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Democrats should certainly reach out to religious folks, but I'm not sure it should bend over backwards for this demographic. Cultural trends indicate that the US is becoming an increasingly secular society. Fewer and fewer people are attending religious service regularly so this group is growing smaller and smaller. Additionally, I think a substantial portion of those who remain (those who are true believers) cannot be Democrats. These folks, in my experience, cannot get past the Demoracratic Party's support of gay marriage and abortion rights, and as a Democrat, I hope the party never revisits its positions on these issues.

(I should add, that I don't believe these numbers are particularly accurate. Black folks as a group attend church more regularly than any other single ethnicity in the US, and they also vote Democratic more consistently than any other group.)


This is a huge topic and I appreciate this effort to confront it. Collmer, very well written and very well thought out for such a convoluted, difficult discussion.

I'm currently reading a book entitled "The Power of Myth" by Joseph Cambell. It essentially deals with the role of mythology across cultures, throughout history. It examines the role religions have played and ponders the evolution of our conjecture... humanity's efforts to explain the inexplicable.

It is natural for human beings to wonder about the world around them- but as a Shinto priest once said, "If you think you know, you don't know. If you know you don't know, then you know." Most significantly- for this conversation at least- it makes me wonder why people need faith. As a species that has risen to the top of a planet's food chain- what is it about religion that has made us so successful as a species? I also can't help but wonder, what is it about religion that seems to be leading us toward environmental, cultural, and ethical armageddon? (Sorry, I don't mean to be dramatic here. I'm just trying to get in touch with my radically centrist, excessively moderate self.)

Without delving too deeply into religious/spiritual thought, I guess the next question would be- what is it about Conservativism that appeals to someone who is devoutly Christian. I'd have to say- Us vs Them, Black vs White, Heaven vs Hell... western religion is infinitely more dichotomous than eastern religion. Yin and yang- good exists within evil, evil exists within good. In Christian doctrine 'ascension' refers to climing up some sort of heavenly ladder into some OTHER place. Eastern thought- 'ascension' means to turn inward and find enlightenment.

(I wonder what the correlation is between devoutly Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, and Islamic voters, and political affiliation-- somebody on this blog want to look that one up?)

Anyway, I think conservativism provides comfort to those that believe strongly in a doctrine that lives and dies by black and white, right and wrong, good vs. evil, absolute yes and absolute no. Contemplation? Perspective? The path is the destination? Not in today's devout Christianity. It's about heaven, it's about the result. Then we have business... is business about how hard you tried or how poetic the strategic brief may have been? No, it's about a bottom line. Modern day Christianity is a religion that goes for results (as is radical Islam...). Thus the marriage of religion and conservative politics? Just a thought...

So what's the remedy? Rather than being entirely eastern with my countless unanswered questions, I'll be a bit western. I believe that change will come one person at a time. I had a debate with a friend once who truly believed that evolution was a lie. I talked with him passionately, but with an open ear. I tried to understand how he didn't believe in evolution. A year later, I spoke with him and he told me he'd done a lot of soul searching. He told me he'd had something awakened within him-- a curiosity of sorts. From there, he had the courage to do some research on his own and was able to reconcile his devout upbringing with scientific evidence. He came to realize that religion should be an interpretation... it's more about connotation than denotation... it doesn't have to be faith OR rational thinking. It can be both if we are willing to explore emotional and theoretical boundaries that we may have been afraid of previously. Nature or nurture? If you ask me it's a hell of a lot of both...

As for voters- here's where my faith saves me. I believe that humanity is curious enough to find the answers and to right our wrongs. It's as cyclical as everything in life is... slowly but surely, people will wake up and realize that those currently in power are preaching whatever will keep them in power. Those that truly do believe in Christ's teachings will have no problem sacrificing some money come tax return time, in the interest of conscience. The rest of us just need to make it impossible for a conscientious person to ignore what has happened.

