Minority Religions, National Politics, and our Pluralistic Promise

Minority Religions, National Politics, and our Pluralistic Promise September 4, 2012

Right now the United States is immersed in a flurry of political wrangling, our two major parties wrapping up, or about to begin, major conventions that they hope will sell their candidate to an increasingly disaffected electorate. For those of us who exist on the margins of America’s tapestry of faith and religion, it can seem doubly alienating. A celebration of what we are not.

Certainly there have been inroads, the Republican National Convention invited a Sikh to give an opening invocation (albeit one you could only see on C-SPAN), and the Democratic National Convention has enshrined marriage equality in their national platform, but for the most part these events are exercises in affirming a certain bland, comfortable, (mostly) non-controversial all-American idiom (from different political lenses, to be sure). They are not, despite what activists from both sides desire, moments that dare confront or change the status quo. No one will be forced to confront, as Brian Jay Stanley was, their own prejudices or assumptions.

“Before college I was a skeptic and rationalist toward every religion except my own, Christianity. Like most of humanity, I had believed the religion I’d heard first, and on its authority dismissed all the religions I’d heard second. Seeing Muslims wearing turbans or Hindus bindis, I thought the oddity of their customs proved the error of their beliefs. Studying all faiths in one class in college, however, I saw my religion from the outside and realized that the rites of my Sundays — warbling choirs and smocked babies dipped in silver fonts and bread as the body of Christ — were as curious as what I had disparaged as myths. In class discussions I sometimes unwittingly revealed assumptions that I thought were axioms, and would read surprise in the eyes of a Hare Krishna or Bahai. My notion of normal was an accident of my birth and upbringing. Whomever I saw as strange saw me as strange. I had raised a doubtful brow at Buddhists bowing to golden statues, even as I prayed weekly to a crucified first-century Jew, not realizing that either all religions are bizarre or none is.”

As Jeffrey Weiss at RealClearReligion notes, the slow demographic shift away from institutional faiths, the rise of “nones,” those claiming to particular religion, have yet to be eagerly courted by either party, particularly the Republicans.

“Where religion came up in Tampa last week, at least among the best-known and prime-time speakers, it was mostly in reference to a fairly specific notion of God. The speakers used language most familiar to a particular reading of Christianity. To be fair, much of the language would also have been familiar in the mid-1700s, as America’s founders crafted their exquisite balance of freedoms and responsibilities. But today, as many as one American in five belongs to the religious “Nones,” depending on the polls you read. That’s a huge leap from a couple of decades ago. And members of this group are far more likely to describe themselves as political independents than people who say they ascribe to any particular religion. They may have been more turned off than inspired by the way the Republicans wove religion and politics together.”

This isn’t a uniquely Republican problem, as the Democrats aren’t exactly eager to give non-Christians a prime-time voice. Both seek to keep Christians in their base, while hoping their policy stances will appeal to non-Christians who will overlook all the monotheistic God talk. Change, it seems, happens in frustratingly small increments. No one is forced to deal with people who don’t have the slightest similarity to us,” even within the “big tent” of our national parties, and that’s a shame. That said, CNN believes the Democratic convention will be less “faith-y” (ie less Christian) than four years ago, but it’s all speculation at this point.

Happening in the shadow of the “values voter” election of 2004, the 2008 Democratic convention was something of a faith fest, especially when it came to evangelicals. Convention roles went to the Rev. Joel Hunter, a megapastor from Florida, and best-selling Christian author Don Miller. This year, some religious activists are quietly wondering if the convention will come off as more secular. Hunter, who remains close to Obama, is skipping Charlotte. “There’s no reason for me to be there,” he told us. “My relationship with the president is pastoral and not political.”

Let me be clear, this is not a “both parties are the same” argument, I think there are clear and definable differences in policy between the Democrats and Republicans. I trust my readers are intelligent enough to discern where their interests lie in those matters, as The Wild Hunt doesn’t endorse candidates. However, both parties do have a “religion” problem, and it isn’t the problem of appealing to Christians of various inclinations.

The problem is that both parties have been slow to embrace real pluralism and religious diversity in their one prime-time 3-day infomercial to the American people (and in certain senses, the world). This may not be a problem for this election cycle, but it is increasingly going to be an issue as that slow demographic shift keeps on shifting, and more states start to be evenly divided between Christians on one side, with “nones” and “others” on the other. The “unchurched” (non-Christian) vote is going to be a real thing in the years to come, and we’re a frustratingly diverse demographic. Asian-Americans are a key growth point for non-Abrahamic religions across the country, while a whopping 12% of state residents are adherents of a New Age, Pagan, or esoteric faiths in Colorado, with another 20% fitting into the “none” category. These are growing populations that can’t be ignored forever.

Christian adherents as percentage of state population (2010).

Both parties need to embrace the “communion of strangers,” and realize that pluralism is the core value regarding religion in America. Both parties need to either embrace the full tapestry of faith in their conventions, or they need to stop pandering to religious groups entirely. That isn’t so strange a notion, as it wasn’t until our modern era that faith became so politicized that we injected it into the very fabric of partisan politics. Of course, it used to be a given that we were all Christians, and that all “others” lived here by our sufferance. Still, one direction or another needs to be taken, or the parties will soon find themselves catering to ever-smaller slices of the demographic pie until it will a case of change or die. My hope is that secularism can stop being a dirty word, and we can simply get down to the business of rationally hashing out our policy differences without invoking divine backing to bolster an argument. If not now, then soon.

