Why This Atheist Supports Obama's Faith Based Initiative

Granted, I'm not your typical atheist.  I received an M.A. from a Divinity School and spent three years working on a Ph.D. in New Testament studies.  So perhaps all of this exposure to Christianity has corrupted the purity of my secular allegiances.  Perhaps the unreason of religious faith has crept into my mind and skewed my understanding of the secular state supported by Jefferson's famous "Wall of Separation" interpretation of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause.  Or maybe I'm some fanatic devotee of the Almighty Obama, who will happily cast aside any and all principle to spread the Gospel of my political Messiah.

Or perhaps I have taken the reason-based principles of secular worldviews to their logical end by resisting the kneejerk response of rejecting everything that has a basis in, or an association with, religion.  Perhaps I have reached the rational conclusion that religious institutions and communities have helped more people in need than any well written, thoughtful, and compelling treatise that persuasively argues against the existence of God.  

And maybe I have come to believe that even though two things must remain constitutionally and legally separate, that does not mean they cannot work in tandem towards a common goal.

Let me begin by encouraging all liberals to rediscover their religious roots.  Especially all you Bleeding Heart Liberals.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the origin of this term, "bleeding heart liberal" was first printed by a journalist in the 1930s, and was (and still is) typically used to describe anyone who is overly sympathetic to the plight of impoverished and downtrodden people.  The "bleeding heart" part of the epithet alludes to a symbol used in Christian imagery and iconography, where a heart wrapped in a crown of thorns is depicted bleeding in the chest of Mary or Jesus.  Thus, a bleeding heart liberal is someone whose concern for the poor rivals that of Jesus and Mary.

So next time you hear a fundamentalist (or any politically conservative Christian) use the term "bleeding heart" in a derogatory fashion, first enjoy the ridiculous irony of the moment.  Then ask this unfortunately confused person why he or she has such a problem with Jesus.

This brings me to that bleeding heart liberal running for president.  And make no mistake, despite whatever posturing Senator Obama has made towards the political center in recent weeks, the man's heart bleeds as much as that of anyone here who would sooner blog the entire day about FISA than actually get out there and help someone in need.

It is unnecessary to rehash in detail Senator Obama's experience as a community organizer.  But perhaps it bears emphasizing that all of this community work that he did for years, assisting those less fortunate than most of us, was through the Developing Communities Project - a church-based endeavor.  This brings me to my confidence in Senator Obama's faith based initiatives.

Unlike Bush, who simply saw an opportunity to inject religion into public life with his faith based initiatives, thereby solidifying and energizing the evangelical wing of the party, Senator Obama understands first hand what church-based community activism can accomplish and, more importantly, HOW it gets accomplished.  Simply put, he is proposing a solution for a problem, which all liberals and progressives want to see resolved, in a manner that he knows from experience is effective.  It just so happens that this method involves the participation of churches.

OK, so what's the problem here?  Well, there are several potential problems with any initiative that involves funneling tax dollars to religious institutions.

First, let's deal with the general church-state issue.  I do believe that the founding fathers intended for our country to be governed by a secular state.  The lack of any mention whatsoever of religion or God in the constitution, except to state that Congress should not be in the business of establishing religion, is revealing this regard.  The mention of a Creator in reference to all men being created equal in the Declaration of Independence was more of a political jab at the divine right of kings espoused by the British Monarchy than a theologically significant statement of faith.

Having said that, I don't believe that "secular" means that the government cannot have any association with religion whatsoever.  Secular simply means non-religious.  It does not mean anti-religious, nor does it entail the rejection of religion.  This means that the government cannot and should not promote any particular religious faith or creed, or promote any religious institution in a religious capacity.  It does not mean that the government is forbidden from working with religious institutions in order to achieve secular goals (e.g., feeding hungry people).  

Second, there is the issue of hiring and firing.  Can religious organizations that receive public money discriminate on the basis of faith when making these decisions?  This has been my biggest objection to Bush's faith based initiative, and there is some ambiguity over Obama's stance on this as reported by the press:

The Associated Press initially reported Obama supports "their (faith-based organizations') ability to hire and fire based on faith." NBC reports the campaign says Obama's plan would prevent organizations from discriminating based on faith. The Associated Press changed its wording to say, "some ability to hire and fire based on faith." The campaign says this second version is still inaccurate.

As it stands from this bizarrely confusing account, it appears that Obama's stance will be that discrimination on the basis of religious belief for hiring and firing will not be permitted.  If this is the case, then my concerns are put to rest on this score.

Third, how will we ensure that these monies are not used to subsidize proselytizing and evangelical missions?  For example, suppose a church usually generates $10,000 in revenue on its own for community based projects.  It then usually divides the money in half, $5,000 to help poor people through a food pantry/soup kitchen and $5,000 for proselytizing missions.  What is to prevent the church from receiving $5,000 in tax payer funds and using that money for poverty programs, while reserving the full $10,000 of its own money for proselytizing?  This would effectively result in the government funding religious proselytizing.  I have not heard this problem addressed yet, and it remains my only real concern over this proposal.

But even if this last concern is not addressed to my satisfaction, and some churches increase their missionary activity because of government money, I will still offer my full throated support for these faith based initiatives, provided that on balance it offers substantial assistance to those who need it.  Some of us have the luxury of getting all worked up about the nuances and constitutional grey areas pertaining to the establishment clause of the First Amendment.  Others couldn't care less whether it was Jesus, Krishna, Uncle Sam, or all three working together who provided that hot bowl of soup.  I have a very difficult time sympathizing with the former group when the latter are so numerous...bleeding heart liberal that I am.

Update [2008-7-2 12:29:49 by Saintcog]: Rec List! Thanks! There is another great diary posted by Falsehood that thoughtfully considers how all of this stacks up against the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Definitely worth a read!

Tags: 2008, Barack Obama, Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, Faith-Based Initiative (all tags)




That's a good point on the de facto funding. A lot depends on how the Obama grant process would work.

by Falsehood 2008-07-02 07:34AM | 0 recs
The one thing

that you keep leaving out is this.

Even IF Obama's plan can be run perfectly, what will the next prez do or the next? How about another gdub? You have opened the door, good luck shutting it again!

I do not have time to stay and play. I have a meeting to get to, a long commute and more work.

maybe later.

by kevin22262 2008-07-02 07:40AM | 0 recs
The door has been open for years

You can't, unfortunately, throw out everything W has done to the government. The resistance would be too great and you'd have no time to spend moving forward. Instead, you can do your best to define the shape of those policies into something more in line with the Constitution and American ideals.

Now that "Faith-based initiatives" have been put out there and not roundly rejected, they are here to stay. Better to define the relationship between church and state then to pretend it does not exist. "Separation" is a handy slogan but is not part of the constitution. Non-intervention, deregulation, and rejection of influence are the Constitutional precepts, and while I've got my eye on this and will be ready with any warranted criticism, at this point I see nothing which violates those tenets.

by warmwaterpenguin 2008-07-02 07:53AM | 0 recs
Re: The door has been open for years

Oh yes you can throw out everything W has done.

When W took office, he had no problem dismantling programs that had already been established in the Clinton adminsitration, and he overrode a bunch of federal legislation and wrote executive orders to stop regulations from taking effect. Any Democrat worth our votes should plan on undoing just about everything W has done over the last 7 years. Otherwise, what is all this talk of "change" about?

by LakersFan 2008-07-02 09:20AM | 0 recs
Re: The door has been open for years

That's a polarized position. One would hope the Obama administration would try to judge the past White House's aspects on their merits, and not their owner.

Aid to Africa comes to mind.

by Falsehood 2008-07-02 09:35AM | 0 recs
You mean

bush's false aid to Africa? His "show"?

by kevin22262 2008-07-02 10:52AM | 0 recs
Re: You mean

I don't really know what I'm talking about here - my point is that hitting "undo" on the past 7 years is a brash idea, and I think Obama will be a little more thoughtful during the Restoration.

by Falsehood 2008-07-02 12:14PM | 0 recs
How about

throwing out everything that is NOT CONSTITUTIONAL?

by kevin22262 2008-07-02 10:42AM | 0 recs
Re: How about

You've yet to explain how this violates the Establishment Clause, applied by Court Rulings.

by Falsehood 2008-07-02 12:31PM | 0 recs
Re: The door has been open for years

You can certainly throw out the faith based initiative program. There's no law to say you can't.

Religion and government should come nowhere near each other.

I'm appalled that Obama is even considering it. (Appalled but not surprised.)

If religious types want to do their thing, then let them on their own dime. Not mine. I don't pay taxes to support religion.

I don't care how well one thinks a program is defined and organized, there are always ways around it -- and religions have been some of the sneakiest, slimiest organizations when it comes to finding ways around government regulations.

We need freedom from organized religion -- if you want to be spiritual on your own, if you want to adhere to a religion on your own -- fine. But don't make the rest of us pay your bills.

I'm not an athiest. I have a strong personal fait. I am the product of sixteen years of Catholic education (with a forced additional major in Theology). So I am not coming at this as one who is against any form of religious faith or adherence. But I do see the dangers in any religioin sticking it's nose into the public tent. And I say keep them out.

by cuppajoe 2008-07-02 10:49AM | 0 recs
I'm gonna need some evidence

To start -- let's see some evidence on "religions have been some of the sneakiest, slimiest organizations when it comes to finding ways around government regulations."

I ask because I really think that distinction belongs to corporations, hands down.  If anything, I'd think a majority of church's actually feel duty bound on some level to behave ethically and honestly, two attributes I don't normally associate with corporate America.

I'd also be curious on exactly what ways you envision to circumvent churches when it comes to aid for the poor and homeless, and those in crisis.  Should the desperate needs of these individuals be put further on hold while some new organization or bureaucracy is built from the ground up?  

The plan is to use existing church programs to funnel money to those who desperately need it while making every effort possible to not see that money diverted as you describe.  I'm more concerned for the people than serve than ideological purity.  

and unfortunately, if we keep the religious out of our "public tent" the Republicans will use them to move the tent.  

by grassrootsorganizer 2008-07-02 12:23PM | 0 recs
Re: I'm gonna need some evidence

We already have government agencies to handle the things you cite. The desperately in need have the government to turn to and the taxes we already pay for just those things.

If religions want to jump in and help, gerat. With their own money and that of their adherents.

As for citation of churches and their wiley ways -- I'll dig some up.

What makes you think that (a) churches really stick to their public moral stances; and (b) most churces have large corporate structures and act like the corporations you talk about.

No one was letting corporations off the hook -- just adding Churches in there because they are just as bad and pay no taxes too boot (and that tax exemption they are freely given is one of the ways they circumvent the other laws).

