However, not only are liberals not, by and large, Satanic or anti-Bible, they're mostly quite religious. Voters who went to church monthly split 50%-49% for Bush and Kerry. Those who go to church "occasionally" went for Kerry 53%-47%, while people who attend church weekly went for Bush 58%-41%. More important, 61% of Democrats pray daily, 59% are "certain" there's life after death, and most believe in God. The spiritual lives of Democrats are, statistically speaking, somewhat less based in houses of worship than those of Republicans but they are believers nonetheless.

When Democrats hear conservatives accuse them of being anti-religion it sounds like what they're really saying is that Democrats don't practice the right kind of religion -- that they are, as my talk radio friend put it, "a bunch of phonies." This is a direct attack on the nature of liberals' relationship with God or spirituality.

They Don't Want a Religious Dictatorship

Liberal columnist E.R. Shipp said conservatives wanted a "Christian Jihad." The Village Voice declared Bush had a "mandate for theocracy." Others have compared the current administration to the Taliban. This is profoundly insulting to most conservative Republicans in the same way it is insulting to liberals when they are called Communists or defenders of terrorism. Yes, religious conservatives want a greater role in public life -- perhaps more than liberals want or the Constitution allows -- but President Bush's faith based initiative is highly pluralistic and he has spoken out for religious tolerance. Equating him or his supporters with regimes that execute dissidents or blow up buildings is heinous.

They Believe History Is On the Side of Tolerance

Conservatives contend that liberals believe in moral relativism, and, to be sure, there is a tendency for liberals to avoid accusing people of moral wrongdoing. Conservatives say this proves liberals are immoral or amoral. In fact, what's happened is that liberals have elevated "tolerance" as the value that trumps many others, an essential and ethical way of coping with life in an increasingly diverse nation. Most liberals who support gay partnership rights are not themselves homosexual but believe in the right of people to determine their own lives. Conservatives appropriately argue that it's OK to be intolerant of some things -- even liberals wouldn't tolerate, say, murder. But that means the debate is really over how to weigh one value (tolerance) over another value (traditional family) -- not over whether one side cares about values and the other doesn't.

There's something else that needs to be said. Liberals believe that historically red state conservatives were on the wrong side of the civil rights struggle (first as conservative Democrats and then as Republicans) and that they opposed much of the campaign for equal rights for women that enabled Condoleezza Rice to be National Security Advisor and Sandra Day O'Connor to be on the Supreme Court. So when conservatives oppose gay rights, liberals see history repeating itself. To grossly caricature both sides, liberals may have been wrong about the Soviet Union but conservatives were wrong about civil rights and women's rights. Liberals look at gay marriage opponents and say, to paraphrase Reagan, there they go again.

The Pro-Life Position Is Born of Compassion

Liberals tend to think that right to life activists are motivated by a desire to control women's bodies or sex lives, and to impose a religious doctrine. Whether you agree with it or not, the heart of the pro-life position is the belief that life begins at conception, and therefore abortion is murder. Liberals who don't share that the foundational assumption have a hard time understanding the passion of pro-life voters. Yet they easily admire the radical abolitionists of the 1860s -- who were as "rabid" and doctrinaire in their opposition to slavery as pro-lifers are today. Liberals should ask themselves, if they honestly believed that life began at conception, wouldn't they do exactly what the pro-life forces do?

Liberals sometimes claim that the anti-abortion movement is actually a religious movement aspiring to impose a particular theology. In fact, the anti-abortion side has tended in recent years to make secular arguments. They offer pictures of fetuses at different gestational ages, not Bible verses. You can say it's ghoulish but that approach - having values shaped by religion but making arguments in non-religious terms - is exactly the way faith should be inserted into the public debates.

Most Support Separation of Church and State to Protect Religion