Monday, February 25, 2008

Faith and Politics

In 1987 then Vice President George H. W. Bush was campaigning for president. At a campaign stop on August 27, 1987 the following exchange took place between Vice President Bush and a reporter.
Reporter: What will you do to win the votes of the Americans who are atheists?
Bush: I guess I'm pretty weak in the atheist community. Faith in God is important to me.
Reporter: Surely you recognize the equal citizenship and patriotism of Americans who are atheists?
Bush: No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.
Reporter: (somewhat taken aback): Do you support as a sound constitutional principle the separation of state and church?
Bush: Yes, I support the separation of church and state. I'm just not very high on atheists.

This exchange affected me deeply. Here was the Vice President of my country, a man who swore on a bible to uphold the constitution, telling me that I should not be considered a citizen. The same man that went on to become president. I think it was that moment when I knew I would have to fight for my rights as an American, that they were not just to be taken for granted. I lost my allusion that America stood for justice and liberty for all.

We know how history has played out. This discrimination and the bastardization of the constitution has become even greater under the hands of Little George. In this year's election campaign I have been paying attention to what the candidates have to say about faith and the lack thereof. I don't care if people have faith as long as they don't use it to discriminate or to decide major policy decisions just based on it.

We have heard how the right wing candidates feel about faith. More of the same. You gotta have faith or you don't belong. I mean, really, did you listen to Romney's speech about faith? How about Huckabee? And McCain is no different in his disdain for American atheists.

What about our Democratic candidates? Both have professed a deep religious faith in Christianity. Well, despite the fact that our constitution says there shall be no religious test to hold office, it is a fact that no candidate can win unless they do profess such a thing. However, we need to look at how the candidates view all the rest of us Americans.

Hillary Clinton

Hillary is a big disappointment to me in regards to her support of all Americans. Not only will she not stand up against the discrimination of gays and lesbians, but she has acted in opposition to those of us who are nonbelievers. Last June while discussing her husband's infidelity, Hillary made this statement.
"At those moments in time when you are tested, it is absolutely essential that you be grounded in your faith."
Is she really saying that without religious faith you cannot persevere? How ignorant is that?

In 2002, Hillary also posted a statement about the Pledge of Allegiance on her web site. In that statement she actually said she was offended that an appeals court would rule "one nation under god" as not belonging in our pledge. She actually implied in that statement that you must have faith to be part of our nation.

I have never found any evidence that Hillary considers Atheist Americans as part of this country.

Barack Obama

There is a great deal of controversy about Barack's faith and his supposed islamic indoctrination as a child. I think even some of his most outspoken critics have come around to conclude that he is what he says he is, a devout Christian. Regardless, the question in my mind is how does he view Americans of other faiths, particularly those with no faith.

Finally a candidate has stood up and proclaimed that atheists ARE Americans and are WANTED in the conversation of America.
"We all have a part in this conversation . . . believer and nonbeliever alike. Because, while I'm a Christian, I don't believe that religious folks have a monopoly on morality."
Can it be true? A presidential candidate that includes all of us? Since G. H. W. Bush proclaimed that atheists are not Americans over 20 years ago, I have not ever heard a candidate or a leader make such a statement. Not Bill, not Hillary, and certainly not any republican.

I think I am beginning to believe that change is possible.


Anonymous said...

You do have a faith and a belief. You believe in nothing and have faith that you are right. I choose to believe in God, but that doesn't make me better than anyone else. Our country was founded by people who wanted future generations to be free to express their religious beliefs, or lack thereof, because they were persecuted for believing differently than the King. The problem with "religion", and "religious" people, is that they try to bully people into it. But Jesus only ask that we believe that He is the Son of God, born of a virgin, and sacrificed on a cross, like a criminal, to pay for every sin committed by every person. God has a plan for your life.

Greg said...

Thanks for your comments. I appreciate it that you recognize all Americans belong here as well.

Of course I have a faith. Not a faith that I am right. Given evidence to the contrary I would certainly consider it, not blindly stick to my "faith" that I was right. No, the faith that I have is not that I am right. It is faith that in myself to weigh all the evidence and make rational reasonable conclusions.

Please! I believe in a lot more than nothing. That is a grave mistake many people make about atheists. We believe in morality, as Barack has pointed out. I believe morality evolved as humanity grew societies. We could not survive without an inherent morality to love one another and work together to accomplish what is good for all of society. Organized religion is only one way to teach this inherent morality that exists in all of us, but they do not have the monopoly on it. I believe we have this one precious life to live and we better make the most of our time here on earth while we have it. I have no excuses of an afterlife to hang my hat on. I must do good here and now. These are not beliefs in nothing. These are beliefs in life and humanity itself.