Would Chris Coons want me to talk about my faith, if I were running for office?


Coons biases are showing nakedly in this essay in which he says Democrats need to talk about their faith, using the example of Sherrod Brown, who got all this attention from the electorate for openly making a big deal of his Christian beliefs. So, he argues, everyone needs to make it part of their stump speech.

What’s implied is that this is a fine strategy for Christians.

Unfortunately, choosing not to talk much—or even at all—about faith and religion has become common in today’s Democratic Party. That choice, I believe, is the wrong one for two important reasons.

First, it hides away the deep, passionate, and formative faith backgrounds of so many Democrats who are seeking or serving in office. At our weekly Senate prayer breakfasts, for example, I’m consistently inspired and moved by the words of my colleagues whose faith is fundamental to their life and their work, but who rarely talk about it publicly.

Second, choosing not to talk about our faith as Democrats ignores the clear fact that America is still an overwhelmingly religious country, and that the Democratic Party, too, remains a coalition largely made up of people of faith—including tens of millions who identify as deeply religious.

I guarantee you that if I were running for office (fortunately, I’m not) Coons would be telling me to hush about the atheism thing. If I were Muslim and running for the presidency, my religion would be a huge issue; that’s a campaign that wouldn’t even get off the ground, all because people like Coons and Brown are making their Christianity a ploy in their run for office.

Someone like Coons would not be consistently inspired and moved by the words of a godless colleague, or one who worshipped Allah, or a Satanist friend. The implication is that only the dominant beliefs in a culture are worthy, and should be expressed loudly, and anyone else should shut up.

How about if instead we recognized that your goofy, irrelevant, evidence-free beliefs should not be part of our government, directly or indirectly, and that making it a prominent part of a campaign is pandering to a biased segment of the electorate? That goes for atheists who might make it a central feature of their campaign for office. I want to know your position on the issues and your proposed solutions, not what phantasm (or absence thereof) you talk to.

Comments

  1. John Morales says

    It’s more of an appeal to character than to competence.

    But then, Trump is the darling of the Evangelicals, and he’s neither competent nor of good character — so, obviously, godliness is hardly necessary for electoral success.

  2. says

    At our weekly Senate prayer breakfasts, for example, I’m consistently inspired and moved by the words of my colleagues whose faith is fundamental to their life and their work, but who rarely talk about it publicly.

    Is he kidding with this? How does such a weekly travesty persist in 2019? I want him to start publicly naming the Republicans at these prayer breakfasts and describing specifically their inspiring words, so we the public can question them about how these moving sentiments fit with their votes to take healthcare away from tens of millions of people, cut taxes for the richest while people go hungry, steal children from their families and put them in camps, support the hideous Trump,… Also, we should be able to discuss the basis for their beliefs and how they appear in light of the empirical evidence. If he wants to talk about faith, let’s do it – in a democratic and publicly accountable way.

    (I think Coons is a decent guy and means well, but I see he’s co-chaired two of the last three National Prayer Breakfasts, which says a lot about his views on the role of religion in government, none of it good.)

  3. doubter says

    Canadian here. Thankfully, faith is just not an issue in our politics. The previous federal government (the Conservatives under Stephen Harper) tried to make it a thing, but “God Bless Canada” just sounds weird.

  4. raven says

    At our weekly Senate prayer breakfasts, for example, I’m consistently inspired and moved by the words of my colleagues whose faith is fundamental to their life and their work, but who rarely talk about it publicly.

    Some of these faith filled Senators are approving the atrocity of those child concentration camps we are running for migrants coming over the southern border.
    Others have dedicated a large fraction of their life to killing the Affordable Care Act so 20 million people can go without any sort of health care insurance.

    I’m not the least bit impressed by those whose “faith is fundamental to their life and their work”.
    Some of them are plain, flat out monsters.
    Hitchens had it right: Religion poisons everything!!!

  5. PaulBC says

    I read that article and I had no idea what Coons was talking about. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama both talked about faith on the campaign trail. Nobody thought they were atheists. Plenty thought Obama was Muslim despite his discussion of his Christian faith in his published books and occasional biblical references in speeches. Biden has talked frequently about his Catholic faith. I mean, gimme a break. Democrats don’t wallow in religion to the degree Republicans often do, but it’s not like they’re hiding it.

