Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Could increased prominence for atheist/agnostic bloggers spell electoral damnation for the Democratic Party?

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When they “crash the gates,” will they take our cross”?

[UPDATE:] I consider the article below, published on March 2, 2007, to be prophetic on my part, considering the conflagration over the opinions of "Pastor Wright" during the 2008 election campaign. I will also make a prediction that Markos Moulitsas will make his desire to run for (or be appointed to) political office clearer as time goes on.

In the article below, I argued that a candidate who was perceived as an atheist could not and would not win the US presidency in 2008. In the 2008 election campaign, the media focus on Senator Obama's and his wife's 20 years of participation at a Christian church, and his weekly attendance there, actually helped Obama, by convincing Americans that the Obamas are Christians and not a Muslim.

The explosiveness of the religion issue (epitomized by the Rev. Wright controversy) also proved that a candidate perceived as not religous at all could not and would not win a general election. (See supporting statistics and polls cited below.)

This article below, about atheism's predominance at DailyKos in whitosphere, was well-documented, well-written and prophetic. Most Americans don't trust avowed atheists. MAMZ cannot win a Congressional seat because his is a poster man for right-wing politics before his "conversion" (which coincidentally (?) occurred during the two years--2001-2003-- when he was "training" and working at the CIA and simultaneously starting DailyKos. Although conservatives can adopt him as one of them based on this history, they will not brook his atheism. So, he cannot win in a conservative district. They also will not believe his claim to have served in the military during the Gulf War, because he served in Bamburg, Germany, and this fact discredits his attempts to use his military service to his advantage.

Meanwhile, the right-wing facts of his past would make voters in a liberal district choose the alternative Democratic Primary candidate, whomever s/he is. Based on my Site Meter at this blog, I can predict that MAMZ's perceived homosexuality would be a negative in a conservative district.


With groups of leftist bloggers meeting and strategizing for "Crashing the Gates" of the Democratic Party, should it matter that 65% of them do not believe in God? "YearlyKos", an annual meeting of “progressive” leftward bloggers from across the United States, will be held in Chicago this year to plan strategy for a “progressive” vision for America. According to their own internal polls, 65% of them do not believe in God, and that may spell trouble to the extent that Democratic candidates are receiving YearlyKos' guidance and relying on their support. DailyKos Internal Poll

”One anonymous member, going by the name “Graccus”, says America needs an “atheist rights movement”, saying, “I think it's time atheists started to come "out" more.” DailyKos Story

The growing influence of atheist and agnostic activist bloggers presents a challenge for Democratic elected officials and candidates who must win the support of all members of their own Party without completely alienating the rest of the electorate. How will tensions within the Party over advocacy groups’ atheism/agnosticism versus religion affect the selection of candidates and the Party’s ability to craft a message that the nation at large will support?

Although not all participants in the leftist blogosphere are atheists or agnostics, 49% at DailyKos, (the foremost of the irreligious blogs), agree with the statement that “God Does not exist and never did”; and “there is nothing supernatural, no spirit; the universe is completely natural and has no higher aspect.” Another 16% agree that “It is my firm belief that I really, really do not know”; “that we cannot know (well thought out devout agnostic).” So, a total of 65% percent of participants at the DailyKos do not believe in God at all. DailyKos Poll This August they will be meeting in Chicago in to explore ways to share their philosophy with the rest of America.

Markos Moulitsas, the founder of DailyKos, says that he and his followers often find public expressions of faith “grating” and “imposing”. “Morality and ethics don't have to come from religion”, says Mr. Moulitsas. “Religious values are no more superior than the values I learned from my abuelita . . .Or the values someone might learn by contemplating the great philosophers. Or whatever. Values are important . . . But that doesn't equal "talking about religion". Markos Moulitsas Story

An DailyKos atheist going by the name “Vjack” says, “I have proposed here that we use an accurate definition in which "atheism" is defined as "the lack of belief in a god or gods" and "atheist" is defined as "one who lacks belief in a god or gods." If we refuse to educate the public about this, we must share in the blame for the social stigma surrounding atheism.” Vjack Story

