Apparently, Barack Obama did well in the recent primaries, increasing the chances that he’ll be the Democratic candidate for president. Right away, we’re seeing an old video of an Obama speech (transcript here) being refloated. This is the same speech that prompted me to say I would never vote for Obama. It really is a ghastly exercise in self-delusion and post hoc justification of religious bigotry; I’d say he was pandering to his audience, except that I think he really believes the nonsense he was spouting.
Just reading it again pisses me off, it’s so full of stupidity. Look at this:
And by the way, we need Christians on Capitol Hill, Jews on Capitol Hill and Muslims on Capitol Hill talking about the estate tax. When you’ve got an estate tax debate that proposes a trillion dollars being taken out of social programs to go to a handful of folks who don’t need and weren’t even asking for it, you know that we need an injection of morality in our political debate.
Good grief. We need Christians, Jews, and Muslims to “inject morality” into Capitol Hill? Capitol Hill is full of nothing but believers, and it’s the loudest and most fervent of those believers who passed the regressive taxes we have now. To make it even worse, he turns around a few sentences later and says this:
So the question is, how do we build on these still-tentative partnerships between religious and secular people of good will? It’s going to take more work, a lot more work than we’ve done so far. The tensions and the suspicions on each side of the religious divide will have to be squarely addressed. And each side will need to accept some ground rules for collaboration.
You want to build bridges to the secular part of the nation? Then don’t assume the godless are the amoral, unethical, venal part of society that you need to discipline with a ruling majority of religious saints in government.
There’s much more in that speech that grates. For instance, he praises Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech for it’s religious content, which he claims was necessary. NO. Read it again. King was a minister, and of course his religious tradition informed his speech, and the cadence of the speech is straight from good ol’ sermonizing, but the religious references are nothing but little fillips on a call for social justice, for equality and freedom. If you read that speech and come away thinking it’s a paean to religiosity, you’re missing the point. Atheists and other secularists are moved and inspired by that speech; the religious content is background, not purpose.
So let’s be clear here: I despise Obama’s faith. I think it has the potential to be a major hindrance to any accomplishments of an Obama administration, and I worry that it would further promote the desecularization of our government. If Obama is elected, I will not be a cheerleader, but a constant critic.
That said, though, in the recent caucus, I made myself a liar and voted for Obama. If he’s the Democratic candidate, I’ll vote for him in November. (I hope I don’t regret it.) I would remind him, though, that the last liberal Christian candidate who made his faith a matter of public discussion was Jimmy Carter, a wonderful human being who was also a one-term president. Piety is no substitute for accomplishment.
I do not aspire to the complete disenfranchisement of all religious people, and I always have to hold my nose and press that lever for some Christian — as an atheist in America, I have never had the opportunity to vote for any candidate in any election who was willing to admit to disbelief. (Think about that—as a group, we lack representation in our government, but it’s the other side that is always claiming discrimination.) So there’s nothing new in having to swallow my pride and vote for a compromise candidate who represents my views so poorly.
In this election, I’m confronted with a moderate Republican in Democratic clothing (Clinton) who I don’t see advancing secular government in a progressive direction; a weak progressive (Obama) who is tainted with religious delusions, but I’m hoping will focus on more practical issues, and the religiosity will not be prominent in his administration; and a mob of flaming lunatics on the Republican side who promise nothing but catastrophe.
I’m reluctantly voting for Obama, but as I said last time, someday I want to vote for a freethought president. I have a dream! Of course, I seem to still be waiting for a chance to vote for a freethought city councilman, so it may be a while.