Browse Our Archives

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment

69 responses to “Minority Religions, National Politics, and our Pluralistic Promise”

  1. Thanks for the shout-out! I will only note that the Dems have a larger context in which the Nones at least get mentioned. It will be interesting to see what happens in Charlotte this week. A phrase in a speech about people of no particular faith…?

  2. This post would have made a lot more sense if it had come a week from now, after both conventions, so you could have commented on both rather than comment on one and speculate about the other.
    I daresay the Democrats are, in future cycles, going to be freeer to deal with nones and non-Abrahamics (and Muslims) because the GOP has sold a corner of it soul to the most conservative Christians — in the form of no-debate platform planks — to keep their base together.
    I also harbor just a tad of suspicion that you’d’ve been less dismissive of the import of the Sikh benediction had it been the Democracts. 😉

  3. “..this is not a “both parties are the same” argument..”
    It should be. If we look above the policy level, to the big picture “vision of America” and the basic sort of character of those in power, there is absolutely no substantive difference between the two parties. None. You will not see either one of them take the lead on pluralism or any other issue because they are not leaders. They are followers, and opportunists. None of them will take a stand on an issue that is the tiniest bit “unsafe” or which would not guarantee them a net return on political capital.

    Even at the policy level, their differences are minimal. They both answer to the same corporate masters. The Democrats are allowed to write progressivist speeches while Republicans nakedly champion the 1%, but at the end of the day, all legislation is written by and for the latter. The Supreme Court has ruled that corporations, which have no sentience or soul or concept of citizenship, are now allowed to function as full citizens. More than that, really. They are granted a form of preferred stock or super-voting power in the republic.

    Neither party has articulated any original or bold thinking on how to seize the future or grow the pie. There is a clear working consensus to oversee the decline of our country and to just make certain that their various feudal lords retain their relative shares of wealth and privilege.

    The only real differences are over a couple of social issues like abortion and gay marriage, which are used to mobilize the bases and play us fools against each other. Religion is one of those issues. Religious division right now is a political and currency revenue generator for both parties. You will not see either of them get behind pluralism until such time that it is safe to do so, and until religion loses its value as a tool of division and diversion.

  4. I beg to differ – there are substantive differences between the parties, especially now. After 70 years of waffling, the USA finally made *some* attempt to realize universal health care. One party wants to tear it back down. One party thinks that more shooting wars, like against Iran and Syria, and rattling the saber at Russia and China are good foreign policy ideas, and the other party does not. Neither side is “innocent” and both suck up to the corporate trough for their cash. But you mentioned the Supreme Court; that is one of the greatest powers a President has, and in the next four years there *will* be vacancies. Who do you want appointing the next lifetime Justices? The side that will appoint more Sotomayors, or the side that will appoint more Scalias? That is an ENORMOUS difference. As Hunter S. Thompsn said:

    “Anybody who thinks that ‘it doesn’t matter who’s President’ has never been sent off to fight and die in a vicious, stupid war on the other side of the world – or been beaten and gassed by police for trespassing on public property – or been hounded by the IRS for purely political reasons – or locked up in the Cook County Jail with a broken nose and no phone access and twelve perverts wanting to stomp your ass in the shower. That is when it matters who is President or Governor or Mayor or Police Chief. That is when you will wish you had voted.”

  5. ” The Supreme Court has ruled that corporations, which have no sentience or soul or concept of citizenship, are now allowed to function as full citizens.”

    No, they do not function as full citizens. They function as persons, and have since at least 1888 (Pembina Consolidated Silver Mining Co. v. Pennsylvania). The fact that groups of people, whether labor unions or corporations, have the same political speech rights as individuals is hardly a ridiculous ruling. (Nor is it solely responsible for the large amount of money in politics, much of which comes from wealthy individuals.)
    “The only real differences are over a couple of social issues like abortion and gay marriage, which are used to mobilize the bases and play us fools against each other. ”

    Those are hardly minor differences if you’re not straight, or capable of getting pregnant. They are also indicative of Republicans desire to make laws based on their variety of Christianity, something that Democrats do not, by and large, wish to do. Also, Republicans are doing much more to destroy unions (which are not without problems, of course) and the social safety net.

    Sure, there are plenty of issues where the two parties are quite similar, but they are hardly the same.

  6. The “substantive difference” you cite is about the same as the difference in the good cop/bad cop during a 16-hour interrogation. The guy who’s working you over with the heavy phone directory and hot light vs the detective who’s the “reasonable guy” and seems like he wants to be your friend and help you put this all behind you…

    What’s being called “universal health care” is nothing of the sort. It is legislation written by the HMO and drug industries. It is a mandate for you and I to buy their products at whatever price and terms they feel like offering.

    Our policies of endless imperial war and the police state infrastructure that claims the right to pre-emptive detention and assassination of Americans never lost a beat from Bush to Obama. We will be in a war with Iran by midsummer of next year. The only difference is that Romney would egg on the Israelis to strike. Obama will urge caution but still blindly follow Israel into a war.

