2012 Democratic National Platform: Promotes Faith, Ignores Atheists

The Democratic Party just released its 2012 platform. There will be a lot of talk about the inclusion of marriage equality (yay!), but what does it say about faith?

In short, atheists aren’t going to be happy:

Faith. Faith has always been a central part of the American story, and it has been a driving force of progress and justice throughout our history. We know that our nation, our communities, and our lives are made vastly stronger and richer by faith and the countless acts of justice and mercy it inspires. Faith-based organizations will always be critical allies in meeting the challenges that face our nation and our world — from domestic and global poverty, to climate change and human trafficking. People of faith and religious organizations do amazing work in communities across this country and the world, and we believe in lifting up and valuing that good work, and finding ways to support it where possible. We believe in constitutionally sound, evidence-based partnerships with faith-based and other non-profit organizations to serve those in need and advance our shared interests. There is no conflict between supporting faith-based institutions and respecting our Constitution, and a full commitment to both principles is essential for the continued flourishing of both faith and country.

No one’s arguing that faith-based groups can’t do good work. They do and it’d be ignorant to say otherwise. But religious groups aren’t unique in that regard. This is a slap in the face to every non-theistic organization that helps the homeless or contributes to various charities.

The Democrats could have at least suggested that people without faith also care about progress and justice and that we support or volunteer with organizations that work toward those ends. Instead, they ignored us.

We expect this treatment from Republicans. But when the Democrats ignore our constituency as well, we know we still have a long way to go in terms of being accepted as equals in American society.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

    evidence-based partnerships with faith-based and other non-profit organizations

    how can you have an evidence-based partnership with an organization that is based on the opposite of evidence?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Becky-Shattuck/1198372564 Becky Shattuck

      With all due respect, they didn’t call the religion evidence-based. They said that they will continue to partner with charities–including religious charities–as long as there is evidence that their charities do good. What they are saying is that they won’t severe ties with religious charities just based on the fact they’re tied to religion. If there is evidence charities are doing good in the communities, the Democratic Party supports them, irregardless of their religious position.

      To me, that is a very smart, moderate approach.

      • Rich

        To you, maybe. To a person who says “irregardless”. My goodness.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Becky-Shattuck/1198372564 Becky Shattuck

          I’m glad that your counterpoint was to make fun of my vocabulary. My point still stands.

  • RobMcCune

    Does this sort of pandering actually gain the Democratic Party anything? I understand democrats use the experience of  bitter defeats as a learning experience, too much in many cases, but do they really think they can peel fundamentalists off the republican party? 

    I doubt those who want their god in government would also want any form of altruism or benevolence in the same government.

    • Eawkw

      Well, the Dems wouldn’t want to offend the faithful by mentioning atheists. But what this sort of pandering might get them is more atheists voting for the Green Party.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/A37GL7VKR3W6ACSIZPH7EID3LI rlrose63

        And what good does it do to vote for a party other than the big 2?  No other party will see a candidate win the presidential office.  It is a wasted vote.  I detest our voting process… I truly do.

    • rickflick

      I think this kind of tripe is stuck in simply as a defensive measure.  It helps ward off criticism from the faithists.

  • Aaron Scoggin

    It’s simple math, I guess. 70%+ of population are theists, therefore they get priority and pandering.. Figures..

    • Good and Godless

      Agreed. With the republicants claiming the patriotism and religious planks and loudly (for the lure of voters they created rather than the validity of policy left in the shadows)  insisting with every potential bias against Democrats for holding the contrary position even neutrality on religion is political suicide.

      Such a mindset is not maintainable by either party and the heightening of the issue better be a sure sign of an upcoming plummet. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

       sadly this man is right. A large portion of the voting public is religious and it spans across pretty much all other demographics. Young, old, white, black & hispanic. If you appear weak on supporting their nonsense, you risk making them feel alienated. Not that they actually are, but they certainly like to think they are whenever they aren’t pandered to. Teaching the general public that they have a privilege doesn’t win elections.

  • Anon

    The phrase “President Romney” alone makes my uterus tense up, so if this is what it takes to elect someone else, I’m okay with it. Just saying.

    • Tainda

      ROFL I thought that was just me that happened to

    • Xeon2000

      It’s like the difference between being repeatedly punched in the face and being dragged behind a car bound with chains.

  • Jasmyn

    Perhaps they were talking about us with “other non-profit organizations.” Both of the local groups I’m in are 501(c)3.

