Barak Obama gave a presentation in which he says that Democrats need to "embrace faith". Says Obama:
"I was able to see faith as more than just a comfort to the weary or a hedge against death," Obama said. "It is an active, palpable agent in the world. It is a source of hope."
"At best, we may try to avoid the conversation about religious values altogether, fearful of offending anyone and claiming that--regardless of our personal beliefs--constitutional principles tie our hands," the first-term senator said.
"At worst, some liberals dismiss religion in the public square as inherently irrational or intolerant, insisting on a caricature of religious Americans that paints them as fanatical, or thinking that the very word `Christian' describes one's political opponents, not people of faith,"
as a Democrat, he has fallen into the same trap as many in his party who have come before him, remaining quiet about the role faith has played in his life for fear of engaging in the conversation on religious values.
Obama said that while America's religious gap has been manipulated by the likes of such evangelical conservative leaders as Rev. Jerry Falwell and broadcaster Pat Robertson, Democrats have remained on the sidelines. And that, he said, has to end.
"Over the long haul, I think we make a mistake when we fail to acknowledge the power of faith in the lives of the American people, and join a serious debate about how to reconcile faith with our modern, pluralistic democracy," Obama said.
"And we might realize that we have the ability to reach out to the evangelical community and engage millions of religious Americans in the larger project of American renewal," Obama said.
"No matter how religious they may or may not be, people are tired of seeing faith used as a tool to attack and belittle and divide," he said.
I think that Obama is mistaken in his analysis here. I think this speech is a clear pandering to a group of people he probably wants or needs should he wish to run for higher office. It is also a strategy that the Democratic Party is going to use in order to attempt to "retake" the House and Senate. The problem here is that there is a mixup between organized religion and faith. People have faith in all kinds of things and people. We have faith that our vehicles will not break down on us while we are driving. We have faith in people to do the things they are expected to do. No one has an issue with faith. What people like myself have problems with is organized religion and it's input into governance. Some of us have issues with organized religion itself. I am not one of those people. Organized religion is the codification of particular faiths, For example the belief there is a devil or not. The belief in a "returning" God or not and other things that cannot be substantiated but some people decide to organize their thinking around. The problem with most organized religion is that they are often replete with contradiction. For example Christians and Muslims believe that killing is wrong but most will make exceptions for whatever thing they deem is necessary. The other problem with many religions is the co-option of common sense social contract issues. For example a Christian may say that stealing is wrong because God says so. A person who does not believe in God will say that regardless to what any religion says, stealing is wrong because it is deprives a person of their goods. A Christian and an Atheist may agree on the fact that stealing is wrong but some Christians will insist on adding that God says so. The Atheist may argue that such addition is unnecessary and the Christian side will argue that such an objection is oppressing their beliefs. Hence a part of the conflict.
The other part of the conflict is painfully obvious. There are so many different organized religions that it is simply impossible to acomodate them all. This is the primary reason why "progressives" should not stoop to pandering to so called "people of faith". Nor should "progressives" who categorize themselves as "people of faith" insist on the inclusion of "faith" in the role of politics. Furthermore; "Faith" in America is usually synonymous with "Christian" which in a multi-religious country is simply discriminatory. Many Christians mistakenly think that as the majority religion in the country that they get to define what will be legitimate "faith". Of course if the government were to take sides then it is endorsing and establishing a de-facto religion in violation of the Constitution. The proof of this is that if school prayer were to be introduced in public schools and the prayer was going to be in the form of Buddhist meditation, I know many many Christians who would object. How do we know this? In Michigan there is a town where there is a large Muslim community. They have petitioned to have their call to prayer broadcast by the Mosques and the Christians object. Now how can one object to a call to prayer if you are a "person of faith"? The town wanted to pass and ordinance to prevent the call but ran into problems because it was clearly discriminatory in that church bells would be exempted.
All in all I think the Democratic Party and so called "progressives" ought to push the logic behind the separation of church and state as a defense against discrimination and religious tyranny. They should stress that separation of church and state is not an encroachment on the personal lives of any religious group (except that which conflicts with the law).