    As for social issues, we have on the one hand Republicans who want to build a Christian theocracy and put the screws to gays, women and unions. The Democrats, for their part, are willing to give a kind word to these groups but won’t shed a microliter of sweat or blood to go to bat for them. Is a non-committal, virtually useless ally that much better than a sworn enemy?

    We’ve been so well conditioned in the art of voting as damage control that both parties have their bases gratefully lapping up crumbs thrown to them under what should be their own dinner tables. People should vote and make the best choice they see for themselves. That said, people who really think Democrat’s less rabid stance on religion makes them true champions of pluralism are going to find themselves played the same way as immigration reform advocates, unions, peace activists, gays and the medical marijuana crowd.

  7. The Wild Hunt doesn’t endorse candidates”

    Of course not; you don’t need to. You clearly back one ideology and party over the other, and your “discerning readers” can certainly figure out which candidate that covers. Such attempts to pretend to be objective are increasingly disingenuous.

  8. This is nothing but rhetoric, Kenneth. You state that there is no difference, and when confronted with real differences you dodge them with rhetoric about “good cop” or “crumbs from the table” rather than showing the courage to engage with them. If you want to make a substantive contribution to this discussion, you have to make substantive statements.

  9. Doesn’t help that the GOP are full of nutters who endorse practices which threaten *our very way of life*, across the spectrum. People who flatly do not believe we exist as a valid contemporary religion, that we’re dangerous to society and ourselves, and refuse to denounce people within their own organization who would see us stripped of constitutional rights and protections in their re-envisioned America. I cannot endorse the Republican party in ANY WAY while they continue to give people like Barton, Fischer, the NAR, etc. any kind of lip service. The fact that Jason and the Wild Hunt comment more on what the GOP is doing shouldn’t be seen as a lack of objectivity (unless you’re butthurt, in which case, sorry), but more because of the way it is.

    And before you fire back. No. I’m not a Democrat, I don’t have an angle to attack the Republicans over the Democrats. I’m a registered Independent (I’d probably argue that I’m a Constitutionalist). I love my firearms and my personal liberty, and hate the idea of a nanny-state. Both parties are FUBAR in my opinion, but I have to side with the Democrats more because they are doing LESS to threaten my way of life than the Republicans. Democratic candidates aren’t out there trying to endorse Judaeo-Christian Sharia Law as a possibility for their vision of America. And if they are, they’re smart enough not to let CNN get wind of it.

    The term “Lesser of two evils” gets thrown around a lot during every political election. I think that’s becoming more and more prominent with the parties. And it sucks that the American system has become such a partisan exercise, where people like me can’t endorse the candidate that they want because they’re terrified that their vote won’t matter against the party that’s threatening the most.

  10. Probably, Baruch. But I personally felt that the Sikh benediction smacked more of the “token minority” than an actual effort for inter-faith progress. So much has been thrown about because of religion in the GOP race (and presidential overall, with Obama’s Christianity in “doubt” to the Reps, and Romney’s Mormonism an issue for Evangelicals), that it just seems like a “Uh..wait! Guys! Look! We can be inclusive! Kinda!” gesture.

  11. You may be right, but if we automatically assume the GOP does such things out of tokenism and the Dems are sincere about diversity we’re locking ourselves into partisan prejudices.
    There IS tokenism in the GOP. They put delegates from Guam and the Northern Marianas up front so cutaway TV shots would show some faces of color fronting an overwhelmingly white crowd. That’s tokenism.

  12. I’d like to see us go to a transferable-vote system where you can mark your first choice, second choice, third choice, etc. That way voters can cast a top vote for whoever represents them best and their next vote for the major-party candidate who threatens them least. Ie, the second vote makes a difference in the immediate election while the first lets the pols know just how poorly they’re representing their alleged constituents, and might make a difference in the long run.
    This could probably be done with a touch-screen system, but I despair of the present voting machine industry doing anything more complicated than not getting their pants on backwards in the morning.

  13. Or people could start voting for the smaller guys as the big two are simply not representative of them.

    I do not see how voting sincerely can be a wasted vote.

    you, I also feel that there should be a ‘none of the above’ box for
    those who do not feel that the system/any of the candidates represents

    I also feel that it is getting to the stage where the whole
    world gets to vote on who becomes the next president of the USA, since
    it does effect us all.

  14. I have never voted for a Democratic or a Republican presidential candidate since I started voting in 1984 and I see no reason to change that policy this time. I see lies and manipulations from both major parties and I don’t think either party has the best interest of the American people…..they seem to be 100% self serving. I really prefer to vote for a candidate with policies an ideas that I believe in, not just the lesser of two evils.

  15. Genuine religious pluralism and diversity in the U.S. is largely still just an aspiration. Only once there are multiple non-monotheistic religious traditions that rise well above the ~1% range will things really change in terms of public perceptions and public discourse concerning religion. This is going to take time. Large scale mass-conversions are the stock-in-trade of the monotheists, but for the rest of us it simply doesn’t work that way. So while people in the West have left and continue to leave Christianity in droves, it is still up to us to slowly win the battle of “hearts and minds” to convince the tens of millions of “nones”, “others”, “Jedis”, etc., that there are actual positive religious alternatives to Christianity. Ideally America (and the rest of the West) will become a place where there is no “dominant” religion, and the idea of “minority” religion is no longer relevant because there is no “majority” religion.