I don't want religions to be used by anyone and I don't want religions to use us either.

by cuppajoe 2008-07-02 01:26PM | 0 recs
Re: I'm gonna need some evidence

I think when you and I imagine a "church" we see two distinctly different things.  Perhaps you see a mega-church or some "ministry" led by the likes of Jerry Falwell.
I see any one of a few dozen small and somewhat larger city churches of various demoninations that preach tolerance and social justice, that actively minister to the poor and troubled, that struggle themselves to stay afloat financially on the donations of poor members who give what they can.  The leaders of these churches that i'm familiar with are not living large and run their churches ethically and honestly.  Their faith in what they preach certainly seems sincere.

Two visions -- two realities.  

by grassrootsorganizer 2008-07-02 02:14PM | 0 recs
Re: I'm gonna need some evidence

I know there are such churches because I belong to one here in Philly. It does all the good things you mention.

BUT, I still do not want to see secular tax dollars going to that or any church, mega churches, store front churches, the small and struggling UCC church that I belong to, the Catholic Church that I used to belong to, or any other one.

This is a secular society and I want it to remain that way in every way.

One reality -- a secular society with tolerance for everyone, equality under the law for everyone, and room for religions to do what they do without public money supporting them.

by cuppajoe 2008-07-02 04:35PM | 0 recs
Re: The door has been open for years

The thing is that this isn't for any religious activity. It's for summer learning programs, and community involvement - the exact stuff Obama started out doing.

This doesn't "pay the bills" for any religion. It makes social programs possible.

by Falsehood 2008-07-02 12:53PM | 0 recs
Re: The door has been open for years

Well, even if what you say is true, that's the camel's nse in the tent.

And what makes you think that those saummer programs are religion free zones?

Attendees will be harangued and pushed to be religious.

And it does foot their bills -- how do you insure that the money will all go where you think it should be going?

Even if it does go to those camps, that means it frees up other church monies to go to other programs of which me might not approve or even suffer under such as stopping stem cell research, discriminating agianst gays and lesbians, or other things.

My secular money needs to go to secular things. If I want to support a religion, I send thatmoney separately.

by cuppajoe 2008-07-02 01:29PM | 0 recs
Re: The one thing

The door has already been opened by Bush.  Actually, if we want to work with that metaphor, the door was blown apart by Bush and now we are left with an open door frame.  Obama is working to replace the door even if he plans to leave it open somewhat, and perhaps add a screen door so the bugs don't get in :)

As for future administrations, again the precedent has already been set. Even if Obama were to shut down the faith based initiative program entirely, there would always be the Bush precedent that later Republican adminstrations would appeal to

by Saintcog 2008-07-02 07:54AM | 0 recs
Lol, our responses are the same.

Good show. Glad more people than just I see this.

by warmwaterpenguin 2008-07-02 07:56AM | 0 recs

Glad to see your articulately detailed response complimenting my metaphor.  That's exactly what I was trying to convey.

by Saintcog 2008-07-02 08:06AM | 0 recs
Re: Righto


I think it's more that Bush's hinges were such that the door swung inward, giving faith leaders a strong presidential ear. We need to put the hinges in right - all groups need to knock first.

Of course, we haven't settled what the door is TO yet..

by Falsehood 2008-07-02 08:14AM | 0 recs
Shut it down

along with everything else that is NOT Constitutional!  

by kevin22262 2008-07-02 10:43AM | 0 recs
We need to lock the door...

...and nail it shut!!!

by demwords 2008-07-02 11:28AM | 0 recs
Re: The one thing

Well, you know, Abraham Lincoln was perhaps the clearest and strongest example of a unitary executive that we had until Bush (and perhaps even after Bush - he did singlehandedly suspend habeas corpus during the Civil War, arguably with no constitutional authority to do so).  I guess you could say that Lincoln "opened the door" for Bush on that front, but I doubt that anyone would take issue with the "precedent" established by Lincoln's administration.

Sometimes you just have to take your presidents one at a time and trust that, if one part of the government gets out of hand, other parts of the system (courts, voters, etc.) will bring it back in line.  

by rfahey22 2008-07-02 08:01AM | 0 recs
Difference is...

We were in a Civil War. I do believe Lincoln should have went to Congress for this.


(Art. I, Sec. 9), the Constitution states: "The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in causes of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it."

What gdub has been doing does not fall under this.

by kevin22262 2008-07-02 10:50AM | 0 recs
Re: The one thing

Trusting that other branches will do their job is not enough (in case the past seven years haven't shown you that already).

Action is necessary on the part of "the people" who pay the government to do its job.

by cuppajoe 2008-07-02 10:52AM | 0 recs
The door was opened in the 60s

if not earlier.  

by JJE 2008-07-02 08:26AM | 0 recs

if the "door" opening is unconstitutional then close it!

by kevin22262 2008-07-02 10:50AM | 0 recs
it isn't unconstitutional

the court has held repeatedly that government funds can go to religious organizations with certain limitations that this plan appears to meet.

by JJE 2008-07-02 11:19AM | 0 recs
Recced and waiting for a tip jar

It's easy to have a knee-jerk reaction to all things religious, but what is a church if not a grassroots organization? So long as the proper controls are put in to limit the spending to non-religious purposes, I see no reason to ignore this valuable infrastructure.

by warmwaterpenguin 2008-07-02 07:55AM | 0 recs
Re: Recced and waiting for a tip jar

For some reason I usually don't post a tip jar when posting on MyDD.  I have no idea why.  Weird, huh?

Great comment about the church being a grassroots organization.  I actually deleted three paragraphs from this diary where I started to talk about the origin of Christianity as the model for how a successful grassroots movement operates.  But then I realized that it was completely outside the scope of this diary and would be better reserved for another diary sometime in the future.

by Saintcog 2008-07-02 07:59AM | 0 recs
Re: Recced and waiting for a tip jar
The origins of Christianity ARE a fascinating tale of grass roots activism.  However, like anything grass roots organization, when it became mainstream, it was hijacked and edited by a powerful elite leadership.  The comment below shows alot of frustration with the abortion issue obsession of the religious right.  I find it an amazingly gratifying blessing (and I say that as a secular citizen) that the new religious movement growing in the wings is more concerned with poverty, the environment and AIDS suffering.
If the infrastructure is in place to help people, the government would be foolish not to utilize it... as long as there is oversight to enforce separation.
by mannabass 2008-07-02 08:42AM | 0 recs
Re: Recced and waiting for a tip jar

"If the infrastructure is in place to help people, the government would be foolish not to utilize it... as long as there is oversight to enforce separation."

Absolutely perfect way to put it.  These institutions are in unique positions to help the community, and can do so a hell of a lot cheaper than if we were to set up governmental bodies in each community to do the same thing.  They've already got the volunteers and most likely the real estate to help people.

by thatpurplestuff 2008-07-02 01:46PM | 0 recs
Re: Recced and waiting for a tip jar

Just because something is a grassroots organization does not make it in and of itself a good thing.

There are lots of grassroots organizations which I'm sure you wouldn't want to see funded.

ANd another point to remember, is that if the various religions are to remain free and independent, then government shouldn't get into their affairs. They should be equally worried about their own autonomy.

No one here has a knee-jerk reaction to religion -- people here who are objecting are doing so with a lot of experience and knowledge behind them.

by cuppajoe 2008-07-02 10:57AM | 0 recs
Re: Recced and waiting for a tip jar

"ANd another point to remember, is that if the various religions are to remain free and independent, then government shouldn't get into their affairs."

I'm sorry, but that does suggest a knewwjerk reaction. Government will not be getting into the affairs of any religion. Government will be funding community programs that have nothing to do with proselytizing.

by Falsehood 2008-07-02 12:55PM | 0 recs
Re: Recced and waiting for a tip jar

(a) if you think that anything a church does is proselytization free, you are mistaken. (I've worked with several different churches and nothing they do is message-free.)

(b) if a Government gives to a church and that money has strings (and all money has strings just ask lobbyists), then the government is getting into Church affairs or it will soon.

Please don't characterize my remarks as kneejerk -- that's pejorative and condescending and I don't appreciate it at all.

My reactions are well thought out and considered. Throwing those kinds of terms around says more about you than about me.

by cuppajoe 2008-07-02 01:34PM | 0 recs
Re: Recced and waiting for a tip jar

"if you think that anything a church does is proselytization free, you are mistaken."

That's just flat out false.  Your experience says one thing, mine says quite another.  The main point here, however, is that if these churches and organizations are found discriminating based on their beliefs or proselytizing they will no longer receive funding.

by thatpurplestuff 2008-07-02 01:49PM | 0 recs
Re: Recced and waiting for a tip jar

I disagree with your statement that religion is a grass roots organization. For the most part the larger religions are vast hierarchical organizations.

by demwords 2008-07-02 11:25AM | 0 recs
Re: Recced and waiting for a tip jar

The Catholic Church would certainly qualify. Southern Baptists, on the other hand, have complete local control. The only thing the national conventions can do are passing non-binding resolutions and kicking churches out.

by Falsehood 2008-07-02 12:56PM | 0 recs
Right now, I am STILL too pissed to like this....

I remember when I first got into politics, the Catholic church was mostly infamous for helping the poor Latin American countries fight right wing oppressive regimes...

At least, that is what the conservatives belly-ached about?

Now, it seems mostly a group of old white men, bitching about Abortion, but sitting on their hands about the Death Penality (at least they used to be consistent and were vocal on both) and working to cover up decades of pedophilic known abuse by priests.

BTW,  I was raised a Catholic, am a product of the Catholic school systems, so anyone that says I am anti-catholic is off base.

I agree, we MAY be throwing out the baby with the bathwater, but for the last 2-3 decades Religion has MOSTLY been on ONE side on the US polical wars.

Conservative Bullshit about Gay Marriage and Abstenance only, and fricking Anti-Science crap like Intelligent Design.

Mostly, I am SICK of these M*****ers, and I want them OUT of my Whitehouse.

So, excuse my while I fume.

I saw all the other moves as neccesary, and I UNDERSTAND that Obama sees an opening in dienfranchised evangelicals.

But, for me, after all the abuse that has been well documented about Bushs Faith Based BS, I am a little to raw to not react as I have.

by WashStateBlue 2008-07-02 08:05AM | 0 recs
Re: Right now, I am STILL too pissed....

I really don't see this as a political opportunity that Obama is trying to exploit.  Yes, there will definitly be political benefits from this move.  But we need to understand that Obama worked with church organizations and understands first hand how effective they can be in building and improving communities.  Whatever else this is, it is something that he genuinely believes will benefit the poor in this country.

by Saintcog 2008-07-02 08:11AM | 0 recs
Re: Right now, I am STILL too pissed to like this.