If you become involved in the process, it's not whether or not George Bush will see you protesting on television. He couldn't care less. He feels his close relationship with GOD (not Yahweh, not Allah, not Jehovah, not Zeus but GOD Goddammit! The only God!) justifies that fact that no single person has ever been as protested as him. What makes a difference is that friend of yours that will say, 'I'll come and see what this is all about.' And when they go home to Tennessee for Thanksgiving, if they've become informed, I'd like to think that family may become informed. And so on and so forth... voila! social epidemic of conscience. That doesn't mean you have to give all of your money to homeless people on the street, that doesn't mean we let our military turn into a bunch of hackysackers. It does mean that things can't get too out of hand... gotta love those Founding Fathers despite their hypocrisy.

I guess my point is, this isn't a job for the DNC. I think this is a job for those of us that are aware of what's happening, and for those of us that know a journey of a 1000 miles begins with a single step.

Amen brothas and sistahs.


Alex in response to your “secular republican” and religion in politics discussion, I see it as follows: I feel the elimination of religion from politics and government is central to our country’s foundation and past success, and critical to our future success as a society and as a world leader.

The division of church and state has been integral to the U.S. political system, and in my mind is symbolic of something much greater- the concepts of tolerance, pluralism and inclusion. Over our history, the people of the United States and the government have evolved, developing institutions and legislation to protect people, all people. There are a number of legal, social, and political components of our society that play into this 1)freedom of speech, 2) women’s rights, 3) minority rights, 4) separation of church and state, 5) innocent until proven guilty, 6) a woman’s right to choose, 7) a right to a speedy and just trial, etc… and throughout our history our defining moments have been those when these “universal values” were brought into question and we fought internally and externally to protect them: our fight for independence, the Civil War, social services (welfare, public education, social security), The Civil Rights Movement, universal suffrage, Brown vs. The Board of Education, abortion rights, The Cold War, the War in Afghanistan… and today we find ourselves in additional battles (gay rights and marriage, “in God we trust”, Pledge of Allegiance, rights of “foreign combatants”, rights of illegal aliens, treatment of Iraqi prisoners, the motivations behind going to War in Iraq…).

I was brought up by parents who grew up in post World War II Europe, a place of shame, guilt, relief, and triumph. My mom, German, was raised under a country ridden with guilt for their persecution and genocide of a people, and my Dad, British, was raised by a minister who spent four years in a prisoner of war camp in North Africa wondering about his family being bombed in London by an evil tyrant and if his country would survive as he knew it. While my parents didn’t come to America to get away from Europe, they came to America and stayed in America partly for economic reasons, but also due to a great respect for a principled society. Their parents approved of this move because they looked to America as a generous country committed to human rights and as the defenders of freedom.

Globally, this goodwill has been eroded tremendously in the last two years by Bush’s unilateral foreign policy – Iraq, withdrawal from the Kyoto Accord, withdrawal from ABM Treaty with Russia, desire to have U.S. military excluded from World Courts, shunning of U.N., “with us or against us” mentality, leadership via threat and fear, bilateral trade agreements and shunning of WTO…

But what really are these “universal values” I’m talking about? In a book called “Many Globalizations” by S. Huntington and P. Berger, the authors raise a very interesting point- the leading force of globalization is not corporate America, nor is it the non-profits or multilateral agencies assisting in developing the world and inadvertently spreading Western culture, but rather it is Evangelical Protestantism which is influencing hundreds of millions of people globally, transforming “people’s attitudes to family, sexual behavior, child rearing, and most importantly to work and general economic attitudes”. Many of these values are rooted in American Society. Samuel Huntington also recently wrote an extremely controversial article, “The Hispanic Challenge” where he outlines an argument that the influx of Hispanics and their affect on America is threatening those very same values and principles. While I don’t agree with Huntington’s latter arguement, he raises interesting points.

So after a lot of rambling, my point is that while we all believe strongly in separation of church and state, we are in many ways spreading a “brand of religion” and have done so domestically and globally since our founding. However, the critical point is that America has been doing it under a guise of “democracy”, not a Christian Bible or a Crusader’s flag.