  • Cortex_Returns

    “…and other non-profit organizations to serve those in need and advance our shared interests.”

    Meh, the fact that they emphasize that they only seek constitutionally-sound relationships, and that they even include a mention of other non-profits makes it hard for me to get too upset. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Becky-Shattuck/1198372564 Becky Shattuck

      Exactly! I’m glad someone else sounds reasonable on this thread.

      All they’ve said is that they will continue to support charities and non-profit groups that do good in the communities, irregardless of their religious affiliations.

      Come on, that’s not extreme or even bad. I’m an atheist, and I have donated to a couple religiously-affiliated charities. I do my research to make sure they aren’t proselytizing to people first. If they’re not, and if they are a good charity, then I will donate. 

      There are some religiously-based charity groups that aren’t good. In my opinion, Salvation Army is actually one of those because they use their religion to discriminate (specifically, against gays and lesbians). But I’m not going to pretend that all charity groups that have a religious affiliation are bad.

  • Skerticus

    The Green Party supports secular Americans and the separation of state/church. From the 2012 Green Party Platform:
    7. Religious Freedom and Secular EqualityThe United States Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of religion. We affirm the right of each individual to the exercise of conscience and religion, while maintaining the constitutionally mandated separation of government and religion. We believe that federal, state, and local governments must remain neutral regarding religion.We call for:a. Ending discriminatory federal, state, and local laws against particular religious beliefs, and non-belief. The U.S. Constitution states that there shall be no religious test for public office. This requirement should apply to oaths (or affirmations) for holding public office at any level, employment at all government levels, oaths for witnesses in courts, oaths for jury membership, and the oath for citizenship.b. Prosecution of hate crimes based on religious affiliation or practice.c. Elimination of displays of religious symbols, monuments, or statements on government buildings, property, web­sites, money, or documents.d. Restoration of the Pledge of Allegiance to its pre-1954 version, eliminating the politically motivated addition of “under God.”e. Ending faith-based initiatives and charitable choice programs, whereby public funds are used to support religious organizations that do not adhere to specified guidelines and standards, including anti-discrimination laws.f. Ending school vouchers whereby public money pays for students in religious schools.g. Ending governmental use of the doctrines of specific religions to define the nature of family, marriage, and the type and character of personal relationships between consenting adults.h. Ending religiously based curricula in government-funded public schools.i. Ending the use of religion as a justification to deny children necessary medical care or subject them to physical and emotional abuse.j. Ending the use of religion by government to define the role and rights of women in our society.k. Revocation of the Congressional charter of the Boy Scouts of America. Any private organization that practices bigotry against certain religious beliefs and classes of people should not have a Congressional endorsement or access to public property and funds.

    • Skerticus
    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Becky-Shattuck/1198372564 Becky Shattuck

      While that is great, the reality of the situation is that people should not split the liberal vote. Splitting the liberal vote only results in crazy conservatives in office.

      • Cortex_Returns

        Unbending loyalty to the Democrats results in spineless “liberals” in office, NDAA passing, and drones-as-due-process. This time, I’m voting with my conscience, not my fears.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Becky-Shattuck/1198372564 Becky Shattuck

          I think our President has made compromises. You’re right. But he’s also succeeded in leading the passage of important bills. He’s been in office 3.5 years and has passed the Affordable Health Care Act as well as ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the Iraq War.

          Politicians need to be willing to compromise. Look at the extreme conservatives in office who are signing pledges to never compromise and never vote to any tax increases. Do you really want to elect people in office who won’t negotiate to get things done?

          The reality of the situation is that the Republican nominee will get 45 to 50% of the national vote for President. That means there is still 50 to 55% of the vote out there. People who advocate splitting that vote are fighting for a Romney Presidency. 

          • Cortex_Returns

            I don’t want drone warfare to “get done”. I don’t want indefinite detention to “get done”. I don’t want a Romney presidency, but I do want to either pull the Democratic party to the left, or replace it with something more radical. Those who vote Democratic are giving their explicit approval for indefinite detention without trial and an ever-increasing number of remote-control murder-bots.

            • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/FDGYHBEWVNGUG763L5X4TON3JQ Nazani14

              As a Army veteran, I love drones.  Their optics allow more precise targeting than manned attacks of any kind, resulting in fewer civilians killed.  Drone use means many fewer soldiers and Marines have to put themselves in harm’s way.  Killing terrorists is an unfortunate necessity, and there is no ethical reason to give terrorists any opportunity to escape or fight back.  War is not a sport. 