A recent Gallup poll found that atheists are the least trusted group in America. Editor and Publisher Meanwhile, “A new survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press finds that a presidential candidate's religion plays a key role in shaping voter choice. Nearly four-in-ten (39%) say they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who is "Christian" the second most positive trait tested, behind only "military service" (48%).” Pew Center

According to the Pew poll,

A candidate's religion continues to play a key role in shaping vote choice. Nearly four-in-ten (39%) say they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who is Christian. Moreover, 63% say they would be less inclined to support a presidential candidate who does not believe in God – the most negative trait tested. Pew Center

With polls showing that the public is more committed to religious beliefs rather than less, it appears that, to the degree to which atheist/agnostic groups are able to impose both their political and anti-religious beliefs on the Party and the selection of its candidates, it may be increasingly difficult for candidates to win elective office.

The Pew study goes on to say,

Since the late 1980s, polls have consistently shown that most Americans think religion's influence on the nation is waning. The only exception to this pattern was in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, when Americans overwhelmingly felt that religion's influence was on the rise.

Today, roughly six-in-ten (59%) say religion is losing influence on American life, while 34% say it is gaining influence. And, overwhelmingly, Americans favor more, not less, religion in the country. Fully 79% of those who say religion's role is declining representing 50% of the public overall believe this is a bad thing. Meanwhile, among the minority who feel religion's influence is growing, more say it is good than bad, by a margin of almost two-to-one. Pew Center

Meanwhile, also according to Pew,

Americans overwhelmingly consider the U.S. a Christian nation: Two-in-three (67%) characterize the country this way, down just slightly from 71% in March 2005. A decade ago, Americans were somewhat less likely to tie the nation's identity to Christianity. In 1996, 60% considered the U.S. a Christian nation. By 2002, however, the figure had climbed to 67%, and since then views on this question have remained fairly consistent. Pew Poll Data

So, Democratic elected officials and candidates are caught between a public that deeply values religion and an atheist activist blogger splinter Party faction that is openly hostile to religion and believes that religion should be barely apparent if at all in Democratic candidates’ policies and personalities. Moreover, they seek added respect from the Party for atheism and agnosticism.

In an essay entitled “Atheist Pride”, a DailyKos member who writes under the pseudonym “simplicio” explains:

For too long, atheists, agnostics and all other manner of non-believers have been told by society, in essence, there's something wrong with not believing in God. This comes in the form of open hostility and concern for the atheist "soul" with comments such as "we're praying for you that you find God." Personally, I feel quite content with my atheism and with living a life guided by the principles of humanism and ethics not based on the existence of a supernatural overseer. Simplicio Diary

Atheist and agnostic bloggers are offended by religious expression in politics, but they say they perceive atheism growing in America and they seek more respect for atheists. DailyKos Story Politically, they strive for a Party in which atheists and agnostics “are a large and growing portion of Americans and a major force among progressives.” DailyKos Story

Not all DailyKos members are atheists, but the political strategies developed by the group are grounded in their predominantly atheist philosophy. DailyKos Story
One DailyKos group member writes, “I think it's time atheists started to come "out" more.” “I really don't see a way of restoring political discourse to a balanced position in the U.S. without squeezing at least some of the God out of it.” DailyKos Story

Another DailyKos atheist explains why atheists bloggers feel they should be more open about their lack of faith. “Renee in Ohio” explains, “When someone identifies as an atheist, people tend to see that as a rejection of something that is an important foundation they have build their lives around. It feels threatening.” DailyKos Story

Of course, atheist/agnostic bloggers and all Americans have a Constitutional right to practice or not practice religion as they choose, with our First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States providing that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The First Amendment

Nonetheless, in this effort to scour religion from the body politic, there may be serious negative ramifications for the Democratic Party to the extent that atheist and agnostic preferences become manifest in Democratic policy statements and candidate selection. In Pew’s national polls of voters, “Fully 79% of those who say religion's role is declining representing 50% of the public overall believe this is a bad thing.

