A rift

Just in case there was any doubt, Obama assures us that religion is indeed mandatory in the US. Just in case we had any hope that the relentless ‘faith’-mongering would go away when Bush went away, Obama tells us it won’t. Just in case people who don’t consider ‘faith’ a cognitive virtue were feeling at all optimistic, Obama goes after the godbothering vote in a hail of ‘faith’ language.

“Now, I know there are some who bristle at the notion that faith has a place in the public square,” Mr. Obama intends to say. “But the fact is, leaders in both parties have recognized the value of a partnership between the White House and faith-based groups.”

Thanks; that’s a big help. So all those people who think – who claim to know – that God wants them to murder their daughters or persecute gays or bomb abortion clinics – how do you plan to tell them their ‘faith’ is wrong? Once you make ‘faith’ a virtue how do you plan to talk about anything in a rational way? Compartmentalization? But that’s just arbitrary, so it’s vulnerable to everyone else’s different brand of compartmentalization. You don’t want to justify X on the basis of ‘faith’, but if someone else does, what can you say, once you’ve made ‘faith’ a central principle?

Mr. Obama is proposing $500 million per year to provide summer learning for 1 million poor children to help close achievement gaps for students. He proposes elevating the program to the “moral center” of his administration, calling it the Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

Thus implying that ‘faith’ and morality are necessarily linked. Thanks a lot.

Joshua DuBois, director of religious affairs for the Obama campaign, said that the campaign expected resistance from a large part of the evangelical community, but that millions of faith voters were persuadable. “We’re not going to convince everybody,” said Mr. DuBois, 25, a former associate pastor of a Pentecostal Assemblies of God church in Massachusetts…”But others will be open to him because they see he’s a man of integrity, a person of faith who listens to and understands people of all religious backgrounds.”

Thus, again, implying that ‘faith’ and integrity are more or less the same thing. Thanks.

In a brief video shown at the beginning of meetings with religious voters, Mr. Obama says he is “blessed” to help lead a conversation about the role of religious people in changing the world.

Now, see, that I have no problem with (apart from ‘blessed,’ of course). Just welcoming religious people into projects to change the world (for the better, one hopes, and then one has to decide what that means) is sensible, inclusive, and compatible with the separation of church and state. But giving government money to religious institutions is quite another thing, and so is making a virtue of faith. It’s perfectly possible to include and welcome religious people without even discussing ‘faith,’ much less making a totem of it. Apparently that’s too much to expect; that’s a pity.

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