February 16, 2008

Ellen Johnson is Wrong, Atheists Should Vote

The atheist blogosphere is up in arms over a recent statement by American Atheists president, Ellen Johnson, that American atheists should not vote in the 2008 presidential election. I am happy to see the outrage because I find Johnson's comments wrong and potentially damaging. Atheists must vote if we want to have any sort of voice in national politics.

Given that atheists represent at least 11% of the American population, we could be a powerful voting block if we chose to organize. But even without any formal organization, I think it is fair to assume that we tend to be a bit more oriented to reality than many of our theistic neighbors. I suspect that we are more likely to value secular humanism, science, reason, and critical thinking. Why would we not want these priorities to influence presidential politics?

I'll admit that I generally believe that encouraging a group of people not to vote for any reason is a bad idea. I am convinced that an informed citizenry is essential to effective democracy. But I also find that my atheist colleagues tend to be some of the best informed, largely because we have so much at stake. Lastly, I agree with the notion that citizens in a democracy have a moral responsibility to participate in the democratic process. If we don't want another Bush term (which is essentially what a McCain presidency would bring), we need to get out and vote.