Religion and the emerging Democratic majority

It will be interesting to see how the now marginalized religious right nutballs behave during the next four years, but perhaps more importantly, to see how an Obama administration accommodates them. I have to admit the way I view these poor souls has changed in the last couple of years and I want to write about that when I have more time. For now, though, here is another early post regarding Obama’s position on the pledge and what I saw at the time as an alternative outlet for Democratic energy:

Monday, July 10, 2006


What To Do?


I didn’t get the memo from Carville, so I don’t know if he warned Democrats to tip-toe around religious issues and instead suggested that more votes could be had by assisting the religious right in their attempts to take over the government. But I wanted to revisit the statement made a few days ago by Barack Obama where he paid lip service to religious conservatives by stating Democrats should embrace the evangelical end of the spirituality spectrum.  He crossed a line, in my opinion, when he said this:

“It is doubtful that children reciting the Pledge of Allegiance feel oppressed or brainwashed as a consequence of muttering the phrase ‘under God.’”

Lately I’ve been reading through Bernard Bailyn’s Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, a work that earned him the Bancroft Prize in American History, along with a Pulitzer in the same category. In the book, Bailyn cited A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law where John Adams essentially lays out his views on church and state (or what he refers to as the canon and feudal law):

Since the promulgation of Christianity, the two greatest systems of tyranny that have sprung from this original, are the canon and the feudal law. The desire of dominion, that great principle by which we have attempted to account for so much good and so much evil, is, when properly restrained, a very useful and noble movement in the human mind. But when such restraints are taken off, it becomes an encroaching, grasping, restless, and ungovernable power. Numberless have been the systems of iniquity contrived by the great for the gratification of this passion in themselves; but in none of them were they ever more successful than in the invention and establishment of the canon and the feudal law.

By the former of these, the most refined, sublime, extensive, and astonishing constitution of policy that ever was conceived by the mind of man was framed by the Romish clergy for the aggrandizement of their own order. All the epithets I have here given to the Romish policy are just, and will be allowed to be so when it is considered, that they even persuaded mankind to believe, faithfully and undoubtingly, that God Almighty had entrusted them with the keys of heaven, whose gates they might open and close at pleasure; with a power of dispensation over all the rules and obligations of morality; with authority to license all sorts of sins and crimes; with a power of deposing princes and absolving subjects from allegiance; with a power of procuring or withholding the rain of heaven and the beams of the sun; with the management of earthquakes, pestilence, and famine; nay, with the mysterious, awful, incomprehensible power of creating out of bread and wine the flesh and blood of God himself. All these opinions they were enabled to spread and rivet among the people by reducing their minds to a state of sordid ignorance and staring timidity, and by infusing into them a religious horror of letters and knowledge. Thus was human nature chained fast for ages in a cruel, shameful, and deplorable servitude to him, and his subordinate tyrants, who, it was foretold, would exalt himself above all that was called God, and that was worshipped.

In the latter we find another system, similar in many respects to the former; which, although it was originally formed, perhaps, for the necessary defense of a barbarous people against the inroads and invasions of her neighboring nations, yet for the same purposes of tyranny, cruelty, and lust, which had dictated the canon law, it was soon adopted by almost all the princes of Europe, and wrought into the constitutions of their government. It was originally a code of laws for a vast army in a perpetual encampment. The general was invested with the sovereign propriety of all the lands within the territory. Of him, as his servants and vassals, the first rank of his great officers held the lands; and in the same manner the other subordinate officers held of them; and all ranks and degrees held their lands by a variety of duties and services, all tending to bind the chains the faster on every order of mankind. In this manner the common people were held together in herds and clans in a state of servile dependence on their lords, bound, even by the tenure of their lands, to follow them, whenever they commanded, to their wars, and in a state of total ignorance of every thing divine and human, excepting the use of arms and the culture of their lands.

But another event still more calamitous to human liberty, was a wicked confederacy between the two systems of tyranny above described. It seems to have been even stipulated between them, that the temporal grandees should contribute every thing in their power to maintain the ascendancy of the priesthood, and that the spiritual grandees in their turn, should employ their ascendancy over the consciences of the people, in impressing on their minds a blind, implicit obedience to civil magistracy.

Thus, as long as this confederacy lasted, and the people were held in ignorance, liberty, and with her, knowledge and virtue too, seem to have deserted the earth, and one age of darkness succeeded another, till God in his benign providence raised up the champions who began and conducted the Reformation. From the time of the Reformation to the first settlement of America, knowledge gradually spread in Europe, but especially in England; and in proportion as that increased and spread among the people, ecclesiastical and civil tyranny, which I use as synonymous expressions for the canon and feudal laws, seem to have lost their strength and weight. The people grew more and more sensible of the wrong that was done them by these systems, more and more impatient under it, and determined at all hazards to rid themselves of it; till at last, under the execrable race of the Stuarts, the struggle between the people and the confederacy aforesaid of temporal and spiritual tyranny, became formidable, violent, and bloody.

It was this great struggle that peopled America. It was not religion alone, as is commonly supposed; but it was a love of universal liberty, and a hatred, a dread, a horror, of the infernal confederacy before described, that projected, conducted, and accomplished the settlement of America.

I don’t think Democrats should acquiesce on the fundamental principle of religious separation, one of the root causes of the American rebellion, and instead should make hay from something recently brought back into view by the euthanizing of right wing icon Ken Lay. It also happens to be something the Carville memo indicates is ripe for harvesting; it’s the corruption of the American system of free enterprise, which is now dominated by hierarchical schemers and corporate thieves. The current administration favors restricted competition, monopolies, oligopolies, and cartels because it makes it easier to play the market, and because in the short run it protects the big boys by stifling competition.

But the losers in the corrupted game are the workers (voters), including honest entrepreneurs and innovators, who are left frustrated and anxious by a system that rewards cheaters.  Everyone is being eaten alive by the sharks in the water. The endless cycle of mergers and acquisitions keeps the money flowing up the pyramid, where it is then siphoned off for personal gain by pyramid-squatting CEOs.

So if the Democrats need to be righteous about something, and want something to reclaim from the opposition, I would say to reclaim the integrity of the marketplace, which this administration has utterly corrupted and destroyed. A marketplace free from abuse yields a symbiosis between a Republic and her people. Government infused with religion has the opposite impact, as John Adams so eloquently wrote long ago.

End of original post.

[For those so inclined, here is the link to the post and the rather robust comments that followed.]

So, where do you think the Democrats, as a party, are heading with the religiously politically motivated? How far will an Obama administration go with its belielf in inclusion of all constituencies?

Posted by poputonian on 11/30/08 at 01:09 PM • Permalink

Categories: PoliticsBarack ObamaElection '08Relijun

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Obama’s accommodationist speeches on religion are one of the major bones I pick with him (somewhere there’s a copy of an angry letter I sent him back in 2006 on the subject). Not that I think he would seriously ever toe the religious right line on abortion or anything, but I really hate that he occasionally seems to feed their tendency for unearned martyrdom by nodding sympathetically when they bitch about not being able to force their religious views into the public square.

I would like to invert what he said and point out that it’s doubtful that any child—or adult—of true religious faith will question said faith as a result of not being forced to recite rote pledges or prayers in a public setting or because a store clerk wishes them “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”

If your faith is a deep abiding part of you, you don’t need to see it plastered everywhere to keep you in touch with your religion. Of course, if you’re one of those people who embraces religion because otherwise you can’t figure out how to behave in the world, or because you’re gambling that there just might be a big bad angry god out there who will smite you after death, then I suspect your “faith” is all in, um, bad faith.

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