    I also agree with PZ’s point that if Coons suggestion is a litmus test, he is saying that no atheist should even consider having a visible role in the Democratic party. This is not merely a lack of progress, but more like a setback of many decades.

  6. Akira MacKenzie says

    I’ve said it once, I’ll say it a million times: The world will not be safe for atheists so long as theism and belief in the supernatural exist.

  7. says

    Coincidentally, new Pew poll:

    % who say the U.S. has a responsibility to accept refugees:
    Religiously unaffiliated 65%
    Black Protestant 63%
    Catholic 50%
    White mainline Protestant 43%
    White evangelicals 25%

    Link at the link.

  8. PaulBC says

    @SC I have to admit I’m disappointed at the Catholic response. Not surprised, just disappointed. One of the things I continue to like about the Catholic church is its focus on global affairs and not nationalism. I’m not gaga over the current Pope, but he’s an improvement over his predecessor.

    Probably if you limited it to white Catholics, it would be much worse. I grew up in a strong social justice tradition, which was a Catholic concept long before “SJW” became a taunt. (More Dorothy Day than Opus Dei, as it’s sometimes explained.) As a non-believer, I still share the cultural affinity, and I remain disappointed.

  9. whheydt says

    When faced with a ballot full of local people I’ve never heard of, the first thing I do is go through the candidate statements and drop all the ones that go on about their religious posts, affiliations, and such to the bottom of the list. I only look at them again (to do a finer sort) if I run out of people that are otherwise reasonable but I wouldn’t vote for on a bet.

    So, in that sense, it is somewhat useful for people running for office to wear their religion on their sleeve. It helps me weed them out.

  10. PaulBC says

    @Akira MacKenzie “The world will not be safe for atheists so long as theism and belief in the supernatural exist.”

    Realistically, I am not sure how to parse this other than “the world will never be safe for atheists.” Do you have an achievable goal here? People are going to believe what they want to believe and will invent new religions on an on-going basis.

    We do need a government that refuses to base policies on beliefs that have no empirical grounding. That’s achievable, though it requires work and we are far from it today. The “existence” of religious belief is largely beyond the control of government, even those willing to trample on human rights to achieve it (e.g. the former Soviet Union).

  11. Michael says

    I’m not an American, but I’m still annoyed about that moment during the Obama/Hillary Democratic convention when the group is asked what their favourite verse from the Bible was. I’m curious what would have happened if one of the candidates had been brave enough to respond with: “Seriously? That is your question? Aside from the whole religious test issue, what does that have to do with my ability to govern?” It would have been amusing to end that with “Fine,…” and instead of John 3:16, give an obscure verse that not only would they have to look up, but one that was not politically correct.

  12. robnyny says

    Maybe it’s just me, but the ability to delude oneself about an imaginary spook is not important to me.

  13. PaulBC says

    “instead of John 3:16, give an obscure verse that not only would they have to look up, but one that was not politically correct.” Genesis 30:1-24 The most tawdry soap opera plot ever written:
    https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+30&version=NIV

    14 During wheat harvest, Reuben went out into the fields and found some mandrake plants, which he brought to his mother Leah. Rachel said to Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.”
    15 But she said to her, “Wasn’t it enough that you took away my husband? Will you take my son’s mandrakes too?”
    “Very well,” Rachel said, “he can sleep with you tonight in return for your son’s mandrakes.”
    16 So when Jacob came in from the fields that evening, Leah went out to meet him. “You must sleep with me,” she said. “I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes.” So he slept with her that night.

  14. unclefrogy says

    if there is any “faith” would like ti see expressed more in politics it would be faith in democracy.
    The constitution starts with “We The People” but lately much of what I here from the reactionary is shaded by us vs them.
    their religion sure is.
    their is overall a real lack in faith in democracy being expressed
    uncle frogy

  15. PaulBC says

    @unclefrogy “if there is any “faith” would like ti see expressed more in politics it would be faith in democracy.”

    When Reagan was going on his tirade about government being the problem (ironically while employed by government like most government-bashers), that was the time to retort “We the People are the government.”

    For a period of some years, I tried to beat this drum, but probably too late. With Trump in the White House, it is too farcical to bother with. I have not lost my faith in democracy, but I have lost my faith that the US has any semblance of it left. Maybe it still exists at the local level. At the national level, we have laws written by lobbyists signed by legislators who clearly believe that their donors matter more than their constituents and often come close to saying it out loud.

