Of all the comments I receive on this blog, the ones that distress me the most are those in which the person commenting reveals that he/she considers politics unimportant, chooses not to follow politics, or simply does not participate in the political process. As both an American and an atheist, I believe that I have a moral duty to be an active and informed participant in politics. As Al Gore argues in The Assault on Reason, the success of the American democracy depends on an informed electorate with an investment in the political process. I agree, and I have attempted to be an informed participant since my 18th birthday.
As someone interested in improving the plight of atheists in the U.S., I believe that I have a responsibility to work toward preserving the separation of church and state that characterizes America's secular democracy. Since atheists happen to be a despised minority, I also think that it is critical to increase our voice throughout society and our visibility in the political arena. To conclude that politics is somehow unimportant or irrelevant represents an abrogation of these duties.
Naturally, the central question often revolves around what we can do to contribute to the political system besides the obvious but still often neglected act of casting our votes for candidates who support reality-based policies. One of the things that I have been doing with increasing frequency is communicating (letters, calls, e-mails) with my elected officials. I thank them when they support worthwhile causes, urge them to take action on important issues, and express disapproval when they put religion or some other nonsense above human welfare.
I have heard some complain that it is difficult to follow how their elected officials are actually voting, but this need not be the case. Fortunately, information about how your elected officials vote is readily available on the Internet and even organized for you by the Secular Coalition for America. Couldn't be much easier, could it?
Al Gore envisions a form of rational politics where the citizenry are invested and learn to hold politicians and the media accountable for their attempts to mislead us. I want this vision to become a reality. I want to be part of the solution.