Speaking to Secularists
by rich kolker, Tue Apr 25, 2006 at 05:05:35 AM EDT
How many times have we heard those words in the wake of Democratic losses at the polling places. We have observed John McCain's destruction in 2000 by the Religious Right in South Carolina and Howard Dean's uncomfortable, forced discussion of his religious beliefs in 2004, all because politicians have been made to feel required to justify themselves to self appointed religious guardians.
And those who don't believe? Well, they're beyond the pale. Politicians have learned to fake it. Ronald Reagan, it is said, seldom darkened the door of a church before his Presidency. One of JFK's sisters, when queried by somebody writing a book on his religious beliefs, responded "that would be a short book."
Secularists, Humanists, Non-believers, Atheists, Agnostics, whatever you call us we are between 5 and 10 percent of the population, depending on which poll you believe. That's about the same as Jews in the United States, and more than Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and other groups no politician would think of offending or ignoring. Yet we are apparently the last remaining offendables in politically correct society.
This in spite of a historical line of freethinkers in this country that runs from Paine and The Age of Reason, to Jefferson who told his nephew, "Question with boldness even the existence of a God," through Robert Ingersoll, the Great Agnostic of the 19th Century, to Clarence Darrow, who in addition to defending Scopes, once wrote "The fear of God is not the beginning of wisdom...(t)he fear of God is the death of wisdom... (s)kepticism and doubt lead to study and investigation, and investigation is the beginning of wisdom."
As science to a greater and greater extent answered the questions of the Origin of Species (including Man) and the origin of the universe, some asked the question, as Time Magazine famously did on a cover in the 1960's "Is God Dead?" Instead, what resulted was a battle back by the forces of faith, challenging scientific theory, scientific method, and secular government. As Galileo before the Inquisition, the forces of reason today stand accused and trembling before the forces of superstition. This, in a young country that prides itself as the model of modern nationhood.
And politicians have learned there are votes in playing to people's preconceived notions and prejudices, and so they run around like headless chickens discussing how to appeal to the "faith based voter." This is not leadership. It is the modern equivalent of Stephen Douglas trying to find a way to speak to Southerners in the 1860 election.
I would deny nobody the right to worship, or not worship, as they choose, so long as they do not try to take their faith and make it my civil government, and don't kid yourself, that is the goal of the "faith based voter" movement. Why is saying that so beyond the pale for politicians? Why are we playing to those who would abridge freedom, abandon science for faith and place something above the right of the people to govern themselves?
How far have we traveled from JFK's assertion that "I hope that no American ... will waste his franchise and throw away his vote by voting either for me or against me solely on account of my religious affiliation. It is not relevant." How ironic it is that the voice who understands the danger of governing based on religious belief comes from the man whose challenge was not to prove he was faithful enough to his religion, but to his Constitution. Given the current holder of that office's public declarations of faith and casual interest in the Constitution, it is the "Constitution based" voter, and candidates, who need our support.