A Political Side Note: Relax, Democrats, It’s Just ‘God’

By Wendy Thomas Russell | September 6, 2012 | 3 comments

Have y’all been following the buzz over the decision to drop the word “God” from the Democratic Party’s 2012 platform? The drop caused a minor uproar a the convention this week, mostly among non-Democrats, who also objected to the platform’s failure to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Both positions were reversed yesterday by a much-disputed two-thirds vote by convention delegates. Watch how things went down:

DNC officials have tried to pass off the God thing as a mistake more than a decision, but that’s hard to buy — especially when you see this Fox News interview with Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, who went defensive in the extreme when asked about the change. He kept saying the word change was a minor issue and distracting from the real issues. That may be true, but I still don’t understand why he didn’t just answer the damn question.

Durbin was right about one thing, though: The Democrats are far from being a godless party. In a survey conducted last year, not one single member of the 112th Congress of the United States self-identified as nonreligious (at least not publicly). And the majority of registered Democrats still believe in God, studies show.

Despite all this, though, secularism is clearly gaining a foothold in this country. Almost 20 percent of us are unaffiliated with religious groups, according to recent studies. And that ratio — one-fifth of all Americans! — is impossible to ignore. So would it be out of character for the Democratic party, which touts itself as valuing inclusivity, to leave religion out of its platform? After all, leaving the word “God” out of this one document doesn’t make religion less important or valuable to certain Democratic voters — just as leaving the word “fellatio” out of the document doesn’t make sex any less important or valuable to certain Democratic voters. As I see it, it wouldn’t be outrageous for DNC officials to simply acknowledge that these things are personal matters, not public requirements.

Is that a starkly different position than the Republican party? Well, yes! But that’s okay. The fact is, lots of evangelical/fundamentalist Christians have welded together their religion and politics (politigion? religitics?), and the Republican party happens to be home to most of them. The way I see it, the presence of God as a major player in the Republican platform doesn’t make the Republicans bad, or the evangelicals bad (not necessarily at least!). Leaving “God” out of the Democratic platform would simply have highlighted one of the many, many differences between the two parties.

In July, Pew Research for People and the Press conducted a survey that showed, at that time, Gov. Mitt Romney trailing President Barack Obama by a 10-point margin. Broken down by religion, though, the numbers were quite different. Protestants preferred Romney 48 percent to 45 percent; Catholics preferred Obama 53 percent to 40 percent. And those unaffiliated with any religion preferred Obama 65 percent to 27 percent.

The interesting thing about that last number is that it mirrors, in reverse, the poll results for Caucasian evangelical protestants. Among these evangelicals, 69 percent said they’d vote for Romney, and 27 percent said they’d vote for Obama. Guess it all balances out in the end, right?

I learned from this morning’s paper (yes, I still get some of my news from the paper) that “God” was reinserted into the platform, and I was disappointed — but not because of the reinsertion (The whole issue really was becoming an unnecessary distraction). No, I was far more disappointed that DNC officials never took the time to formulate a clear-headed answer to why it was left out in the first place.


  1. Rich Wilson says:

    not one single member of the 112th Congress of the United States self-identified as nonreligious (at least not publicly)

    Pete Stark (in the page you linked). He lists ‘Unitarian’ but he’s pretty open about not believing in God.

    And 21% isn’t more than a quarter of all Americans.

    I’d like to know if they recognize Ottawa as the capital of Canada.

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Due out March 31, Relax, It's Just God: How and Why to Talk to Your Kids About Religion When You're Not Religious offers a well-researched look at a timely subject: secular parenting. With chapters on avoiding indoctrination, talking about death, vaccinating kids against intolerance, dealing with religious baggage, and getting along with religious relatives, the book offers a refreshingly compassionate approach to raising religiously literate, highly tolerant and critically thinking children capable of making up their own minds about what to believe. The book may be pre-ordered by visiting Brown Paper Press.

      Natural Wonderers is my new blog published by the Patheos faith network. An extension of my previous blog — Relax, It's Just God — Natural Wonderers offers stories and advice on raising curious, compassionate children in secular families.
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