By Blair Scott
Atheism is not a political movement, but it can certainly influence politics. However, it can only do so if two things happen: 1) politicians recognize that atheists are a legitimate constituency and 2) candidates who are atheists have a viable chance at winning their races.
So the question then becomes, how do we accomplish those two things? Both of those items are hampered by one thing: the lack of activism by the country’s non-religious citizens. The American Religious Identification Survey of 2008 showed that 15% of Americans identify as non-religious. With 311 million people in the United States (June 2011 figures), that is 46.65 million Americans who are non-religious.
Out of those 46.65 million non-religious citizens, roughly 40,000 are active in any given group and are part of the movement in one way or another. The rest are either silent or remain in the closet for fear of repercussions.
Imagine if almost 47 million non-religious citizens came out of the closet tomorrow and became politically active based on secularism, all voted, and all joined the secular movement: the political landscape of America would change overnight.
There are roughly 36 million Baptists, 29 million mainline Christians (Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterian, Anglican, Episcopalian, Church of Christ), 32 million “Generic” Christians (non-denominational, Evangelical), 8 million Pentecostal/Charismatic, 7 million Protestants, 3 million Mormons, 2.6 million Jews, 2 million Eastern religions, 1.3 million Muslims, and 3 million “other” religions (ARIS 2008).
That means the non-religious of America outnumber the Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Anglicans, Episcopalians, Church of Christ, Jews, Mormons, Eastern Religions, and “others” combined!
The Evangelical/Non-denominational fundamentalists have amazing power in Washington, DC and yet the non-religious outnumber them by 15 million voters. Evangelicals are catered to by politicians who try to out-Jesus each other every election and who go out of their way to at least try and pass theocratic legislation or engage in unconstitutional activity by violating the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. Those 32 million evangelicals are catered to why almost 47 million citizens are not just ignored, but outright ostracized and made to feel like second-class citizens of their country. This is especially disheartening considering that 21% of America’s military personnel are non-religious (Population Reference Bureau, pp. 25, 2004).
The non-religious citizens of this country can have a voice in politics and they can run viable candidates if almost 47 million non-religious Americans were to come out of the closet and raise their voice as one. When they raise their voice as one in demanding the Separation of Church and State, civil rights for all non-religious citizens and true freedom of religion, that voice will be heard.
The more non-religious people that come out of the closet and raise their voice, the easier it will be for those still in the closet. The secular movement has a lot to learn from the gay rights movement. Come out if you can and be a beacon of hope to those who cannot.
Writer’s Note: There is a new National Atheist Party that is just beginning its grass roots campaign. Do an Internet search and find out more if you’re interested.
by Blair Scott