about Noam Chomsky–who is arguably the most “left-wing” skeptic around.

    No. 2 is particularly frightening in San Francisco (my home): a place where nearly everyone is a knee-jerk registered–and self-righteous, nearly religious–Democrat, and also where nearly everyone is a brain-dead New Agey type. Obviously, there’s lots of overlap.

    The sad fact is that there’s no consistently *progressive* party in the U.S. any more . . . if there ever was. We’re stuck with what Gore Vidal has called “our curious one-party two-party system.” Or as Noam Chomsky puts it: “one pro-business party with two right wings.”

    Where, oh where, has the Enlightenment gone . . . ?

  79. #79 llewelly
    August 22, 2008

    Paul, #38:

    Then stop voting Democrat, for Jebus’ sake!!

    You’re right. Perhaps instead we should vote for Bob Barr … who has repeatedly advocated an anti-gay ‘DOMA’ on religious grounds, who has repeatedly advocated banning Wiccans and atheists from the military, … I could go on and on.
    Let’s face it. If secularists don’t feel we can support Obama, our choices are reduced to Cynthia McKinney (if you’re lucky enough to be in a state with her on the ballot) or a write-in vote for Zombie Carl Sagan.

  80. #80 David Marjanovi?, OM
    August 22, 2008

    Perhaps the Communist Party would be more to your liking PZ.

    Communists aren’t rationalists. They believe in higher powers, like historical inevitability for example. They believe in infallible scriptures written by infallible prophets…

    Nice try, Salt. Really nice try.

    This is why neither of the giant American parties deserves any votes. They have no interest in the Constitution, Rationalism, the Enlightenment or reason. Fuck them both.

    But if you fuck them both, McCain will screw you over. Therein lies the rub.

    Tell them you’re not voting for them, don’t vote for them, and support any 3rd party candidate that appears to be a rational secularist.

    Then, too, McCain will screw you over. As long as you don’t reform the Constitution to introduce the separation between president and government, the two-party system will not go away. No matter how hard you wish.

    If you are really good, you can always set up your own government of one. It helps to be independently wealthy and live in the middle of nowhere.

    Somalia.

    You will do the rational thing & vote for Obama.

    The arrogance is astounding.

    Sure that’s arrogant. But it’s still right.

    Are you really claiming that America is a failed democracy?

    Considering how horribly easy it is to steal an American election… but I digress.

    The claim may very well be correct, but in that case the need to establish new parties to restore balance to the system could only be a matter of the utmost urgency.

    Problem is, this has to be accomplished from one election to the next. If it takes any longer than that, it’s counterproductive in the US two-party system.

  81. #81 Matt Heath
    August 22, 2008

    @78 Dennett is a libertarian ? I call “citation needed” on that.

    (assuming you don’t mean in the sense of philosophy of mind; in that case I guess it’s a subtle question)

  82. #82 Siamang
    August 22, 2008

    “That DNC thing is irritating especially since Daughtry is clueless as to why those loner atheists would object. She is befuddled.”

    You know, it’s not just atheists in this fight. The ADL is also voicing strong objection to this rush to jesus, and they’ve voiced deep worry over the exclusion of non-believers.

    Salt wrote: “But you really should stop whining like little spoiled tykes uninvited to a party they wish not to attend anyway solely because a portion of the fare is not their liking. Stop crying that others do not see it your way.”

    Who’s whining? I’m just not sending them hundreds of my dollars this year. I suggest others do the same. This isn’t about “BOO HOO, let’s all twelve of us start a new party!” It’s just about them holding a party to enshrine a religious test for public service, and the democrats making yet another strong stand that if you don’t believe in a sky god, then you shouldn’t stand up and speak while wearing a donkey pin, lest you scare away the voters they want to court.

    Sorry, my money will not be going to bigots and those who pander to bigots this year. I’ll be fighting for marriage equality full-time (notice, Obama’s against that issue too.)

    I’ll hold my nose and vote for him come election day, if it’s close in my state. But no money from me until we’re allowed to be part of the conversation about shared moral and community values across the diversity of Americans’ beliefs.

  83. #83 SC
    August 22, 2008

    Remember this?:

    ‘Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal rather than religion-specific values’, Obama said. ‘It requires their proposals be subject to argument and amenable to reason’.

  84. #84 Natasha Yar-Routh
    August 22, 2008

    All this pandering would be justified if it was getting the Democratic party any votes. The problem is that Obama has been losing ground to McCain all month. Over the last b40 years or so if the Democratic presidential candidate did not have a big lead at the end of August they lost. So all the Democratic party’s religious pandering is going to do is elect a wrinkled old white guy to the presidency and get us four more years of the same failed policies. Oh, and maybe another war.

    Good move dweebs

  85. #85 llewelly
    August 22, 2008

    PZ:

    Now I’ve antagonized all the masturbators.

    … which officially makes you the most hated man in all the world.

  86. #86 terry
    August 22, 2008

    It’s time for all liberals to fall into line.

    wow

    just, wow

    and to think I just emailed the Democratic convention and the national party about how disappointed I am that they don’t want my vote…guess I missed the memo about falling in line, but I’m sure there will be a reply from both the convention and party to make sure I know the new policy

  87. #87 anthropicOne
    August 22, 2008

    Salt, you theocratic moron. Just dissolve. How’s that for whining?

  88. #88 Siamang
    August 22, 2008

    “Let’s face it. If secularists don’t feel we can support Obama, our choices are reduced to Cynthia McKinney (if you’re lucky enough to be in a state with her on the ballot) or a write-in vote for Zombie Carl Sagan.”

    NO, NO, NO…. don’t you understand, it’s not about votes, it’s about CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS.

    The LEAST Obama can get from me is my vote. He’s got that sown up. What he’s NOT getting is my money. With money, you can buy many many more “votes” than a mere x at a ballot box.

    Every envelop I get from Obama asking for money is getting returned with a message explaining why he’s not getting my money.

    Every donation call from the Democrats is getting an earful.

    “Sorry, I’m giving my money toward Marriage Equality this year, something Obama opposes.”

    “Sorry, I’m giving my money to secular charities this year, because Leah Daughtry has signalled that secular people are not welcome because of our beliefs.”

  89. #89 llewelly
    August 22, 2008

    SC:

    Remember this?:

    ‘Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal rather than religion-specific values’, Obama said. ‘It requires their proposals be subject to argument and amenable to reason’.

    I do remember that, and that’s one reason (among several) why I’ll probably hold my nose and vote Obama in November. But that doesn’t change the fact that the recent pandering (which goes far beyond ‘reaching out’) of the DNC is wrong.

  90. #90 negentropyeater
    August 22, 2008

    Senator Obama is a committed Christian, and he believes that people of all faiths have an important place in American life

    Does that mean that Obama believes that people of no faith don’t have an important place in American life ?

    If it doesn’t, which I assume is what Obama really believes, that sentence should be read :

    Senator Obama believes that all people have an important place in American life.

    What ? The democratic strategists are trying to polish Obama’s image so that he looks like a committed Christian so that those particularly stupid Americans who won’t vote for him if he doesn’t look like one, actually do vote for him ?

    How really surprising that is…

  91. #91 Scott from Oregon
    August 22, 2008

    I’m surprised some of y’all didn’t see this coming a year ago.

    After Bush demonstrated just how bad someone could steer this country, I changed from a left coast Bay Area liberal to a paleo-conservative with a strong Constitional core belief system.

    Watching Nancy Pelosi castrate Dennis Kucinich’s ballsy attempt for responsible and answerable goverment;

    Watching George, Jesus-Saved-My-Liver Bush declare himself “the decider”;

    Hearing Dick Cheney say “So?” when told the American people disagreed with what he was doing;

    Watching the Dems sign onto the Patriot Act, Fisa 2, the new housing bail-out;

    Seeing my savings ripped out from under me by inflation that runs at over ten percent, while the government LIES and claims it is much less;

    A ten trillion dollar deficit and over ninety trillion in UNFUNDED liabilities;

    A military stationed in 130 countries and a fuel bill rated something like the 38th highest, IF IT WERE A COUNTRY;

    All these facts and more just made me realize that we’ve grown and strayed too far, too fast. There is too much power in Washington and not nearly enough sane and smart people capable of weilding that power. Time to start shutting her down and dispersing the power into smaller pieces less capable of screwing up everything at the same time.

    Time to reread the Constitution and either commit to what its ideals were, or admit its demise and bend over and take whatever the feds decide is “best for us”.

  92. #92 SC
    August 22, 2008

    But that doesn’t change the fact that the recent pandering (which goes far beyond ‘reaching out’) of the DNC is wrong.

    I wasn’t suggesting that it did. I was pointing out the contrast.

    It’s time for all liberals to fall into line.

    Yes, perhaps this should be the Democrats’ ’08 campaign slogan. So inspiring.

  93. #93 Schmeer
    August 22, 2008

    PZ: You don’t want to be in the middle of a circle of masturbators…

    David Marjanovi?, OM:
    I don’t think the screwing by McCain is going to be so much worse than the screwing by Obama. What will we get? More presidential support for faithbased initiatives and church-state entanglement from both candidates. These two guys are pretty similar on several issues.
    Unless you’re willing to risk losing you won’t have an easy time trying to shift politics back to secularist enlightenment principles in the US.

  94. #94 CJ
    August 22, 2008

    This is never going to change (even if you withhold contributions) as long as they know they can count on your vote in the end. Not mine.

  95. #95 ndt
    August 22, 2008

    Posted by: Schmeer | August 22, 2008 1:55 PM

    PZ: You don’t want to be in the middle of a circle of masturbators…

    David Marjanovi?, OM:
    I don’t think the screwing by McCain is going to be so much worse than the screwing by Obama. What will we get? More presidential support for faithbased initiatives and church-state entanglement from both candidates. These two guys are pretty similar on several issues.
    Unless you’re willing to risk losing you won’t have an easy time trying to shift politics back to secularist enlightenment principles in the US.

    While Obama would certainly screw us at home as much as McCain as far as civil rights and economic justice, I see McCain as more likely to screw other countries abroad and screw the American military in the process. That’s the main, in fact only, difference I see, but I feel it’s an important one.

  96. #96 Ctrl-Alt-Del
    August 22, 2008

    All this pandering would be justified if it was getting the Democratic party any votes. The problem is that Obama has been losing ground to McCain all month.

    It’s interesting how the notion that Democrats gain votes by advocating Republican positions is virtually an axiom in so many discussions, yet past electoral experience would seem to point to exactly the opposite conclusion.

    The people don’t want a phony
    Democrat. If it’s a choice between a
    genuine Republican, and a Republican in
    Democratic clothing, the people will
    choose the genuine article, every time;
    that is, they will take a Republican
    before they will a phony Democrat, and
    I don’t want any phony Democratic
    candidates in this campaign.
    –Harry S. Truman

  97. #97 Siamang
    August 22, 2008

    I’m just pointing out that there IS a third way that doesn’t involve handing the keys to the white house over to the Republicans.

    HEY Is there a Secular PAC?

    There SHOULD BE.

    I’d give to that.

  98. #98 SC
    August 22, 2008

    How good do I have to be to get no government at all?

    http://flag.blackened.net/revolt/spaindx.html

  99. #99 Salt
    August 22, 2008

    Posted by: anthropicOne | August 22, 2008 1:43 PM
    Salt, you theocratic moron. Just dissolve. How’s that for whining?

