The Real Losers in Election 2008: Muslims and Atheists

A near constant refrain of this year’s presidential election has been the persistent rumor that Barack Obama is a Muslim. While many have protested the rumor, virtually no one besides Colin Powell, railed against the rumor for its anti-Muslim slant. Barack Obama is a Christian. But if he were a Muslim, so what? Most Muslims in this country are law abiding, patriotic Americans.

Now atheists, the “Godless” have come under fire in a way that echoes the Muslim smear. In North Carolina, Elizabeth Dole, in a desperate attempt to hold onto her Senate seat, approved the following underhanded ad:

The ad stoops so low as to include a voice over intended to be that of Democratic opponent Kay Hagan, an outright lie.

But perhaps the worse offense is that of Hagan’s response ad:

While you have to give Ms. Hagan credit for strongly denouncing Dole’s smear, the better response would have been “I happen to be a Christian, but what if I did not believe in God? So what? What does my religion have to do with job creation and fixing our economy?”

What has happened to our country that we have so softened the line between church and state? This election season has been plagued at every turn by religious litmus tests, whether it was Mike Huckabee’s pronounced faith, Mitt Romney’s defense of his Mormon beliefs, or Barack Obama’s constant need to remind voters of his Christian faith.

Faith has no place in our politics. If a candidate’s moral or political perspective is informed by his or her faith, that is fine but faith should in no way be a qualification for office. Dole’s ad was reprehensible for two reasons. First, it put words in Hagan’s mouth. Second, it attempted to apply a religious litmus test to Hagan. Instead of Hagan objecting to the litmus test, she objected to being characterized as an atheist. She missed the point.

This preoccupation we have with our political leaders being Christian is an insult to patriotic Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Atheists and a host of other belief systems in this country. We have separation of church and state so that our citizens may freely practice the religion (or non-religion) of their choice. That freedom of worship is restricted if it carries the catch that you can’t pursue elected office if you belong to a non-Christian faith.

If we have learned anything from the 2008 political season, it should be that politics belongs in the state house and religion belongs in houses of worship. Period. End of story.

Rutherford Political Blogger Alliance

11 thoughts on “The Real Losers in Election 2008: Muslims and Atheists

  1. You’re right.

    I’d made the same “When did it become illegal to be a Muslim?” question in real life once, but never online, I don’t think, and not nearly as often as I should have. I actually felt rather shamed by Gen. Powell bringing it out.

    I’ve been an admirer and supporter of Liddy Dole … I would have loved for her to run for President. But this particular attack was vile and dishonest.

    If there’s any consolation for atheists, bear in mind that it’s about time for the “war on Christmas” to start, so you guys should be able to make up some ground. ; – )

  2. I couldn’t agree more with you, Rutherford, especially: “…politics belongs in the state house and religion belongs in houses of worship. Period. End of story.”

    I’m a proud, patriotic godless American, and it’s just too bad that a good (ignorant) majority of this country considers that to be an oxymoron. The First Amendment to our Constitution protects our right to keep religion out of government; politicians have no right to use religion in their political agendas, and for those hardcore religious folk like E. Dole and Palin, to use “God’s will” as their primary agenda is in itself unconsitutional.

  3. I also agree.

    I wrote a post about this, except mine was not favorable to Gen. Powell. He called out the Republican party for an offense that was certainly not exclusive to them. I challenged our bloggers and readers to show a Democrat who has said basically “so what if he is a Muslim?” and they were only able to produce 1.

    And it wasn’t even Barack Obama who said it.

    As a non-religious person from a pretty religious family, I respect the faith of all people as their own personal belief. It is not for me to judge it or them.

  4. Red Pill, I agree that this is one area of the Obama campaign that deeply disappointed me. I would have preferred a more courageous stand from him regarding anti-Muslim sentiment.