The issue of anti-religious bloggers’ influence on the Democratic Party has already come to the fore in the 2008 presidential race, with Republican religious groups successfully demanding that John Edwards fire bloggers who had ridiculed Catholics’ beliefs. WaPost

Far from being over, there is every reason to believe that the Edwards blogger controversy, which for the religious became a scandal, was only the first shot across the bow in a war that will pit anti-religious bloggers against an intensely religious public and Republicans, with Democratic politicians caught in the crossfire, “damned if they do and damned if they don’t.” MyDD Blog

While Republican-linked groups demanded that John Edwards fire his anti-religious bloggers, left-wing bloggers, led by MyDD (connected to DailyKos) simultaneously demanded that Edwards retain his anti-religious bloggers. The combat between the a-religious and the religious defenders resulted in a week of paralysis within the Edwards campaign, with Edwards first bowing to the bloggers and then to their right-wing religious opponents. Based on what the Edwards bloggers had written and published, it was hard to argue that their writings were negative toward others’ religious beliefs.

One of the anti-religious Edwards bloggers had written that:

The Catholic church is not about to let something like compassion for girls get in the way of using the state as an instrument to force women to bear more tithing Catholics." She also questioned, in explicit language, what would have happened if the Virgin Mary had taken the emergency contraceptive called Plan B. WaPost

During Edwards’ week of indecision over the bloggers’ fait, Chris Bowers, managing editor at the MyDD blog, (who also publishes at DailyKos), threatened to torpedo Edwards’ campaign if Edwards fired the anti-religious bloggers. Bowers Story Bowers initially called it a “great victory” when Edwards initially decided to keep the bloggers on.

But, as public pressure mounted on television, talk radio and within the Democratic Party, Edwards was forced to remove the anti-religious bloggers, even at the risk of incurring anti-religious blogger community wrath and foregoing the organizational support and fundraising they had promised to Edwards. MyDD

Yet, the anti-religious statements of the Edwards bloggers are hardly isolated in the atheist/agnostic blogosphere. Another atheist blogger at DailyKos said, “If 97% of people are "god believers", then I'd argue 97% of the crime/social disorder is caused by those "god believers".” DailyKos So anti-religious are many atheist/agnostic bloggers that they scrupulously refuse to follow the convention of spelling the words “God” and “Christian” with capital letters.

As Jim Wallis, Christian blogger who is familiar with the atheist bloggers, observed:

I always wondered why many on the secular Left felt it necessary to cut off potential political alliances with progressive religious people, to alienate most of America with nasty anti-faith diatribes, and to choose to ignore the history of most of the social reform movements in this country, where religion often served as a powerful motivator and driving force – as in the abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, establishing child labor laws and social safety nets and, of course, the civil rights movement. In recent years, the Left and even the Democrats managed to appear hostile to faith and to people in faith communities. Regardless of what one’s views of the divine are, that’s called shooting yourself in the foot. BeliefNet

Exacerbating the “Religion Gap”

Empirical data bears out Mr. Wallis’ concerns. The anti-religious statements published by the bloggers are exacerbating a well-polled public perception that Democrats are more anti-religious than Republicans. According to the Pew Center polling data,

Even most Democrats agree that their party is not particularly friendly to religion, though few believe that their party is hostile. Nearly half (47%) of all Democrats say that the Democratic Party is neutral toward religion, compared with 40% who feel the party is friendly, and just 5% who say it is unfriendly. By contrast, a solid majority of Republicans (61%) say the GOP is friendly to religion.

Overall, nearly seven-in-ten Americans (69%) say liberals have gone too far in trying to keep religion out of the schools and government, essentially unchanged from a year ago. Significantly, concern over efforts of the political left to limit religion's influence crosses party lines. Large majorities of Republicans (87%), independents (65%) and Democrats (60%) decry efforts by liberals to limit religious influence in the public sphere, including 70% of conservative and moderate Democrats. But just 38% of liberal Democrats express this view.