  16. Political power has always been a bit of a mystery to me. I am a registered Independent, too, and I try to vote for the candidate whose values most match mine. The vote is a precious thing and those who try to discourage others from voting are performing a great disservice to our community. The Aquarian Age that is dawning encourages us to join with Groups and Allies to work toward more “freedom with response-ability” for all. For those who are on the path of Visionary Activism, I greatly recommend Caroline Casey’s take on the current political situation: Caroline talks politics with many Pagans (and many other alternative spiritual people) on her radio show.

  17. I’m not sure how familiar you are with our system over here. The US system has two voting systems, a popular vote and an electoral vote. The electoral votes are the ones that really determine whether a state goes to a presidential candidate, not the popular vote. So in states like, say, New York, where the larger voting body in the cities is Democrat (while the rest of the state is predominately Republican), the electoral votes are going to go to the Democratic camp, regardless if the Popular vote goes Red or not.

    So in essence, the system is set up where the “smaller guys” are always going to be a wash vote if they’re not part of the big parties because of the lack of electoral control.

    The electoral voting system was instituted during a time where few people had voting rights, and the Founders determined that people weren’t capable of translating their own desires through to the system. That the President and Vice President were supposed to be appointed as leaders of a Federalized group of states, rather than direct election. So in effect, it doesn’t accurately portray the modern voter’s opinions, because they’re shoehorned into whatever a small group of electors feel the state goes to (538ish electors for a population of 300+k).

    Wikipedia has a pretty good resource on the overview of our Electoral College system. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/51/PopWinnerLosesElecVote.png That image alone shows how a Populist winner could lose the Electoral election and not be appointed president.

  18. I watched Michelle Obama’s speech last night. There was a DISTINCT difference between the conventions when the camera panned out over the crowd! In the GOP convention the place was lily-white. In the Democratic convention, every color of the dermal rainbow, plus Sikhs, HIndus, and Muslims were visible, based on their clothing. MUCH more comfortable, multi-ethnic, multi-racial, and multicultural.

  19. That would be why the GOP stood by NYC Councilman Dan Halloran while he was being mocked because of his Heathen religion. And why, for the past few years, whenever there is a National GOP politician or bigwig in the area, they are at public events with Halloran. And why he’s the GOP candidate for New York’s 6th Congressional district.

    How many Pagans or Heathen are running for Congress as Democrats? Pagans can bitch about if they like Halloran, or if he’s a good enough Heathen for them, but what can’t be denied is that Halloran’s religion didn’t matter one bit to the GOP Party or to the GOP voters in his area. What also can’t be denied is that the Democrats have yet to field a Pagan or Heathen candidate even at the level of NYC Councilman, let alone Congress.

    Oh…and no – you don’t have side with Democrats or Republicans. You could vote for Gov. Gary Johnson for President. His stance on civil rights issues are second to none. He’s strong on defense, but is tired of the USA taking the offense in foreign conflicts. But of most interest to us, in our religious communities, he’s willing to talk to Pagans publicly and treats us as no different than any other citizens. He was willing to do a press conference with Pagan media. He was lambasted by the mainstream for this because, you know, our religion is a joke. And he interviewed with me again and when I asked him about the mainstream reaction to the Pagan Media press conference he said, ”
    “How the mainstream media reacted? There was no consternation within my campaign about any of the feedback that we got on that event. No consternation.”


  20. San Francisco has that system for city elections (they call it ranked-choice voting). The arguments for adopting it were to increase cooperativeness on the Board of Supervisors (city council) and give grassroots candidates a better chance. The system has been in place for two elections, using an ordinary machine-readable paper ballot. It is operating smoothly and people are starting to get accustomed to how to cast their votes, but it’s too soon to be sure what the political effects are.

  21. It’s well past time we eliminated the electoral vote system. It made sense when you had to round up votes from the back woods, but has not been necessary in decades.

  22. “put the screws to gays, women and unions”
    There are real people in these categories who care how we are treated. We aren’t abstractions being used to play all you REAL people “as fools against each other.”
    A “non-committal ally” is infinitely better than a “sworn enemy.”
    Are you really trying to tell women or gay people there’s no difference between the way they are treated by each party? We aren’t that stupid.

  23. You are, in essence, calling for conversions. Pagan evangelism. I think it is a good idea, lots do not.

  24. I, along with much of the rest of the world, got a crash course in the American voting system when Bush gained power.

    Basically, what we learned was that you do not have a direct democracy and the ‘average voter’ may as well not vote, for all the difference it makes.

  25. Of course with my last post I was speaking in regards to a national viewpoint, and not local. Localities are different animals, especially in such large cosmopolitan areas like New York City. Unfortunately, I don’t live Downstate. I live Upstate, and the Republican party up here is representative of the tired and cliche good-ol-boy image.

    I understand that the Democrats are just as likely to blast a potential Pagan candidate as the Republicans are. But there has to be something said about the difference in direct and indirect voting procedures, and how parties will react on a local or national stage. Especially how people are portrayed. I feel that when we are on a local, small-scale stage, that people are a lot more realistic and pragmatic about the issues of a candidate, and are more willing to overlook superficial issues like religion or philosophical outlook. Politics are dirty business, and I do not by any means believe that non-GOP members are clean from the shit show.