    If it were a whine, quite substandard I’d say. Please, do feel free to try again.

  100. #100 Schmeer
    August 22, 2008

    ndt:
    That is a valid point with which I agree. This election has convinced me that I need to join the Secular Coalition for America.
    Siamang has it right, we need to make a viable option for reality-based Americans.

  101. #101 Aaron
    August 22, 2008

    So PZ — What’s it going to take for you to not vote Democrat? I find it really surprising that someone I admire for their rationality is considering voting for a candidate that is on a platform you don’t agree with.

    And if that’s the case — what WILL you vote for?

    Check out the third-party candidates. A lot of them are more in line with the “rational” view of the world.

    People who think that McCain is somehow a “worse evil” than the corporate-suckling Democratic party are delusional. Evil is evil. As long as we keep voting Evil, we’ll keep having Evil candidates.

  102. #102 Salt
    August 22, 2008

    Posted by: PZ Myers | August 22, 2008 1:25 PM
    Right, Salt. Like being so socially autistic that one cannot even recognize a comment obviously made in jest.

    jest (jst)
    n.
    1. A playful or amusing act; a prank. See Synonyms at joke.
    2. A frolicsome or frivolous mood: spoken in jest.
    3. An object of ridicule; a laughingstock.
    4. A witty remark.

    PZ, you were being wittingly playful. How cute. Why, didn’t you recognize my laughter?

  103. #103 Nick Gotts
    August 22, 2008

    Seems to me those on both sides of the “vote for the lesser evil” / “don’t vote for evil” divide need to think a little more contextually: there’s plenty of states where either McCain or Obama is certain of winning – in those, vote (and campaign) third party. Elsewhere, for Obama. And yes, the USA is pretty much a failed democracy (as is the UK). However, we in the UK might get an atheist PM if the Labour Party summon up the courage to push Gordon Brown under a bus. David Milliband is a slimy little Blairite creep, but at least he’s a slimy little Blairite atheist creep.

  104. #104 negentropyeater
    August 22, 2008

    “This kind of stuff” is the result of this basic electoral calculation :

    1. there are 87% of Amercans who identity as “people of faith”
    2. there are 13% who don’t

    3. let’s assume that “this kind of stuff” convinces x% of 1) to vote for Obama, and y% of 2) not to vote for him

    Then we have, net electoral gain for “this kind of stuff”;
    N = x*87 – y*13 > 0 if y > 6.7x

    So it’s very unlikely that there is a risk that for instance this kind of “stuff” could convince less than 10% of people of faith to vote for him and more than 67% of people of no faith not to vote for him.

    Not unless people of no faith aren’t better organised politically and make their dissatisfaction known much more vocally.

    Only then will American secularist politicians like Obama stop making this basic electoral calculation and learn to avoid this kind of “stuff” during the general election. campaign.

  105. #105 gdlchmst
    August 22, 2008

    People who think that McCain is somehow a “worse evil” than the corporate-suckling Democratic party are delusional. Evil is evil. As long as we keep voting Evil, we’ll keep having Evil candidates.

    McCain *is* a worse evil when compared to Obama. If you think by voting for a no-name third party is making a statement that people will listen to, you are delusional. A presidential election is too important to fuck around with.

  106. #106 Tom L
    August 22, 2008

    It’s called “making nice with the people whose votes you want.” This isn’t like science, where merely being correct is sufficient. You can’t get anything done in politics by pissing off the electorate so much they won’t vote you into office.

    The non-religious types, if they are smart about their own self-interest, ignore the religious pandering and concentrate on the policies that get enacted after the elections are done. That’s the flip side of Jefferson’s “it neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg” quote. So all the pious posturing is fictionally-based; by that very token, it’s harmless — as long as the actual policies enacted by that politician are sensible.

    I’d rather keep the masses happy and still get my way than the reverse.

  107. #107 Patricia
    August 22, 2008

    Gosh, has Salt been gone so long that you’ve all forgotten the *official reply* to his posts?

    Shut up Salt, you fundament.

    #27 – Epistaxis – Thanks for that link to the article. I noticed the nip on the Minnesota ‘atheist hero’s buttocks. The writer seems to have gone out of the way to point out that atheists aren’t being invited because we’re rude. Imagine that, 2000 years of quiet persecution worked so well for our side. HA!

  108. #108 negentropyeater
    August 22, 2008

    When I think that from 1981 to 1995 we had a french President (Mitterrand) who once said “Du christianisme, j’en ai fait le tour”, clearly indicating that he considered that Christiansim didn’t make much sense.

    Zapatero, the current spanish President never felt he should hide that he is an agnostic.

  109. #109 Siamang
    August 22, 2008

    Check THIS article. This is the unsigned editorial for the Colorado Springs Gazette:

    http://www.gazette.com/opinion/gun_39522___article.html/atheists_religion.html

    In FULL, because it really should be a main post, since it mentions our Minnesota Hero and the Cracker of Doom.

    Hereafter begins the stupid:

    A few atheists have their panties in a twist once again, this time fussing that an atheist leader wasn’t invited to speak at an Aug. 24 interfaith service that’s part of the Democratic National Convention.

    The service will feature Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Buddhist speakers. The official reason for the interfaith services is “to honor the diverse faith traditions inside the Democratic Party,” which could easily include atheists. If they aren’t welcome, it’s probably because they’re rude.

    This column has advocated religious liberties for atheists, citing case law that defines atheism as just another religion – as in just another unproven and forever unprovable belief. This column has applauded a federal court ruling that forced prison wardens to allow prisoners an atheist study session. The court allowed the study session for the same reason wardens allow Bible study meetings: atheism is a religion, therefore subject to protections and restrictions of the First Amendment.

    From the objective, legalistic standpoint of government, one belief is no more valid than another. Therefore a belief in creation – or an original intelligence, Jesus, Buddha, or the “Flying Spaghetti Monster” – is no more valid in the eyes of the law than the odd belief that nothing could possibly exist beyond what our embryonic state of scientific discovery has seen in our relatively primitive microscopes and telescopes. The humble and intelligent scientist understands that what we have proven about time and space is a microscopically small body of knowledge relative to the endless size and never-ending expansion of all that exists. To rational thinkers, atheism seems a sad and shallow belief. That’s because great scientists understand that, metaphorically, they’ve discovered little more than the drawings on the walls of a cave. They don’t know what’s beyond the cave or how it began. As Albert Einstein said: “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind. … a legitimate conflict between science and religion cannot exist.”

    Yet an amazing number of atheists have taken to confronting and insulting believers of other religions. They pretend that atheist beliefs are proven true, while others are proven false. They refer to other religions as “irrational,” and “superstitious.” Their approach to ministry is overbearing and rude. They engage in confrontation, with disregard for persuasion. It’s as if they’ve watched too much “American Idol,” where Simon Cowell briefly made it hip to be the bully.

    Consider the righteous indignation of Becky Hale, founder of Freethinkers of Colorado Springs: “By reaching out to people of faith, they have shown the back of their hand to those who do not believe,” Hale told The Gazette.

    In other words, if I’m not invited to your party then you’re bad. Even the name of Hale’s group is insulting. It implies that people of other faiths are something other than “free thinkers.”

    No, Ms. Hale, nobody gave your group the back of the hand. You simply weren’t invited to a private party for “believers.” While the law considers you nothing other than a “believer” – clinging to a belief that no higher power could exist – those who organized the party don’t likely see you that way.

    Hale, by her own admission, fancies her club as something other than a group of believers, calling it a group of “those who do not believe.” So why invite yourself to a party of believers, Ms. Hale?

    Boulder atheist Marvin Straus accused Democrats of “pandering” for the religious vote. How dare they reach out to people who believe in God? There oughta be a law!

    Hitler imagined a world without Jews. The Freedom From Religion Foundation rented a billboard near the Colorado Convention Center that says: “Imagine No Religion.”

    Imagine a world with no religion and one sees a world without the Golden Rule, devoid of most charities, hospitals and great universities. One sees hurricane recovery zones, minus all the chartered planes and buses full of churchgoers giving their time and money to rebuild homes. How many children are fed and clothed by atheist charity organizations? Approximately none.

    Imagine no religion and one sees a world ruled by atheist tyrants – Pol Pot, Albania’s Enver Hoxha, Stalin and Mao, to name a few – who have murdered tens of millions in modern efforts to cleanse society of religion.

    American Muslims, Baptists, Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Mormons, Quakers, Amish, etc., don’t erect billboards saying “Imagine No Atheists.” They don’t advocate government force to cleanse atheist expressions and teachings from the public square. They don’t imply that atheists are “irrational,” even though atheists claim absolute knowledge. They don’t advocate theft and desecration of atheist property, even though an atheist hero in Minnesota stole and destroyed the Catholic Eucharist.

    Democrats will nominate a Christian gentleman who respects others. It’s likely they didn’t invite atheists to their faith service because they didn’t want embarrassing guests. Atheists might bring pseudointellectual proselytizers, who are intolerant, self-aggrandizing and rude. Atheists should fund universities and hospitals. They should feed and clothe starving kids. They should act more like Christians and Jews. If they do some of that – if they contribute to a diverse humanity – they might get better party invites.

  110. #110 kryptonic
    August 22, 2008

    I’m an atheist and I’m voting for the brown, christian guy.

  111. #111 bric
    August 22, 2008

    A C Grayling in today’s Guardian
    “When Labour cabinet members were asked about their religious allegiances last December, following Tony Blair’s official conversion to Roman Catholicism, it turned out that more than half of them are not believers. The least equivocal about their atheism were the health secretary, Alan Johnson, and foreign secretary David Miliband.”

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/aug/21/davidmiliband.labourleadership?gusrc=rss&feed=commentisfree

    Mostly I have voted Labour, a few times Communist and just once Conservative. Vote for what you want.

  112. #112 Stellare
    August 22, 2008

    Why is it so that atheists have to tolerate believers and not vice versa? And the unstoppable God bless and prayers? I think politicians in general should be careful to make all layers of society feel at home when selling their political programs and values. Including prayers in a general invite is not appreciating these principles.

    Good to finally hear someone reacting to that. Though I don’t think the Republicans are any better, on the contrary! :-)

  113. #113 negentropyeater
    August 22, 2008

    It’s likely they didn’t invite atheists to their faith service because they didn’t want embarrassing guests.

    He writes this and doesn’t even realise that if Atheists are becoming more and more “embarrassing”, it’s because they are getting rightfully increasingly pissed off of being systematically excluded.

  114. #114 Ctrl-Alt-Del
    August 22, 2008

    1. there are 87% of Amercans who identity as “people of faith”
    2. there are 13% who don’t

    3. let’s assume that “this kind of stuff” convinces x% of 1) to vote for Obama, and y% of 2) not to vote for him

    Do 87% explicitly identify themselves with the term “people of faith” or is that simply the name of the category that the survey-takers slotted them into on the basis of their responses?

    In any case, you are neglecting the w% of 1) that “this kind of stuff” convinces to not vote for Obama, or at least assuming that w% + x% > y%. I rather doubt that everyone claiming even a smidgen of religiosity is clamoring for a theocratic state.

