Tuesday, March 15, 2005

More on religion

Yesterday I posted a link to Mike the Mad Biologist’s blog in which he discussed the religious left and how American Jews fit into that group. Mike’s post included a link to another blog by PZ Meyer, in which Mr. Meyer lambastes Amy Sullivan for writing an article which, as he sees it, suggests that Democrats embrace the religious left. In fact, if you read the Salon article, Ms. Sullivan never suggests such a thing. Rather, the article makes the main point that the religious left is weak and ineffectual because it has not undertaken the massive organizational effort the religious right has over the last thirty years.

In any case, Mr. Meyer is pretty strident in suggesting that this would be a mistake and that Democrats should embrace secularism and “free thought” as a party platform. Moreover, he makes it clear that this platform should be overtly anti-religion, though not anti-God. Personally, I disagree. What Democrats should be doing is emphasizing that theirs is a party for all faiths, that people of any faith will be well-represented by the party, but that they want the mechanisms of government to remain secular.

I could give two shits if Roy Moore is a card-carrying member of the Church of Lucifer (he’s not really). What I do care about is that Roy Moore thinks the Constitution was written specifically to reinforce the doctrines of the Church of Lucifer (he doesn’t really). To me, a politician’s or a party’s religion is inconsequential until they begin projecting their religion onto the structure and function of our federal and state governments. Doing so creates the risk that those governments will begin to militate for that particular religion to the detriment of all non-believers. At its root, government should be about protecting people’s bodies, not people’s souls. Highlighting this fact is exactly where I think the religious left has a role.

I think Mr. Meyer does the left a great disservice with his screed. Most people on the left do not share Mr. Meyer’s animosity towards religion and religious people. Most people on the left, I think, recognize that Enlightenment values and religious values can co-exist quite comfortably. Most people on the left, in fact, can envision a government that is run by atheists and true-believers alike, but which espouses neither view point. The real mission for the left and its religious members is to prove this point. One reason the religious right has become so strong, I think, is that they have succeeded in convincing Americans that Enlightenment values and religious values cannot co-exist and that those of us who call for secular government do so out of animus against religious beliefs and people. That is wrong, but Mr. Meyer certainly gives folks on the right reason to think otherwise.