    Cara, I’m gripped with my decision in who to vote for. I know that if it even MATTERED, I’d vote for Johnson without a second thought. I’ve been following the interviews and articles, and I feel that he best represents my own viewpoints. Do I stick with what my conscience dictates or vote for the greater good, which I truly believe is not Romney? The fact that Johnson was attacked from WITHIN his own party simply because he had adoptive daughters who he encouraged to explore their home culture shows me that the Republicans cannot act with a shred of honor once it gets to a national scene. So, maybe on the local level, with endorsing Halloran the Republican party is inclusive of our faiths, it sure as hell doesn’t seem so on the national level from where I’m sitting. The Dems may not be inclusive, but they sure as hell aren’t arguing to strip away our constitutional rights.

  26. Basically. The only votes where it would matter are the ones that are run specifically by the numbers: Local, State, and Congressional Legislative. And even then, appearance is sometimes more important than quality, so, there’s something to be said about making an election a popularity contest.

  27. It sounds more like just a ‘hi, we’re here, we exist’ sort of thing rather than a “JOIN US!!!”. I’m not sure if you’d regard the first type as evangelism. It’s much more the way you’d talk about your religion with friends from different faith traditions.

  28. Halloran would have zero chance of ever becoming a national figure in Republican politics. That’s not to say he could never get elected anywhere, but he would never be elevated to any visible party post nor would he ever be entertained as a presidential possibility or even any significant cabinet post. Not unless he converted to Christianity like Bobby Jindal. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him do so. Since setting his sights on higher office, Halloran seems to be downplaying his pagan beliefs almost to the point that he seems Theod(ish).

    Today’s national GOP is a religious party, every bit the Christian equivalent of Shas in Israel or the Egyptian Brotherhood. Secular fiscal conservatives and libertarians have been severely marginalized within the party and not even all Christians pass muster. Most of the GOP base has very deep misgivings about Mormonism and will only vote for Romney out of pure hatred for the alternative.

  29. He’s the current Republican candidate for Congress in the 6th district in New York. I’m pretty sure even he doesn’t think he’d be a Presidential candidate, but the mere fact that he’s got official party backing makes him not only “a national figure in Republican politics”, but makes him the poster child for Republican dedication to religious pluralism. No matter how inconvenient it is to the bogus Democrat narrative of Republican xenophobia.

  30. Halloran’s position is hardly proof of any general Republican dedication to religious pluralism. It’s a product of the political and cultural landscape of New York, which is one of the most diverse and cosmopolitan places on the planet, let alone the U.S. Pluralism as a value thrives there because it is the inescapable reality on the ground, and has been for well over a century. New York is a galaxy away from red states like Texas and Arizona and the South, which is the big league ball park of GOP politics.

    Anyone who thinks Republicans are the party of religious tolerance ought to ask a Muslim about that. The GOP base, and not a few of its elected, are THE center of gravity of Islamaphobia in this country. To this day, one of the biggest rallying cries against Obama is the ludicrous but very widely believed charge that his is a Muslim.

    If Republicans had any ethos of religious tolerance, they would be welcoming Muslims with open arms. They are a perfect natural constituency – God and country social conservatives, self-made entrepreneurs and professionals. For a look at another face of how Republicans treat non-Christians, look at the case of Nezar Hamze:


    While pagans aren’t seen as born traitors and terrorists, the Republican record on dealing with us is less than stellar. These are the same folks that worked for a decade to prevent us from honoring our own dead properly in veteran’s cemeteries. Not so very long ago, Republican lawmakers tried to effectively outlaw our religion, stripping it of tax benefits and barring its practice on military bases. The narrative of xenophobia in the Republican party is crafted from their own words and deeds. Even Democrats are smart enough to connect the dots…

  31. I don’t think we need conversions so much as a broader civic understanding of what it means to be “spiritual” or a “person of faith.” We need to get past the current paradigm which pigeonholes people into two bins of Christian or “godless.” Most of that change will simply have to come with demographic shifting and the decay of any one dominant power. In the meantime, though, we can do a sort of “outreach” which has nothing to do with converting anyone. By just living as who we are openly, people will come to find that pagan religion, like any other, is the least threatening, or useful or interesting thing about them.

  32. “it is still up to us to…convince the…”others”…that
    there are actual positive religious alternatives to Christianity.”

    That’s a call for conversion, right there. Think of it as soft evangelism:

    “I can see you are dissatisfied with Christianity. Not all faith systems are like that, take [insert branch of Paganism here], have you considered that?”

  33. Minor quibble: Can we get a larger version of that chart near the bottom of the post? The text is awfully tiny.

  34. Frankly, I’d rather people covert to Paganism the way I did, if at all: I met people who were Pagan, found them to be pretty nice people, asked questions, found out more about various Paths, and decided to join one.

    Notice that, while I didn’t initially seek out Pagans, I did initiate every step of the actual conversion process: I chose to continue talking to people after learning their religion, I chose to ask questions, I chose to learn more, I chose to convert.

    Proselytizing just makes you look like a jerk. Or worse, a salesman. My gods are not for sale.