Perhaps religion and religious people haven't moved to the right, as you assume.  Perhaps those who don't agree with the right wing agenda have been shut down, locked out and dismissed as not "real" Christians.  

I know a number of Christians from a range of practices that have grown tired and frustrated with the co-opting of Christianity by the Right.  They may not favor abortion but are not necessarily anti-choice;  they are capable of accepting a broader definition of "family"; they are repulsed by hate-mongering and narrow-mindedness.

One aching problem in this country for the past eight years has been this false equating of Christianity with conservativism.  Some of the strongest fuel for the civil rights, anti-death penalty and peace movements of the past came from deeply religious persons acting on their RELIGIOUS beliefs.

Bush would have us all believe these Christians no longer exist or matter.  They haven't moved -- they've only been shut out.

by grassrootsorganizer 2008-07-02 08:44AM | 0 recs
Re: Right now, I am STILL too pissed to like this.

See Jim Wallis for more on this stuff.

by Falsehood 2008-07-02 09:36AM | 0 recs
Re: Right now, I am STILL too pissed to like this.

You left out that without the Catholic Church and their missions to the new world those right wing governments would never have existed in the first place.

by demwords 2008-07-02 11:22AM | 0 recs
Re: Right now, I am STILL too pissed to like this.

This is not a debate on religion's effect on humanity. If it was, we're never get anything done.

by Falsehood 2008-07-02 12:57PM | 0 recs
Re: Why This Atheist Supports Obama's Faith Based

Okay here it is it is real simple. You CANNOT take my money by force and give it to religious organizations that I would not choose to support. It violates the Constitution, it violates my rights! I know that may not mean much to the new Democratic Party, but to the old Party the Constitution and individual rights were pretty high up on the list of what's important!

by RedstateLib 2008-07-02 08:23AM | 0 recs

government grants have supported church social services since LBJ.  This is not new.

by JJE 2008-07-02 08:25AM | 0 recs
Re: Ignorant

Name one. People keep making this statement, but I have yet to hear one factual account of this.

by LakersFan 2008-07-02 09:22AM | 0 recs
Catholic Charities

Here is a wingnut complaining about it.

http://www.city-journal.org/html/10_1_ho w_catholic_charities.html

by JJE 2008-07-02 11:23AM | 0 recs
Re: Catholic Charities

Thanks for actually answering my question.

Is Catholic Charities part of the Catholic church anymore? I was under the impression that they are now just a non-profit organization that happens to have "Catholic" in the name. As far as I know, they have their own facilities, etc. But I'm really only familiar with their Thrift shops, so I really don't know.

by LakersFan 2008-07-02 12:03PM | 0 recs
You're welcome

They appear to be part of the Church.

http://www.catholiccharitiesusa.org/NetC ommunity/Page.aspx?pid=296&srcid=538

See esp. reasons 2 and 4.

by JJE 2008-07-02 12:28PM | 0 recs
Re: You're welcome

I'm not convinced they're truly part of the church, but then again, I haven't seen their 501c3 paperwork. This is the part that makes me have doubts:

However organized in terms of canon and civil law, Catholic Charities have responsibilities to operate consistently with the teachings and values of the Church. While there is great organizational variety, the diocesan bishop ordinarily is positioned within the civil law structure--even of a separately incorporated Charities--to allow him to exercise his canonical responsibilities for the apostolate.

There are a few mentions of Catholic Charities having separate organizational structure. I think this is sort of like the many "Friends Of" charities that are set up to support public schools, parks, etc. that wouldn't otherwise be eligible for non-profit funds and donations.

Catholic Charities is still a good example of a religious-based organization receiving federal funding. So the question is: If they've done this through existing federal programs, why do we need a special office of faith-based initiatives?

by LakersFan 2008-07-02 12:46PM | 0 recs
Re: Why This Atheist Supports Obama's Faith Based

This sounds very similar to groups who oppose federal money funding abortions or stem cell research.  If only we got to pick and choose which programs our individual tax dollars are support...

But then everyone would opt not to support anything, and we would have an unfunded government.  Society would collapse shortly thereafter.  

Other than that, great point.

by Saintcog 2008-07-02 08:35AM | 0 recs
Re: Why This Atheist Supports Obama's Faith Based

The only groups who oppose abortion and stem cell research are RELIGIOUS GROUPS or groups based in religion/funded by religions! And you want us to give them more money so they can divert it to more opposition to abortion and stem cell research and everything else progressives hold dear.

We do not want to unfund the government; we DO NOT want to fund religion. The government should not be in the business of funding religion in any way, shape, or form.

We don't get to pick and choose from among the SECULAR programs, but we sure as hell have  a right to say that our money won't go to religions.

by cuppajoe 2008-07-02 11:04AM | 0 recs
Re: Why This Atheist Supports Obama's Faith Based

This does NOT fund religion. It funds programs.

That's like saying a grant to buy school laptops pays the principal's salary.

by Falsehood 2008-07-02 01:00PM | 0 recs
Re: Why This Atheist Supports Obama's Faith Based

It funds programs with a religious message. No religion or church creates message free programs.

When they use this money they will be allowed to discriminate in who they hire for summer camps -- or do you imagine that they will all gladly hire homosexuals as counsellors, or other people for whom they have some religious objection. That in itself is part of their message and using that money spreads that message.

Funding programs frees up other money that the Church can then use to stop abortions, stop stem cell research, or do other things that spreads their messages.

And yes, funding laptops in a school does free up money so that salaries can be paid or other things can be done. That's why schools seek funding for programs etc., so they can use their base funds for other things.

Do you really think that everything is so pure and simple? Do you miss the connections between things and money and people and programs?

Why is it so difficult to admit this is a bad idea? I knew it was bad when Bush enacted it and I know it's still bad now that Obama has bought into it and wants to expand it.

by cuppajoe 2008-07-02 01:42PM | 0 recs
Re: Why This Atheist Supports Obama's Faith Based

"Why is it so difficult to admit this is a bad idea?"

Because aside from your continued misrepresentations about how this would be implemented, it isn't a bad idea.  As for your concerns about discrimination of employees and preaching to those who receive help, please read what Obama had to say about the implementation of his program:

"Now, make no mistake, as someone who used to teach constitutional law, I believe deeply in the separation of church and state, but I don't believe this partnership will endanger that idea - so long as we follow a few basic principles. First, if you get a federal grant, you can't use that grant money to proselytize to the people you help and you can't discriminate against them - or against the people you hire - on the basis of their religion. Second, federal dollars that go directly to churches, temples, and mosques can only be used on secular programs. And we'll also ensure that taxpayer dollars only go to those programs that actually work."

by thatpurplestuff 2008-07-02 01:53PM | 0 recs
Re: Why This Atheist Supports Obama's Faith Based

Well, he leaves a lot open there:

"can't discriminate on the basis of religion." But how about other factors, like sexual orientation? He didn't mention that.

Neither he nor you deal with the fact that funding these programs frees up other church money to do other work which goes against the progressive grain.

And programs that work? Who will be reporting back on that? Will we need to fund another beaucracy to keep tabs on the various programs? Or, will we rely on their oh so honest representations of their own work?

Who says this mixing of church and state won't endanger the separation clause? Many disagree and did disagree when Bush instituted the program.

I do not misrepresent the situation. I look at it realistically and not with regard to winning the votes of some group -- you, however, choose to look at it with blinders, rose colored glasses, and through a twisted kaleidoscope.

by cuppajoe 2008-07-02 04:29PM | 0 recs
Re: Why This Atheist Supports Obama's Faith Based

Er - Gov't can do lots of things you don't like.

Care to explain how it violates your rights?

by Falsehood 2008-07-02 09:31AM | 0 recs
Although I consider myself a secular

humanist and deplore any church state entanglement, in this case I feel the old adage,"we can't let perfect be the enemy of good," applies. I any event, when I threw my lot in with Senator Obama it was with the ultimate goal of getting this man elected. If pandering and moving to the center is part of that process then so be it. I have to believe that Obama, the man that millions of people opened up their wallets for, the man that helped us all to believe that, "yes we can," will emerge at the end of this process as progressive as when he went in. To borrow a phrase and twist it a bit, "he must be as careful getting out of the center as he was careless getting in."

by Rumarhazzit 2008-07-02 08:23AM | 0 recs
Re: Although I consider myself a secular

The problem is when does the pandering stop. For all the criticisms of the Clintons on this issue, I'm surprised to see people on our side being too flexible too soon.

by demwords 2008-07-02 11:30AM | 0 recs
Re: Although I consider myself a secular

And yet, this has been a fairly consistent idea for him - it's not new. He chose to wait to roll it out for obvious reasons, but its not inconsistent with past statements.

by Falsehood 2008-07-02 01:06PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Gets It

Why is pragmatism pandering?

Give me a break.  As the diarist pointed out, funding to religious groups has been around for years (YMCA anyone?  What you thought that big "C" stood for something else).

George Bush, as he did with many things, exploited the practice for political gain.  The way I see it, Obama is going to attempt to fix it.  To me, that makes sense.

Additionally, I've seen a lot of comments in this diary and another from those who aren't particularly religious.  Guess what?  I'm not either, but just as I don't want someone else's religious views forced on me, I wouldn't want someone's non-religious ones either.  If they are using government funds for secular initiatives, they're entitled to them.

Giving federal funds to churches to help the poor, elderly, etc. isn't giving them a voice in running the government.

by LtWorf 2008-07-02 08:32AM | 0 recs
Thank you

for writing the diary I can only wish I wrote.  

by grassrootsorganizer 2008-07-02 08:36AM | 0 recs
No, Thank YOU

If your name is a reflection of the work you have been doing this election cycle, then ten of these diaries will not equal a day's work from you.

by Saintcog 2008-07-02 08:47AM | 0 recs

And let us not forget that these faith based initiatives can have a major impact in many inner city neighborhoods where gang violence, drug addiction, homelessness and prostitution may be rampant. These programs may serve as a source of hope and sanctuary for many downtrodden individuals who feel they have been neglected by society.

But you know, its important to remember that thinking individuals are never going to agree one hundred per cent with their candidate's stance on every issue. Even though this decision may not be popular with many of his supporters, I'm with him on this one.

by april34fff 2008-07-02 08:56AM | 0 recs
Re: Recced

this is not the place but why aren't you calling me

by johnny sexton 2008-07-02 09:21AM | 0 recs
Pandering of the worst sort!!!

Not one cent of tax dollars should ever, ever go to any religious institution. The constitution could not be clearer.