In my mind, “separation of church and state” is actually more of a “separation of values from religion”, that is, a promotion of values universal to many of the religions of the world (not all of course). It comes down to tolerance and inclusion, freedom of speech, human rights, etc…which may have been rooted in our forefathers’ protestant values, but in my mind, have become greater than religion, have separated from it, and have become the foundation of peaceful coexistence, liberty and freedom, in this country and worldwide. They have become universal values that we need to strengthen here and abroad, not through evangelical Protestantism, but through separation of church and state domestically and diplomacy and leadership internationally.

Where does that leave us? Religion has been the curer and killer. We need it out of our political system and the global political system, maintaining it as a personal freedom, taking only those fundamental universal values. The religious right has hijacked the Republican Party and is using it to push its own agenda. Perhaps like you, I see the religious right as a threat to our society. In many ways I wonder if this is analogous to how some republicans (Underwood) feel the Democratic Party is a threat to capitalism because he feels it is the first step towards communism (which of course, is ridiculous). It is interesting however that the parties need each other to maintain a balanced society, upholding the combination of social commitment and economic determination.

Perhaps this is the origin of your “secular republican” comment, which in many ways is the same thing as saying you are a New Democrat (a fiscally conservative democrat) or, a centrist. Of course, in my mind your term is only a term applicable in today’s dynamics when considering the Bush Administration and religious right because the centrist republicans don’t look so different than you when compared to that extreme.

At the same time, I don’t agree that you are a secular Republican either because I feel the Republican Party is not as committed to those universal values as is the Democratic Party, or as you are. They are currently dominated by a religious right pushing a non-tolerant agenda which in mind includes a blurring of division of church and state, a neglect of the less fortunate (which manifests itself as a socio-economic issue and race issue depending on who you talk to), a lack of commitment to universal rights, a desire to create an aristocratic class which in turn will generate a larger divide of affluence and greater social tension and issues.

The Bush-Cheney combination of unilateral foreign policy and fundamental religious zeal is threatening to American society and has proven to be disastrous to our reputation globally. While I’ve preached tolerance here, America should no longer tolerate this administration. They’ve got to go!


Any body else overjoyed to hear that Cheney was booed at Yankee Stadium yesterday? I suppose he's not welcome in New York City's largest place of worship.

Candace Collmer

---(this is actually Alex writing) My mother's been very busy recently with both work and building a new house, but she sent me the following comments, which I wanted to post. Thanks a lot Mom.---

I've been thinking about sending a response to your blog site, but it seems that I just never have time enough to sit down and organize my thoughts coherently. But let me at least pass on to you these thoughts, some of which might have been worth adding to the site:

First, for anyone who might be interested in thinking seriously about religion v. evolution, or talking with anyone who believes that the two are mutually exclusive, I would very strongly recommend the book Finding Darwin's God by Kenneth Miller. It's an amazing book, where he seriously looks at creationism, intelligent design, etc., and shows their logical deficiencies -- not only scientifically (which would most likely be irrelevant anyway for religious persons), but also religiously (by convincingly demonstrating that the view of God in these belief systems is a pretty small, unsatisfying god indeed). He goes on to present his own much larger religious view, which fits his view of God into quantum physics and the uncertainty principle, and fully integrates evolution with a religious perspective -- pretty amazing and inspiring reading indeed for anyone trying to reconcile science and religion.

Second, I would agree with thoughts already expressed on your site about the attraction to some of a black & white world view a la George Bush -- a clear and unambivalent split between good and evil, right and wrong, etc. Jean Piaget has a classic book, The Moral Judgement of the Child, in which he postulates various stages in the development of moral reasoning in a child. A black and white stage is certainly one of those, earlier of course than later stages where shades of gray must be admitted and accommodated. All of us start out with such a world view, and it is indeed a comforting and attractive one for as long as one is able to believe life works that way. It does seem possible that those attracted to such a black and white world view (much more republican than democrat) would also be attracted to those more fundamental religious denominations, which also see the world so clearly. However, there is another factor here which might be especially relevant to your question. It is those more fundamental religions (with the B&W view) that are also called upon to proselytize --to "go therefore and teach unto all nations..." since they are the ones that believe that their view is the only correct one, and that they therefore must "save" those who have different views by enlightening them. Naturally we will hear more from these people. However, they do not necessarily have a monopoly on faith or spirituality. One could hardly call the Buddists or religious Quakers (or even many Unitarian Universalists) lacking in faith, but these religions are focused much more on individuals finding for themselves "that of God" within them, through their own religious journey. Such religions do not believe that one person can impose her/his beliefs on another, and they are therefore non proselytizing. Thus, we generally hear little of them out in public life, except in special cases such as the anti-war testament of Quakers, which is a fundamental principle that comes along with believing in "that of God in every person."