  35. How about the fact that, with the VAST majority of voters split between Obama and Romney, a failure to vote among liberals and religious pluralists could result in Romney’s election? Voting for a third-party candidate won’t help either unless the US switches to a system other than First Past the Post. It’ll just tip the Obama/Romney ratio further towards Romney.

    I agree, Obama’s no saint, but by any objective measure Rmoney is demonstrably worse for the American people.

  36. If you want things to change, vote in the state and local elections. EVERY Presidential candidate in the past century was a state or federal official of some kind first. U.S. Senators were once state senators. They don’t just appear out of thin air.

    Obama was a Senator before he became the president.

    Of the GOP nominees who stepped forward in the past year as possible candidates:
    – Romney and Perry have both been governors;
    – Santorum is a former U.S. Senator;
    – Huntsman is a former governor AND a former U.S. ambassador.

    If you want party platforms to change, vote in the local elections. The people we elect at the state and local levels are the people we have to choose from when presidential elections come around.

  37. And again, we need to push state and local elections as well. If even half of the people who vote for President also voted in the off-year elections, the political landscape of America would look very different.

  38. Vote in state and local elections. Since presidential candidates are always drawn from a pool of state governors and U.S. congresscritters, you can indirectly control which kind of people we have to choose from by voting for state and local officials and urging your friends to do the same.

  39. His point wasn’t that the GOP universally hates Pagans. His point was that the GOP officials who are “important”* enough for us to hear about in the news tend towards misogyny, Dominionism, and homophobia, and that none of these qualities are acceptable to Pagans, atheists, or gay people. (I’d say women, but…there are women defending Akin, of all people.)

    * The quotes are deliberate, because the MSM loves to talk about people who are no longer relevant. Sarah Palin hasn’t been important since she quit the governor’s office, and no longer appears to have any ambitions of a gubernatorial, congressional, or presidential career. Yet we keep hearing from her.

  40. This SO much. It would also help if people would vote in state and local elections, instead of just accepting what the 2 main parties hand us on presidential election years.

  41. “Or people could start voting for the smaller guys as the big two are simply not representative of them.”

    You mean in the state and local elections, right? Because if an independent hasn’t made it to a state office, he/she doesn’t have a ghost of a chance against established politicians in the 2 major parties.

  42. “…the GOP officials who are “important”* enough for us to hear about in the news tend towards misogyny, Dominionism, and homophobia…”

    I would disagree with this premise, and thus your argument. It’s simply not true, unless you’re equating being pro-life with “misogyny”, having Christian values that inform their decision-making with “Dominionism”, and being against same-sex marriage as “homophobia”.

  43. People have tried to use this type of persuasion in the past upon learning of my third party leanings. The truth is that to me it is immaterial whether Obama or Romney are elected, because I disagree with both of them. There is a candidate who represents what I believe to be the best interests of this country and it’s citizens and that candidate will get my vote.

  44. The pro-life movement is, at its core, deeply and virulently misogynistic. They view women as property and breed stock of their husbands, and of society as a whole. It is a movement that has nothing to do with life and everything to do with the breaking of women’s wills.

    It is a movement that has recently sanctioned rape in the guise of a medical procedure (transvaginal ultrasound) for no other purpose than to traumatize women into forgoing their legal right to abortion. It’s one thing to say you don’t want your tax money funding abortion or that you would try to dissuade friends or family from that choice, but the underlying movement is fed by a spiritual darkness which I daresay most modern pagans find abhorrent.
    The predominant view of how Christianity should inform decision making in the GOP is dominionism. They believe, to varying degrees, that their religion should hold a privileged, if not exclusive position in law and culture. They are quite open about that.
    And yes, opposition to gay marriage – civil marriage, is homophobia. No one has ever articulated a sound reason for denying gays the protections of a civil contract that does not derive either from dominionism or hatred. Never once.

  45. Your simply making wild assertions with no basis other than your own prejudices isn’t really making your case. You make a lot of claims about people that you obviously despise, based on what you’ve been conditioned to expect them to say, rather than what they actually say. I’m not going to pierce that level of willful hate and ignorance with a few blog comments here, so I’ll just bid you adieu. I might pick up your assertions and dissect them in more detail on my blog, so do feel free to visit from time to time and perhaps we can examine these issues in more detail.

  46. GOPagan, can *you* come up with a reason to ban gay marriage, that isn’t just homophobia in a nice suit? And please don’t say “defending traditional marriage.” Traditional marriage in the Bible includes polygamy.

  47. But that candidate isn’t going to get elected. One of the big-ticket guys will, and he will appoint Supreme Court justices you’ll live with for decades. It matters to you personally; remember Roe v Wade is in the balance.
    I’ve been where you are, in 1968 and 1980. I got Nixon and Reagan. Not making that mistake again.

  48. “Proselytizing just makes you look like a jerk. Or worse, a salesman. My gods are not for sale.”

    Among ancient Pagans there was a long and proud tradition of discussing and debating questions such as “the nature of the Gods” and “the nature of the Cosmos”. For the most part, these discussions avoided hubris by always emphasizing that the Gods and the Cosmos are under no obligation to conform to human understanding. But if we view ourselves as integral parts of the Cosmos, and if we view our minds/souls as of the same “nature” as the Gods themselves, then it is perfectly reasonable to assume that we are capable of understanding a great deal.