The idea that somehow the government is going to somehow police/enforce the set of rules that Obama proposes is just ludicrous! They can't even monitor taxing the wealthy and no-bid military contractors.

This is pandering of the worst sort.

by demwords 2008-07-02 09:00AM | 0 recs
Re: Pandering of the worst sort!!!

I think I missed that part of the Constitution which "could not be clearer" about tax dollars going to any religious institutions.  The Establishment Clause certainly does not offer the kind of clarity that you are alleging.  Perhaps you could point us towards the passage you have in mind.

by Saintcog 2008-07-02 09:20AM | 0 recs
Re: Pandering of the worst sort!!!

Are you saying that it is okay that the government collect taxes and hands those revenues at will over to religious institutions?

by demwords 2008-07-02 09:22AM | 0 recs
Re: Pandering of the worst sort!!!

There are many Universities and other organizations that have been doing quality secular work long before Obama has been around that prove you are wrong.

by Brandon 2008-07-02 09:32AM | 0 recs
Re: Pandering of the worst sort!!!

I believe he's saying that it's ok for the government to support social programs run by churches.

Your spin is a bit different.

by Falsehood 2008-07-02 09:32AM | 0 recs
Re: Pandering of the worst sort!!!

If religious institutions wish to contribute to the community they can do it with their own funds. They are already exempt from taxes, they should be taxing themselves to help the community. If the government is paying the bill there should be no intermediary selling religion. Let the largesse of the church be its own.

by demwords 2008-07-02 09:36AM | 0 recs

Everyone should get to pick and chose what their tax dollars go to individually, so our government can collapse.  If it doesn't violate the Constitution, it is just your personal view, and there is a strong reason why that is irrelevant.

by Brandon 2008-07-02 09:38AM | 0 recs
Re: Well.

So are you proposing that government fund should be funneled to religious institutions for their "secular" community work?

by demwords 2008-07-02 09:57AM | 0 recs
Re: Well.

Demwords, you seem very biased and suspicious of religion. Have you ever been to a church that runs this type of program?

Are you basing your thoughts on the political religious right?

by Falsehood 2008-07-02 01:09PM | 0 recs
Re: Pandering of the worst sort!!!

The final 1786 Act for Establishing Religious Freedom read in part that:

...no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions of belief...

by demwords 2008-07-02 09:25AM | 0 recs
Re: Pandering of the worst sort!!!

This doesn't support religious worship.

It does support "ministry" in the missions sense, but I don't think that's what the act was describing.

by Falsehood 2008-07-02 09:33AM | 0 recs
Re: Pandering of the worst sort!!!

The money is passed from government hands to a religious institution. Who is going to police these institutions to keep them from "selling" religion as the price of aid. Let these untaxed institutions tax themselves to help the community. BTW the "mission" of the missionary work is to seek converts. There are missions all over California and Africa and they were used to forcibly sell religion. The government should play no role.

by demwords 2008-07-02 09:39AM | 0 recs
Re: Pandering of the worst sort!!!

Please go on record saying you believe no federal money should go to any religious organization.

by Brandon 2008-07-02 09:43AM | 0 recs
Re: Pandering of the worst sort!!!
Consider it on record!!!!
I don't even think the Armed forces should be paying chaplains.
by demwords 2008-07-02 09:48AM | 0 recs
Re: Pandering of the worst sort!!!

So then, what about all the non-profits run by churches?

They're technically secular, but like many non-profits, churches started them. Are they tainted too to you?

by Falsehood 2008-07-02 01:10PM | 0 recs
Re: Pandering of the worst sort!!!

First off, somehow you have mixed up the Constitution and the Virginia Bill of Religious Freedom, something clearly many people do right?  

Second, you are not supporting the religious part of an organization, but the secular part that provides secular goods for a community.

by Brandon 2008-07-02 09:36AM | 0 recs
Re: Pandering of the worst sort!!!

This is the core belief behind the establishment clause. If religious institutions wish to express largesse tot he community, let the members tax themselves to provide the aid.

by demwords 2008-07-02 09:42AM | 0 recs
Re: Pandering of the worst sort!!!

No, this is not the core belief of the establishment clause.  Its easy to throw that around without any actual data backing it up.  The government is not dealing with the religious wing of an organization, just like when it deals with a religious organization like Notre Dame .  It has nothing to do with the religious wing, because research is not religious, just like feeding the homeless is not religious.

by Brandon 2008-07-02 09:45AM | 0 recs
Re: Pandering of the worst sort!!!

If the religious institution has a mission to feed the homeless let them pay for it themselves from their tax free contributions and perhaps instead of building extravagant edifices to their faith.

by demwords 2008-07-02 09:50AM | 0 recs
Re: Pandering of the worst sort!!!

You can smear religious institutions all you want, it will still not make you have a valid point.  Which it is clearly evident that you do not.  

by Brandon 2008-07-02 09:52AM | 0 recs
Re: Pandering of the worst sort!!!

Sorry...but all you are doing is making excuses for Obama.

by demwords 2008-07-02 09:58AM | 0 recs
Re: Pandering of the worst sort!!!

Still no data, ad hominem attacks, what a failure of an argument.

by Brandon 2008-07-02 10:04AM | 0 recs
Re: Pandering of the worst sort!!!

Do you honestly think that government money should be flowing to religious institutions? A simple yes or no. My answer is a categorical "no."

by demwords 2008-07-02 10:09AM | 0 recs
Re: Pandering of the worst sort!!!

I believe that it should not go to anyone for religious reasons, and I am happy it does not.  It goes to them for secular reasons, because they have infrastructure there and are willing to do the charity work.  You have no argument.

by Brandon 2008-07-02 10:11AM | 0 recs
Re: Pandering of the worst sort!!!

There is no way to practically monitor your fictional wall between secular and religious activity, and with a right wing zealot in the white house at some distant date some megachurch will become the Halliburton of social services. You're the one with no argument because you are trapped in an abstraction rather than practical reality.

by demwords 2008-07-02 10:21AM | 0 recs
Re: Pandering of the worst sort!!!

With a bad President, EVERYTHING gets screwed up. The EPA finds ways not to enforce the laws. The Consumer Products and Safety Commission passes unsafe products. Do you want those gone, because of the potential for problems?

Some religious people are bad. All are not, but you seem to disagree.

by Falsehood 2008-07-02 01:13PM | 0 recs
Re: Pandering of the worst sort!!!

That's painting with a very broad brush.

All religion isn't evil or full of itself, you know.

by Falsehood 2008-07-02 09:54AM | 0 recs
Re: Pandering of the worst sort!!!

Religion is a private matter in which the government should have no role.

In terms of evil of religion...it's subjective

...some Christians think Islam is evil...
...some Moslems think Christianity is evil...
...any religion will have some taxpayer who thinks that it is evil or good.

I don't agree with Hitchens on much, but I find it hard to find one case where religion has been a force for good.

In fact, I'd love to see someone find a case of religion actually doing something good other than providing false comfort.

My feeling is that government and religions should have nothing to do with one another.

by demwords 2008-07-02 10:03AM | 0 recs
Re: Pandering of the worst sort!!!

"but I find it hard to find one case where religion has been a force for good."

Ok, first, without the catholic church billions of people would have died from malnutrition and disease for one.  Civil rights movement, duh.  Ymca.  Soup Kitchens.  Womens shelters.  Just to name a few.  That is the most absurd statement I have ever seen.  Your hate of religion as a whole is your problem, not ours.  You still lack case law, you still lack an actual argument besides intolerance and hate.

by Brandon 2008-07-02 10:08AM | 0 recs
Re: Pandering of the worst sort!!!

The Catholic church has been an official instrument of oppression since it was Roman Catholicism was "invented" by Constantine the "Great." "By this Conquer" was a great start. No wonder you want religion and government to march hand in hand. I don't consider a distaste for religions that oppress and lie to people to be a negative. And if you think the civil rights movement was driven by religion you are sadly mistaken, In fact Christianity was the great engine driving the rationalization for slavery.

Religion is codified superstition that is usually misused by the powerful against the weak.

Want case law? Start with the Spanish Inquisition.

by demwords 2008-07-02 10:31AM | 0 recs
Re: Pandering of the worst sort!!!

OK, this is becoming absurd now.  Yes, awful things have been committed in the name of religion.  But you must also acknowledge that some very courageous and virtuous acts have been undertaken in the same name.

You mention slavery?  Have you conveniently forgotten that the underground railroad was largely organized and assisted by such churches as the Presbyterians and Methodists.  

And yes, the civil rights movement was driven by people of religious faith.  To deny this demonstrates egregious ignorance.  Martin Luhter King was the Pastor of a Baptist Church.  Jerry Falwell, in fact, began his ministry arguing that churches should have no involvement in politics precisely because he was opposed to the civil rights movement and the religious institutional forces that drove it.

Your vitriol for religion appears to be blinding you to some very simple historical facts.  It's this kind of kneejerk reactionism that have given atheists a reputation for being angry and misanthropic.

by Saintcog 2008-07-02 10:47AM | 0 recs
Re: Pandering of the worst sort!!!

More people have been put to the sword because of the delusion of religion than were ever positively served by these institutions. I am angry that otherwise intelligent allow themselves to be fooled and then rationalize horrible things in the name of what are essentially fairy tales.

by demwords 2008-07-02 10:55AM | 0 recs
Re: Pandering of the worst sort!!!

Right, the "delusion" of religion.  This is why we can't have a civil discourse in this country - because people can't have a conversation without injecting inflamatory rhetoric.

In any case, there is no basis for this claim that "more people were put to the sword..."  I'm sure you'll discuss the The Spanish Inquisition and the Conquistadors, and then the Crusades, and the persecution of heretical sects by the Catholic Church, the Salem Witch Trials, and whatever else a person can dig up from visiting American Atheists' website.

But here's the problem.  You have 2,000 years of Christian History and a handful of high profile wars and crimes committed by Christian and/or the Church.  This you will lump into some general category of Christianity being the direct cause of death and destruction, etc.  Using this logic we could blame the genocide of Stalin on atheism (as many Christians have attempted to do).  This is guilt by association.  Crusades = Christianity; Stalin = atheism.

What is not documented in our history books are all the missions to third world countries, the anti-poverty efforts of churches throughout this country, the fact that a large number of hospitals and hospices in this country are church funded or sponsored.  The list is far more extensive than your pet list of Christian atrocities.

But then I suppose that all these acts of generosity are merely a screen to hide the wicked Christians' real motive to convert the world to Christianity.  Yes, I know all about bat-shit crazy types like Christopher Hitchens and his crusade against Mother Theresa.  People need a hobby man.