Among major religious groups, white evangelicals are the most critical of liberals in this regard: 86% say liberals have gone too far in trying to exclude religion from schools and the government. Nearly eight-in-ten of all Protestants (78%) and two-thirds of Catholics (67%) share this view. Large majorities of those who attend church including those who only occasionally attended services are critical of liberals. But nearly half of those with no religious ties (45%) also think liberals have gone too far in attempting to keep religion out of schools and the government. Pew

Meanwhile,

The electoral implications of these attitudes are stark. By more than two-to-one (61% to 29%), people who wish there was more discussion of faith by political leaders back[ed] Bush over Kerry in the 2004 election, and by a similar margin (63% to 32%) people who think there is too much of it favor[ed] Kerry over Bush. And those who think there is the right amount of religious rhetoric today are divided evenly (50% favor Bush, 46% Kerry). Pew Poll

The polling data seem to indicate that the party most tolerant of religious discussion by its politicians is likely to more easily win the support of religious voters, Democratic and Republican. Pew Poll

Most Americans Want a President with Faith
By three-to-one (72% to 24%) most registered voters say it is important to them that the president have strong religious beliefs. This is virtually unchanged from four years ago, when 70% said it was important, and 27% said it was not. Roughly three-in-ten voters (31%) say they "completely agree" that it is important for a president to have strong religious beliefs, and these voters favor George W. Bush over John Kerry by nearly two-to-one (60% vs. 34%).

Kerry holds a slight 52% to 40% edge among the plurality of voters who "mostly agree" that religiosity is an important quality in a president, and Kerry's lead among those who say this is not important is a sizeable 67% to 24%.

In this regard, while most Americans say George W. Bush relies on his own religious beliefs in making policy decisions either a great deal (26%) or a fair amount (38%), most feel that the influence of religion on his policymaking is appropriate. Just 15% of Americans believe Bush relies on his religious beliefs too much in making policy slightly more (21%) would prefer he rely on religion more often. The majority (53%) says Bush relies on religion about the right amount. Pew

When asked the question, “Do non-believers need to ‘come out’, 86% of those polled at the DailyKos blog responded “yes”. DailyKos Internal Poll

Among the small Christian minority at DailyKos, “Pastor Dan”, explains,

Allow me to point out that many folks on the left share the same perspective, albeit from a different angle: A real Democrat can't be religious! . . . What they're saying is more properly, "a real Democrat shouldn't be religious." Pastor Dan

The irreligious goals of the small groups of atheist/agnostic bloggers could not easily be more diametrically opposed than they now are to the electoral interests of the Democratic Party as a whole. The strongly anti-religious sentiments of the bloggers have profound consequences not only for discussion of religion per se among Democrats, but also for social and political issues in which religious views play a strong part in driving policy views.

Whenever Senator Barack Obama speaks of religion, the chat boards in the leftist blogosphere go wild with denunciations, accusing him of “faith-baiting” the electorate. "Faith Baiting" Criticism Recently, Barack Obama, a Christian centrist Democrat, spoke approvingly of prayer groups being permitted to meet in schools. He said,

Having voluntary student prayer groups using school property to meet should not be a threat, any more than its use by the High School Republicans should threaten Democrats. Obama "Call to Renewal" Speech

Immediately, a DailyKos blogger (who systematically avoids capitalizing the word “Christian” in his public writing) angrily denounced Obama’ statement on prayer groups in schools, saying,

Obama crossed the line and signaled the intentions of the "moderate," national Democrats, when he made his case for faith-based groups in schools, when he made his appeal for exclusivity, for anti-constitutional political expediency . . . It makes me sick to my stomach . . . The fight for civil liberties in America was lost”, said the blogger, adding “I could give a shit about expressions of faith.” DailyKos and DailyKos and DailyKos

DailyKos founder Markos Moulitsas, in an Op-Ed article at the Washington Post, said of Hillary Clinton,

Little surprise that in late March, the DailyKos' bimonthly presidential straw poll delivered bleak results for Clinton, with just 2 percent of respondents making her their top choice for 2008. Moulitsas WaPost Piece

Unfortunately, Mr. Moulitsas often cites internal polling of his readers indicating little support for Hillary Clinton without acknowledging that most of his members are atheists or agnostics who are offended by politicians like Clinton who publicly acknowledge the role of their faith in the development of their character. So, while Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama seek to assemble a governing majority for 2008 that includes the religious, there will inevitably be public recrimination from the bloggers about expressions of Christian faith by these two front-runners. Here are some additional examples:

Not everyone at DailyKos is an atheist or agnostic. Dawn G. criticizes the atheists at DailyKos for believing that “everyone who still believes in God are mindless sheep, brainwashed into believing in a delusion for their own comfort or to exert control over others . . .” Dawn G.