              • Cortex_Returns

                http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/29/world/obamas-leadership-in-war-on-al-qaeda.html?_r=1&hp&pagewanted=all 

                “…Mr. Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties that did little to box him in. It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.”

                The argument can be made that it’s semantics, not optics, that results in fewer civilian casualties.

                You’re right that war isn’t a sport; it’s a crime. And decades of psychological research are crystal clear on the fact that the more distance you put between people, be it spatial, temporal, or social, the more willing they are to do terrible things to each other.

        • Rich

          I don’t think anyone’s arguing for “unbending loyalty”, and if we have spineless liberals in office, it’s only because of lazy, spineless complainers.

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        You said “splitting the liberal vote” in a context that makes me think that you think the Democratic party is “liberal”.  It’s not.  It’s left of the GOP, sure, but that’s not saying much.

        • Earl G.

          Perhaps Becky should have said “splitting the non-lunatic vote.”

      • Skerticus

        Just know that there is a party that supports secular Americans. For that matter the Green Party also supports “full legal and political equality for all persons, regardless of sex, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity, characteristics, and expression.”

        Social justice will not be achieved on Nov 6th regardless of who wins the presidential election, but in this case I encourage you to vote for Obama. Just know that the Democrats are already expecting your
        vote. They already feel entitled to it because, well, Democratic voters haven’t given the party any reason to think they might take their vote somewhere else.

        The social justice non-believers seek will almost certainly not come from within the two-party system, read your history. History has shown us that progressive change has time and again been forced upon the establishment parties from outside. Read Howard Zinn’s: A People’s History of the United States. Civil justice, social change, worker’s rights, women’s rights, environmental causes, etc. have been
        demanded and won by forces pushing and/or pulling the political system in directions it wouldn’t voluntarily go. There are few means citizens have at their disposal to affect political change; activism is one, another is your vote. The Democrats feel as if the liberal vote belongs to them before any election is even held. Why? Because they don’t fear liberal voters. Because they have rigged the system (with the Republicans) in their favor to make liberals feel as if they have nowhere else to go. This has to stop.

        Go ahead and vote for Obama now, because the alternative would be disastrous, but between now and 2014, and 2016, and between every election, look to the alternative parties and work to support them at the local and state levels. Make the Democratic party fear that you really will vote for someone else, make them feel that either, 1) They have to actually move their policies to the left, or 2) You will vote for candidates that represent truly liberal/progressive ideals. Now, there is room for split party support (one doesn’t have to be an ideological hard-liner), especially at the local level where there may not be an alternative candidate to vote for, but if the Democrats don’t think you are serious about taking your vote somewhere else, then they will never move their policies and platform back to the left and bring about the political and social acceptance non-believers deserve.

      • Ben Dreidel

        Splitting the liberal vote only results in crazy conservatives in office.

        Sort of true…not splitting the liberal vote only results in crazy conservatives in office as well.

    • Philo Vaihinger

      Too bad they never make a serious run in no holds barred competition with the Democrats.

    • Marco

      I would love to vote green or to vote for a party that really represented me. But I know that if I do the next president will be the exact opposite of what I stand and who I am.

      In a sense, I am voting with my conscience. My conscience is telling me that if Romney wins I will lose all faith in the US and I will start planning my move to Canada (And this is no empty threat, my wife was born there). Canada is not perfect but they are far from the craziness we have here. 
      I remember the 2000 elections too well. Those that voted for Nader, and I was nearly one of them, might as well have voted for GW Bush. And here we are.

      • Skerticus

        There are several factors that impacted the result in Florida in 2000, but notably —>> nearly 300,000 Florida Democrats voted for Bush. Bush “won” Florida by 543 votes. Why is this statistic never touted as the reason Gore lost? Aren’t the registered Democratic voters more responsible?

  • Grooney315

    Gary Johnson is looking better and better.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Becky-Shattuck/1198372564 Becky Shattuck

      Meh, he’d allow religious employers to be exempt from having to provide birth control.

      He also wouldn’t support federal funding for stem cell research–I assume on religious grounds (that assumption is made because that is the only argument I’ve heard against stem cell research).

      • Rick Shepler

        embryonic stem cell research, if youre going to complain about it get it right. by the way adult stem cell s have proven to be something worth following up with as they have been beneficial in over 70 medical conditions. embryonic stem cells? not so much, zero benefit to date so whats the argument about? if it doesnt work why the fuss? let it go.

