The Nation on Rediscovering Secular America July 4, 2009

The Nation on Rediscovering Secular America

Atheists get some wonderful press in the most recent edition of The Nation.

Editor Katrina vanden Heuvel writes about “Rediscovering Secular America” and the Secular Coalition for America is at the center of the piece:

Within a week the Coalition approached Obama. They let him know they had never been part of that “list” [of belief systems] before — never had had a seat at the table — and they would appreciate it if he would continue to include them whenever appropriate.

Obama agreed and remained true to his word. And then came the moment approximately 50 million Americans — who identify themselves with terms like agnostic, atheist, materialist, humanist, nontheist, skeptic, bright, freethinker, agnostic, naturalist, or non-believer — will never forget. In his inauguration speech, Obama said, “…Our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and non-believers.” Two weeks later he talked about “non-believers” and “humanists” at the National Prayer Breakfast.

[Secular Coalition Advisory Board Chair Woody] Kaplan gives a sense of both the historical and personal significance of Obama’s words.

“The shock came at the inaugural speech — arguably the biggest speech a President ever makes — and he listed us there” he says. “And he’s continued to do that — he mentioned us twice at Notre Dame. And then he did it [this month] in Normandy. I can’t tell you what a pariah group feels about those statements. For the first time we have a seat at the table. We’re not thought of, evidently, as automatically unethical.

As the Coalition continues to carry out its mission of increasing the visibility of — and respect for — nontheistic viewpoints, and protecting the secular character of our government, it seems to be moving forward with great confidence. This comes as no surprise, given the fact that there are now more nontheists in America than Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Mormons and Jews combined, and the organization itself has made huge strides.

And because it’s the group I work most closely with, I have to point out my favorite part:

The Coalition described the “full spectrum of nontheists it represents” within its nine member organizations. (Now ten, with the recent addition of American Atheists). Among those organizations are the Society for Humanistic Judaism, Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, and the American Humanist Association. The Obama Administration expressed particular interest in reaching out to the Secular Student Alliance. The Coalition also addressed some of the issues of greatest concern to nontheists, including coercive religious proselytizing in the military, faith-based initiatives, and employment discrimination.

And interested they were! I spoke to Associate Director of Public Engagement Paul Monteiro earlier this week to talk about the students the SSA represents, the type of work our groups do (including community service), and how we can work with the administration (in a non-partisan way) in the future.

What a fantastic, uplifting article for atheists and the “movement” as a whole.

A perfect way to begin Independence Day 🙂

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Sing it with me…… gOd less America…

  • Great find, Hemant! You always highlight really good articles for us, and that is a great read on a very boring morning here at work!

  • Tom

    Yay! I love this magazine, and I love the article

  • blackskeptic

    Nonreligious does not automatically mean nontheist. What part of that do people not understand? I’m all for rediscovering secular America, but I’m against hyperinflating our numbers and pretending that there are more of us than there really is.

  • This is so wonderful! 🙂

  • This kind of article is why I like FA. Thanks for sharing it, Hemant.

  • Anonymous

    I’m all for rediscovering secular America, but I’m against hyperinflating our numbers and pretending that there are more of us than there really is.

    I agree blackskeptic, but you have to understand that there is an agenda behind organized atheism, and that one should only tell the truth when it helps that agenda. Or so I infer from prevalent willful ignorance, since the difference between “None of the Above” survey takers and atheist survey takers is often noted in articles by Christian reporters.

    Some apparently value publicity much more than they value credibility. To fend off attackers certain birds will open their features as widely as possible to create the illusion that they are much bigger than they really are. I think we’re seeing the same phenomenon here, but more for self-promotion than defense.

    I would no more expect honesty from a push group about the size of its entourage than I would expect Joe Jackson to stop plugging his album when talking about Michael Jackson’s death.

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