I'm sorry you have been so jaded by whatever experience left you with this view of Christianity.  Maybe you know some really horrible people who call themselves Christian.  This has not been my experience.  The deeply religious Christians I know are generous and sincere, and they are not Hell bent on converting everyone at the point of a sword.

by Saintcog 2008-07-02 11:33AM | 0 recs

now you're like my hero or something.

by grassrootsorganizer 2008-07-02 12:32PM | 0 recs
Re: Pandering of the worst sort!!!

Nicely done.

by Falsehood 2008-07-02 01:14PM | 0 recs
Re: Pandering of the worst sort!!!

No, it is not.  If these organizations can get the good work done and abide by the rules we set for them, then this agnostic secular Jew is all for it.

Help people.

by Reaper0Bot0 2008-07-02 09:57AM | 0 recs
Re: Pandering of the worst sort!!!

The problem is that the "rules" are not enforceable. Imagine the next Bush type sometime in the future funneling public money to his own crazy megachurch. It will be become the no-bid Halliburton of social services. Let untaxed religions be their own source of largesse instead of building vainglorious edifices.

by demwords 2008-07-02 10:06AM | 0 recs
Re: Pandering of the worst sort!!!

Ok, you are actually a troll, no one argues like this for this long with no actual argument.

by Brandon 2008-07-02 10:09AM | 0 recs
Re: Pandering of the worst sort!!!

You have no real point to make other than excuses for the "goodness" of religion and why it is okay for Obama to promote this nonsense. You are hiding in your "case law" construction as your only rebuttal.

by demwords 2008-07-02 11:37AM | 0 recs
Re: Pandering of the worst sort!!!

If churches shouldn't get money because they aren't taxed, what about secular non-profits?

I'm sorry about whatever in your past makes you hate all religion, but YOU ARE POLARIZED.

Religion is not, at its core, BAD or EVIL. It is FAITH.

Bad things happen, but your letting your fear get in the way of your judgement.

by Falsehood 2008-07-02 01:16PM | 0 recs
Re: Pandering of the worst sort!!!


We fund universities right?

We cut funding when they deviate from the rules we set, right?

We do it because we think educating our youth is good, RIGHT?

So, is feeding the homeless good?  Is counseling those who contemplate suicide good?  Is building homes for the poor good?

I want tight rules and I want a lot, I mean a LOT, of oversight.  But I want this program.

What President Bush promised sounded workable.  What he delivered was an abortion.  I trust that President Obama would do better with it.

Besides, it ain't like we can't cut the program later if it proves intractable.

by Reaper0Bot0 2008-07-02 10:55AM | 0 recs
Re: Pandering of the worst sort!!!

If all these things are good...and the mission of religion is supposedly to do good...then let the participants of these institutions pay for them out of their own largesse...and not come with a hand out to those of us that do not share their infantile superstitions

by demwords 2008-07-02 10:57AM | 0 recs
Re: Pandering of the worst sort!!!

You're a total jackass, or at the least an ignoramus.

Some of these "faith-based" programs work better than the secular ones do.  If the Nation of Islam can successfully get somebody off of heroin that the methodone clinic couldn't, then why the hell not?

You regulate it.  You provide meaningful oversight.  But you take the positive good you can get from the program.

The fact that someone is religious and gains inspiration from their religion does not, in itself, make them defective or dangerous.  It takes a little more than that.

I say this as a guy who is not comfortable with a large swath of religious folks.

by Reaper0Bot0 2008-07-02 11:07AM | 0 recs
Re: Pandering of the worst sort!!!

You are a person of limited wattage.

The way that these programs work is to sell religion. NOI builds a relationship from that program that is useful to sell religion.

Religious groups possess no magic. There is nothing that they do that can't be done by other non-profit community organization.

Religions exist for one purpose only, to promote their own fairy tale version of how the world works.

If people are inspired by religion they need to get over the tooth fairy and Santa Claus versions of reality.

by demwords 2008-07-02 11:41AM | 0 recs
Re: Pandering of the worst sort!!!

People like you manage to sustain the image the faithful have of us doubters.

People like you justify why they feel like the secular world is trying to choke them, to force them into accepting that which they cannot accept.

I think most religious folks are a bit nutty (and some are basically insane), but to suggest the religion is of no positive value is idiotic.

Yes, religion, and religious people, do have some sort of magic.  I want nothing to do with it, but I've seen them accomplish things that surprised me.

by Reaper0Bot0 2008-07-02 11:52AM | 0 recs
Re: Pandering of the worst sort!!!

Sorry but I'm tired of tippy-toeing around people who think they have god on their side. I'm not saying that I have all the answers...but I'm not delusional enough to think life is being run by invisible omnipotent beings that leave behind books that tell us how to worship them. Let's all reach a common ground of reality that none of us knows how we got here and maybe we can all start getting along. We need to be our own lights. The basic goodness is in all of us. Let's stop letting the self righteous claim theirs is the only path.

by demwords 2008-07-02 12:06PM | 0 recs
Re: Pandering of the worst sort!!!

They have every right to make the idiotic claim that their own path is the only one.  

I'm sorry, but militant secularism will win us few "converts" if any.

by Reaper0Bot0 2008-07-02 12:13PM | 0 recs
Re: Pandering of the worst sort!!!

Unlike the religious types...I seek no converts. I just don't want them using their fantasies as a basis of common law.

by demwords 2008-07-02 12:45PM | 0 recs
Re: Pandering of the worst sort!!!

Then you're going to need to re-write much of our law, friend.

by Reaper0Bot0 2008-07-02 01:02PM | 0 recs
Re: Pandering of the worst sort!!!

Despite the ranting of the religious right, the 10 Commandments are not part of our laws. There are 3 that are in common - Don't steal, don't lie, don't kill. But those predate the commandments and are really a social contract. Hillel said "That which is harmful to yourself, do not do to others." Okay Jesus usually gets the credit but the idea is really pre-historical and social rather than religious.

On the contrary religions have blessed much killing stealing and lying. There is less religion than you think in our legal system. Fortunately our country was founded as a result of the Age of Reason.

BTW: Check out Jefferson's version of the new testament minus miracles and supernatural.

by demwords 2008-07-02 01:17PM | 0 recs
Re: Pandering of the worst sort!!!

As someone who's worked most of the way through law school (and has a degree in history) I can assure you that our legal code, for better and most assuredly worse, follows in no small part from the "Judeo-Christian" philosophy.  You may miss that because of how broad and thematic this is.

No matter.

by Reaper0Bot0 2008-07-02 01:46PM | 0 recs
Re: Pandering of the worst sort!!!

I applaud your completion of law school and love of history.

by demwords 2008-07-02 02:02PM | 0 recs
Re: Pandering of the worst sort!!!

I'm religious. I don't seek converts.

Your massive theory is disproven, eh?

by Falsehood 2008-07-02 01:18PM | 0 recs
Shirley You Jest
But your name is FALSEHOOD!!!!
I'm supposed to believe you?
by demwords 2008-07-02 01:20PM | 0 recs
Re: Why This Atheist Supports Obama's Faith ....

because it's Obama's and not someone else's?

That's the most logical reason.

Frankly, I think if any politician other than the one that (insert name here) supports had suggested such a program, then (insert name here) would be incensed, like some of us are, even though we support Obama.

by emsprater 2008-07-02 09:23AM | 0 recs
I could agree more!!!

I am amazed at the excuses we are already making for Obama. FISA was a legislative strategem ( though I wish he opposed it)...but outbushing Shrub on faith-based is not excusable.

by demwords 2008-07-02 09:45AM | 0 recs
Re: I could agree more!!!

I am amazed you are so ignorant of people running for president.  He has always been for this.  Religions institutions are not the enemy, one can be over zealous about a religion, but they can also be over zealous about the lack of one.  You cant argue on legal grounds, it is ok that you don't like it, but since you have no actual legal standing for it, I am not listening.   It is the equivalent of someone being against gay marriage purely based on religion, it has no bearing outside of your mind, but that is enough for you to argue vehemently for it.

Religion is not a left/right issue, that some think it is shows that there is serious intolerance in the democratic party.

by Brandon 2008-07-02 09:49AM | 0 recs
Re: I could agree more!!!

Sorry, but religion should be a private matter funded by private individuals. They are already getting a break by not paying taxes. I don't want "god" on my money and I don't want to hear any of the candidates with perfunctory "God Bless America." We have had "religion creep" in this country...adding it to the money...adding to the Pledge of Allegiance in the 50's. To think that the progressive candidate is proposing in dragging us deeper into this crud is horrific.

by demwords 2008-07-02 09:54AM | 0 recs
Re: I could agree more!!!

Religion remains funded by individuals.  This has nothing to do with religion.  This is separate funds that are audited that can have nothing to do with religion.  It is for secular means.  Could you state some case law, or anything beside rants with no actual content?

by Brandon 2008-07-02 09:58AM | 0 recs
Re: I could agree more!!!

So imagine the next Bush type that sneaks into the presidency. Imagine his opening the floodgates to his megachurch with the same fervor that privatized this war to Halliburton. Do you honestly think any of these complex rules that Obama proposes would be of any use? Who would enforce them?

by demwords 2008-07-02 10:12AM | 0 recs
Re: I could agree more!!!

Hyperbole with no actual data to back it up, I am done discussing this with you until 1 actual worthhile piece of information comes up.  Case Law, something, anything besides you don't like it.

by Brandon 2008-07-02 10:21AM | 0 recs
Re: I could agree more!!!

Good decision. I'll do my best, but please, take a breather.

by Falsehood 2008-07-02 01:19PM | 0 recs
Re: Why This Atheist Supports Obama's Faith Based

As an atheist, Bush's faith based initiative has always been a problem for me. I can't say I'm happy about Obama's support for something similar no matter how different. I'm just flat out opposed to taxpayer money going to religious organizations for any reason. I'd like to see money going the other way. I think churches should have to pay property tax. I also don't like the trend towards mega-churches and their potentially harmful impact on communities.

Having said all of that, I don't really expect a candidate to agree with me on 100% of the issues. This is one where I hold a different stance than Obama. There will be others. There will also be compromises that I don't like. So what? I get birthday presents I don't like either. Does that mean I should stop accepting all birthday presents?

Diary rec'd even though I disagree with the faith based initiative.

by MS01 Indie 2008-07-02 09:31AM | 0 recs
I am with you.

Well said.

by demwords 2008-07-02 09:45AM | 0 recs
Re: Why This Atheist Supports Obama's Faith Based

Making religious organizations subject to taxation violates the First Amendment (i.e. "the power to tax is the power to destroy.")