    When Christianity came along, there were a number of very serious works produced critiquing the religious and cosmological ideas of this new atheistic creed. After all, one of the primary concerns of treatises on “the nature of the Gods and the Cosmos” had always been the defense of traditional religious beliefs and practices, and, in particular, providing well reasoned explanations and justifications for them. So when Christians denied either the existence of the traditional Gods, or claimed that the Gods were actually evil “demons”, and at the same time mocked (and often attempted to disrupt, or, once they had the power to do so, to criminalize) traditional religious practices, this made a fitting subject for a new round of philosophical arguments in defense of traditional polytheism.

    So what Pagans need is not so much “proselytizing”, as a revival of the ancient Pagan tradition of engaging in serious, open minded discussion of religious ideas. This kind of discussion is not necessarily aimed at Christianity or at Christians. We have a lot to discuss among ourselves. But we should also address the very real spiritual frustrations felt by the “nones” and the “others” who have, at least to some extent, rejected Christianity but have not yet found an alternative that positively addresses the reasons why so many people find Christianity to be so wanting.

  49. I’m personally in favor of same-sex marriage. My point wasn’t that banning it was a good thing, but that it isn’t necessarily indicative of homophobia. I will point out that “traditional marriage” doesn’t have to be the same as “Biblical marriage”; some social traditions (such as marriage being between one man and one woman) have come into being since the time of the Hebrew Patriarchs, and wanting to continue them isn’t necessarily the same as wanting to kill/oppress/whatever folks who benefit from changing them. I’d also point out that plenty of non-Christian cultures have the same definition of marriage, and I don’t see China or India rushing out to make same-sex marriage legal. Are you saying those nations are “homophobic” because they don’t recognize same-sex marriages? (I’m leaving out the Islamic nations, because in those cases I think it really *is* outright homophobia; in many of them, even being openly homosexual is grounds for the death penalty!)

  50. GOPagan – making abortion illegal would hurt and kill women and take their rights over their bodies away, therefore misogynist.
    Preventing an adult from marrying whom they love just because they are the same sex would hurt said partners. Now, what’s the most probable, possible reason for a person to plan to hurt someone just because they are gay?

  51. aye , those of us older pagans can’t even think of reading that thing , please a full page version

  52. What is being anti-birth control if not misogyny? What is a concerted effort and admitted plan to instate Christian religious law as national law? What do you call that? What do you think “Dominionism” means? What do you call not wanting gay people to have the same legal rights as straight people?
    What do YOU call these things, then?

  53. aye , i have to agree both parties are practicaly the same . i too am a registered independant . But from my pagan point of veiw Romney and Ryan scare the shyte out of me . The Republican parties strong ties to the religious right , Dominionist , Nar types , the so called base is completly unacceptable .Also the Republican leaderships refusal to work with an elected president is absurd as well , the party of hell no.Election politics have always been a mess . But, it used to be after the election our politicians used to get down to the bussiness of running our country . At this point our government is broken , the Republicans in the legislative branch have publicly refused to work with this president have openly said our main goal is to deny him a second term . Never mind running the Govt to the benefit of its citezenry .At this point the Dems are definatly the least of two evils and havn’t done anything against the interest of the pagan community as the rebubs have as others here have demonstrated .Unfortunatly voting independant now as my heart says i should would effectivly be voting for a repub. .Doing that now w/ the repubs ties to the extreme right would not be in the interest of the pagan community. We need to vote in a way that does the least harm to things and issues that matter to us pagans as a whole . Kilm

  54. I used to be very active as a political volunteer and I couldn’t agree with you more. Bottom line: The American people, by and large, don’t understand how the political process works, don’t understand how much power their voice actually does have, and don’t use their voice in the most efficacious way (because they don’t understand the process). It’s not as arcane as people think it is, and you’re 100% right, the single most useful thing the average American can do is to spend a couple hours researching the local candidates and vote in every local election. People think doing their duty as a voter every four years is the most important thing, and then they get angry at how little their President accomplishes– without realizing how the system works, and thereby how a president’s power is constrained.

    I also think that people who have the time, and you don’t need that much of it, should volunteer even if just once, either for a campaign or for their local Board of Elections. This is an instance where it does help to see how the sausage is made.

  55. The problem with this line of thinking is that we have been lured into a price war of sorts we cannot ultimately win.

    By falling for “fear of the other guy”, our own party and candidates of choice effectively bid down the price of our support to zero. They’ve learned they don’t have to produce any deliverables or accountability whatsoever. They know that at the end of the day, they don’t have to promise or deliver anything more than “I’m not THAT guy.”

    Both ends of the political spectrum have arrived at a point where they’re in no position to demand anything of their leaders. No plausible solutions for anything, no will or ability to engage in adult negotiation with anyone, no basic grip on reality, not even any serious qualifications for the job.

    Every election cycle, more and more loons and idiots make it into serious contention for president, and hold onto that position longer and longer in the process. It is disgraceful and a sign of serious decay that some of these people ever make the running, and if we keep lowering the bar, very soon one of them will get elected, and the race for the bottom will continue.

  56. If someone is actively fighting to deny your human and civil rights, what difference, really, does it make whether or not the action flows from personal hatred or conscious malevolence?

