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The only unexpected thing that happened while the Democrats were getting down in Charlotte last week was that God, who was originally not invited to the party, was let back in, prompting an unexpected chorus of boos and protests from the delegates. The prevailing opinion is that the boos were generated by Democratic atheists, who felt disrespected.

The Democrats are the party of atheists, probably because the Republicans don't want them; every one of the GOP's leaders feel compelled to smear on a thick protective layer of conservative Christian piety before leaving the house in the morning, like swimmers gobbing on a coating of grease before attempting the English Channel. The Democrats, besides being the party of atheists, are the party of everyone else, too, from what I could tell, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs and even Christians who do not necessarily believe that just because we are allegedly made in God's image, He must be a gun and property-owning American Christian white male who lives in a suburban or rural part of a southern or western state.

The Dems were blessed at various times during their convention by rabbis, bishops, imams and ministers. The atheists complained about that, too, saying the convention needed an atheist benediction as well. The problem there is that atheists, despite their many talents in other fields of human endeavor, do not pray well. What would they say?

"Oh, sky stay above me and ground stay beneath me, because if the opposite happened I would be in trouble unless I was doing barrel rolls in an airplane, amen?"

 This is true but not particularly inspiring. I always leave public praying to the pros. If I am forced to listen to some formulaic invocation by some ordained person, I always find it an excellent time to mentally review my credit card balances, in the interest of figuring out whether I can afford to eat after the ceremony is over, or to idly inspect any attractive women in the congregation. Likewise my mind tends to drift away from solemn patriotism when the stadium stands and the Star Spangled Banner is played before a baseball game. I just don't like being compelled to be spiritual or solemn, nor do I approve of blindly following the lead of my neighbors like some bleating herd animal except under certain circumstance, like during a tsunami or if  all of them have already put their recycle bins on the street.

So I am distinctly underly religious, but the necessity of religiosity is apparent to me. The Democrats recognized this; they know there are many members of their party who would not be content with the proceedings if some atheist got up and said "Okay, we're doing something important here, so let's think hard about it." For them the gritty, testicle-punching work of politics has to be done in an atmosphere suffused with spirituality.

Even we rationalists can't deny that we need the concept of God at certain times. "Darwin dammit!" will never replace calling upon the Almighty when you have stupidly injured yourself or dropped a case of bottled beer on the sidewalk. Exclaiming "Christopher Hitchens!" during a moderate earthquake will never express your panic as sincerely as invoking the name of the Christian Redeemer, nor can you upgrade to "Christopher H. Hitchens!" or "Christopher crippled Hitchens on a crutch!" if the shaking continues and cracks appear in your walls and still sound quite as unmanly frightened as you mean to.

The Anglo-Saxon term for intercourse may be substituted for the name of the Redeemer under most circumstances, and atheists with a high degree of self-discipline may succeed in doing so, even during the direst events. However, no one can deny that the word suffers from overuse, particularly in the gerund form ("I was only going five intercoursing miles over the intercoursing speed limit but the intercoursing cop gave me an intercoursing ticket anyway!) and a referral to an Old or New Testament personality provides a refreshing change of pace when stringing together obscenities.

No non-believing male objects if the woman he is having sex with exclaims the name of the alleged Creator during the act. What he would normally find an invocation of a persistent superstition is now gratifying. I once had a girlfriend once who used the common term for excrement instead of the Name during those torrid moments ("Oh feces! Oh feces! Oh feces!"). Perhaps she did this out of rationalist principle; we never discussed religion much, but I have to admit I found it mildly disconcerting.

Some people will always need to chant or sing or hum some ancient formula into indifferent space before getting down to business, as long as there are people. Attempting to fix the future or sway the present by appealing to a higher power is part of human nature. We non-believers have to accept that, and accept that it will go on long after every atheist one of us is dead. 


And, hopefully, in Heaven. 


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