Thursday, September 6, 2012

Conventional Wisdom Without God's Name

Democratic delegates recite the Pledge of Allegiance
Apparently having run out of substantive issues to defame each other, the endlessly fighting Democrats and Republicans are now squabbling over the word “God” in party platforms.  Mind you, this has nothing to do with ethics – understandable given the apparent paucity of any in either party – but over the word.

The Democrats did not write the word God in its original platform, but added it later.  The Republicans used it 10 times.  To GOP stalwarts, that Democratic slip of the pen somehow makes their party more “religious,” as if repeating a word somehow magically imparts an extra aura to a document or its readers. Propaganda is based on the same principle.

In contrast, Democratic Party leaders insist the original decision to drop God was designed to show the inclusive nature of the party in a country where church and state are separated by law.  Besides, as one official noted, religion isn’t ignored:  the word "faith" appears 11 times in the document, "religion" or "religious" 9 times, "church" 2 times (one time appearing within a quote), and "clergy" 1 time.

One view of God
In addition, the Democratic Party platform comments that faith "has always been a central part of the American story, and it has been a driving force of progress and justice throughout our history.  There is no conflict between supporting faith-based institutions and respecting our Constitution, and a full commitment to both principles is essential for the continued flourishing of both faith and country."

Sounds religious enough without evoking God.

The tiny spat actually reflects differences in religious thought that goes back probably to the creation of religion itself. There are always people who believe that God injects Himself into everyday life.  That He gets angry when His laws are not followed and lashes out at a community.  As a result, He must be placated with soothing references.

They are countered by those who believe religion is a private matter between an individual and his deity.  Therefore, any documented reference is superfluous.

A third group, the “Nones,” is now firmly wedged between the two: they are nonbelievers, the fastest growing sector of the American population.  They belong to no religious group, regardless of personal beliefs, are agnostic or have opted for complete atheism.  The last study I saw said almost 1 in every 5 Americans falls into this category.

These three disparate groups are currently battling for the religious control of this society.

Despite the best efforts of the Religious Right, the Nones are destined to win.  There’s no choice.  This country requires complete separation of church and state.  That’s the law.  No one has the right to impose religious views on someone else.  Anyone can offer religious literature, invite anyone to a religion class, but no one can compel religious observance.

A common sight before Blue Laws were repealed.
Attempts to do so, such as the Blue Laws that once blocked businesses from opening on Sunday, have been shot down.  The process has taken awhile.  Blue Laws were in effect into the 1960s, but, over time, the courts have consistently undermined efforts to endorse one faith over another by ending forced school prayer, placement of religious symbols on public property and the like.

Democrats probably did not see themselves in the vanguard of such a moment.  They just want votes from the about 22 percent of the population that has moved away from religious beliefs and are nervously watching the Republican two-step with the religious fanatics who want to impose their faith on everyone.

The omission of God in the original party platform, a document never read or referred to again once the convention ends, serves only to remind Americans of the significance of words and the determined efforts by a hardy minority to make religion the litmus test for voters.

Besides, as one observer on the internet noted: “The sooner that we remove all religion from the public sphere, the sooner we can have rational and evidence-based discussions of important policy questions."
That’s not going to happen, not while both parties bicker over meaningless words.

Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history.  He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  You can reach him at  He is the author of the famed Unauthorized Biography of Nostradamus; The Last Testament of Simon Peter; The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Dummies Guide to Comparative Religion.  His books are available on, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers.  He can also be followed on Twitter.

You can enroll in his on-line class, Comparative Religion for Dummies, at

No comments:

Post a Comment