  115. #115 ndt
    August 22, 2008

    Posted by: Aaron | August 22, 2008 2:14 PM

    So PZ — What’s it going to take for you to not vote Democrat? I find it really surprising that someone I admire for their rationality is considering voting for a candidate that is on a platform you don’t agree with.

    I can’t speak for PZ. But speaking for myself, every candidate in every election has been on a platform I don’t agree with. If everyone only voted for presidential candidates who agreed with them on everything, there would be 230 million candidates each getting one or two votes each.

    There is never in my life going to be an anti-imperialist, social democrat, secularist advocate of legalizing marijuana running for president. If I want to elect candidates like that (and I do), I concentrate on local races.

    The nature of representative government is we vote for the candidates who are closest to our views on the issues and most competent to implement them. Human nature means there will never be a canditate who is all things to 51% of the electorate. The nature of government means that 98% of candidates will be selfish corrupt stooges. Every country with an elected government operates the same way, and I don’t see any viable alternatives.

  116. #116 goat-boy
    August 22, 2008

    @Salt #102:
    Maybe ’cause you were pissing in his ear?

  117. #117 Tony Sidaway
    August 22, 2008

    Politics is like that. To do anything, you first have to gain power. To gain power, you need as many votes as possible. Getting religious cretins on-side is essential in American politics, and so…

  118. #118 ndt
    August 22, 2008

    Posted by: Ctrl-Alt-Del | August 22, 2008 1:59 PM

    All this pandering would be justified if it was getting the Democratic party any votes. The problem is that Obama has been losing ground to McCain all month.

    It’s interesting how the notion that Democrats gain votes by advocating Republican positions is virtually an axiom in so many discussions, yet past electoral experience would seem to point to exactly the opposite conclusion.

    The people don’t want a phony Democrat. If it’s a choice between a genuine Republican, and a Republican in Democratic clothing, the people will choose the genuine article, every time; that is, they will take a Republican before they will a phony Democrat, and I don’t want any phony Democratic candidates in this campaign. –Harry S. Truman

    What’s really interesting is that after 8 years, no one in the Democratic leadership (except possibly Howard Dean) has figured this out. Either they’re ideologically blinded by the “conventional wisdom” or they’re losing elections on purpose.

  119. #119 Ctrl-Alt-Del
    August 22, 2008

    The non-religious types, if they are smart about their own self-interest, ignore the religious pandering and concentrate on the policies that get enacted after the elections are done.
    [...]
    I’d rather keep the masses happy and still get my way than the reverse.

    And of course, the masses are so dumb and backward that they will never, ever stumble across sentiments such as this and conclude that they are being had.

  120. #120 Tony Sidaway
    August 22, 2008

    Stellare | August 22, 2008 3:00 PM, #112

    Why is it so that atheists have to tolerate believers and not vice versa?

    Organization.

  121. #121 raven
    August 22, 2008

    salt being his normal stupid self:

    If it were a whine, quite substandard I’d say. Please, do feel free to try again.

    Just a dumb troll throwing out some vapid insults in lieu of intelligent commentary.

    Christofascist nihilists are in seventh heaven now. The USA has slammed into the rocks, the smart rats have already swam away, and the average survivor realizes something is drastically wrong but has no idea what or what to do next.

    This is all very amusing if you are a a Death Cultist who wants to see the USA be destroyed and salt is laughing. With this sort of mentality, he might as well switch from a Death Cult to satanism. The ethical standards of the latter are undoubtedly much higher.

  122. #122 Ctrl-Alt-Del
    August 22, 2008

    Politics is like that. To do anything, you first have to gain power. To gain power, you need as many votes as possible. Getting religious cretins on-side is essential in American politics, and so…

    And pandering to anti-separationist sentimients will always gain more votes than it loses, and we know this is true because…

    because…

    It just is blast it!

    We don’t need any evidence!

    It just is!

  123. #123 Tom L
    August 22, 2008

    “And of course, the masses are so dumb and backward that they will never, ever stumble across sentiments such as this and conclude that they are being had.”

    Are they being had? Are smart and sensible policies going to be harmful to religious citizens? As opposed to, say, what the Republicans have been doing to us the last fourteen years, mouthing pieties all the while?

  124. #124 SC
    August 22, 2008

    And of course, the masses are so dumb and backward that they will never, ever stumble across sentiments such as this and conclude that they are being had.

    …or change their views, be convinced by a reasoned argument, come to respect a principled stance,…

    More focus groups!

  125. #125 raven
    August 22, 2008

    And of course, the masses are so dumb and backward that they will never, ever stumble across sentiments such as this and conclude that they are being had.

    My first reaction was, “Of course they are that stupid. Who elected Bush twice?”

    On second thought, segments are probably smarter than that. Many have lost someone they know in Iraq (2 of my friends died there), gas is $4.00/gallon, inflation up, jobs down, fewer with medical insurance, and on and on. People who are capable of calculating their self interest have to be fed up with the 8 years of the politics of moronism.

    The whole world thinks Bush is a moron. Putin even all but called him that the other day.

  126. #126 Ctrl-Alt-Del
    August 22, 2008

    “Why is it so that atheists have to tolerate believers and not vice versa?”

    Organization.

    Obviously, because religion is the only type of human organization that exists. You could never assemble some kind of coalition of disparate interests that see a mutual benefit in the shared recognition of certain universal rights. What would you even call such a beast? A follitical smarty, predictable blarty, umbilical hearty or some such thing…

  127. #127 Blake Stacey
    August 22, 2008

    Quoth P-Zed the Evilutionary Superscientist:

    First I pissed off all the knitters. Then I annoyed all the Catholics. Now I’ve antagonized all the masturbators. My circle of enemies grows ever wider.

    “First, they came for the knitters, and I did not stand up, because I did not knit . . . then they came for the masturbators . . .”

  128. #128 Rey Fox
    August 22, 2008

    “then they came for the masturbators . . .”

    And it was REALLY awkward.

  129. #129 withheld
    August 22, 2008

    I think the masturbators can come for themselves…

  130. #130 Loren Petrich
    August 22, 2008

    The downside of Duverger’s Law :(

    That’s a result of first-past-the-post, where you have one vote and that’s it. That makes many voters afraid of wasting votes on unlikely candidates.

    There are alternatives that do MUCH better, like approval voting (vote for as many as you like), preference voting (rank the candidates in order), and proportional representation (each party gets seats in proportion to how many votes it got).

  131. #131 negentropyeater
    August 22, 2008

    Ctrl-Alt-Del,

    that’s the % of Americans who say they believe in God.
    The democratic stragesists who make this kind of basic calculation probably doubt that a significant % of them would be sufficiently disgusted by this kind of stuff that this would change their vote.

    And I think that is the principal problem here : atheists and other people of no faith haven’t been vocal enough in the past and are not poltically well organised enough so that their disgust at ths kind of stuff and at being systematically excluded is not sufficiently well known and well understood.

    Unlike with homosexuals for instance, who have been far more vocal in the past and better organised politically, and have managed to gain the support of a very significant % of heterosexuals who understand their cause.

    If this changed, this would immediately nulify this kind of basic electoral calculation, and I’m quite certain that secularist polticians such as Obama and many democrats would refrain from doing this kind of stuff.

  132. #132 scooter
    August 22, 2008

    Ctrl-Alt-Del
    gdlchmst@54
    between the Democratic Party and the complete ruin of the system (what I took “throwing the US under the bus” to mean),

    Hey gdlchmst and Ctrl-Alt-Del

    Calm down, get ahold of yourselves. Stop typing for a minute, relax, now lean back, and look upward.

    do you know what that thing is up there? It’s called a bus.

  133. #133 Todd
    August 22, 2008

    Out of curiosity I went to the Democratic web site and found their 2004 platform: http://www.democrats.org/pdfs/2004platform.pdf

    Then I did a search for the words “faith” and “god” – PZ is right, judging from their own platform it’s hard to see how one can be an atheist and a Democrat with statements like:

    “God gave America extraordinary natural gifts; it is our responsibility to protect them.” Page 34.

    “That is how we will ensure that God’s gifts of nature bless all of God’s children for generations to come.” Page 36.

    And in a final bit of irony: “…all of our people should have the opportunity to fulfill all of their potential, and each of us should be as equal in the eyes of the law as we are in the eyes of God.” Page 37. So, does that mean atheists are separate, but equal?

  134. #134 Ctrl-Alt-Del
    August 22, 2008

    [oof, in my post @114 I should have written "...assuming that w% < x%..."]

    that’s the % of Americans who say they believe in God.
    The democratic stragesists who make this kind of basic calculation probably doubt that a significant % of them would be sufficiently disgusted by this kind of stuff that this would change their vote.

    I see no reason to assume that a majority of the religious desire a confessional state, and given the performance of the Democratic party “strategists” over the past decade I am not at all inclined to take their word for it. How do you know that they are not just as repelled by this revoltingly hollow posturing as the irreligious?

  135. #135 ndt
    August 22, 2008

    For those of you suggesting the formation of a secularists political interest group, at least one already exists. Click here: http://www.godlessamericans.org/

    I think that’s the one that was started by American Atheists.

  136. #136 Ctrl-Alt-Del
    August 22, 2008

    >>smack<<

    In my post @114 I should have written “…assuming that w% < x%”.

  137. #137 Patricia
    August 22, 2008

    Always look on the bright side of life PZ! You may have pissed off the knitters, and masturbators. But you still have your Ilk, sluts, minions, strumpets, elitist bastards, thugs and demon infested gays.
    Besides, the masturbators will be back in a few minutes in a much better mood. ;)

  138. #138 Ctrl-Alt-Del
    August 22, 2008

    Gah, the software here treats signs of inequality as HTML.

    In my posts @114, and @134, and also @136 I should have written

    “…assuming that w% < x%…”.

  139. #139 bernard quatermass
    August 22, 2008

    “PZ, you were being wittingly playful. How cute. Why, didn’t you recognize my laughter?”

    I did. Smug has an odor, even over the Internet.

    And there’s a _special_ smugness about wilfull ignorance.

    A la MST3K: “It stinks!”

  140. #140 Ubi Dubium
    August 22, 2008

    Hey! I’m a knitter…

    The Republicans have had a big Evangelical Tent for years, where all the fundies can pat each other on the back, and Praise Jeebus, and pretend that there are no other religions besides their own while they try to force a theocracy on the rest of us.

    If Obama can get some of them to attend an inter-faith gathering, it might be good for them. They might meet good people who (surprise!) do not share their faith. They might learn a little more tolerance. Or they might be horrified to realize that taking down the wall between church and state would let all those Muslims and Jews and Hindus and Buddhists in as well, and maybe they’d stop trying so hard to tear it down. I don’t think it will do the fundies any harm, at the least. And if they want to spend their time muttering to a sky-fairy, that doesn’t do me any harm.

    Anyway, if we wanted to send a group to this event, it’s not a “secular” group who should go. It’s the Pastafarians! They could wear Pirate Garb and sing sea chanteys to the glorious FSM (pesto be upon him). But, unfortunately, I don’t think their presence would do anything to help defeat McSame, and that’s the really important thing to do here.

  141. #141 negentropyeater
    August 22, 2008

    Ctrl-Alt-Del,

    I really doubt that many Religious folks would see this kind of stuff as a move towards a confessional state or even a theocracy.