I can understand the ambivalence about public dollars going to religious organizations, but I personally think that faith based initiative opponents should ask themselves: "Why does our government fail so badly in providing similar services?"

by Crookd River Progressive 2008-07-02 09:46AM | 0 recs
Re: Why This Atheist Supports Obama's Faith Based

"Why does our government fail so badly in providing similar services?"

Perhaps, because they give money to the wrong organizaations, like churches?

by MS01 Indie 2008-07-02 10:18AM | 0 recs
Re: Why This Atheist

On the issue of whether, under Obama's plan, participating religious institutions will be permitted to hire and fire based on religion, Obama's plan as stated to the media is indeed vague.  

The campaign announced that such religious institutions would have to comply with Title VII's prohibitions against discrimination.  Sounds clear, right?  Well, not until you realize that Title VII explicitly permits religious institutions to discriminate based on faith.

Section 702 of Title VII provides that it "shall not apply ... to a religious corporation, association, educational institution, or society with respect to the employment of individuals of a particular religion to perform work connected with the carrying on by such corporation, association, educational institution, or society of its activities."

So, simply saying that participating religious groups will have to comply with Title VII is to say nothing at all.

by XoFalconXo 2008-07-02 09:41AM | 0 recs
Re: Why This Atheist

Thank you for pointing this out.  My support for this plan does largely hinge on whether religious institutions can hire and fire based upon religious faith.

What is the point of requiring an employee to share the beliefs of your church if the tax funded program is not promulgating the church's belief system?

I still am waiting for clarification on this point.  If it can be clearly demonstrated that Obama's faith based initiative would permit religious discrimination, I will delete this diary and no longer support it (for whatever that's worth).  I will, however, continue to support Senator Obama and enthusiastically continue to organize voter registration drives for his campaign.

by Saintcog 2008-07-02 09:54AM | 0 recs
Re: Why This Atheist

I believe there were explicit statements on this: that the religious org had to not discriminate beyond the Titla VII standard.

Not sure though, and gotta run.

by Falsehood 2008-07-02 09:56AM | 0 recs
Re: Why This Atheist

I'd like to see some evidence of this.  It might just make me change my mind on the program.  I am still concerned, however, about how exactly Obama intends to police the "no prosyletizing" requirement.

I'd also like to know whether any grant money provided under the program is required to be ear-marked specifically for community activities covered under the program.  There should be a requirement that any such money is not permitted to be intermingled with other funds of the religious organization.

by XoFalconXo 2008-07-02 11:46AM | 0 recs
This is nothing new: Clinton did it too.

The Bush administration often promoted the faith-based agenda by claiming that existing government regulations were too restrictive on religious organizations seeking to serve the public.

Substantiating that claim proved difficult, Kuo says. "Finding these examples became a huge priority.... If President Bush was making the world a better place for faith-based groups, we had to show it was really a bad place to begin with. But, in fact, it wasn't that bad at all."

In fact, when Bush asks Kuo how much money was being spent on "compassion" social programs, Kuo claims he discovered the amount was $20 million a year less than during the Clinton Administration.


by Bush Bites 2008-07-02 09:44AM | 0 recs
PZ Myers speaks

Myers, if you don't know, is one of the leading voices against the religious right on matters like creationism, "intelligent" design, etc.  He's a teacher at the U of MN.  Here's what he has to say -- and I agree with him.

http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/ 07/obama_and_faithbased_initiativ.php

He's still proposing an expansion of Bush's faith-based initiatives -- he's going to be handing out billions of dollars to religious organizations. It's nice that he's specifically saying there will be restrictions, that the money can't be used in programs that discriminate, and it must be for secular purposes, but he's still propping up a religious middleman between government aid and the people, and that's a tool that will be used to proselytize indirectly, even if they don't simply flout the rules. This is a bad idea.

I'm going to take the side of Americans United, which has put out a call for Obama to shut down the government's pandering to religion with these faith-based charities.

   Rather than try to correct the defects of the Bush "faith-based" initiative, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama would do better to shut it down, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

This is a big point -- these organizations have no comparative advantage in helping the poor:

The plan Obama proposes doesn't even make sense. If religious groups have a history of altruistic support for the needy, good for them and let them continue as they have...but funneling government funds through organizations that supposedly already have "faith-based" mechanisms for raising money seems superfluous. That's the only advantage these groups have, anyway -- the ability to fleece the flock to fund their work. Being religious does not give any advantage in obtaining material outcomes.

End the faith-based initiatives. The government should only be supporting programs that work -- at least, in my dreams of an efficient administration, anyway.

If you really care about this topic, how about supporting Americans United?  They are always on guard on the religious right trying to take over things.  http://www.au.org/site/News2?JServSessio nIdr009=4hl0gq27p2.app1b&abbr=pr& ;page=NewsArticle&id=9927&securi ty=1002&news_iv_ctrl=1241

by strongerthandirt 2008-07-02 09:56AM | 0 recs
Re: PZ Myers speaks

I like PZ Myers a lot, but I disagree with him on the politics and the policy of this.

by Reaper0Bot0 2008-07-02 09:58AM | 0 recs
Re: PZ Myers speaks

PZ Myers has been against any kind of religion in any form since he has been around.  Ask yourself, why has he not challenged them in court, he has had plenty of time.  He is the equivalent of a one issue talking head, grain of salt.

by Brandon 2008-07-02 10:02AM | 0 recs
Thanks for posting this.

Well said and I agree with every bit of it.

by demwords 2008-07-02 10:14AM | 0 recs
Posted this elsewhere, but here you go

straight from the man's mouth

"If you get a federal grant, you can't use that grant money to proselytize to the people you help and you can't discriminate against them -- or against the people you hire -- on the basis of their religion," Mr. Obama said. "Federal dollars that go directly to churches, temples and mosques can only be used on secular programs."

by Poor Yorick 2008-07-02 10:02AM | 0 recs
Re: Posted this elsewhere, but here you go

Imagine a Bush type in the future as president. Do you think that they will follow these rules?  More likely they will funnel the money to their megachurch in the same manner that they funneled military spending to Halliburton. Let's churches provide their own tax-free largesse to help the community.

by demwords 2008-07-02 10:17AM | 0 recs
The Office isn't going anywhere

and even if Obama got rid of it, that same Bush type of whom you speak will bring it right back, maybe in an even worse incarnation. Better to make it a model of success within a restrictive framework to give it less of a chance of being manipulated later. Plus, if Obama can fix it, he'll get the buy-in of the participants, and it will be far more difficult for any future president to make wholesale changes without evoking a public outcry.

by Poor Yorick 2008-07-02 10:28AM | 0 recs
Re: The Office isn't going anywhere

That's a terribly defeatist approach. I say no to any nexus of government and religion. It is a messy path and there are no pluses.

by demwords 2008-07-02 10:34AM | 0 recs
How is that defeatist?

I don't necessarily think it's so terrible to have social groups doing charity work.

There are positives to government-assisted charity work that I think you fail to see through a religious bias. I think it's perfectly reasonable to expect that a group can do good work without overtly influencing the people they're trying to help.

by Poor Yorick 2008-07-02 10:49AM | 0 recs
Re: How is that defeatist?

It's fine if they want to charity work. Just let them pay for it themselves. The key word here is "charity." Government funds are not charity.

by demwords 2008-07-02 11:01AM | 0 recs
That would mean

no coordination with the Red Cross, since there are federal funds comingled with non-profit dollars for disaster relief. Or are we talking relativity here?

by Poor Yorick 2008-07-02 11:34AM | 0 recs
Don't get me started on the Red Cross...

...especially the American Red Cross, which under its guise of goodness has committed enormous financial misdeeds. Not that there are not good people in the Red Cross, but like many other vast NGOs their top heaviness and executive excesses are legendary.

by demwords 2008-07-02 12:11PM | 0 recs
I suppose you prefer FEMA n/t

by Poor Yorick 2008-07-02 12:24PM | 0 recs
Re: I suppose you prefer FEMA n/t

Under Clinton?
Yup. You Bet!!!!
FEMA was awesome under the directorship of James Lee Witt.
When FEMA was outsourced under Bush is when it was a disaster.
Despite what the right wing nut jobs say, government works. There would be no highways, internet, libraries or schools without it.

We don't need intermediaries with their own agendas getting in the way.

Here's just one case.
In the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake the Red Cross became the conduit into which contributions flowed in great abundance. Gov officials. the media and civic groups all promoted the RC as the place to give money. What did they do with the money?

They sucked it all up and went home.
They collected greatly and delivered next to nothing.

by demwords 2008-07-02 02:00PM | 0 recs
Re: I suppose you prefer FEMA n/t

Speaking of Clinton...

"Now, I know there are some who bristle at the notion that faith has a place in the public square. But the fact is, leaders in both parties have recognized the value of a partnership between the White House and faith-based groups. President Clinton signed legislation that opened the door for faith-based groups to play a role in a number of areas, including helping people move from welfare to work. Al Gore proposed a partnership between Washington and faith-based groups to provide more support for the least of these. And President Bush came into office with a promise to "rally the armies of compassion," establishing a new Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. But what we saw instead was that the Office never fulfilled its promise. Support for social services to the poor and the needy have been consistently underfunded. Rather than promoting the cause of all faith-based organizations, former officials in the Office have described how it was used to promote partisan interests. As a result, the smaller congregations and community groups that were supposed to be empowered ended up getting short-changed. Well, I still believe it's a good idea to have a partnership between the White House and grassroots groups, both faith-based and secular."

The entire speech can be found here: http://tpmelectioncentral.talkingpointsm emo.com/2008/07/obama_speech_we_can_expa nd_fai.php

by thatpurplestuff 2008-07-02 02:03PM | 0 recs
Re: I suppose you prefer FEMA n/t

I just don't see any point in having religious groups being intermediaries in the process. I also don't see any role for private health insurance companies in universal health care programs. Cut out the middle and its overhead. Single payer for health care...and fund public programs to help in the communities. If religious groups feel like helping fine, let them pass the plate or forgo building vainglorious edifices to do "the Lord's Work." They can raise as much tax free money as they want under the present rules...and no one is stopping them from doing good works from their own funds.

by demwords 2008-07-02 03:49PM | 0 recs
Re: I suppose you prefer FEMA n/t

The point is that much more good can be done with less money because the churches and organizations are already established within the community.  As someone else pointed out, they've already got the infrastructure to help people laid out.  This isn't about giving money to churches, it's about giving money to people and organizations that are in the best position to help their communities while at the same time monitoring them to make sure that they are abiding the rules.  There's no need to recreate the wheel.

by thatpurplestuff 2008-07-02 04:02PM | 0 recs
Their is no...

