A Theologian Talks About Being an Atheist Ally

When it happens, you have to give credit where it’s due. Here’s Christian theologian Caryn Riswold talking about why it was wrong for the Democrats to put God back into their party platform even though the reference wasn’t needed:

My beliefs in and about God do not need to be imposed on everyone else. That’s not what a pluralistic democracy looks like. This issue is also what has been at the core of so much of this year’s discussions about religious freedom and choice. I don’t need to impose my beliefs and practices on the Catholic bishops and I surely don’t want them to do that to me.

But the thing is, politicians and political parties get away with it. Why? Christian privilege. The ability to presume that everyone thinks and believes like you when you are part of a majority faith.

I don’t get too worked up when politicians say “God bless you” at the end of a speech, but I think atheists and our theist allies should be loud and vocal in our opposition to policies that promote religion (like expanding the office of faith-based initiatives). It’s good to know we have religious people like Caryn on our side. Their comments carry so much weight; if only they would speak out more often.

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.

  • nakedanthropologist

    Thank you Ms. Riswold.  Truly, you have most sincere thanks.

  • RobMcCune

    This is refreshing, both atheists and the religious should support secularism in government. Sadly even though their in the majority some christians need constant reassurance from authority figures that their religion is privileged.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=541055353 Mark Whatman

    I hate the god-talk as much as anyone else, but this is not the right time for the democrats to take on this much of a divisive issue.  If the polls are to be believed, the country is divided more or less 50/50. If the Democrats take on this issue and as a result, lose, the result would be disastrous.

    • kaydenpat

      During the DNC, they caved in and put God and Jerusalem back in their platform, so this should no longer be an issue.

  • C Peterson

    As I’ve noted many times before, religion and secularism need not be at odds. Nice to see this demonstrated.

  • TiltedHorizon

    “My beliefs in and about God do not need to be imposed on everyone else. That’s not what a pluralistic democracy looks like.”

    Wow. Just wow.

    It’s my hope that more Christians adopt the same philosophy.  

  • DougI

    Watching the video of the vote it appeared a majority of the voters opposed the additions to the platform.  The leaders simply caved to Fox News (as appeasing them ever worked) and wrote the new words in regardless of what the party members actually thought.

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

    what annoyed me most about that reform of the party platform is that half the damn people voting on it were saying no, but they changed it anyway, claiming a 2/3rds majority in a blatant lie.

  • Paul Crider

    I have this theory that, even if it’s fudging the reality a little, we are all better people if we act like the (non)religious and political beliefs of others are not fully matters of volition. I think it makes pluralism like this easier.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    I wrote a comment on her blog. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sandy-Kokch/100000074576649 Sandy Kokch

    Whilst it is wonderful to see that sort of expression of pluralism, bear in mind that Caryn does not speak for a large segment of US Christianity – The Evangelicals.

    They believe it is their god given right and duty to “spread the good news” and that you can only be “saved” by recognising and accepting Jesus. They insist that they must convert everyone to their brand of Christianity. They dont give a damn about plurality, they see that as evil.

    Evangelicals – the Necromongers of Christianity.

    • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

      They keep all the hope they kill…

  • Caryn Riswold

    Thanks so much for the mention … and I really appreciate all the comments and feedback, here and on my blog too.  I realize too, as one of the commenters here points out, that there are multitudes of Christians who do not share my view.   

  • 3865136

    I agree.  I no longer get upset when someone says “god bless you” or whatever.  I find it helps if I can remind myself of the distinction of personal speech and gov. policy speech.


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