    My view is that if this kind of stuff s still gong on nowadays, it’s evidence that non religious folks haven’t been vocal enough and well organised enough at demonstrating their disgust at this kind of stuff and at getting a signifcant % of relgious folks to share their disgust.

    Not voting for Obama at this stage isn’t going to change this. It will just ensure that McCain gets elected which really won’t improve matters for non religious folks.

    I’d recommend, get Obama elected first and make sure that for the next presidential election in 4 years and the following ones, the democrats never do this kind of stuff anymore.

  142. #142 Scott from Oregon
    August 22, 2008

    Nancy Pelosi said something like “God gave the Democratic party Barack Obama…”

    I blame the liberal mentality for a lot of what we are suffering as a government these days.

    Ever willing to dismiss the Constitution to get “progressive” governmental programs, the liberal ideology was instrumental in treating the Constitution as “a living document”, adding veracity to every dismissal of its original intentions and aiding the creation of the neo-con’s corrupt and too powerful federal agenda.

    The genesis of George Bush and his vast incompetent government was the Democratic party, which, for a long time now, have argued and argued to give more duties and power to the federal government.

    Demonstrating this in blatant terms, just look at the growth of government intrusions into your personal life since the Democrats gained control of Congress. Look at the budget. Look at the larger size and scope of the feds.

    In this day and age, “progressive” reads as “enabler”, and “Democrat” reads as “power abuser”.

    Barack Obama is all party to this upward shift in power from communities and “the people”, to a central nanny state.

    He has demonstrated the same desire to weild power that GW Bush has asserted for himself and his administration.

    The Constitution asks that we keep the church out of the affairs of the state, as it asks that the federal government stay out of our peronal business.

    Find out who is running on a strict “back to the Constitution” platform and consider voting for them for Congress to reverse this mess we find ourelves in.

  143. #143 Nerd of Redhead
    August 22, 2008

    What did PZ do to tick off the knitters? The redhead is a knitter, so I need to be prepared.

  144. #144 Ctrl-Alt-Del
    August 22, 2008

    The downside of Duverger’s Law :(

    I swear this is the Poli-Sci equivalent of “why are there still monkeys?”

    Duverger’s Law states that in a “first past the post” electoral system, two parties will tend to predominate over the long run.

    It does not state that the same two parties will forever predominate.

    It does not state there cannot, for a time, be more than two major parties.

    It does not state that only two major parties will win any seats.

    It does not state that only votes for the two major parties are of electoral consequence.

    It does not state that only in a country with proportional representation / transferable votes / borda counts / multi-member constituencies / no elected President / anteaters can there be more than two parties.

    It does not state that only regionally-based parties can win against the major parties.

    And even if it did state all of those things, it would then simply be wrong because it would contradict over a century’s worth of the observed behavior of electoral democracies.

  145. #145 thalarctos
    August 22, 2008
    “then they came for the masturbators . . .”

    And it was REALLY awkward.

    I’ve heard about those parties.

  146. #146 Ixion
    August 22, 2008

    I LOVE watching you liberals decide on if you’re going to vote Democrat. What, Obama and Bush’s plan on ‘faith-based funding’ (trying to add God’s name to welfare… that is blasphemy) isn’t communist enough for you? Is it time for you wackos to run to the Green Party, and give us another victory because of your disdain for the party? I encourage you to write-in Hillary Clinton, if you are female, or Lyndon LaRouche, if you are male. Some of you need to stay with the Taliban Party, however.

    McCain’s a RINO, but I have confidence that he will pick Sanford as his running mate. A President Sanford would silence you twits once and for all, so that the rest of us don’t have to wake up to the pots falling.

    Please, you twits are the stupidest conspiracy theorists ever. ‘Bush stole the election twice?’ ‘Secularists are being oppressed?’ ‘Evolutionists will be sent to concentration camps?’ Get real.

    If you really love liberalism, why don’t you move to Sweden? They have everything that your kind loves: 80% of so of the population is atheist; they have a steep progressive taxation method; you literally cannot die of homelessness there, since so much money is put into welfare; 80% of the population votes; and it’s cold. America is the most right-wing country in the world, and a bunch of whiny scientists living in their mothers’ basements are not going to remove free enterprise or the one true religion from America.

  147. #147 llewelly
    August 22, 2008

    What did PZ do to tick off the knitters? The redhead is a knitter, so I need to be prepared.

    Didn’t you watch Expelled, that great best-selling creationist propaganda coup? They caught PZ comparing knitting to religion! Unforgivable! How will the reputation of evolutionary scientists ever recover?

  148. #148 Ctrl-Alt-Del
    August 22, 2008

    I blame the liberal mentality for a lot of what we are suffering as a government these days.

    Please describe the “liberal mentality”.

    Ever willing to dismiss the Constitution to get “progressive” governmental programs, the liberal ideology was instrumental in treating the Constitution as “a living document”, adding veracity to every dismissal of its original intentions and aiding the creation of the neo-con’s corrupt and too powerful federal agenda.

    Not to worry, all those “strict constructionists” like Scalia will put it right!

    Won’t they?

  149. #149 DianeG
    August 22, 2008

    I haven’t sent a cent to the D’s since they annointed Reid (pro-life Mormon) Majority Leader & Dean sold his soul and became party chair.

    Our problem is that our vote is taken for granted–i.e., “where else are ‘they’ going to go?” So who needs to pander to us?

    Suggestion: a “Secularists–Sit this one out” movement. Really, how can McCain make things any worse?

    (BTW, for ammo against the atheists-don’t-build-hospitals argument, see this: http://www.americanatheist.org/aut03/T1/ittner.html )

  150. #150 llewelly
    August 22, 2008

    Find out who is running on a strict “back to the Constitution” platform and consider voting for them for Congress to reverse this mess we find ourelves in.

    It’s interesting that Scott From Oregon fails to name any “back to the Constitution” candidates. Perhaps he plans on making a write-in vote for Zombie Thomas Jefferson. But as for ‘our elves’ , they’ll vote for Galadriel.

  151. #151 Rik.
    August 22, 2008

    Heh, American politics. The more I hear about it, the happier I am that I’m living here, and not there.

    Say, why don’t you all emigrate here? The Dutch government is trying to create a knowledge-based economy (by cutting in the education budget…no, I don’t know how they think that’s gonna work…our current batch are christians though…) so I’m sure some well-educated people will be welcome.

    You’ll have to put up with the current xtian government for a while, but they’re not as bad as what you’ve got, and there’s some decent alternatives (and also some not so decent ones, like Geert Wilders). And maybe they’ll be gone with the next elections. (I hope…)

    The language could be a bitch though. Then again, those import-workers (I have no idea how to call them a polite term in english, sorry) from our former colonies seem to get it down to an understandable level, so I’m sure you’ll manage.

  152. #152 negentropyeater
    August 22, 2008

    Find out who is running on a strict “back to the Constitution” platform and consider voting for them for Congress to reverse this mess we find ourelves in.

    Well that’s neither Obama, nor McCain. For those who don’t know, the next president is going to be either Obama or McCain (unless one of them dies before then). It would have been great to have a third candidate to choose from who would have been a better defender of the constitution and who would have had at least a small chance of being elected, but right now, at that late stage, it’s not the case.
    Unless one is really deluded ?

  153. #153 llewelly
    August 22, 2008

    Ctrl-Alt-Del, #138:

    Gah, the software here treats signs of inequality as HTML.

    Use &lt; for <
    Use &gt; for >
    Use &amp; for &
    These are called ‘character entity references’.
    See here for a partial list of other character entity references you can use.
    And don’t preview. If you do preview, preview will ruin your html character entity references, and you’ll have to root through the editable box on the preview page and fix them all.

  154. #154 Scott from Oregon
    August 22, 2008

    “It would have been great to have a third candidate to choose from who would have been a better defender of the constitution and who would have had at least a small chance of being elected, but right now, at that late stage, it’s not the case.
    Unless one is really deluded ?”

    Or can’t read…

    Find out who is running on a strict “back to the Constitution” platform and consider voting for them for Congress to reverse this mess we find ourelves in.

  155. #155 negentropyeater
    August 22, 2008

    and it’s cold. America is the most right-wing country in the world

    Well, they could even consider movng to France or Spain, where it’s not that cold. Or they could continue to try to change things in the USA, because the fact that America is the most right-wing country in the world is not cast in stone. Beleve me, when a sufficient number of Americans are dissatisfied with this, it will change.

  156. #156 Chiroptera
    August 22, 2008

    Scott from Oregon, #142: …the liberal ideology was instrumental in treating the Constitution as “a living document”…

    Which certainly seems to be better than treating the Constitution as if it were a dead piece of paper, which is what the Bush/McCain/conservative ideology has been about.

    -

    …adding veracity to every dismissal of its original intentions….

    “Original intentions” was pretty much disregarded as an interpretive framework by politicians long, long before “liberals” came onto the scene. From the very earliest days of the Republic, in fact.

    Personally, I never figured out why we should be slaves to the “original intentions” of people who died over 200 years ago. Neither did they, as a matter of fact. Most of the Founding Fathers would have been pretty appalled if they knew that we would spend so much time trying to figure out what they intended rather than figure out our own solutions to the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

  157. #157 JoJo
    August 22, 2008

    The last time a third party went anywhere in American national politics was in the 1850s.

    Until the 1850s the two major political parties were the Whigs and the Democrats. Sectional antagonisms fomented by the Compromise of 1850 and the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 tore the Whigs apart. The Democrats embraced a pro-slavery stance but the Whigs refused to become the anti-slavery party.

    By 1854 mass meetings were being held in Michigan, Wisconsin, and other midwestern states, and the Republican party was born. A coalition made up principally of former Whigs (Lincoln had been a Whig) and disgruntled Democrats, the movement spread to other Northern states. In 1856, the Republicans nominated John Fremont for the presidency and, although the Democratic candidate, James Buchanan won, Fremont did quite respectably.

    Because the Republicans were purely sectional and strongly anti-slavery (actually, anti-spread of slavery), Southerners viewed the Republican Party’s growth with dismay. A Republican presidential victory, many warned, would so endanger Southern interests as to warrant seccession from the Union. When Abraham Lincoln won the 1860 election, the threat became reality.

  158. #158 negentropyeater
    August 22, 2008

    Scott,

    sorry, I hadn’t seen the “congress” thing.
    It’s true that right now, as someone who can’t vote, I’m really worried about the upcomming election and thinking that Americans are again going to elect the worst possible candidate.

  159. #159 The Science Pundit
    August 22, 2008

    PZ doesn’t want to take away knitters’ needles. PZ doesn’t want to take away Catholics’ Eucharists. PZ doesn’t want to take away masturbators’ … um, never mind.

  160. #160 Scott from Oregon
    August 22, 2008

    “Personally, I never figured out why we should be slaves to the “original intentions” of people who died over 200 years ago. Neither did they, as a matter of fact. Most of the Founding Fathers would have been pretty appalled if they knew that we would spend so much time trying to figure out what they intended rather than figure out our own solutions to the circumstances in which we find ourselves”.

    And how is that working out for ya?

    Habeus corpus, gone. Right to privacy, gone. The right to dictate where most taxed money gets spent, gone. Control of local resources, gone. Control over when and why we fight wars, gone. The right to choose medicinals, gone. Control over local school curriculums, going fast.

    Control over federal budgets, gone. Control over money supply and inflation, gone.