...way to monitor these relationships that is not inherently corruptible. Sure anything is corruptible...but here there is nothing to be gained.

by demwords 2008-07-02 07:26PM | 0 recs
Re: That would mean

BTW: do you think the US government is ready to make a proportional contribution to the Red Crescent?

by demwords 2008-07-02 12:17PM | 0 recs
Remember the Indonesian tsunami?

If not, you may want to look into it.

Maybe not proportional, but that's an effect of representative population.

by Poor Yorick 2008-07-02 12:24PM | 0 recs
Re: Remember the Indonesian tsunami?

I can just see all those "Christians" in this country having a fit at that one.

by demwords 2008-07-02 12:40PM | 0 recs
Probably better off ignorant on that one :) n/t

by Poor Yorick 2008-07-02 02:40PM | 0 recs
For being an Atheist

Why did you chose a VERY religious looking and most likely false picture of the 'European Jesus'?

by kevin22262 2008-07-02 10:56AM | 0 recs
Re: For being an Atheist

I'm trying to decide whether or not this is a snark.  But just in case it's not...

I used this picture because it was the one on Google Images that had the clearest illustration of a bleeding heart.  That was the point of the image.  If you would prefer that I replace it with another more accurate depiction of a light brown or olive skin-tone Jesus with course black hair, and it has a clear image of a bleeding heart, post it to a photobucket account and provide me with the link and I will happily do so.

Actually, no.  I changed my mind.  The point of the image was to illustrate where "bleeding heart liberal" came from.  Back in the 1930's when the term was coined, this is the type of imagery most people would have seen.  So this image is historically accurate in the context of my diary.

by Saintcog 2008-07-02 12:09PM | 0 recs
...and let's get his name right while we are at it
This personage is in fact Yehoshua Ben-Yosef.
Jesus is the greco version of his name.
...and his last name was not Christ...but you already know that I hope.
by demwords 2008-07-02 12:15PM | 0 recs
European Jesus?

 I want to know why he chose a depiction of a MALE Jesus!

by xdem 2008-07-02 11:57AM | 0 recs
Re: European Jesus?

LOL...I'm done  :)

by Saintcog 2008-07-02 12:13PM | 0 recs
Re: European Jesus?

Despite my critique of Obama support of faith based programs and religion in general I thought your diary was very creative and thoughtful. I don't agree with much of it...but it was good.

by demwords 2008-07-02 12:43PM | 0 recs
Re: European Jesus?

Not a bad way of wrapping up a contentious and heated dialogue among friends.  Thanks!  And I'll catch you in the next round of discussion ;)

by Saintcog 2008-07-02 12:49PM | 0 recs
Can an Atheist participate?

But would Obama's Faith Based init support YOUR activities for the poor, downtrodden, hungry - as a devout atheist?

by shebear 2008-07-02 12:46PM | 0 recs
Re: Can an Atheist participate?

My understanding is that any organization can apply for and receive funding so long as its methods and results in helping the local community are demonstrable.

by Saintcog 2008-07-02 12:51PM | 0 recs
Re: Why This Atheist Supports Obama's Faith Based

i'm against this in principal. The politics of faith will surely seep into the work done by these organizations.

Increase funding to organizations that are not at all faith based and go about charity that way. Surely, it's the best way (albeit not perfect) to keep religion and government split.

by alex100 2008-07-02 01:22PM | 0 recs
This is BS

"Perhaps I have reached the rational conclusion that religious institutions and communities have helped more people in need than any well written, thoughtful, and compelling treatise that persuasively argues against the existence of God."

Apples and oranges, my dear divinity scholar.

Any compelling treatise that persuasively argues FOR the existence of God hasn't helped any people either.

This comparison discredits your claim of fair enlightenment.

by Sieglinde 2008-07-02 01:24PM | 0 recs
Re: This is BS

Wow, that's an awfully harsh jusdgment to make about a person based on one comment.

If you would grant me the benefit of the doubt here, I think what I am guilty of with this remark is a non-sequitur.  I hardly think it "discredits my claim of fair enlightenment."  (What exactly does that mean, anyhow?)

That comment is a response to something that has bothered me for a very long time.  The contribution of activist atheists/secularists usually takes the form of some academic contribution that is peer reviewed in a journal, or a logical argument posted on a philosophy listserve.  The contribution of activist Christians (I'm singling out Christians here because this is the religious community with which I am most familiar) usually takes the form of actually doing something for the community.

This bothers me a great deal because I agree with atheists on a philosophical level; I agree with the arguments and treatises.  But I see Christian community contribution and am far more impressed.

So your criticism is well taken.  I should have been more expansive and stated that I was comparing the major contributions of each.

by Saintcog 2008-07-02 01:57PM | 0 recs
Re: This is BS

Don't sell yourself short-- your non-sequitur is a standard argument technique, and you were doing what you meant to do.  Someone who's not too careful will quickly nod their head in agreement with your sexy sentence.  I can't be fooled though.  You intended to make your non-sequitur; the divinity school has taught you well.

And so let's say that you misspoke, and you really meant to be "expansive": what will happen then, when you compare the major contributions of each?  Aha, another apples and oranges.  Or more accurately, grapefruits and grapes.  The Christian churches have been around for centuries, with billions of followers past and present, reaching all continents and countries.  The list of contributions of any other movement will pale in comparison, surely, due merely to the ostensible imbalance in size and reach.

Is it more instructive to compare the contributions of the Christian church with the evils that it has brought the world?  Or better yet, why not judge the church by the fidelity of its actions to Jesus' radical teachings?  Take the fear and the ignorance and the hate and intolerance and bigotry that the Christian churches have propagated throughout the ages, and ask if Jesus really meant to create such a potently evil entity.  Jesus turning in his grave, for sure!

by Sieglinde 2008-07-03 04:48AM | 0 recs
Re: This is BS

Let's unpack this, because your comment is loaded with unspoken accusations, and we really ought to get it all on the table.

First, it appears you are claiming that I deliberately used a specious argument as a rhetorical technique to mislead (again, deliberately) my readers.  You then compound this with an inference that I was actually taught this slippery rhetorical technique at the divinity school I attended.

These are serious accusations to make against a person's honesty and intellectual integrity, and it's even more serious to accuse an academic institution of teaching its students to engage in dishonest methods of argumentation.  As someone who appears to be well acquainted with the standards and conventions of academic discourse, you should know that lofty claims such as those ought to be supported by solid evidence, without which you are irresponsibly and blithely tossing around groundless accusations.

Alleging that an academic institution teaches dishonesty should at minimum require a basic familiarity with the institution in question - say, the name of the University.  Perhaps merely hearing the term "divinity school" was sufficient for you to arrive at a negataive conclusion.  If so, this is simple prejudice and it colors the remainder of your comment.  Furthermore, the idea that I would be taught rhetorical techniques to mislead people is laughable given my specific area of study (which I will follow up in greater detail in another comment if necessary).

Then there is the personal accusation.  How you can determine a person's intentions by reading a single blog, without ever meeting the person is remarkable.  You must have mutant superpowers.  You do not even entertain the perectly plausible option that my non-sequitur was th simple result of failure to expand and conextualize.  Or even if given the context it still turns out to be completely irrelevent, that does not establish deception.  This is an internet blogging forum, not a peer reviewed academic journal.  If I was a bit sloppy in my logical presentation, I hope this would be taken into consideration.

And now, after that extensive defense of my intellectual honesty, let's address the actual matter at hand.  Your historical criticism of Christianity (as a major contribution) is completely irrelevant here.  The issue at hand is what contemporary churches and Christian communities have contributed and currently do contribute versus what contemporary atheists contribute.  Whatever Pope Boniface VIII did in the Middle Ages is completely immaterial to whether Obama's Faith Based initiative will be a net postitive for contemporary U.S. society.

And this brings us full circle.  Considering the contributions of faith communities and secular communities is perfectly relevant to the discussion.  And providing the context releases the original comment from its previous status as a non-sequitur.

by Saintcog 2008-07-03 08:25AM | 0 recs
Re: This is BS

Your intellectual integrity becomes questionable the moment you make a non-sequitur or mispeak about the VERY POINT you're trying to make-- which is that the Christian church has benefited the world far more than any anti-religious or atheist manifesto.

You are right to take offense with the insult I flung carelessly at your divinity school or your university.  I'm sure they are fine institutions.  I hope they've also taught you that you can't divorce my "historical criticism of Christianity" with the discussion of contemporary churches, because the Christian church is nothing without its historical roots.  If you simply want to talk about the current state of affairs, then by golly, let's do just that.  That women are still not allowed into the sanctum of religious orders of the Catholic Church is ridiculous-- and cries out for a historical perspective.  Their routine intolerance of the homosexual lifestyle, and indeed their intolerance of any sexual life, is too medieval and obscenely hilarious.  You are fortunate to live in a society where a practicing Catholic can masturbate without sweat (metaphorically speaking) despite his church's ban on such immorality-- but go to the rural areas of the third world, where poverty afflicts the uneducated, and see what the Catholic Church's obsession with people's sex lives has wrought.  More poverty, more uneducated children, eternal guilt, fear of eternal punishment, etc., etc..  The churches there are well-funded, the priests and nuns well fed, the shiny things that decorate the bishop's palace remain shiny.

I know that the church and other faith-based institutions have done godly work among the poor and the needy.  But it comes with a price.  Why should there be a debate about evolution?  Why is research on stem cells an issue?  Why are homosexuals obliged to remain celibate?  Why are they not allowed to exchange voes in front of their friends and family?  I'm not even getting to the atrocious fairy tales about prayer and souls and heaven and purgatory and sin and graces and gods and saints that have kept many men and women from exploring the rational world with balanced senses.  There are Christians who are sympathetic to women's rights and gay rights within the church and in society, for sure, but they have few allies in the echelons of power, for the church must remain conservative to survive.

But let's go back to Obama's faith-based initiative for a moment-- ask instead why the government does not invest in community-based support centers.  Instead of relying on churches and religious groups (all with underlying agendas), why not strengthen and expand the non-religious charities that currently operate in the same communities?  The question of expediency ought not to excuse this slide on the slippery slope that attends the boundaries of the constitution.  There are ways to expand government help for the needy and the poor that do not have to involve religion or religious groups.  So instead of continuing to court the evangelicals, Obama should instead spend his time and effort fighting for universal healthcare-- something that will significantly impact the poor and the struggling.