The outspokenness of the anti-religious bloggers poses a challenge to the Democratic frontrunners, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, who both speak openly of the importance to them of their Christian religious faith. An anonymous blogger who goes by the name “Lepanto”, a frequent and well-respected contributor at the blogs, says bluntly of Senator Clinton religious faith, “Politicians who talk about "their faith" give me the shits”. DK Story “When Sen. Obama tells us to be nicer to evangelicals, it rings hollow. . . . It stings when the country is dominated by Christian/Paulite fundamentalism to have our officials backing the other side.” DK Story

Another DailyKos poll found that 69% of respondents are atheists and only 12% believe in God. DailyKos Internal Poll The DailyKos and other majority atheist/agnostic bloggers, who had their annual meeting in Las Vegas last year, will meet in Chicago this August to plan their strategy for bringing their “progressive” vision to the rest of America. YearlyKos Convention They have invited all of the Democratic Presidential candidates to attend a candidate’s forum at the annual meeting. Forum Announcement

However, in light of the scandal that developed recently surrounding John Edwards’ anti-religious bloggers, careful Democrats may want to clearly distinguish their views from those of the atheist/agnostic bloggers.

COMMENTS:

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Unique's picture

Highly Unlikely

"Could increased prominence for atheist/agnostic bloggers spell electoral damnation for the Democratic Party?"

Blue South's picture

This just in

Bloggers are people who have opinions.

This has so many elements of trolling its amazing. BS question to start us off, quotes of figures that may or may not be accurate. Thinking that dailykos is a pile of groupthink.

Your "challenge" to candidates is absurd on so many levels its amazing.

PS- I would respect you a lot more if you actually addressed past criticism of your inflammatory rhetoric instead of just thanking people who were nice to you.

Draft Brad Miller -- NC Sen ActBlue :::Petition

"Keep the Faith"

Internazionale's picture

I'll be ignoring this guy completely from now on, unless. . .

You are right---this smells of trollishness. I'll be ignoring him from now on. He has a right to come on, I guess, but I also have a right to ignore him. It's not censorship---I don't read Sean Hannity's blog either.

Francis, I challenge you directly to write a piece saying anything remotely nice about the Democratic Party at any level---national, state, or local. You are the one who needs challenged, I'm afraid.

Also, just to humor you---I'm a progressive Christian blogger and there's plenty of room for atheists/agnostics in my big tent. I'd rather have them than the religious bigots who inhabit the GOP.

War is over if you want it.

Actually, Francis ignored my question on his thread

I pointed out a wee bit of hypocrisy and asked a question and he completely ignored me and went on to others.

Oh well....so much for his credibility. I tried to engage and give him the benefit of the doubt, but I don't really think he deserves it.

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.



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Currently lacking a witty signature.

chartreuse dog's picture

Interesting you saw fit

to omit the opening lines from the Jim Wallis quote above:

I read your piece, Religion, values, and politics, and liked a lot of what you said. But I have a few responses to it. You and I have discussed this before, and you are clearly not attacking religion per se, as too many secular progressives have done for a long time.

and the concluding paragraph of his rather lengthy piece:

So Kos, let’s made a deal. How about if progressive religious folks, like me, make real sure that we never say, or even suggest, that values have to come from faith – and progressive secular folks, like you, never suggest that progressive values can’t come from faith (and perhaps concede that, in fact, they often do). If we progressives, religious and secular, could stop fighting among ourselves (shooting ourselves in the foot) and join together on some really big values issues – like economic fairness, health care, and a more just foreign policy – think of the difference we could make. How about it?

It appears to me that Jim Wallis was trying to find common ground in that blog, quite the opposite of the divisiveness I see in your comments above.

Unique's picture

Opinions Are Like -

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fingerprints. Each one unique.

But seriously - a person's religious beliefs or the lack thereof often have very little to do with how they act or what they say or do.

Just look at the 'family values' crew who think protecting the family is fine - as long as your family looks just like their family.

Our the 'Support Our Troops' crowd who will send them off without proper equipment or training and make them pay back enlistment bonuses if they become too disabled to remain on active duty. Nice folks, those.

Anyone can make faith and religion an issue if they choose to - but most sane people don't choose to.

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