  16. zoniedude says

    Maybe they should listen to God? Mathew 6:
    5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

  17. unclefrogy says

    @17
    what good is faith if I can’t brag about it and display it at every opportunity?
    uncle frogy

  18. chigau (違う) says

    unclefrogy
    The non-display faith works if God exists.
    otherwise…

  19. Rob Grigjanis says

    Michael @12:

    I’m still annoyed about that moment during the Obama/Hillary Democratic convention when the group is asked what their favourite verse from the Bible was

    I’d love to get that question. Matthew 25:40 (NIV):

    The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

    Most Republicans, or conservatives anywhere these days, don’t seem to have got to that bit yet. Or the punchline, verses 45 and 46.

  20. chrislawson says

    PaulBC@16–

    Absolutely right. For all democracy’s flaws, the problem with the current US political climate is not that democracy itself is a failure. If that was the case, there would be no voter suppression or gerrymandering or Citizens United v. FEC.

  21. chrislawson says

    Nice verses to mention if you want to kill your political career:

    2 Kings 19:35 (KJV): “And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the Lord went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses.” (Only silly in the King James version, more sensible editors used good syntax. But since most US evangelicals think the KJV is the divinely-inspired literal word of God, this is completely fair game.)

    Ezekiel 23:20 (CEB): “She lusted after their male consorts, whose sexual organs were like those of donkeys, and whose ejaculation was like that of horses.”

    2 Kings 2:23-24 (GNT): “Elisha left Jericho to go to Bethel, and on the way some boys came out of a town and made fun of him. ‘Get out of here, baldy!’ they shouted. Elisha turned around, glared at them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord. Then two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the boys to pieces.”

    Genesis 15:3-4 (AKJV): “And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir. And, behold, the word of the Lord came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir.”

  22. says

    I’ve been elected to local offices several times as an “out” atheist, and religion has never been an issue. I caused a minor kerfuffle when I had a humanist give the invocation when I was sworn in as mayor, but the overall feedback was positive from the public and the other councilors. No successful local politician in my community, even the devoutly religious ones, make more than a passing reference to religion in their public statements. Our town recently elected an observant Muslim woman to the City Council. She won handily.

    So, change can come. I hope communities like mine are a model for the future.

  23. auntbenjy says

    At our weekly Senate prayer breakfasts, for example, I’m consistently inspired and moved by the words of my colleagues whose faith is fundamental to their life and their work, but who rarely talk about it publicly.

    Rarely talk about it? Where I come from (New Zealand), going to a weekly prayer breakfast qualifies as banging on about it quite a lot.

    Having elections without religious kerfuffle is lovely. I had to look it up to know that our last three Prime Ministers were atheist/agnostic, agnostic (Jewish Mother), and agnostic (former Mormon).

  24. mtspaceevolves says

    In representative gov we elect/HIRE reps as a VOTER PROXY. Part of job description 4 Rep is to act on behalf of the people’s will. Their job is to NOT act on THEIR beliefs. I attempted my solution when I ran 4 a city council seat as a ‘Voter Proxy Website’ . Now i’m searching 4 folks in diff places to run as ‘voter proxy website’ candidate. If elected, proxies would do whatever the users voted 4 us to do. Set city council agenda items from top 5 issues every month, write & sponsor top 3 upvoted bills monthly, form committees from most upvoted commenter on diff topics like campaign $. Comm’s would offer suggested actions to be voted on alongside all user suggestions in case site users r throwing out crap ideas, users can read ‘trusted’ options AND site would give candidate in all elections a free blog page they could use as they wanted & post daily updated candid8 blogs on public access channel.
    Dems issue IS not having any good ideas that they are logically passionate enough about to die/live for. I don’t have time for folks who haven’t discovered an idea worth living for, BEING A REP AND PROXY FOR VOTERS IS AN HONORABLE WORTHY CAUSE WORTH LIVING FOR, THEY SHOULD BATHE IN OUR DIRECTIVES. People’s ideas need to be allowed to fail, enlighten, exceed expectations, or bitterness builds & heels get dug in. With healthcare, marijuana, tuition, vaccines, etc, most beneficial thing we can do is start TROUBLE SHOOTING, adjusting 1 variable to an extreme, records result, adjust. If half the counties in every state picked a ‘solution’ out of a hat & implemented it for 6 mos, PROGRESS IS GUARANTEED. Revelation is guaranteed by databasing what each ‘solution’ does.

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