Recently I read a number of articles by a number of secular sources that praised the DNC for removing the word “God” from their official party platform. Now, in the interest of honesty, let me say that I found these articles to be generally misguided and overenthusiastic in much the same way that we might think of someone who rewards their dog for regularly pooping in the living room as opposed to the dining room. While it is certainly improvement of a sort, it is not what I would call unqualified improvement. I would call it a miniscule and halfhearted nudge in the right direction.

As in the sister article “Let’s Get Our Mitts on Romney,” I am not aiming to support or attack President Obama’s policy decisions–only the degree to which the DNC, (and presumably the President,) have become pandering pawns of the religious in direct violation of the U.S. Constitution. I quote:

Faith. Faith has always been a central part of the American story, and it has been a driving force of progress and justice throughout our history. We know that our nation, our communities, and our lives are made vastly stronger and richer by faith and the countless acts of justice and mercy it inspires. Faith- based organizations will always be critical allies in meeting the challenges that face our nation and our world—from domestic and global poverty, to climate change and human trafficking. People of faith and religious organizations do amazing work in communities across this country and the world, and we believe in lifting up and valuing that good work, and finding ways to support it where possible. We believe in constitutionally sound, evidence-based partnerships with faith-based and other non-profit organizations to serve those in need and advance our shared interests. There is no conflict between supporting faith-based institutions and respecting our Constitution, and a full commitment to both principles is essential for the continued flourishing of both faith and country.”

–Official DNC Platform

Allow me to break this down a little, point by point.

  • Faith has always been a central part of the American story” — Here is some classic equivocation. Both senses of faith, first trust and fidelity in our fellow humans, and second, belief without evidence in metaphysical propositions, are valid. Now I am certain that if pressed, they would vigorously attempt to use the former to avoid claiming the latter, and even were they to be pinned down would attempt to conflate the benefits and connotation of the former with the religiosity of the latter. This is dishonest.
  • and it has been a driving force of progress and justice throughout our history.” — Ah, you see?  It begins already. Well, let us examine the rich history of religious faith in the history of the U.S.: genocide, torture, rape, slavery, and forcible conversion of aboriginal people by Christian colonial powers. The ferocious sectarian infighting in the original colonies that prompted the Baptists of Danbury Connecticut to write a letter pleading for relief form their fears that the Congregationalists of Danbury Connecticut would, to put it mildly, fail to “love their neighbors as themselves.” Furthermore, we have blue laws, the justification of African-American slavery, the Prohibition, anti-women’s suffrage movements, anti-civil rights movements, anti-LGBTQ rights movements. All of these things can be traced directly back to religious justification: to religious faith. It has been the most powerful driving force of oppression and injustice in the history of our great nation. Only human fidelity, human trust, and human caring has provided the impetus to drag the religious, kicking and screaming, out of the Bronze Age.
  • We know that our nation, our communities, and our lives are made vastly stronger and richer by faith and the countless acts of justice and mercy it inspires” — Actually, no. We do not know this, and to assert it is directly counter-factual. Again, if you refer only to human fidelity this is true, but the implication that the word faith allows is that faith in God or faith in a religion is the cause of this, and this is outright untrue. Show me the justice in burning suspected witches to death in Salem. Show me the mercy in disowning a teenager whose only crime is to admit he or she is gay because the parent takes it on faith that the Bible is the perfect word of the divine. Human trust and kindness inspires acts of justice and mercy–if this was not the case then we would see no atheist charities, and, for example, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation would simply not exist. Religious faith supports tribalism and and us-vs-them mentality, and while this can strengthen bonds of community in some ways, it is directly antithetical to the project that the religious claim to care about: universal love.
  • Faith-based organizations will always be critical allies in meeting the challenges that face our nation and our world—from domestic and global poverty, to climate change and human trafficking.” — If this is true, and I have no reason to believe it is not, it proves only that there will always be credulous people who happen to be either moral enough inherently to recognize that these things are to be avoided, or whose gullibility happens to have been exploited most recently by someone who actually possesses a moral compass.
  • People of faith and religious organizations do amazing work in communities across this country and the world, and we believe in lifting up and valuing that good work, and finding ways to support it where possible.” — Now the truth comes out: “faith” has, this entire time, been being used to indicate religious faith and not the other sense of the word. I will not deny that this statement is untrue, but I would remind the reader that there are facts which make this rather less impressive than it seems at first blush. First, religious organizations often if not always do things with the implicit expectation of a reward from some supernatural being. Whether it is temporal power, wealth, or immortality in an afterlife, or even if the reward is only that they will not be consigned to an eternity of torture and hellfire, the fact remains that they are motivated to altruism by punishment and reward. Next, religious organizations almost universally spend considerable amounts of their income on proselytizing, and their help very often comes at the price of conversion or at the very least, listening to their preaching. I would ask the DNC and the President: why not support organizations whose motivations are purely humanistic and who use the entirety of their resources to improve lives, ameliorate human suffering, and build foundations for self-help instead?
  • We believe in constitutionally sound, evidence-based partnerships with faith-based and other non-profit organizations to serve those in need and advance our shared interests.” — Please recall, Mr. President and the members of the DNC, the Constitution specifically separates the state from establishing a religion. Furthermore, this means that state support for any organization that deliberately promotes a particular religion is inherently not constitutionally sound. No, DNC, you do not get a free pass for sticking: “and other non-profit organizations” into your rah-rah religion paragraph. Sorry. The religious do not share my interests: I am concerned with the improvement of human lives to the end of making people happier; the religious do it to win the adulation and conversion of the people they assist. This is not only immoral, but actively unconstitutional as well.
  • There is no conflict between supporting faith-based institutions and respecting our Constitution, and a full commitment to both principles is essential for the continued flourishing of both faith and country.” — This bit of doublethink is equal parts nonsensical and hypocritical. In short: if your political party is committed equally to religious faith and Constitutionality, it must immediately dissolve, or remove all references which can be traced back to any specific religion or group of religions from its policies, statements, and foundation. If you genuinely support faith-based institutions to the same extent as the Constitution, you must offer equal benefits and funding to any organization that is religious, no matter the religion. Any inequality represents the promotion of one religion over another, and as this support cannot possibly be extended to every single possible religion, it must be denied them all. Religion flourishes at the expense of the nation.

President Obama and the DNC, I understand that to obtain the votes of a majority of the electorate you must ruthlessly pander to as many large groups as you are able. However, doing so at the expense of the freedom and in violation of the U.S. Constitution is at best amoral and at worst heading us toward a theocracy. If nothing else, boost education sufficiently that our citzenry has the economic, political, and sociological savvy to make decisions in their interest without requiring mindless appeals to pathos.

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