        • Cortex_Returns

          It’s been extremely difficult to conduct embryonic stem cell research due to all the legal bullshit surrounding it, so yeah, they haven’t found a lot of uses for them, because they weren’t allowed to look. 

        • eskomo

          Adult stem cell is the final step to be able t0 create a new heart, lungs, etc. Embryonic stem cell research is needed to be able to figure out how to turn on/off steps to create an organ the first time. Adult stem cells are finicky.

  • Russ F

    I have to agree that the mention of nonprofits here is inclusive of nonreligious organizations.

    Although I’m sure this is a bit off-topic, but I’ve always considered my atheism to be faith as well…which is in my (biased) view to be the best, most pure kind of faith: Faith in science, faith in reason, faith in logic, faith in church/state separation, and faith in good works for no other sake than to help others.

    I mean, we get persecuted like other minority faiths, so I always thought as atheists we should just “go there” and be considered a (very loosely organized) faith. I think co-opting the “faith” brand actually would make those of faith see us as a community of beliefs that are just as strong as their own beliefs…that atheists and others do believe in something…we just cut through the “deity middleman” to show love directly to others. If that is not faith, then I’m not sure what is.

    • C Peterson

      Your atheism is “faith”? So you would not change it, even in the face of evidence to the contrary? If that’s what you mean, then intellectually you are just as bad as the religious. Otherwise, you are misusing “faith”. Reserving your strongest beliefs for those things with the best supporting evidence, or for those approaches to reasoning that yield the most accurate results, does not make those beliefs “faith”.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Becky-Shattuck/1198372564 Becky Shattuck

        I can’t speak for him, but what I think he means is that–in a legal sense–his atheist identity is a faith. 

        Look at the Foundation Beyond Belief charity. I’m sure most Americans would see it as a religious charity, even though atheism is not religious. 

        Anyway, you should re-read the Democratic Party statement above and keep Foundation Beyond Belief in mind.

        >
         We believe inconstitutionally sound, evidence-based partnerships with faith-based and other non-profit organizations to serve those in need and advance our shared interests. 
        You see? What they are saying is that if the non-profit organization is proven to actually serve communities, then the Democratic Party supports them, even if they are faith-based.

    • Foster

      I admire your honesty, Russ F, in this matter, and I disagree with C Peterson.  The idea of Faith can be evidence-based, just as Faithfulness is a virtue in both atheists and theists who practice it.  Being faithful simply means standing up for what you believe in despite non-rational inducements to hold other positions.

      • Jim_Lahey

        Actually faith is belief in something without any fact based reason to do so! Atheists don’t have faith. If belief is justified then it is belief or perhaps trust but not faith

        Cheers

    • Earl G.

      I don’t think equivocating with the word “faith” is a good plan.  That’s exactly the kind of talk that makes them think Dawkins is our “Pope,” that the Reason Rally was about “worship,” etc.  Equivocation on the word “faith” leads the religious apologists to insist that it takes just as much “faith” (read: mindless gut feeling) to believe in empiricism as it does to believe in fairy tales and magic.

  • machintelligence

    Give it a few decades. Communism (USSR style) and apartheid looked rock solid, but crumbled like sand castles when the tide came in. Time and demographics are on our side.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Becky-Shattuck/1198372564 Becky Shattuck

    To me, it sounds like they’re taking a pretty moderate approach. They are appealing to voters out there who are turning away from the Republican Party for taking too extreme of a stance. Let’s not forget the Republicans and their new party platform that directs them to work for Constitutional Amendments to ban gay marriage and restrict women’s health care options.

    All the Democrats have said is that voters shouldn’t be afraid of their party shutting down help to legitimate charity organizations that happen to be faith-based.

    In my opinion, it is smart of the Democrats to take a more inclusive stance while Republicans are taking a more exclusive stance. I know strong liberals will not be happy when the Democratic Party takes a moderate position on issues. But I urge you to look at the Republican party, which won’t listen to their moderate followers. Even though many of their followers have wanted them to become less extreme, they continue to take a very extreme, conservative position on the issues. They are losing their following. Aren’t the Democrats smarter for listening to a broader spectrum of Americans?

    Don’t denounce the Democratic Party for working with a more diverse group of people and for trying to appeal to moderate voters. Wouldn’t that be like extreme conservatives being angry at the Republican Party for listening to moderate voters? Let the Republicans be the extremists. As a Democrat, I want my party to be known as a party that is willing to compromise to get things done.