    Very many of the people who fought for segregation didn’t see themselves as haters at all. They believed they were acting as reluctant defenders of some immutable noble religious or biological “order of things.” I don’t think that made black folks feel a hell of a lot better about Jim Crow culture.

    Whether the “save marriage” crowd is acting out of conscious homophobia is almost irrelevant. Given their love of invectives like “sodomite” and their record of celebrating AIDS as God’s vengeance, I think it’s tough to deny homophobia, but again, neither here nor there. They have offered no reason that passes muster when weighed against the presumption of equality and freedom that defines our nation. What China and India and the Islamic countries do in this regard is not our primary concern.

  57. Sorry. I’m just used to kids my age who think that voting for Random Person on the presidential election, while completely ignoring state and local elections, will fix a godsdamn thing.

    Refreshing to hear “vote independent” combined with “at all levels” for a change.

  58. Rest assured, it’s not just your old eyes in this case. I routinely read printed 8 pt font and smaller, and I still have to squint to make this one out.

    JPG format and tiny text just don’t go together at all.

  59. “So what Pagans need is not so much “proselytizing”, as a revival of the
    ancient Pagan tradition of engaging in serious, open minded discussion
    of religious ideas.”

    Which is all well and good. But for someone who grew up in the more backward areas of the Bible belt, “winning the battle of hearts and minds” and “convincing people of a positive alternative” were euphemisms for “evangelism” that amounted to little more than bullying people into sharing ALL your religious and pseudo-scientific views.

    I have a bit of a strong reaction to those phrases, as a result. Besides, I think you agree that “serious, open-minded discussion” is the opposite of a battle. 🙂

  60. Frankly, I don’t equate those things.

    But big-name Republicans constantly use misogynistic arguments when they talk about abortion and birth control, which they don’t have to do.

    They constantly donate to Dominionists and use religious “dog whistles” to talk about making America into a theocracy, which they certainly don’t need to do, and which would have killed the party had they tried it 40 years ago.

    They use homophobic arguments to oppose not just same-sex marriage, but also anti-bullying laws–because kids need to be allowed to bully others so long as that bullying is “for a religious reason,” don’tcha know. This, also, indicates that they oppose a lot more about gay people than just marriage rights.

    In addition, unless you support a form of civil union with ALL the legal benefits of marriage except the name, then you are, in fact homophobic, because you are arguing that gay couples be denied legal and financial benefits that our government confers on straight married couples. You can’t argue for unequal rights without…..well, I’m from the South. Ever hear of Jim Crow?

  61. I realize that my candidate will not win, I’m thinking that 2% of the vote will be a miracle. However, my point is that I will not vote for a candidate I do not support simply because the “other” guy might win. Another thing, the Roe v Wade arguement has been used as a carrot shaped donkey lure for decades now, and even when Republicans have been running things, it hasn’t been changed, and likely won’t, because that lure is too valuable in keeping their people on board and in line. Besides, women are working together to make sure that they will be less likely to be at the mercy of the patriarchal government and medical overlords. We are working to ensure that legal or illegal, pregnancy termination will be a safe, private, non invasive and easy to access for all women. A truly empowered woman doesn’t wait for a man or the law to give her permission to do as she pleases with her body, she just does it.

  62. Who you vote for is your business, and if you can’t support a particular President, but stay informed in politics, your vote is still valuable. You care, you think, you vote. People seem to disregard that each election also means voting for local politicians and about local issues. They’re all important. Nauseated at the time with both candidates, I wrote in myself one year for President. I still had given my input that would affect politics on who was going to be Senator, my local school board and what opinion they held toward schools and children, and supported at least one important local safety issue and got that into law. it’s still something.

  63. I agree with what you say, Apuleius. In addition, Pagans are in a good position to engage the arguments of the current crop of militant atheists (Dawkins et al.)

    There is also truth in what Avatar says about discussions that are a form of bullying. That sort of behavior has a long pedigree. In the Middle Ages, officers of the Roman Catholic Church organized “disputations”, which were public debates between a rabbi and a priest over which religion was better or truer. Of course, the rabbis were not volunteers, and they were placed in a no-win situation. If Judaism lost the debate in the eyes of the Christian-majority crowd, that was used as a pretext to expel all Jews from the town. But if the rabbi made a few good points, that wasn’t going to lead to any conversions.

  64. I’m a non voter in my country (the UK, for voting purposes), because non of the available options represent me, politically.

    This is why I recommend that people don’t compromise their vote. The lesser of two evils is still evil.

  65. I just now posted my thoughts on why being pro-life is not necessarily misogynistic on my blog. Please feel free to carry the conversation there; we seem to have wandered a bit far afield here…

  66. The Islamic countries are putting people TO DEATH for being homosexual. And you say that “is not our primary concern”?

    It should be.

    You need to get your priorities straight. You’re honestly equating someone not being able to visit someone in a hospital with that person being STONED TO DEATH? You have no idea of what true oppression is, being so comfortable in your western suburban life.

    Your selective outrage rings hollow, when people are literally being killed for merely living, while you are bleating about the applicability of finer points of contract law. You should be ashamed.

  67. No one on the Republican side ever said that birth control should be abolished. That was something that no one was talking about before George Stephanopoulos asked the question at one of the GOP primary debates. It is a non-issue for everyone except liberals who want to try to make it an issue. Nobody is advocating it, period. It is a complete canard.