This is a rambling response, written during my lunchbreak ... so I'm begging for the reader to cut me some slack.  But my original point stands-- that there ought to be other ways for my secular government to help communities without funneling money to religious organizations.  Oh, and that religion is poison ... wink.

by Sieglinde 2008-07-03 09:50AM | 0 recs
Re: This is BS

You have mischaracterized the "VERY POINT" I was trying to make.  The ultimate point of my post was not to draw a contrast between secular and faith-based activism.  The single remark in question, that has caused all this controversy between us, was part of a preamble to main portion of the diary.  The "very point" was simply a handful of personal reflections on the issue of faith, politics, and faith based programs with an eye towards Obama's recent specific proposal.

As for the correlation between Christianity for the past 2,000 years and contemporary Christianity, and the idea of "The Christian Church" (as though there ever were such a monolithic entity), this a far more complicated discussion that deserves its own thread in a compltetly different forum.  But let me offer an analogy to justify my divorcing (to use your term) contemporary church communities from other church communities.

The Democratic Party has been responsible for more atrocious crimes against African Americans than the Republican Party ever has.  The Democratic Party in the 19th Century championed the institution of slavery to the point of splitting the country and plunging us into civil war.  Whatever the Democratic Party has become since, it cannot be divorced from its historical roots.

This is an example of a horrible argument.  When I walk into my local Democratic meeting, I'm not holding the modern Democratic Party accountable for slavery, and I seriously doubt any African Americans in attendance are either.

Everything you bring up about women, homosexuality, stem cell research evolution, etc I completely agree with.  But this is not about the larger question of religion and culture.  The question is whether religious institutions working in tandem with the government can effectively provide assistance for people in need.

As for whether the government should be funding non-religious community centers instead of religious institutions, I think you are offering a false dichotomy.  If you have looked into Obama's proposal, he is planning to expand the Faith-based program as it exists to include neighborhhood commuinity centers.  This is a completely pragmatic approach, and ironically it is more secular than any proposal that expressly forbids religious instiutions from participating.

Obama's proposal as I understand it is as follows.  Federal funds will be used to support and expand upon whatever community organization and/or religious institution that most effectively services the needs of the community.  That is about as scientific an approach as one can take.  Examine the field without prejudice and make funding decisions based solely on results.  The caveats about discrimination in hiring firing, etc. are dealt with in the original diary.

by Saintcog 2008-07-03 11:51AM | 0 recs
Re: This is BS

You say: "Everything you bring up about women, homosexuality, stem cell research evolution, etc I completely agree with.  But this is not about the larger question of religion and culture.  The question is whether religious institutions working in tandem with the government can effectively provide assistance for people in need."

But this is the point I'm making.  Plain and simple, why support the propagation of these intolerant institutions when you can do the same work by trying to expand non-religious charities to do the same work?  People of conscience (like me) volunteer to work in non-religious charities, and so I bet that if the government pours a lot of money onto these organizations, there will be a volunteer base to take up the challenge.

Why be in bed with the intolerant and anti-intellectual and anti-science groups?  Why risk the constitution at all, when the government is empowered to reach the poor communities and help them, without prejudice of faith or creed?

It is NOT a false dichotomy:  I want our government to strengthen non-religious organizations.  I want Obama to declare that he's for helping the poor and the struggling Americans by establishing universal healthcare, by making college more affordable (or free!), and also by sending government money to non-religious community groups and charities.

Why involve religious groups at all?

In my opinion, Obama is simply making a political play.  And it's disgusting on so many levels.

by Sieglinde 2008-07-03 12:35PM | 0 recs
Re: This is BS

First, let me say that I'm glad this conversation is coming into focus.  There was way too much going on earlier. Second, I am enjoying discussing this with you because you are clearly a thoughtful and intelligent person and, interestingly, I'd be willing to bet that we agree on almost everything else save for this one issue.  Third, this is tne last response you will get from me today, as I will be spending the rest of the evening registering voters at a 4th of July fireworks thing.  Anything you contribute today, I will address tomorrow.

Now, on to your points.  First, not all churches and faith based communities are intollerant and ass backwards.  Many progressive Christian denominations, for instance, will conduct ceremonies for gay couples, permit women to participate fully in the community, and counsel their female parishioners on matters such as abortion and contraception without judgment or rebuke.  These organizations will easily be funded under Obama's plan.  Other religious institutions that promulgate intolerance would need to demonstrate that their charitable activities will not directly advance the intolerant positions that are at odds with the hiring and firing standards of the federal govt.

That is Obama's plan as I understand it.  And that is the only condition under which I support it.  My support for this plan is contingent upon how successfully these standards can be monitored and enforced.  Some are cynical about whether they can be.  I'm willing to give it a go.

As for why be in bed with these groups, I'll simply reiterate that I believe the government should provide support without prejudice to whichever groups can accomplish the desired goal most effectively.  I only called your statement a false dichotomy, because it seemed that you were supposing that you can only give to one or the other (faith based or secular), when the fact of the matter is that you can support both.

As for Obama making a political play, I couldn't disagree more.  Obama got his start in public life helping communities through churches.  He knows first hand the benefits of faith based community action.  He is simply building upon what he knows to be effective.

Here's a question for you.  And I'm asking this because I just thought of it, and I'm not really certain of the answer.  What if there were an organization that is not recognized as a religious by the government (i.e., it does not have tax exempt status) whose community services have been shown to be very effective in combatting poverty.  But this organization has this quirky idea that electrons have a positive charge, protons have a negative charge, and neutrons have a happy charge.  And that's it; that's their only creed.  This is not a religious institution, although it does maintain a bizarre belilef.  Should this organization not receive funding, simply because it believes something odd?

by Saintcog 2008-07-03 01:54PM | 0 recs
Re: Why This Atheist ...

As a Katrina survivor, I can tell you that after losing everything I owned.  Having only the clothes on my back and whatever I had packed, having lost all evidence of my existence as a resident of New Orleans, LA except for my driver's license.  I can tell you that the only way my family and I were able to make it through the long process of re-grouping, re-building, re-shaping our lives was throught the help of the local church charities that provided food, shelter, clothing and somethings as simple as a comb and brush to comb my sister's hair, I have no problem with religion or with Obama's faith-based policy.  I owe my mental and physical well being to the same church program that will/may benefit from Obama's plan.

by lamh3176 2008-07-02 03:06PM | 0 recs
Re: Why This Atheist ...

Then your responsibility now is to make generous donations in kind back to the church to help others. As we learned in this campaign, lots of small contributions add up. Take your beer money for the year and give it a church...get a tax deduction and know that you've helped. You also paid taxes and you are entitled to help as we all are...it just should not be through your church.

by demwords 2008-07-02 03:53PM | 0 recs
Re: Why This Atheist Supports Obama's Faith Based

You can't start making exceptions.

Keep Church and State separate.

by Juno 2008-07-02 03:08PM | 0 recs
Re: Why This Atheist Supports Obama's Faith Based
A simple reality check....
In your city...
Who runs the food banks?
Who runs shelters for the homeless?
Who runs shelters for women and children?
In a time and galaxy far away...
Most of the Hospitals ..at least in Denver
were run by non-profit religious organizations..
(Our two kids were born at St. Josepeh's)
Now...most have disappeared..replace by you-know-whats...
by nogo postal 2008-07-02 03:15PM | 0 recs
Re: Why This Atheist Supports Obama's Faith Based

In many cases these religious organizations had their priorities. What's more important in helping people, church buildings or hospitals?  They sold the hospitals and yet they still have their splendid churches. I think they should sell the church properties and fund the hospitals. If I may be so presumptuous, that's what Jesus would have done.

by demwords 2008-07-02 03:58PM | 0 recs
Re: Why This Atheist Supports Obama's Faith Based

Again with the broad brush.

All religions and religious people are not the same.

Would you like me to judge you as the same as Lynndie England, or Eric Robert Rudolph, because you are American?

You're stereotyping - just as racists and sexists do. You just have different categories.

by Falsehood 2008-07-02 04:14PM | 0 recs
Re: Why This Atheist Supports Obama's Faith Based
Okay...now I can see where you are going.
I categorically distain organized religion because it is self-serving and self-righteous. I in no way condemn any religious person, unless they are pushing their beliefs like Amway salesmen. Believe what you want, just keep it out of our secular commons. I don't want god on my money, or in my pledge of allegiance. In fact, if there were a god I would think that plastering his/her name on on money and petty nationalistic oaths would be offensive.
by demwords 2008-07-02 04:21PM | 0 recs
Re: Why This Atheist Supports Obama's Faith Based

I categorically say there is no way that you can legitimately condemn every church that was ever formed on the basis of those churches you have been to.

Was MLK self-serving? Was Gandhi self-righteous?

We an all stand to learn something from the Good Samaritan. Even if you don't like the reasons, religious groups do do good.

Habitat for Humanity. The Catholic Worker's movement.

There are legitimate questions of policy here, but a polarized position isn't going to help process them.

by Falsehood 2008-07-03 10:04PM | 0 recs
Re: Why This Atheist Supports Obama's Faith Based

Both MLK and Gandhi were brilliant politicians who used the power of religion to help execute their admirable objectives. At the same time George Bush has also used the power of religion to execute less admirable objectives. During WW I churches on both sides were convinced they had god on their sides. The churches blessed the slaughter of millions for the political goals of industrialists and monarchs. So much for the legacy of the  "prince of peace."

If people are doing good it is because they are good people. I know  quite a few people volunteering for Habitat who are atheists.

I am not condemning spiritual people, but I do condemn people and groups who claim "mystical" knowledge that they believe makes them more righteous.

If religious people want to help the general population, that's fine. Be good samaritans, just raise the money for your largesse. Forgo building the palace to your religion if funds are short. Jesus (Yehoshua Ben Yosef) preached on the street, it worked for him.

I don't think government funds should be any part of it. These groups already receive tax deductions for contributions just as non-religious charities do. If people want their church be do more they should give more money. Poorer congregations of a denomination should be helped by richer congregation. They are brethen after all.

BTW: In the good samaritan parable it was a "priest" that did not help and ordinary citizen who came to the assistance of the victim.

by demwords 2008-07-05 07:50AM | 0 recs
Re: Why This Atheist Supports Obama's Faith Based

I don't really disagree with you here.

However, churches offer the fabric for doing good in many places - there just aren't non-profits to do the work.

by Falsehood 2008-07-06 07:18PM | 0 recs

in direct response to your questions.

The largest food bank is a non-profit not affiliated with any religious group.

The homeless shelters are run by the city though there are also missions, which do sell religion along with free food and shelter.

The city also runs shelters for women and children.

The largest hospitals are provided the state's University and the City's own general hospital.

We pay mightily to provide these social services and I am happy to pay taxes that provide these.

I am fortunate to live in a civilized city where religion knows its place and the catholic church is busy selling properties to pay off victims of priests sexual abuses.

by demwords 2008-07-02 09:45PM | 0 recs


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