    And so on and so forth…

    If you want to declare the Constitution dead, just do so. Stop pretending it protects you when it no longer does, and stop pretending we have any core beliefs (such as a separation of church and state) when we don’t.

    But a bullet in the thing and declare it dead already.

  161. #161 JoJo
    August 22, 2008

    Chiroptera #156

    Personally, I never figured out why we should be slaves to the “original intentions” of people who died over 200 years ago. Neither did they, as a matter of fact.

    “Original intent” is conservative- and libertarian-speak for: “Some judge or the Supreme Court has interpreted the Constitution in a way which I disagree with. I’m sure the Writers of the Constitution would agree with my specific interpretation and would speak out against this interpretation with which I disagree.” Since the writers, aka Founding Fathers, are all dead, they can hardly refute the conservative/libertarian claim.

    The Founding Fathers were a contentious lot, who hardly agreed on any one thing. Almost every word of the Constitution and Bill of Rights are compromises amongst them, few agreed wholeheartedly with any particular part. Thus looking to the Founding Fathers for “original intent” is silly. It doesn’t exist.

    The best way to interpret the Constitution is the way the Founding Fathers explicitly specified in, look to the courts, especially the Supreme Court. The Constitution leaves the method of its interpretation by the court entirely to the court to decide.

    The interpretation of the laws is the proper and peculiar province of the courts. A constitution is, in fact, and must be regarded by the judges, as a fundamental law. It therefore belongs to them to ascertain its meaning, as well as the meaning of any particular act proceeding from the legislative body. Federalist No. 78.

  162. #162 Qwerty
    August 22, 2008

    Come on, PZ, didn’t you notice a few weeks ago when Obama embraced “faith-based initiatives.” Wow, I thought, this is a warning.

    And rational thinking and politics! Isn’t that like mixing oil and water. It just doesn’t happen. How else can you explain W’s reelection.

    I don’t knit, but I do masterbate. So, lay off the knitters and masterbaters. (One wonders, are there people who knit and masterbate? Or masterbate while they knit?

  163. #163 ndt
    August 22, 2008

    Posted by: Rik. | August 22, 2008 5:27 PM

    Heh, American politics. The more I hear about it, the happier I am that I’m living here, and not there.

    Say, why don’t you all emigrate here? The Dutch government is trying to create a knowledge-based economy (by cutting in the education budget…no, I don’t know how they think that’s gonna work…our current batch are christians though…) so I’m sure some well-educated people will be welcome.

    I checked and they’re not. I also have some horticultural skills that could be put to good work in the Netherlands but I’m told they won’t help with immigration matters.

  164. #164 Scott from Oregon
    August 22, 2008

    “Which certainly seems to be better than treating the Constitution as if it were a dead piece of paper, which is what the Bush/McCain/conservative ideology has been about”.

    Ummm, actually, Bush did more to piss on the Constitution than anyone I can recall, which is one great motivating factor I have of wanting to see it reexamined in all of its archaic beauty.

  165. #165 Chiroptera
    August 22, 2008

    Scott from Oregon, #160: And how is that working out for ya?

    Pretty good, actually. Civil rights, the Miranda rights, reproductive freedom, social welfare safety net (such as it is). Some people would also have nice things to say about the Louisiana Purchase and Lincoln’s war to preserve the Union, although I have mixed feelings about these myself.

    -

    Habeus corpus, gone. Right to privacy, gone. The right to dictate where most taxed money gets spent, gone. Control of local resources, gone. Control over when and why we fight wars, gone. The right to choose medicinals, gone. Control over local school curriculums, going fast.

    Are you aware that most of these were not recognized as Constitutionally protected rights until “liberals” treated the Constitution as a “living document” and extended out understanding of the Constitution to protect them? Others on your list, like Habeus Corpus, are the conservatives ignoring the Constitution (and the Supreme Court’s rulings).

  166. #166 Ctrl-Alt-Del
    August 22, 2008
    “Personally, I never figured out why we should be slaves to the “original intentions” of people who died over 200 years ago. Neither did they, as a matter of fact. Most of the Founding Fathers would have been pretty appalled if they knew that we would spend so much time trying to figure out what they intended rather than figure out our own solutions to the circumstances in which we find ourselves”

    And how is that working out for ya?

    Habeus corpus, gone. Right to privacy, gone. The right to dictate where most taxed money gets spent, gone. Control of local resources, gone. Control over when and why we fight wars, gone. The right to choose medicinals, gone. Control over local school curriculums, going fast.

    Perhaps the problem is that explicit reforms were put off for far too long, resulting eventually in these convulsions of lawlessness.

  167. #167 Scott from Oregon
    August 22, 2008

    “The best way to interpret the Constitution is the way the Founding Fathers explicitly specified in, look to the courts, especially the Supreme Court. The Constitution leaves the method of its interpretation by the court entirely to the court to decide”.

    But the founders STILL proclaimed the Constitution to be “fundamental law”.

    This fundamental (I take to mean over-riding and core) set of laws has been blatantly breached in so many ways it can no longer be proclaimed to be “fundamental” at all.

    Let’s just call it what it has become “that thing we give lip service to to make us feel ‘free’ and unique”…

  168. #168 Qwerty
    August 22, 2008

    Posted by: thelogos | August 22, 2008 1:12 PM

    “Not too give much credence to the Doughy Pantload, but Sinclair Lewis said it best:
    ‘If Fascism Comes to America, It Will Be Wrapped in the Flag, Carrying the Cross’”

    thelogos, I think he actually wrote a novel about fascism coming to America. I believe the title was “It Can’t Happen Here.”

  169. #169 Don
    August 22, 2008

    If it’s not clear by now, I’ll be explicit: the left has given the impression that it does not give a damn about the Iraqis all the while feigning the moral high ground in every debate on the subject.

    Iraq: No more apologies

  170. #170 Qwerty
    August 22, 2008

    Posted by: Patricia | August 22, 2008 4:38 PM

    “Always look on the bright side of life PZ! You may have pissed off the knitters, and masturbators. But you still have your Ilk, sluts, minions, strumpets, elitist bastards, thugs and demon infested gays.
    Besides, the masturbators will be back in a few minutes in a much better mood. ;)”

    Patricia, masterbating is how gays get rid of their demons. At least it works for me.

  171. #171 Ctrl-Alt-Del
    August 22, 2008

    I really doubt that many Religious folks would see this kind of stuff as a move towards a confessional state or even a theocracy.

    Might they see it as hollow posturing that makes a mockery of their beliefs and undercuts their religious freedom?

    Keep in mind that only a small fraction of the U.S. electorate is Evangelical/Fundamentalist.

    My view is that if this kind of stuff s still gong on nowadays, it’s evidence that non religious folks haven’t been vocal enough and well organised enough at demonstrating their disgust at this kind of stuff and at getting a signifcant % of relgious folks to share their disgust.

    Of course!

    How did I miss it?

    The Democratic party are political masterminds!

    They would never do something that was counterproductive and unlikely to win them any votes!

    I’m convinced!

  172. #172 Lowell
    August 22, 2008

    They must have missed this part:

    And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

    Matthew 6:5-6 (NIV)

  173. #173 negentropyeater
    August 22, 2008

    Ctrl-Alt-Del,

    I basically don’t disagree with you. It’s possible that this kind of electoral calculation won’t work out for Obama.

    Yet, that’s what they are doing. Which is evidence that non religious folks haven’t been vocal enough and sufficiently politically organised.

  174. #174 SC
    August 22, 2008

    Find out who is running on a strict “back to the Constitution” platform and consider voting for them for Congress to reverse this mess we find ourelves in.

    No. Got anything else, Scott, or are you just going to cross-stitch us another contrarian sampler?

  175. #175 Ctrl-Alt-Del
    August 22, 2008

    Yet, that’s what they are doing. Which is evidence that non religious folks haven’t been vocal enough and sufficiently politically organized.

    Or possibly, an instance of the Democrats rejecting constituencies that the Republicans have declared to be anathema, irrespective of whether they are organized or not.

  176. #176 David Marjanovi?, OM
    August 22, 2008

    Please explain why the U.S. can never have any but the two extant parties, particularly if the Republicans no longer capable of forming a legitimate government.

    Easy. It’s a direct consequence of the Big-C Constitution. In the USA, there is no separation between president and government. There is no prime minister or similar figure — the president is the head of government and appoints all ministers directly. This means that elections for a new government boil down to elections for president. Now, as always in elections of persons for one post, it’s nigh impossible for more than two people to have serious chances of winning. Each of those two accretes supporters who form a party. That’s why there are two serious parties. Political landslides can result in one party of such a pair being replaced by another, newly founded one, but this happens at most once in 200 years (Whigs by Republicans, to mention the example by name).

    In every other democracy I’m aware of, there is such a separation. Governments don’t depend on the president*, they depend on the parliament; if a government doesn’t have a majority in parliament, it is fired, and new elections result. This makes coalition governments possible — more than one party can participate in government (and of course the number of parties in the opposition is unlimited). It also makes “split government” impossible; coalitions can be bad enough (at worst, no real reforms are made, however necessary, only watered-down compromises are implemented), but “split government” can be yet worse (complete standstill), and has regularly been so in the last 20 years.

    * They may in name, but they don’t in reality. In Austria, for example, the ministers are appointed by the president. But if the president appoints a government that doesn’t have a majority in parliament, that’s going to be a very short-lived government.

    Of course, with just a small amount of stupidity it’s possible to have a separation of head of state and government and a two-party system. That’s what the UK has, because whoever wins the elections for parliament there automatically gets more than half of the seats. Like the USA, it had one replacement of a party (Liberals) by another (Labour) in all of its history put together.

    ———————-

    I don’t think the screwing by McCain is going to be so much worse than the screwing by Obama. What will we get? More presidential support for faithbased initiatives and church-state entanglement from both candidates. These two guys are pretty similar on several issues.

    What will you get? What will we (rest of the world) get?

    Let’s charitably assume that McCain just likes to sing silly songs and isn’t REALLY moronic enough to start a war with Iran. This still leaves us with 100, or at least 4, more years of Iraq occupation. Advantages: Halliburton, Bechtel, Blackwater and a few other corporations get even richer. Disadvantages: More terabucks are burned — and we’re already talking of a country with a budget deficit higher than what any European socialist from the 70s could have dreamt of, foreign debts ditto, no money for schools, and so on.

    Then let’s turn to healthcare. McCain proposes, well, nothing, right? Obama proposes at least half of a First World healthcare system. If you are comfortable with people going bankrupt when they or someone else in their family falls ill, you are an incredible asshole.

    On education, I can’t see how McCain (proud to be supported by Hagee…) wouldn’t be worse than Obama. And so it continues.

    Unless you’re willing to risk losing you won’t have an easy time trying to shift politics back to secularist enlightenment principles in the US.

    Then you won’t have an easy time. If you really want to risk losing, you haven’t been paying attention.

    ————————-

    People who think that McCain is somehow a “worse evil” than the corporate-suckling Democratic party are delusional. Evil is evil.

    If you really believe all evil people are exactly equally evil… I’d like to visit your planet.

    As long as we keep voting Evil, we’ll keep having Evil candidates.

