I suspect that most American atheists would not enjoy being classified as friendly puppydogs. So it’s time we stopped slobbering and wagging our tails, as if we’ve been offered some fantastic treat, whenever a political candidate says that he or she promises to uphold the Constitutional separation of church and state. That’s not a special yummy for us freethinkers, a First Amendment bone; it’s the law. And it benefits everyone except the ayatollahs among us.
Still, in exchange for that phantom goody, many of us atheists are willing to roll over and play dead while every single presidential contender takes his or her faith out for its daily walk.
Yes, the mythos says it’s impossible for a professed nonbeliever to get elected to high office in the United States. But how does that justify the incessant religious rhetoric? Wherever you turn—left, right, or center—you hear one of the candidates talking about the deep spiritual beliefs that, they all swear, make our country great.
This kind of thing is a well-rehearsed gospel tune of the Republicans. But the Democrats are singing it, too, booming it out loudly and proudly, vying to be noticed in the theocratic choir.
Even the least Jesus-jumping among them are eager for the opportunity to leap for the lord in front of the cameras. Here are a few instances of that phenomenon. Bear in mind: These are just the tip of the Christberg.
Example: According to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, Hillary Clinton says that she sees “no contradiction between support for faith-based programs and upholding our constitutional principles.” This statement is not necessarily an endorsement of governmentally sponsored initiatives. But it’s not a condemnation, either. It’s neutral. Edwards and Obama have made similar ambiguous pronouncements. Clearly, these hypocrites would like to leave the nation’s holy hooligans with the impression—mistaken or not—that the White House under a new regime would continue to recognize a special role for religion.
Example: The New York Times of April 30 includes a lengthy article that discusses Barack Obama’s “Search for Faith.” Masquerading as news, the piece pretends to examine the candidate’s relationship with Trinity United Church of Christ and its controversial pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr. Whatever else the text says, its real message is clear: Barack Obama is a Christian. This drivel was obviously written with the collusion, or at least the tacit approval, of the Obama campaign. You didn’t see the candidate at a press conference telling the media, “I’d appreciate it if you all left my religious views out of this race.”
Example: While still governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson created the Governor’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. He also gave all state employees a half day off with pay, at public expense, to honor Pope John Paul II when the pontiff kicked the jewel-encrusted bucket.
Example: Last week, Joe Biden, as quoted by the Associated Press, inarticulately urged his party “to demonstrate that it’s not afraid to deal with the faith issue, and has a candidate who the public thinks knows there’s something bigger than he or she is and is comfortable with that.”
Example: Dennis Kucinich, the New-Age Vegan Roman Catholic Munchkin, is a strong supporter of separation. But in 2004, he apparently accepted an invitation to be interviewed by beliefnet.com. During a meandering and vague discussion, he was asked: What do you think were the spiritual principles that animated the founding of the country? His answer: “An understanding of the role of divine providence. An understanding of the connection between God and nature. An appreciation for the possibility that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness flowed from a transcendant source. Things like that.”
Well, things like that are what lead to a theocratic state. While Turkish secularists are barking vehemently on the streets of Istanbul to protest a religious takeover of their country, we American atheist puppies are quietly licking the hands of godpushers who give us half-hearted pats on the head, all the while threatening to restrain the country with a heaven-held leash.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating a lack-of-religion test for candidates. They’re free to worship any idol they please. But when they parade their pet dogma voluntarily, in hopes of endearing themselves to a gullible electorate, we atheists should at least snarl.