Hillary: Latest Dem to Exclude Me From The Tent

Hilary Clinton made a pretty good speech last night, and a good part of it dealt with unity in the Democratic Party. She made important points about the importance of including women and racial minorities and homosexuals, and in thanking her supporters meticulously included Puerto Rico and the territories.

I was really feeling that unity glow, too, right up to the end… and then she did what so many politicians have done before her, and she metaphorically threw me out of the tent. She’s far from the first, she won’t be the last, and it seems to be getting worse rather than better in the Democratic Party.

You didn’t catch it? it was when she ended with this: “That is our duty, to build that bright future, and to teach our children that in America there is no chasm too deep, no barrier too great — and no ceiling too high — for all who work hard, never back down, always keep going, have faith in God, in our country, and in each other.”

Billboard ouside DNC

Billboard ouside DNC

She also said “Thank you so much. God bless America and Godspeed to you all.” I don’t mind that so much; I’m willing to accept good wishes no matter how couched. For a believer to wish my country and myself well in terms of the god or gods they believe in is perfectly fine with me. (The same goes for “Merry Christmas” and similar greetings – I’ll smile and wish you the same back.)

But why, oh why couldn’t I be included among those for whom “in America there is no chasm too deep, no barrier too great — and no ceiling too high”? Why is it necessary to believe in God to be considered a part of this? It wasn’t meant to be so.

I expect this kind of thing from the modern Republican Party, which has been the party of exclusion for my lifetime, and certainly no prominent leader in the Democratic Party has so blatant as former President George H.W. Bush, who doesn’t even think we atheists should be considered citizens or patriots.

Still, it does seem as if the Democrats are moving toward the Republican attitude toward nonbelievers.

Barack’s proposed expansion of faith-based initiatives is better thought out than George W. Bush’s (surprise, surprise!), and stays within the letter of the law of Church-State separation – but it cuts awfully close to the line. Despite repeated appeals, the Interfaith Gathering at the DNC refused to allow a single non-theist from any of several local secularist groups to join in; organizer Leah Daughtry opined, “Democrats have been, are and will continue to be people of faith – and this interfaith gathering is proof of that.” (Is she telling me I have a faith I don’t know about, or is she saying I’m not a Democrat?) Such sentiments make me uneasy.

There’s nothing wrong with reaching out to the faithful, and I understand the need to reassure some of them that being a Democrat is entirely compatible with religious belief, but I’d like our Democratic leaders to bear in mind that when they say “we also worship an awesome God in the blue states” that that “we” is only a subset of Democrats. I’m seeing the references to God becoming as near-obligatory to Democratic politicians as it has long been for Republicans, and that worries me.

Some may think I’m overreacting, and I may be… but the recent history of this country makes me skittish of these things. It wasn’t that long ago that American schoolchildren pledged fealty to “One Nation, Indivisible” and no one thought anything about it. Then the words “Under God” were inserted, dividing us into those who were comfortable with the new ‘standard’ Pledge and those who weren’t, and that insertion which does nothing but divide is now apparently ineradicable. In a country whose founding documents declare its secular foundation, even the currency makes reference to the dominant religious beliefs.

This diary was inspired by the ending of Hillary Clinton’s otherwise very excellent and inclusive speech, but that sentiment of hers was only one expression of a general (and, I fear, growing) blindness to the concerns and sensibilities of nonbelievers like me. That blindness has long been standard – indeed, a point of pride – amongst Republicans, but let’s try to keep it out of our Democratic Party. Let’s have a care that our equality of respect for differing faiths continues to include those like me, whose faith is entirely satisfied in this world.

We are part of this country too, and we have an equal share in the expectation of civic duty, and in the pride of service to community, and in the hope of a better future for our beloved country, so when you speak of America be sure to include us, or at least not exclude us.

Please. It’s a small thing. Smaller than a mustard seed, even.


~ by B.T. Murtagh on August 27, 2008.

3 Responses to “Hillary: Latest Dem to Exclude Me From The Tent”

  1. […] Akua & Kanaloa, in Hawaii.  The turnout was great, as I was telling My boys yesterday.  Thanks to you, though, more and more atheists keep showing up.  Now, besides yesterday’s atheists and some […]

  2. I’m from the UK so my perspective’s rather different – our left wing came from the trades unions, which have a strong atheist/secular heritage. I think the point of faith groups in our left wing political parties is to make them feel a mainstream part of the party, rather than a fringe group. I can’t really understand how this relates to the US situation tho – surely the religious have a clear majority there?

    Still, interfaith meetings are generally a good idea. Maybe they thought it best to work on their differences there before dealing with the atheists – they all share common ground that you don’t, after all. You can only have so many arguments at once.

  3. Hallo Charlotte, I lived in Banbury, Oxfordshire from age 10 to 21, so I know what you mean. It’s quite a different politics over here. Not only is the US far more religious, but the politics tends to be far more dualistic in every dimension – no doubt due to this being a winner-takes-all system rather than a parliamentary democracy.

    In the USA the most politically motivated religious Americans (or perhaps I should say the more religiously motivated political Americans!) are the fundamentalist Christian types and gravitate toward the more authoritarian Republican Party. Secularists are more comfortable in the Democratic Party, where the principle of separation of Church and State has long been a central plank.

    Lately the Democrats have been trying to siphon off some of the religious voters from the Republicans, hence the growth of interfaith meetings and, less appetizingly, the softening of their resolve to keep Church and State rigidly separated. Nonbelievers are being increasingly marginalized as a result, precisely because we’re a minority, and not a well organized one.

    (There is some hope on the organizational front, though, with groups like the Freedom From Religion Foundation, recently mentioned.)

    Antidisestablishmentarianism per se is still largely a position of the Right (many of whom ahistorically insist that the US was “founded as a Christian nation”), but the lines are starting to blur significantly, and as an atheist living in the Bible Belt that worries me.

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