Politically liberal religion

I just caught up with a recent issue of The Nation that includes a couple of articles by political liberals who are also religious. They argue that the Democratic party shouldn’t be so cool toward religious language and devout people. That the religious right can only properly be countered by a religious left that uses God-talk in the service of kinder and gentler ends. Michael Lerner says his usual thing, that the secular left lacks a spiritual vision, that secularists suffer from “scientism,” etc.

Now, OK, maybe — maybe — this is good political strategy in a country where 90% believe in a traditional God and where atheists are pariahs. Nevertheless it also pisses me off. Political observers point out that religious participation or non-participation is among the more reliable indicators of whether someone votes Democratic or Republican, that “seculars” are among the most solid Democratic constituencies. So, once again, the political conventional wisdom seems to be that Democrats need to distance themselves from their most reliable supporters if they want electoral success. (And we know how good that advice has been.) I can’t help but noting that Republicans don’t get lectured as often about being too cozy with theocrats, gun-nuts, or oil companies.

Beh. Yes, maybe we would be better off if a “religious left” became more powerful — we would certainly have less gay-bashing, creationist pressure on education etc. But when it comes to it, though more politically benign, I think Lerner’s beliefs are comparable to Jerry Falwell’s in their level of superstition. I’m damned if I can be enthusiastic about the idea of a religious left.

About Taner Edis

Professor of physics at Truman State University