February 3, 2009

Letter to Obama: Stop Excluding Non-Believers

President Obama's acknowledgment that we non-believers exist was a small but positive step, even if the inauguration as a whole felt like way too much of a godfest. It is time to encourage the Obama administration to take another important step. What follows is a letter I am sending to President Obama at the suggestion of Atheist Ethicist. I have modeled it closely on Alonzo's letter but attempted to give it my voice as well.

Dear President Obama:

Like millions of Americans, I was happy to hear you acknowledge non-believers in your inaugural address. It was nice to be recognized as a worthwhile part of this great nation. I am writing both to thank you for including us and to ask you to consider taking another important step to signal that you value the contribution of all Americans.

You have held many events where people of faith have come together to discuss their visions of America, both through informal discussions and religious services. You have provided them with forums for sharing their views and their values, but have not included non-religious Americans.

Regardless of your intention, this exclusion communicates that atheists, agnostics, secular humanists, and freethinkers have little to offer in crafting a vision of America. It suggests that your administration considers values to be the exclusive purview of the religious community. We non-believers are also stakeholders in the future of our country, and we have much to contribute. We should be included in discussions of American values.

As a secular democracy, our government has no business promoting faith-based events. However, events focused around values which include representatives from the various faith communities and from communities of non-believers would be an effective solution. Everyone would benefit from such an inclusive gathering, religious and non-religious alike.

I hope you will cease to promote events which cater to religious believers while excluding non-believers and instead embrace an inclusive approach. This would send a powerful message that you value the input of all Americans and could do wonders in bringing diverse groups together in pursuit of common goals.