  • Philo Vaihinger

    You’re right.

    Not just atheists but secularists and separationists of all persuasions cannot be happy with this surrender to accommodationism.

    “We believe in constitutionally sound, evidence-based partnerships with faith-based and other non-profit organizations to serve those in need and advance our shared interests.”

    Fiddlesticks.

    There is no such thing as a constitutinally sound partnership between government and “faith based” organizations for any purpose.

    Just another aspect of the rightward drift of the Democratic Party.

  • Annie Marino

    The Green Party isn’t afraid to tackle this issue, and every other issue that so-called Progressives are too wussy to deal with.  Obama’s time is up….

    http://www.alternet.org/election-2012/what-ralph-nader-thinking-about-2012-election?paging=off

  • Stevenjbutton

    They’re just doing what they need in order to win. The majority of americans are some denomination of christian, and you need a majority of votes to win an election. As an atheist, I’m not too offended by this.

  • DM84

    I don’t see a reason to be truly upset at this moment. Obama is one of the few that actually does support our freedom from religion, and this is just not the time for our uprising, though we grow stronger by the day. Right now, the focus is on women and LGBTQ equal marriage rights, among others. I would suggest a full bodied petition to remove “Under God” and religious references from our currency and pledge, Constitution and such, and let it ride for now. We are stronger than they are willing to admit, and we always will be, since we are mentally unlocked from the shackles that hold them fast.

  • http://www.facebook.com/thebigfunny Travis Simmons

    It is intellectually DISHONEST to not recognize that the main source of push back against individual civil rights isn’t bigots, it’s religious bigots.   You are not helping unless you attack bigotry at the source, that source is the bible.    The coal which fuels anti-gay bigotry  are  a few passages in the bible.  The coal which fuels the attack on women is a little stronger, it is all through the bible.   It starts with a story that blames woman for the fall of man and it continues into rules for rape that make the father of a raped woman the injured party.   We can not truly advance until we push superstition to the caboose of the freedom train. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Reginald-Samothy-Adams/41502443 Reginald Samothy Adams

    I’ll take a group that ignores me over a group that vilifies me any day.

  • Rick Thomas

    This kind of statement is why I’m active in Atheist, Secular, and Church/State separation causes. Until the country recognizes that faith isn’t necessary to be a citizen or to be good in general, we need to be vocal and let them know we are here.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    We expect this treatment from Republicans.

    Oh Hemant, need I remind you…  http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2011/roll816.xml

    Ignoring atheists is a non-partisan platform.

  • Jessy

    Yeah. They’re lame. But the other guys are nuts.

  • Earl G.

    I shouldn’t be shocked by this, but I am.  

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

    I expect this type of pandering. It’s a far cry from the vicious hatred that comes out of the Republican Party, so I can’t get too upset about it. The Democrats need moderate and liberal religious people to vote for Obama, so it makes sense to appeal to them. It’s just sad that church-state separation is so low on the list of priorities.

    That said, this made me facepalm:

    Faith has always been a central part of the American story, and it has been a driving force of progress and justice throughout our history.

    Except it hasn’t been. Religion rarely leads the way when it comes to progress and justice. At most, there are situations where a minority goes up against a majority, and the oppressed group uses faith as an inspiration or talking point. Yet the oppressors are every bit as religious as those they’re trying to oppress, and point to that very same faith to justify prejudice and discrimination.

  • Magnum Firepower

    I’m fine with Atheists feeling unequal.    They are certainly not equal in terms of faith. 

  • http://oddboyout.blogspot.com/ oddboyout

    I took a peek at FOX News and they’re making a big deal about the word “god” not being included in the platform. In 2004 they used it once in the word “god-given,” in reference to “god-given talents” or something. That and the removal of the party’s confirmation that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.

  • Newchristine23

    Uh, I just tripped over my own brain… You know, they should call this the nation of amnesia. No one remembers the crap Republicans did to us during their last term when the next election comes up, and no one remembers what the Constitution actually says when it’s time to pander to the religious right. Whatever…

  • AxeGrrl

    One bit of irony is the fact that Piers Morgan on CNN has been going on and ON about the fact that ‘God’ was apparently removed from the platform!

    He’s been banging on this point with the same kind of spittle-infused verve that characterized his interview with Penn Jillette awhile back.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X