    Now, that’s true. But the problem is, you will keep voting Evil — either directly, or by voting for Dr Evil by means of voting against Number Two, or by voting for Dr Evil by means of not voting at all and just letting him win. Scroll back to the beginning of this comment to learn why. The only way out, short of a miracle, will be to fix the Big-C Constitution, which was written at a time when parties in the modern sense simply didn’t exist yet.

  177. #177 antaresrichard
    August 22, 2008

    A native “San Franciscan” for a long time, each election, it’s the same thing: I keep cutting them and I keep cutting them…
    Damn, this time I’ve cut the slack clean through!

  178. #178 Nerd of Redhead
    August 22, 2008

    Knitting equal to religion. I didn’t watch Expelled, as I consider it an affront to a thinking person from the reviews. But I do understand where PZ comes from. I recently went to a family reunion on the Redhead’s side in another state, and the Redhead had to make a pilgrimage to her favorite yarn shop during the trip. At least we only get over that way once or twice a year, which holds down the damage.

  179. #179 john
    August 22, 2008

    The democrats know that the godless moral reprobates like yourself represent their core constitutiancy and they already have your vote for the most part so need not waste time on you. Since there are not enough of you to win a national election, they must reach out to expand their appeal. Don’t worry though. They are about as believing, sincere, and truthful as you are.

  180. #180 negentropyeater
    August 22, 2008

    Or possibly, an instance of the Democrats rejecting constituencies that the Republicans have declared to be anathema

    Do you think they believe that they are rejecting constituencies in a signficant way ?

  181. #181 David Marjanovi?, OM
    August 22, 2008

    I wrote:

    Disadvantages: More terabucks are burned –

    and, as Scrooge McDuck said, “Money isn’t everything! But without money everything is nothing!”

  182. #182 David Marjanovi?, OM
    August 22, 2008

    Perhaps I can cheer you up a little. By AFAIK nothing but the sheer weight of tradition, Japan has a one-party system. But it still works (most of the time) — the political confrontations happen between the wings of that party. Somehow, it seems, the party members are active enough to actually do something about where the party goes.

    Does someone here know more about Japanese politics since 1945?

  183. #183 negentropyeater
    August 22, 2008

    I can’t see how McCain wouldn’t be worse than Obama.

    Well, only for single issue voters. People for instance who believe that separation of church and state is the only thing that matters and that the rest (international politics, healthcare, taxation, etc..) doesn’t.

  184. #184 JoJo
    August 22, 2008

    Don #169

    Josh Xiong is a conservative. It would be amazing if he didn’t sneer at liberals for doubting Bush’s wisdom in invading Iraq and wanting to leave the fiasco as soon as possible. You did notice that the Iraqi government, the same one that your boy Bush put into power, wants American forces to leave.

    BTW, Don, where are the WMD that Bush and Cheney told us they knew the exact locations of? If they were up your ass eating a ham sandwich I’d bet you’d know where they were.

  185. #185 SC
    August 22, 2008

    Well, only for single issue voters. People for instance who believe that separation of church and state is the only thing that matters and that the rest (international politics, healthcare, taxation, etc..) doesn’t.

    And the evidence suggesting that McCain would be better on that issue is what?

  186. #186 robotaholic
    August 22, 2008

    I’m one of the 19,000,000 people and I’m not voting for either one – Obama and Mccain are both religilous- sickening-

  187. #187 Scott from Oregon
    August 22, 2008

    “No. Got anything else, Scott, or are you just going to cross-stitch us another contrarian sampler?”

    Ummm, not sure what contrarian sampler you are referring, but I’ll take great pride in the fact that you have addressed me by first name…

    I don’t expect some convulsive rushing over to my side of the ship. Those things don’t usually happen. I just try and get people to break out of the current two-party-bipolarity at least in their minds for a moment or two…

    Imagine, being a socially liberal paleo-conservative, for example? What a concept?!

    Here’s what I expect to happen in the next four years. The housing bubble will continue to consume more and more victims, as those who combined their housing optimism with large credit card debt knuckle under once and for all. Obama will be elected president and he’ll inherit a US economy that can no longer convince the world it is a stable financial bet. The dollar will continue to fall, unemployment will start to rise sharply. Asian markets will start to try and cash in all the US paper it holds and there will be a sharp drop in federal income.

    The poor will suddenly be vastly poorer and those considered lower middle class will now be considered poor.

    Very little Obama promised will occur as the US government scrambles to pay back the short term loans it took out from overseas lenders.

    Obama will try and tax the rich to compensate and this will result in more job losses and en less government income.

    The US government will react by printing much more money and this will cause inflation to get out of control.

    There will be little choice but to scale back the US government because it simply won’t be able to afford to behave as it has, and the Constitutionalists and paleo-conservatives will have it on record as having “told y’all so”.

    Maybe then, will the hubris sink in and America will go back to basics and what it did best.

  188. #188 Scott from Oregon
    August 22, 2008

    “Does someone here know more about Japanese politics since 1945?”

    I know they drive around with giant loudspeakers on trucks and scream into your window at dinner time.

    I also know they are just coming back from their housing bubble problems which burst nearly twenty years ago…

  189. #189 SC
    August 22, 2008

    Ummm, not sure what contrarian sampler you are referring, but I’ll take great pride in the fact that you have addressed me by first name…

    Doesn’t take much to flatter you, does it? :)

    Alas, another sampler.

  190. #190 Ctrl-Alt-Del
    August 22, 2008
    Please explain why the U.S. can never have any but the two extant parties, particularly if the Republicans no longer capable of forming a legitimate government.

    Easy. It’s a direct consequence of the Big-C Constitution. In the USA, there is no separation between president and government. There is no prime minister or similar figure — the president is the head of government and appoints all ministers directly.

    So if I were, then, to research the political history of the several dozen countries that have adopted some variation of the Madisonian system, I would find the same pattern of two parties with an (apparently) unchallengeable lock on power?

    Political landslides can result in one party of such a pair being replaced by another, newly founded one, but this happens at most once in 200 years (Whigs by Republicans, to mention the example by name).

    If it is really true that the Republican Party has become irredeemably corrupted and unfit to ever govern again, doesn’t that make this the time for one of those rare “swap-out” events. How is the government ever to be held accountable, if the only choice is between the incumbent and suicide?

    Of course, with just a small amount of stupidity it’s possible to have a separation of head of state and government and a two-party system. That’s what the UK has, because whoever wins the elections for parliament there automatically gets more than half of the seats.

    [I'm assuming you meant to write "...to have no separation..."]
    The U.K. has three parties in Parliament, the Conservatives, Labour, and the SDP. Control of government is mostly contested between Labour and the Conservatives, but this not the same as a system without any meaningful “third parties” in the running at all. It is in fact possible for a party to form the government with only a plurality of the seats, this is termed a “hung parliament”

    Like the USA, it had one replacement of a party (Liberals) by another (Labour) in all of its history put together.

    How have the Whigs been polling lately?

  191. #192 Sondra
    August 22, 2008

    While you were away there was a great uproar all across the progressosphere against this faith forum; before, during and especially after.

    Crooks and Liars blog broke down the way in which the questions were different although sort of similar; I posted it here. I also talked about the anti Obama viral e-mails and viral memes as per Dawkins’ definition.

    Personally I find it very awful and wish they wouldn’t do it, but I can see why they think they have something to gain and not much to loose. I don’t agree of course. Republicans always pander to their base and Democrats seems to always run away from theirs. I guess it’s a mystery.

    Even other evangelicals hated it;

    Saddleback: Biased Questions and A Big Mistake
    By: Rev. Barry W. Lynn
    Sunday August 17, 2008

    posted @ 9:54am Permalink email icon Email This arrow Add to »

    Let’s get to the big mistake first: Barack Obama should not have agreed to do this. If I were the Senator I’d be looking for a time machine this morning and go back to the day I agreed to show up, change my mind and write this note: “Dear Rick: Thanks for the invitation to appear the same night as my friend John McCain at your church. I get alot of invitations, though, and will be appearing elsewhere that evening.”

    This crowd was swarming toward McCain to begin with, and Rick Warren has quite conservative views on plenty of hot button issues. But Warren is still a man best known for his homey advice about putting God first (not a very controversial notion for a Christian), so many viewers probably thought he would play “fair and balanced.” Well, Jay, he did not. He was clearly well-schooled on how to set up questions with well-tested right-wing talking points, so that Obama would have had to spend a great deal of time just correcting the questioner. (You and I understand that technique well, both as talk show guests and hosts of our own shows.)

    Let me give you a few examples on core constitutional and human rights questions. Here was Warren’s set up to his stem cell questions: “We’ve had this scientific breakthrough of creating these pluri-potent stem cells in adult cells…” as if everybody knows we don’t need all those embryonic stem cells which create all the problems for “pro-lifers.” That crowd would rather grow all these “frozen” embryos into “snowflake babies” (which will never happen) and refuse to admit that these embryos will eventually be discarded as medical waste. But Warren’s setup is the problem: there was no great breakthrough that means that all research can be done with adult cells. That is the line of the Religious Right; it is not the scientific consensus. To the lay listener, however, it sounded like God’s own truth, not Pastor Warren’s spin. Senator Obama more or less fell into the presumption, too.

    Another example comes from the discussion of the “faith-based initiative.” The setup included Warren’s claims that “eighty percent of Americans believe that faith-based organizations do a better job at community services than the government” and the related: “The Civil Rights Act of l964 says that faith-based organizations have the right to hire people that think like they do.” We are entitled to our opinions in this country, but the fact that 80% of us believe something doesn’t make it true. Social scientists who study all this do not generally conclude that faith-based groups as a whole do better than “secular” or government groups at helping those in need. On the hiring issue, what has kept President Bush’s faith-based initiative from passing Congress has been precisely that many Senators do not think the landmark Civil Rights Act even addressed the issue of taxpayer-funded church positions or activities.

    Obama did stick to his guns in claiming that the government wouldn’t fund religious discrimination, but Warren’s follow up on hurricane assistance was clearly designed to force the Senator to hedge on whether you could allow a relief agency under some circumstances to refuse to hire people from the “wrong church,” even to pick up debris and house people. (Sadly, I heard reports of this happening post-Katrina, but only rarely.)

    One last example of Warren’s set-up technique was his phrasing of the question on “human trafficking,” which he claimed was a $32 billion slavery enterprise (figuring out the take of criminals is always tough, but $32 billion is often what is thrown around by the Religious Right). He continued that “27 million people are living in slavery right now, many of them in sex traffic.” Every civilized person is against human trafficking, but it is mainly not about sex. Indeed the Justice Department has prosecuted very few cases about sexual slavery over the past 7 years because the situation is just not commonplace. The often brutal economic trafficking is a real issue, but it is very complex to tackle without having the United States enlist international enforcement efforts — which the Right always objects to as somehow giving over American sovereignty to the UN or some other hated entity. But, again, Obama slipped into the sex discussion first and then had little time to get at the broader economic issues.

    When we started this opening salvo in the “blogalogue,” I also suggested that we knew enough already about each candidate’s personal faith. (I’m convinced that each is deep and abiding.) Warren, of course, brought it up again and then listened to McCain tell his story again of how a North Vietnamese guard made a cross in the dirt when he visited McCain’s POW cell one Christmas. Warren looked like he was hearing a first-hand account of the Resurrection; but, in fact, this story is told every time that McCain appears before a religious audience. It’s virtually a part of the McCain “religious stump speech.”