  5. While I understand Red Pill’s point, I think it’s important to keep this in perspective.

    Obama did not file suit, calling the accusation of being Muslim the most egregious and shameful thing a person could possibly be or be called.

    Speaking for myself, I am not at all offended by Kay Hagan’s denial that she is atheist. She’s not. I am offended by her intense repudiation of atheism in general. Her response to Dole’s bigoted Godless Americans ad was just as bigoted as the ad itself. Hagan said, in essence, “How dare Dole accuse me of not being as bigoted toward atheists as she is! She’d better take that back or else!”

    Obama, on the other hand, when accused of being Muslim, simply said that he was not.

    Also, this is from Obama’s website:

    Barack Obama is a committed Christian. He was sworn into the Senate on his family Bible. He has regularly attended church with his wife and daughters for years.

    But shameful, shadowy attackers have been lying about Barack’s religion, claiming he is a Muslim instead of a committed Christian. When people fabricate stories about someone’s faith to denigrate them politically, that’s an attack on people of all faiths.

    Obama calls the attack shameful, not because he was called a Muslim, but because using it as a smear is an attack on Muslims (all faiths) as well.

    So again, while I understand Red Pill’s point, I also see it as a false comparison in this context because Obama didn’t have the same over-the-top response to being called Muslim as Kay Hagan had to even the implication that she might be atheists. If she had simply said, “No I’m not and Dole knows that”, I don’t believe this would ever have become an issue as far Hagan is concerned. At least it wouldn’t have been for me.

  6. Lottie, I agree with you but I think Obama’s rejection of the smear was too subtle. In this society, still rife with bigotry, there can be no subtlety. Obama needed to clearly and unequivocally denounce the notion that there was something bad about being a Muslim and it needed to happen in a public forum, not on his web site.

    You may recall that early in the campaign. an Obama staffer forced a Muslim to sit outside camera range at a rally. I believe Obama’s campaign later apologized for it but it was disheartening just the same.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m an Obama man though and through. I just think in this instance he took the path of less resistance.

  7. Oh, I fully understand and agree with you on this, Rutherford. In fact, I meant to say after the quote from Obama’s website that I think he could have taken a stronger, more public stance against the Muslim “smear”.

    That said, I just don’t see it as an appropriate comparison to the Dole/Hagan fiasco for the reasons given in my previous comment.

    You may recall that early in the campaign. an Obama staffer forced a Muslim to sit outside camera range at a rally.

    No. As carefully as I followed the campaign, I didn’t know about that. That makes the two situations somewhat more comparable, although I think a very important difference is that this was done by an Obama staffer whereas the disdain for atheists came directly from Hagan herself.

    Also, here is a quote from Barack Obama’s 2006 Call To Renewal address:

    [B]ecause I do not believe that religious people have a monopoly on morality , I would rather have someone who is grounded in morality and ethics, and who is also secular, affirm their morality and ethics and values without pretending that they’re some one they’re not . . . Moreover, given the increasing diversity of America’s population, the dangers of sectarianism have never been greater. Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.”

    Again, I understand Red Pill’s point and I agree with you as well. I just think that there are a lot of distinct differences between Obama’s response to multiple claims that he is Muslim, and Hagan’s response to a solitary insinuation that she might perhaps be an atheist, and I think it’s important to clearly make those distinctions.

  8. It was not my intention to compare the Muslim issue with the Hagan/Dole issue. I am not familiar with that so I cannot comment on it, other than to say that faith, or lack of, should not have weight in politics.

    My issue isn’t with Barack Obama on this, but with Colin Powell.

    John McCain also said that Obama was not a Muslim. That wasn’t enough for Colin Powell. He wanted people to say “so what if he is?” It was worth him calling out the entire Republican party.

    Yet, as I pointed out, only 1 Democrat could be found to say that same thing. And he wasn’t even Barack Obama.

    That tells me that Powell was looking hard for reasons to justify the decision he had already made. And he had some good ones. But this wasn’t one of them.

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