Holier Than Thou

Ez offers up an interesting post on the Dems’ religion conundrum:

It's bad enough that Democrats believe they've got to fake faith these days, transforming casual spiritual commitments into essential components of our beings. Worse, however, is that these theological costume parties come off as obviously inauthentic, meaning Democrats who want to compete in certain races simply have to be longtime believers, sincere theists like Kaine or Clinton. That's a worrisome precedent.

Political office should not be restricted to anyone, not veterans, not believers, not men, and not Democrats. Quite a few folks in this country have a casual relationship to religion and that shouldn't be a disqualifier for office nor a negative when the DCCC or DSCC goes out scouring the countryside for potential candidates. Worse then losing some elections is celebrating the idea that we can win them by just nominating enough altar boys who never hung up their frocks. And while that's not what folks are explicitly saying, it's bubbling just beneath the surface. Democrats need to find a way to overcome the religion gap by delegitimizing a private issue as a relevant litmus test for success in the public sphere. I don't know how to do that, and you certainly can't tell anyone that the beliefs they live by aren't important enough to vote on, but it's something to think about.
That last bit is the rub, isn’t it? Of course, one doesn’t have to explicitly state, or even imply, that the beliefs by which one lives aren’t important enough to vote on, in the course of making the point that religious people don’t have the market cornered on morality. And even though every politician—including the great Christian Bush himself—makes careful mention of the faithless (typically coming at the end of a list like “Christians, Jews, Muslims…” and tacked on as “and non-believers” or “and even people who don’t practice religion”), there doesn’t exist in politics, or anywhere in America, for that matter, much real support for the notion that one can be ethical and faithless at the same time.

A peculiar state of affairs, considering that a ragtag band of secular humanists has never set off for foreign lands with conversion—and failing that, war—on their minds, and that jails are full of men who read holy books.

That’s not to suggest a superiority of the faithless, but an equivalency, at least. While the suggestion that there are good and bad people of every religion isn’t considered very controversial, proposing that an agnostic or atheist candidate might be as moral as a devoutly religious one still ruffles lots of feathers—even among many Democrats. A faithless candidate can’t win, we’re told, which is no doubt correct, but the Dems’ awkward embrace of religiosity is moving us further away from the time when such a candidate could win. Ez again:

That Kaine had to deploy Jesus to deflect attacks is, in fact, a bad thing. His positions should be able to stand without the son of god propping them up. Tim Kaine without the church-going background should be as appealing as Tim Kaine with it. That it's not so is a precedent we should be giving serious thought to.

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