    So, all in all, the evening served up biased questions on the social issues and little value for Obama with the still mainly very conservative “evangelical” crowd. But thanks to Rick Warren for assuring us that we Americans “have the freedom to protest this meeting.” I did and I’m glad.

  192. #193 Ctrl-Alt-Del
    August 22, 2008

    Perhaps I can cheer you up a little. By AFAIK nothing but the sheer weight of tradition, Japan has a one-party system. But it still works (most of the time) — the political confrontations happen between the wings of that party. Somehow, it seems, the party members are active enough to actually do something about where the party goes.

    This is mostly the result of anti-LDP factions being too disparate to form a coherent Opposition grouping, though it does happen on occasion, for instance the coalition that took power in 1993. It is more properly termed a “Center Party” system, as the Opposition is not considered illegitimate, but the “Center Party” co-opts too much of the political mainstream to be easily defeated.

    A similar situation held sway for some years in Canada when the Progressive Conservative faction collapsed after its 1993 rout. (Some right-wing observes termed this period a Liberal dictatorship, a characterization that was laughable even at the time, to say nothing of how it seems in the light of the Bush experience.)

  193. #194 Irradiatus
    August 22, 2008

    This post blogged here:
    Democrats, Religion, and Faith-Based Initiatives

    “…Let me first say that in essence, and in principle, I am in complete agreement with PZ. Liberals, progressives, and the Democratic party that we liberals, in general, vote for would serve in an ideal world as the pusher of the rational, scientific, and secular agenda. Instead, what we have seen with Barack Obama is a re-cooption of the Christian and evangelical vote – or at least an attempt to get those voters back – by reemphasizing the Democratic Parties Christian roots.

    However, from purely a practical standpoint I think this is the only way we can ever hope to have our government even begin to govern in the progressive way we think it should…”

  194. #195 Ctrl-Alt-Del
    August 22, 2008

    Do you think they believe that they are rejecting constituencies in a significant way ?

    Judging by the behavior of the party leadership over the past few years, I can only conclude that they do.

  195. #196 Phoenix Woman
    August 22, 2008

    It’s all about the deficit, PZ.

    When he was a community organizer in Chicago, Obama worked with faith-based social welfare groups in part because they were popular in the community, but also because slashed taxpayer support for government social programs forced him to do so.

    With Bush’s massive budget deficit (engineered by Grover Norquist, and done deliberately to hamstring Democratic efforts to revive Federal social programs) keeping him from expanding social programs, Obama has to seek other avenues to combat poverty. You may not like it, but he doesn’t have too many other choices.

  196. #197 raven
    August 22, 2008

    Scott:

    Imagine, being a socially liberal paleo-conservative, for example? What a concept?!

    Here’s what I expect to happen in the next four years. The housing bubble will continue to consume more and more victims, as those who combined their housing optimism with large credit card debt knuckle under once and for all. Obama will be elected president and he’ll inherit a US economy that can no longer convince the world it is a stable financial bet. The dollar will continue to fall, unemployment will start to rise sharply. Asian markets will start to try and cash in all the US paper it holds and there will be a sharp drop in federal income.

    The poor will suddenly be vastly poorer and those considered lower middle class will now be considered poor.

    Not convinced this scenario is inevitable. But it is possible. We still have choices and running room and predictions of bad times usually overstate the bad just like predictions of good times overstate the good.

    Already I’m seeing some of that.
    1. One couple lost their house. Subprime and couldn’t make the reset.

    2. A lot of people have been laid off and lost their health insurance. People with chronic conditions are starting to slip through the medical system. The last time this happened a few years ago, one of them died from a routine, treatable condition.

    3. Two of my friends are dead in Iraq.

    4. We have burnt up the ability to defend ourselves fighting two wars, one pointless. When Russia invaded Georgia, all we could do is put out vague press releases while Bush mumbled something no one cared about and Putin called him a moron.

    5. There is more but everyone sees the same picture, dollar dying, inflation waking up, stock markets floundering down, $4.00 gasoline, failing banks, government bailouts of huge entities.

    Normally I pay little attention to politics and don’t think much of either party. When it is up close and personal, it becomes impossible to ignore.

    If McCain wins, which is quite possible based on the recent US history of electing the worst moron they can find, going to give up hope. Just stockpile popcorn and wine and frequently raise a glass to the former superpower called the USA.

  197. #198 Hilary Smith
    August 22, 2008

    McCain is of the ruling-class and he will protect ruling-class interests, not the interests of the everyman. McCain cannot be trusted. If you’re a working-class person who cares about keeping a roof over his head, you’d better do yourself a favor and vote for Obama.

  198. #199 scooter
    August 22, 2008

    Chiroptera @ 165

    actually it was Clinton’s anti-terrorist act that put the first stake into the heart of Habeas Corpus, GW just pounded it home.

    But as you have been pointing out, it does swing both ways over time. Freedom of Speech as we know it, came from legislationm in the 60′s not from the Constitution, and as bad as the Bush mob is, they are boy scouts compared to what Nixon and McCarthy and HUAC were pulling in the fifties, however they were choir boys compared to Wilson who locked up ANYBODY who criticized involvement in WWI, Eugene Debbs being most notable

  199. #200 Brandonazz
    August 22, 2008

    The Democrats are the slightly better smelling of two heaps of crap.

  200. #201 Patricia
    August 23, 2008

    #113 Negentropyeater – You sure got that right. I also am increasingly pissed off, and I will be rude when the christians are loud and stupid. Good on ya!
    #170 Qwerty – Oh now just don’t say that… lot’s of us hetro’s are jealous of your demon infestations. Damn it, I want a demon too. If you can just diddle away your demon it’s cheap. Come on! Struggle man, struggle!
    #172 Lowell – Matthew 6:5,6 – pray in secret… yep, they never do it, do they. They also don’t stone their own mouthy children, or EAT them:
    Leviticus 26:29 And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat.
    Well Lowell, it’s a real disappointment isn’t it – when the good TRUE christians just don’t live up to their own Good Book. *snort*

    Gotta peddle herbs and eggs in the morning. Good night sweethearts!

  201. #202 Bubba Sixpack
    August 23, 2008

    I don’t see how a party that veers back to the pre-enlightenment era can call itself “progressive”. A party that spits at science via their presidential candidates refusing to attend the ScienceDebates2008, but panders to religious bigots like that Saddleback Buffoon by appearing and hugging up with them.

  202. #203 llewelly
    August 23, 2008

    Pastor Joel C, Hunter, who is anti-choice will deliver the closing prayer at the democratic national convention. See this WaPo article:
    http://voices.washingtonpost.com/the-trail/2008/08/21/pastor_who_opposes_abortion_dnc.html
    which I saw on McEwan’s blog, in this comment:
    http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/2008/08/hhs-rule-change-update.html#comment-1728254
    by MPINSC.
    Hunter was already mentioned in PZ’s post, but the fact that he’s anti-choice hasn’t yet mentioned here.

  203. #204 Nick Gotts
    August 23, 2008

    ndt@163,
    Try other EU states. If you can get nationality in any of them (possibly apart from temporary exceptions for some of the newest members) you have the right to live and work in any of the others.

  204. #205 Nick Gotts
    August 23, 2008

    Obama has made a cowardly choice for VP – Biden. I can see him snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

  205. #206 David Marjanovi?, OM
    August 23, 2008

    So if I were, then, to research the political history of the several dozen countries that have adopted some variation of the Madisonian system, I would find the same pattern of two parties with an (apparently) unchallengeable lock on power?

    Which countries are those? For example, Switzerland has basically a copy of the US constitution, but with separation of president and government (and with the president broken into seven).

    If it is really true that the Republican Party has become irredeemably corrupted and unfit to ever govern again, doesn’t that make this the time for one of those rare “swap-out” events. How is the government ever to be held accountable, if the only choice is between the incumbent and suicide?

    Well, sure. But look: there are awful lots of Americans who haven’t noticed that the Reptilian Party is unelectable. Obama has now fallen below 270 electors in the polls, and McCain polls at 256 — unless he dies or gets caught in a scandal, too many people will vote for him to make a swap possible.

    I’m assuming you meant to write “…to have no separation…”

    No, I did mean to write the UK has separation of head of state (the monarch) and head of government (prime minister); the government depends on Parliament much more than on the Queen. According to what I had written before, this should have predicted a multi-party system, but because of the winner-takes-almost-all election law, the outcome is a two-party system nonetheless.

    Control of government is mostly contested between Labour and the Conservatives, but this not the same as a system without any meaningful “third parties” in the running at all.

    No, and that’s because of the separation between head of state and government. It’s still very close in the outcome, though.

    It is in fact possible for a party to form the government with only a plurality of the seats, this is termed a “hung parliament”.

    Yes, and in Austria there once was a “minority government”, where a party with just a plurality formed the entire government and had to look for allies for every single bill in parliament. (In reality, a small party “tolerated the minority government”, which means it supported all of those bills.) This situation lasted one year, though I don’t know if it could have lasted longer — the ruling party was tired of the situation, announced new elections, and got the majority of the votes.

    How have the Whigs been polling lately?

    AFAIK they’re rising because B.liar has moved Labour too far onto the Conservative turf. This is possible because of the separation between head of state and government — sure, they don’t really contest for government (at least so far), but they sit in Parliament and have an influence. That wouldn’t work in the USA as far as I know.

  206. #207 Sinbad
    August 23, 2008

    Just so we’re clear, PZ….

    You think Obama and those (religionists) like him are “vapid,” “fools,” “religious con artists, people of dumb, blind, pointless faith” (as opposed to people like you, “the people of reason”), whose faith is “superstitious nonsense” and who should “go hide away in shame.” Their views are “prating rubbish.” If you were there, you’d feel “obligated to rebuke the assembled crowd,” in contrast to people of faith, who should sit down and shut up about it, “confin[ing] their silly hobbies to the halls of their churches and keep[ing] them out of the state.” So you’re mightily pissed off that you’re not invited to a party you don’t want to go to because even having vocal religionists there and involved in the political system “is a catastrophic betrayal of good government.”

    I can’t imagine why you weren’t invited.

  207. #208 JoJo
    August 23, 2008

    PZ notes with disgust that the Democratic Party is pandering to religionists by having a religious ceremony as part of their convention. He further remarks that atheists were specifically not invited to this shindig. He comments as to why he thinks that catering to the religious is not in the best interests of the Democrats. In his observations, he uses words and phrases like “vapid,” “fools,” “religious con artists,” “people of dumb, blind, pointless faith.” Sinbad, in post #207, plays concern troll that PZ would use such language.

    Apparently Sinbad failed to read Epistaxis’ post #27. I quote it, including the links:

    PZ, you missed the big kerfluffle while you were away. The Secular Coalition for America, which you’ll see on the Colbert Report next week, asked for a more inclusive event and got a disappointing response.

    Sorry, Sinbad, but you’re too mild-mannered. The Colorado Springs Gazette sneers at atheists and makes comments like:

    Imagine no religion and one sees a world ruled by atheist tyrants – Pol Pot, Albania’s Enver Hoxha, Stalin and Mao, to name a few – who have murdered tens of millions in modern efforts to cleanse society of religion.

    So thanks, Sinbad. Your concern is noted. Now please do us a favor and fuck off.

  208. #209 Aquaria
    August 23, 2008

    As usual, Sinbad can’t read, at least not with comprehension.

