November 10, 2006

Midterm Elections: One Atheist's Perspective

I will admit that the cynic in me wonders whether the shift in Congressional power will make a real difference. Perhaps politicians of both parties are equally guilty of corruption, pandering to corporate interests, and pushing Christianity as a form of social control. Call me naive if you must, but I am silencing this inner cynic for now and hoping for the best - a meaningful change.

We've all been saturated with political analysis since the election results started to emerge, but one important implication of these elections has barely been addressed in the mainstream media: the Midterm elections represent a tremendous blow to Christian extremists in America.

I know that we won't see the end of Christian extremism anytime soon, but I think it is worth noting that these election results may indicate a major decline in their influence over national politics. According to the Secular Coalition for America, some encouraging signs include the lack of atheist-bashing in political speeches and no clear efforts to dismantle church-state separation. I also expect to see increased support for stem cell research and women's reproductive rights, opposition to proselytizing military personnel, and support for the right to marry whoever one wants. In a recent interview, Pelosi indicated that she thought policy should be based on reality. How refreshing!

People for the American Way had a similar take, suggesting that the election can be interpreted as a victory for progressive values and a defeat of the Religious Right. If nothing else, it appears that the right's holier than thou attitude ended up working against them. This was echoed by Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.

Personally, I believe that the single most pivotal result was the defeat of Rick Santorum in Pennsylvania. CNN described Santorum as the 3rd most powerful Republican in the Senate, and I know he is also a prominent political figure of the Religious Right. Thus, his defeat was a big deal and should be celebrated by freethinkers everywhere.

Naturally, it wasn't all good news. Several states passed legislation to restrict one's right to marry who one wants. In addition, the Secular Coalition is correct to point out that few politicians of either party are going to be eager to speak on our behalf. As they note in their analysis, many Democrats had to promise that they would fight to keep supernatural entities and belief in them protected in the public arena. However, we may be able to make progress here if our numbers continue to grow and we strive to make our voices heard.