Yesterday, I read a really interesting post by one of my favorite undergrad profs, Michael Berube. In this post, he questions why people in the Democratic party (the DLC is a prominent example) and on the left keep insisting that we need to show a greater respect for religion in the political system. His basic point is that religion gets plenty of respect (he cites statistics that while 95 percent of people would vote for a Catholic for president, only 45 percent would vote for an atheist), that statements of religious conviction are most often used as a conversation stopper, and so he’s wondering what is really motivating these claims:
But I see no evidence whatsoever that “persons of faith” are discouraged in any way from testifying to their faith in American political life, which is why complaints about Democrats’ indifference or hostility to religion strike me as so very disingenuous. These complaints can’t possibly be about hostility to religion in American politics, I think. And when they come from the left side of the spectrum, they can’t possibly be about trying to win over voters on the religious right. Nor do they seem to be centrally concerned about issues of war and peace — or even the minimum wage. Nor do I see religious progressives arguing for greater discrimination against gays and lesbians. So I’m left to wonder: is this conversation-stopping conversation all about abortion, in the end? Because when political liberals and moderates ask atheists like me to give even more weight to religious beliefs in the public square, I can hardly believe that they’re merely asking me to reply, “gee, I’m impressed — you have a really deep, sincere faith.”
Go read the post because my summary is not really doing it justice.
In my favorite comment, Abbey Kelleyite argues that (1) religious people are often irritated by atheist conclusions that faith is in conflict with reason, and that (2) perhaps Berube is underestimating the need to appeal to moderates and swing voters.
My sense of the matter was along the lines of Abbey: that religious moderates are bothered as much by getting lumped in with fundamentalists (translation: religious crazies) as they are with fundamentalists themselves, and that secularists/atheists/agnostics/etc should differentiate between fundamentalists and those who want to make some of their political decisions using their religious morality.
So, anyway, I’m really interested in what the rest of y’all have to say (especially our moderate readers who may feel “disrespected”). Are there anti- or non-religious discourses that bother you, and if they do exist, why do they bother you?
Generally, what do y’all make of the conclusions in Berube’s post? How do you make sense of the different arguments about religion in leftist political discourse?
- 6 April 2007