Over the past decade, the percentage of Americans who don’t identify with any organized religion has blossomed… unfortunately the percentage of “Nones” who vote hasn’t risen at the same rate. So while we’re now 25% of the population, we’re only 15% of voters, according to PRRI.
The stakes were as high as ever in 2016, and most Nones didn’t care enough to get off their ass and vote. Because of that laziness, Donald Trump and the Republican Party have been able to appoint a ridiculous number of conservative judges for lifetime appointments to federal courts, decisions which will certainly erode the wall of separation between church and state. We’ve seen science pushed out of the decision-making process on scientific issues. We have a president who routinely meets with conservative Christians in the White House while promising to abolish a rule that currently prevents them from endorsing candidates from the pulpit.
It’s a complete disaster for religious neutrality. And most Secular Americans didn’t care even though we knew this would happen.
There’s reason to be optimistic, though.
A new poll conducted by The Atlantic and PRRI finds that Secular Americans are among the most enthusiastic when it comes to next month’s midterms. That’s not entirely surprising — the first midterm for any new president usually involves blowback against his party — but this is different.
Emma Green explains:
Religiously unaffiliated voters, who may or may not be associated with other civic institutions, seem most excited about supporting or donating to causes, going to rallies, and expressing opinions online, among other activities. Political engagement may be providing these Americans with a new form of identity. And in turn, they may be helping to solidify the new identity of the Democratic Party.
Secular Democrats were also much more likely to say they’re angry about what’s going on in the country today: Forty-one percent described themselves this way, compared with 28 percent of religious Democrats. Of all the groups highlighted in the data — divided by race, education, geographic region, and more — secular Democrats were the most likely to say they’re feeling this rage.
That rage can’t be overstated, but it only matters if it translates into votes for Democrats in November. And make no mistake: More non-religious voters would mean more Democratic voters. (67% of atheists and agnostics voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016.)
It’s important to note that Democrats aren’t explicitly pandering to Secular Americans. It’s not like Deemocrats’ campaign ads brag about candidates not believing in God the way Republican ads often highlight a candidate’s Christian faith. It’s also not like more Democrats in office would mean special privileges for atheists. We’re not as selfish as conservative Christians. And Democrats are still afraid of openly aligning with us no matter how much they need our votes.
But a vote for Democrats inevitably means supporting candidates who respect church/state separation, women’s rights, LGBTQ equality, and (at this point) basic decency. It’s the party of actual family values instead of the GOP bigotry that masquerades as such. There will no doubt be atheists who support conservatives, but if you care about religion in terms of public policy, only one party has any respect for people who aren’t conservative Christians.
You won’t go to Hell if you don’t vote, but you’ll be stuck with more politicians who talk about Hell as if it’s something to actually fear. It’s absolutely irresponsible to pretend both parties are equally awful, as if you’re above it all by staying at home.
If Trump’s actions and GOP complicity means more angry atheists showing up at the polls and voting against them, maybe Republicans will finally deserve credit for doing something useful.
(Image via Shutterstock)