by Jesse Galef –
What will it take for nontheists to get political respect in government? At around 15% of the population, we can’t – and shouldn’t – expect to control things, but even so we’re badly underrepresented. Only one congressman is openly nontheistic (although at least 21 others secretly don’t believe in a god). Politicians feel comfortable bashing atheists in public. We all remember the sleazy ad that then-Senator Elizabeth Dole launched against Kay Hagan accusing her of associating with atheists and accepting “Godless money”. Kay Hagan backed away and frantically asserted her religiosity. Nobody wants to be seen as too close to us. What needs to happen for our views to have a proportionate affect on the political scene?
Dante Shepherd has an idea at one of my favorite webcomics, SurvivingTheWorld:
Cynical enough for me! Looks like we need to do a better job of promoting Festivus and HumanLight.
Seriously though, it’s important that we contact our representatives. They get constant visits and phone calls from religious lobbyists and individuals asking for particular action. If politicians never hear from us, do we expect them to take us into consideration? Of course they vote with the religious right when that’s the only voice they hear!
I’m not saying that we’ll get them to say “My goodness, you’ve convinced me! I’ll vote against religious privilege in health care!” But we can put a friendly face on secularism and remind them that a good chunk of their constituency is nontheistic. They’ll be much less likely to demonize us or kowtow to the religious right. Some – including some of those 21 or more who are secretly nonreligious, I bet – are dying for political cover so they can vote their conscience.
Another great avenue is to support the Secular Coalition for America. Though I obviously have some complex feelings toward them at the moment, I wholeheartedly support their mission. I really believe that it will make a difference to have a secular lobby walking the halls of congress showing the metaphorical flag.
[EDIT] I seem to have misremembered slightly – there are at least 21 closeted nontheistic members of congress, not 22 as I wrote originally. The 22 includes Pete Stark, who is now openly without a god belief.