The increasing number of non-religious Americans looked with dismay upon the Republicans’ and Democrats’ presidential campaigns of 2008. It’s become assumed that Republican presidential candidates will do whatever they can to use religion as a political tool to win an election. What was unexpected was Barack Obama’s massive exploitation of religion for his own electoral advantage.
Obama held meetings at the Democratic national convention where atheists weren’t allowed. Obama pledged to expand the size of the Office of Faith Based Initiatives, which doles out public money to churches (Obama kept this promise, without reforming the office to bring it into constitutional requirements for the separation of church and state). Obama made prominent displays of religiosity, as if it were a requirement for public office. Obama campaigned in churches, using the pulpit to gain votes.
But, where could non-religious voters turn? In the 2012 presidential election, Americans who live without religion – and other Americans who value the separation of church and state – do have an option. Actually, they have two options.
Tonight, I took a look at the degree to which religious concepts are mixed into the presidential campaigns of Democrat Barack Obama, Green Jill Stein, and Justice Party candidate Rocky Anderson. I used Google as the tool of this examination, searching for the statistics on the use of the terms “god”, “religion” and “christianity” on the presidential candidates’ official pages.
The results were not at all comparable. BarackObama.com has many more total pages than either the campaign site for Jill Stein or the campaign site for Rocky Anderson. To control for this problem, I examined the number of pages using the terms “god”, “religion” and “christianity” as percentages of each site’s total number of pages.
Controlled for size of the web site, the differences remained remarkably stark. The rate at which pages on Barack Obama’s web site use the word “god” is over 188 times the rate at which pages on Jill Stein’s web site use the word “god”. “God” shows up on only four pages of the Stein for President site – all of them in comments written by supporters.
The difference of the rate at which Barack Obama’s campaign web site uses the word “god” is even more dramatic. Obama uses “god” on his campaign site at a percentage of the total number of pages that’s more than 396 times the percentage rate for “god” on the Rocky Anderson campaign site.
Jill Stein’s web site doesn’t use the word “religion” even once, so there’s no point of comparison to the Barack Obama campaign site. Rocky Anderson’s campaign web site uses “religion” at just a quarter of the rate that Barack Obama does.
Neither Jill Stein nor Rocky Anderson use the word “Christianity” at all on their campaign web sites. Barack Obama uses the word thousands of times.
The distinction is clear. In 2012, Barack Obama’s campaign is once again filled with efforts to make American electoral politics a matter of religion. Jill Stein and Rocky Anderson are almost completely leaving religion out of their presidential campaigns.
For those Americans who support the separation of church and state, and want to see politicians stop using religion as a tool for getting votes, Jill Stein and Rocky Anderson both seem like much better candidates than Barack Obama.