Adam Lee asks a great question at AlterNet: There Are 10 Times As Many Atheists as Mormons: When Will Non-Believers Become a Political Force?
The answer’s pretty simple to me.
For most Americans, Mormonism is pretty weird… but it’s their kind of weird. It’s religious weird. It’s someone who looks to a “higher power” for guidance instead of experts or themselves. It’s lunacy, but it’s the kind most Americans live out every day in some form or another.
Meanwhile, atheists represent a group of people who don’t try to sugarcoat the harsh realities of life. We’re not afraid to believe there’s no heaven/hell/god/devil and we don’t pray when life gets difficult.
Our country can’t handle that. Reality is too foreign a concept to many Americans.
It doesn’t matter if you believe something weird. It’s all weird when it comes down to it. To fit in and to get people to vote for you, it just matters that you believe, period. That’s why most politicians don’t come out as atheists even if they are and it’s why they don’t reach out to our communities.
Adam has a couple other theories about why politicians love religious constituencies:
Organized religions have two built-in advantages: they have large followings that are accustomed to unquestioning loyalty, and hierarchical structures through which the leaders can issue marching orders to the flock. This means it’s easy for them to orchestrate coordinated actions, like marches, protests and letter-writing campaigns, that are highly visible to politicians and journalists. Atheists, by comparison, are a fiercely independent and contentious bunch — and while I wouldn’t change that if I could, it does make it harder for us to act in unison in the ways that make politicians take notice. It also makes it more difficult for us to mount a swift, strong and coordinated response to the slanderous stereotypes that are habitually heard from pulpits and in the media.
If we could ever change that, though, the benefits could be huge:
Imagine the kind of world we could live in if atheists were a political force. It would be a world where secularism is the unquestioned law of the land, where religious groups wouldn’t interfere in politics unless they could put forward arguments backed by evidence that anyone could examine, and not just appeals to faith. We’d rely on science and rationality to shape public policy; humanity would heed the voice of reason, rather than gut feelings or superstitious taboos. In this world, the religious arguments propping up tribalism, racism, and the oppression of women would wither away; the decrees of unelected and unaccountable authorities would fade into dust, and democracy and the liberty of the individual would be the guiding principles.
You don’t even need an atheist president for all that. You just need elected officials who are able to keep their faith a private matter, who know that governance based on evidence, good science, and rational thinking is superior to any government based on someone’s holy book.
(Thanks to “Jesus” for the link!)