Atheists vote, too: Why is religious pandering so prevalent?

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Politicians from Obama to Bush just can't resist the "God strategy." Can we ever evolve toward secular government?


Religion has long had an extraordinary influence in U.S. politics compared to other democracies. But this isn’t just a far-right phenomenon: If the Obama administration has its way, this influence might go even further. For example, the administration recently filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court arguing that it is constitutional to conduct official Christian prayers at town council meetings.

The Supreme Court case stems from the town of Greece in New York, which opens nearly all its board sessions with prayers by Christian clergy. President Obama joined congressional Republicans and the religious right in supporting this practice. Ken Klukowski, a lawyer for the Family Research Council who crafted a separate amicus brief for the House Republicans,praised the administration for filing “a surprisingly conservative brief.”

Both the Obama administration and religious conservatives note that official prayers have been conducted before sessions of Congress ever since the days of the Founding Fathers. In their view, official prayers at town council sessions should likewise be allowed. On the other hand, official prayers in public schools have been unconstitutional for decades. This contradiction exemplifies how the Supreme Court has adopted a flexible interpretation of the First Amendment. Paradoxically, the Court has issued many decisions enforcing the separation of church and state, yet begins its own proceedings by announcing, “God save the United States and this Honorable Court.”

Written By: Mugambi Jouet
continue to source article at salon.com

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  1. Both the Obama administration and religious conservatives note that official prayers have been conducted before sessions of Congress ever since the days of the Founding Fathers.

    This is a typical “ad populum” (appeal to the masses) logical fallacy. We’ve all being doing it for ages so that must mean we’re right. Also, the fact that this was proposed by the Obama administration clearly shows that there is no leftist or even a true centrist political party in the US. Democrats have moved to the right and Republicans have moved to a mental institution.

    Disappointing indeed. It makes me cringe every time the President utters the words “god bless the United States of America” as if America somehow deserves special treatment from god. How utterly conceited…

  2. As long as there are more of the theocratic votes, err… people, than there are secular votes, err…. people, this will remain an issue. No matter how unconstitutional, how unfair or how idiotic.

  3. There’s no cost for pandering. Who is the atheist going to vote for anyway? Liberals will vote for Democrats and Libertarians will vote for Republicans, or waste their vote on a 3rd party. As a liberal Democrat, Obama’s religious proclamations haven’t risen to the level of throwing away my vote just yet.

  4. Since when has it become a virtue to do something because you’ve always done so? Reminds me of some of my Hindu friends.They say things like “My family has always been hindu: I was born a hindu and I will die a hindu”

    We should strive for continuous improvement. If something doesn’t work it doesn’t make sense to go on doing it.Of course the Christians think that prayer works.Why,I cannot for the life of me,understand,still it is their prerogative and their business, BUT they should conduct such private business in their churches and homes.

    If I had continued to do what my family always did,then I would be going around in dresses with sleeves,no make- up and long hair.I would be reading the blooming bible every bloody day,attending church all the time and keeping a sharp lookout for the devil.Oh, man, this is too depressing.

    Anyway, you might as well sing a ditty or recite a funny limerick before sessions.It may lower people’s blood pressure and raise their spirits.

    • In reply to #5 by Christiana Magdalene Moodley:

      Since when has it become a virtue to do something because you’ve always done so?

      There is a pretty specific reason for this in the US actually. On cases like this you have 4 conservatives who will always vote pro religion and 4 liberals who will almost always vote for secularism. So that leaves one guy Judge Kennedy. He’s the middle guy who is the crucial vote on almost every important case. I heard him talk about his criteria for deciding these kinds of cases once and for him a lot of it comes down to tradition. So he would be against a court case to remove a monument to the ten commandments from a public place that had been there for decades but he would also vote for a court case to block construction of a new ten commandments monument. His reasoning for this was (probably not a surprise) rather convoluted.

    • Appealing to “tradition” is quite a common argument against change. Banning fox hunting and permitting gay marriage are two UK examples that spring to mind in which opponents of change seemed to think that the fact that it had always been done a certain way meant it should always be done that way. The self-contradictory sub-text being that, if it was wrong, it would have been changed before.

      In reply to #5 by Christiana Magdalene Moodley:

      Since when has it become a virtue to do something because you’ve always done so?

    • In reply to #6 by Andy Fletcher:

      Nostalgia is rarely a good reason to do anything. Worries me that so many people think it is. Change is inevitable, adapt or get out competed.

      I agree. I miss the good old days when people weren’t so nostalgic.

      • In reply to #8 by Red Dog:

        In reply to #6 by Andy Fletcher:

        Nostalgia is rarely a good reason to do anything. Worries me that so many people think it is. Change is inevitable, adapt or get out competed.

        I agree. I miss the good old days when people weren’t so nostalgic.

        Hehe… good one.

  5. Americans: just be patient! I think this will change pretty fast with shifting demographics. The old religious guard will eventually die, while young Americans care less and less about religion.

    We’re luckier here in Québec, with 40% of non-believers, 22% atheists plus 18% agnostics, concentrated in the larger cities I guess.

    We shouldn’t care too much if an otherwise very secular politician inserts a “God bless America” at the end of his speeches for electoral purposes.

  6. When both candidates play the holier than thou game, you can’t discard one on that basis.

    Candidates who brag about belief, prayer and church attendance are useless twits. These are all techniques of procrastination and conceit. I would far sooner they brag about their good deeds that helped out disadvantaged groups or that saved the environment.

  7. Religion is a political tool that politicians have used for centuries to explain and justify the inequalities in social structures. If they give them up they have to deal directly with social inequality as a man made issue which they are responsible for and not a God ordained matter. They have no incentive to drop the woo.

  8. God Bless America” !

    Whilst God curses the other 6.7 billion people in the world ! God of course prefers the land of the free, the land where some 47 million Americans can’t afford health insurance ! The land with the world’s largest prison population.

    I’m glad I’m not a believer, with a God like that.

  9. It seems as though when Obama does something like this, everybody cuts him slack, saying that he is doing it out of “nostalgia” or unavoidably having to pander to the religionists in the country, but when Reagan and Nixon did it, they were called theocratic sonsabitches. A gut feeling and no way to prove it, but I have always considered Obama to be more of a theist than one of us.

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