Finally, it is certainly worth mentioning the inconsistency between the policies of the current "born-again Christian" President and the actual teachings of Jesus Christ, upon whom the fundamental religions supposedly rest. The practices of George Bush's "compassionate conservatism" simply do not match the cardinal teachings of Jesus -- blessed are the poor, forgive, judge not that ye be not judged, let he who is without sin throw the first stone, and especially, that the old law of "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" be changed to "love thy neighbor as thyself." Somehow many of the fundamental Christians, including George, seem to have lost the message. And many of these do indeed seem to have found the Republican Party.

That's all for now -- time to get back to work.


It is a shame and a disgrace that Amerika has turned her back upon the Almighty Sovereign Creator the Lord Jesus Christ. Judgment is just around the next corner and I beleive the hand of Almighty God the Lord Jesus Christ is already sending His judgment upon America. Repent or perish turn or burn if you miss the Lord Jesus Christ then you will have missed it all and it would have been better had you not been born homeboy

Campbell Gibson

Alex. I stumbled across your posting and really am interested in this topic. I do see this a little differently from some of the other comments. Since this seems like a semi-public forum and since I am at least semi-public, I will venture to add at least one more voice to the discussion.

I think that while there are many secular Democrats and many religious Republicans, there are many religious Democrats and secular Republicans. The thing that disturbs me about some of the conversations I have heard here and elsewhere, is that it would seem to be Christian, one must be conservative and therefore wrong on two counts. The problem here is not the religion but that some people who practice religion parse out bits and words to support their small mindedness and preconceived notions regardless what the true intent or teachings may be.

If you think about the major stars progressivism or the democratic party in the twentieth century, then people of strong faith are at the top of the list. It is hard to say that Martin Luther King or Jimmy Carter or John Kennedy or Bill Clinton became close minded because of their beliefs. I think a greater challenge to the Democratic party would be to explain to religious voters why our party better represents the real teachings of Christianity or Judaism or Islam.

The Beatitudes are really considered the rock of Christianity. In them Christ blesses the poor, the meek, the mournful, the hungry, the merciful, the clean of heart, the peacemakers, and the persecuted. These are not exactly the targets of Republican platforms. We have them dead on with every major issue and this does not even get into stewardship of the environment or foreign policy.

The Republican party has had a very effective spin machine the last 30 years. Their organization has not only built fundraising and think tanks and media outlets and tremendous grass roots organizations. No they have not only done all of this but they have also stolen God. If you look just more than about 25 years back and do a little research on progressivism in America, you will find that religion has been a driving force in that movement. Bill Clinton spoke at Riverside Church in Manhattan on Sunday and explained why he thinks the Democratic party is the true party for the faithful and believers.

Democrats do not need to write off Christians, or Jews or Muslims because they believe. We do not need to tell people of faith to check their beliefs at the door. We instead need to turn this on its head and use their beliefs as a draw to the Democratic party. We will not win all of them. However, if we do not make an effort, then we are certainly losing many of them unnecessarily

Alex Collmer

Campbell, thank you very much for your thoughtful post. While I personally have a slightly different take on modern, mass market religions, I certainly respect your opinion and agree with your assessment of the true pillars of Christ's teachings. I guess I just get frustrated that it seems to me like more and more people use religion these days as an excuse for narrow mindedness and anti-intellectualism...which I view as two of the more serious flaws with our nation's character right now. I grew up going to church (Friends meeting) every week, and stopped largely because of this frustration.

All of that aside, I think that you are dead on in your assessment of how Democrats need to work to allow faith back into the tent.


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