September 18, 2008

Atheists as Values Voters

Conservative Christians have done an impressive job of labeling themselves "values voters" and getting this label to stick. The American media has been fully complicit, going along for the ride without stopping to question what gives any group exclusive claim to have values. In fact, the media does not seem particularly interested in understanding the values which allegedly guide these voters. Instead, the term serves as a sort of shorthand for describing socially conservative Christians who are politically active.

When most people hear the phrase "values voters," they perceive it as code for conservative Christians. In this way, "values voter" is an effective sort of shorthand for identifying someone who opposes female reproductive freedom, gay people, social welfare programs, environmental regulation, and the like. The "values voter" is not only assumed to have these attitudes but to vote based on them.

But why are these sort of values the only that deserve recognition? Aren't values of some sort important to most people who vote? What about Americans who vote based on an entirely different set of values?

Those of us who vote after a reasoned analysis of the issues and in consideration of candidates' position on the issues are still making value-based judgments. This is perhaps most evident in how we prioritize the issues. No candidate is going to match a voter perfectly on every single issue. The voter must determine how much of a match is acceptable based on his or her values.

All voters are "values voters." Using it only to refer to conservative Christians is misleading at best and bigoted at worst. Personally, I am a secular values voter.

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