    PZ didn’t ask to go–nowhere did he say that.

    Another group of atheists asked–politely–to be included. They were rejected. It is this to which PZ objects.

    Do keep up.

  209. #210 CoalitionofSecularVoters
    August 23, 2008

    See the Coalition of Secular Voters open letter to the Democratic party here:

    http://secularvoters.org/blogs/announcements/archive/2008/08/22/open-letter-to-the-democratic-party-regarding-quot-interfaith-gathering-quot.aspx

    Also, several organizations will be demonstrating at this event.

    For details see: http://secularvoters.org/forums/t/114.aspx

  210. #211 Moses
    August 23, 2008

    You know, this isn’t the only thing to which they pander. They pander to the rich. They pander to the powerful.

    However, they sure as hell don’t pander to the middle class. And, as for the poor, well they are truly fucked. The Democrats have long since given up on LBJ’s great society. Now it’s the very odious vs the odious in politics with, maybe, 10% that actually give a damn about governing and the people they govern.

    And Obama, despite the bots, is every bit as bad. He panders to religion. He runs from every fight. He talks the talk but seldom puts even one foot out for the walk and he certainly doesn’t complete it.

    Personally, I’m doing what I consider to be the most responsible thing and voting third party. Until the corrupt establishment is removed (which (with some rare exceptions) won’t happen by voting Democrat) our choices are between shit and crap…

  211. #212 Salt
    August 23, 2008

    RE # 208 – “a disappointing response.”

    Imagine a 300lb, 5′ 2″ man being told by his doctor he is obese. He may very well be disappointed in being told that, no matter if it be true.

  212. #213 Lee Drake
    August 23, 2008

    This post convinced me to attend. I’m the National Council Vice Chair of College Democrats, and also an atheist. I was extended an invitation to this event, and turned it down initially. But after reading this post, I’ll take it. Let me know if anyone wants an email description of the event.

  213. #214 Jonesy
    August 23, 2008

    You can be religious and still believe in the separation of church and state. THATS whats important.

    At least there arent any muslim Imams listed. Thats what would be a disaster. This is very smart politically imo.

  214. #215 John C. Randolph
    August 23, 2008

    I think we should all applaud Barack Obama for reaching out to the mediocre-American community by choosing Senator Biden for his running mate.

    Obama’s sending a clear message with this decision, and the message is that a vote for Obama is a vote for business as usual in Washington. OF COURSE he’ll pander to the god-botherers.

    He’ll do nothing at all to the corporate welfare queens, he’ll keep American troops in 130 countries around the world, and just hope that the economy can be patched up with chewing gum and baling wire until he’s out of office.

    Ladies and Gentlemen, you’ve been conned. Again. I think it’s hilarious that anyone expected a career politician to be different just because of his race.

    -jcr

  215. #216 John C. Randolph
    August 23, 2008

    If you’re a working-class person who cares about keeping a roof over his head, you’d better do yourself a favor and vote for Obama.

    Sucker.

    Have you seen any effort on Obama’s part to stop inflating the currency? To cut back on government spending? To end the tariffs that drive our food costs up to protect Cargil and ADM?

    The only thing Obama ever had going for him is that he’s not Hillary.

    -jcr

  216. #217 SC
    August 23, 2008

    Lee Drake @ #213,

    I for one would love it if you could post a description here, if possible. Are you planning to make any sort of public show of your atheism at the event, or be vocal about it at all?

  217. #218 Nick Gotts
    August 23, 2008

    David Marjanovi?@206,

    It’s interesting that in the UK, despite the grossly unfair first-past-the-post electoral system, the two-party grip on power has been slowly weakening. In 1951 (the two-party peak), Conservative and Labour between them won over 93% of the popular vote, and 616 out of 625 seats (the Conservatives won an overall majority, despite getting 44.3% to Labour’s 48.8). In 2005, the totals for the two largest parties were just under 68% of the vote, and 554 out of 646 seats. On current opinion poll results, the Conservatives would win a large majority, but a hung Parliament remains a strong possibility next time. Mind you, the Liberal Democrats now differ very little in policy from the big two, apart from wanting to introduce single transferable vote, which they reckon would favour them.

  218. #219 David Marjanovi?, OM
    August 23, 2008

    RE # 208 – “a disappointing response.”

    Imagine a 300lb, 5′ 2″ man being told by his doctor he is obese. He may very well be disappointed in being told that, no matter if it be true.

    So you really believe atheism automatically leads to Stalin, Pol Pot, and Enver Hoxha? That is hard to imagine.

    Personally, I’m doing what I consider to be the most responsible thing and voting third party. Until the corrupt establishment is removed (which (with some rare exceptions) won’t happen by voting Democrat) our choices are between shit and crap…

    Which state will you vote in?

  219. #220 Nick Gotts
    August 23, 2008

    We have burnt up the ability to defend ourselves fighting two wars, one pointless. When Russia invaded Georgia, all we could do is put out vague press releases while Bush mumbled something no one cared about and Putin called him a moron.
    - raven

    The war in Iraq is by no means pointless: it is aimed at gaining permanent military bases and effective control of the Iraqi economy, and at present, looks more likely to succeed than at any time in the last few years. Even the war in Afghanistan has some point – there are plans for a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to the coast of Pakistan, and it’s along the line of this most ISAF troops are deployed; bases in Afghanistan would also be useful in case of an invasion of Iran or Pakistan. As for Georgia – well, leaving aside the fact that Saakashvili undoubtedly (and very foolishly) started the war, what would the US have done even if its troops had not been tied up elsewhere? Would it make any sort of sense to allow Saakashvili to drag us into World War III? Let’s just thank our lucky stars he wasn’t allowed to join NATO!

  220. #221 JoJo
    August 23, 2008

    Salt #212

    RE # 208 – “a disappointing response.”

    You quote really well. It’s a non sequitur, but we don’t expect much from a troll.

    Imagine a 300lb, 5′ 2″ man being told by his doctor he is obese. He may very well be disappointed in being told that, no matter if it be true.

    Your point is?

    The Gazette op-ed piece was so wrong as to be ludicrous.

    American Muslims, Baptists, Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Mormons, Quakers, Amish, etc., don’t erect billboards saying “Imagine No Atheists.” They don’t advocate government force to cleanse atheist expressions and teachings from the public square. They don’t imply that atheists are “irrational,” even though atheists claim absolute knowledge.

    George H.W. Bush said “I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots.” I didn’t hear a whole lot of religionists denouncing him for this idiotic statement. So it appears that the Gazette writer was wrong when he implies that godbotherers take a live and let live attitude toward atheists.

    Also I haven’t come across any atheists who claim to have “absolute knowledge.” I do know that Pope Benedict claims to be infallible. A whole lot of other religionists, like Pat Robertson and Ray Comfort, make similar claims.

    They don’t advocate theft and desecration of atheist property, even though an atheist hero in Minnesota stole and destroyed the Catholic Eucharist.

    The writer is either mistaken or a liar. PZ did not steal a Catholic cracker. But then atheists are used to religionists either being mistaken or lying about what atheists believe in or do.

    Democrats will nominate a Christian gentleman who respects others. It’s likely they didn’t invite atheists to their faith service because they didn’t want embarrassing guests.

    Either that, or they’re assholes sneering at atheists, like the writer is.

    Atheists might bring pseudointellectual proselytizers, who are intolerant, self-aggrandizing and rude.

    The Gazette writer would fit in well with the mythical atheists he denouncing, since he’s intolerant, rude, and a pseudointellectual proselytizer.

    Atheists should fund universities and hospitals. They should feed and clothe starving kids. They should act more like Christians and Jews. If they do some of that – if they contribute to a diverse humanity – they might get better party invites.

    At least atheists don’t say “send me $8 million or random fluctuations of the space-time continuum will call me home.” Nor do many atheists whine about how gays are ruining America and then get caught with their gay lovers. And I haven’t heard of a single atheist trying to hide another atheist who’s a pedophile. Are atheists supposed to emulate this part of the Judeo-Christian spectrum?

  221. #222 John C. Randolph
    August 23, 2008

    George H.W. Bush said “I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots.”

    I remember that. I was pretty much indifferent to him before I heard that, and then I started looking into his record a bit. He is a textbook example of everything that’s wrong with the Republican party. It’s a real shame that we didn’t have Barry Goldwater around to denounce him.

    -jcr

  222. #223 John Knight
    August 24, 2008

    Does that mean that Obama believes that people of no faith don’t have an important place in American life?

    No such animal. All people have faith-commitments. Knowledge-claims presuppose faith-commitments.

  223. #224 Nick Gotts
    August 24, 2008

    Knowledge-claims presuppose faith-commitments. – John Knight

    Care to provide an argument for that assertion?

  224. #225 Puneet
    August 24, 2008

    As far as I’m concerned, the Democratic Party is the lesser of two evils with regard to religiosity.

  225. #226 negentropyeater
    August 24, 2008

    I think Obama is being extremely ill advised.

    This stupid pentecostal minister, Leigh Dauthry, the dems convention CEO, who is the principal responsible for this gross mistake, just doesn’t realise what she’s doing.

    http://www.rockymountainnews.com/news/2008/jul/19/democrats-party-pentecostal-minister/

    If one looks in recent months, t’s clear that the race is getting closer; Obama is losing support (from 48% in June to 46% today, -2%), McCain gaining (from 40% in June to 43% today, +3%).
    If one actually analyses where Obama has most lost support amongst all faith/non faith communties, it’s amongst non religious folks, where he lost 8%! (from 67% in June to 59% today). With 13% of registered voters, this basically means that more than 50% of his loss so far (or 1%) has come from non religious folks. Catholics have increased their support +3%, Mainline Protestants remained stable, Evangelicals decreased by 1% only.
    http://people-press.org/report/443/presidential-race-draws-even

    So, I really wonder if Obama is seeing this. And what this Rev.Dauthry is doing is just going to decrease even more Obama’s lead, who knows, this really stupid mistake might even cost him the election.

  226. #227 Richard
    August 24, 2008

    Sorry. I believe we should work with people of faith for the common good. And such nasty, scathing comments! But that’s cool. Everyone of us has his/her own unique voice. I do agree that politicians should pay more attention to the nonreligious and not just pander to people of faith.

  227. #228 llewelly
    August 24, 2008

    I believe we should work with people of faith for the common good.

    Maybe you didn’t read the article? The problem here, is that secularists were not even invited to speak to the people of faith. If they won’t talk to us, how can we work with them for the common good?

  228. #229 DMo
    August 24, 2008

    To Mr. PZ Myers:

    You are one sick dude, man.

    You belong in the Democrat Party. I hope they put you and your ideas front and center so everyone can “admire” your sicko philosophy of life.

  229. #230 melior
    August 24, 2008

    Dmo @229:

    You belong in the Democrat Party. I hope they put you and your ideas front and center so everyone can “admire” your sicko philosophy of life.

    So do I, I’d vote for him. But it’s spelled ‘Democratic’.

  230. #231 Kseniya
    August 25, 2008

    David M. wrote: “Nice try, Salt.”

    That kinds sums up the whole “Salt” experience here on Pharyngula, doesn’t it?

  231. #232 umlando
    August 25, 2008

    Pete Stark for President! – the only member of Congress who has come out as an atheist.