May 1, 2019

Stop Letting the Christian Right Win

battle chess

In the U.S., it is difficult to imagine anyone being elected president without at least pretending to be a religious believer. In fact, it seems unlikely that someone who does not do a reasonably good job of convincing voters that he or she is a Christian stands much of a chance of winning the presidency. And while Congress is a bit different in that we have seen a few non-Christians elected, they make up a much smaller minority than should be the case.

To understand why this is the case, one can start with numbers. Despite an increase in the number of people indicating that they are religiously unaffiliated (i.e., the "nones"), most Americans continue to identify as Christians. Even many of these so-called "nones" say they believe in gods of some sort. They are only "nones" because they do not associate with any organized religion. Any politician who wants to appeal to the majority of voters will know this. These numbers do not tell the whole story, though.

Unfortunately, the segment of Christians often referred to as the "Christian right" seems to be much better organized and far more likely to be politically active than many religiously unaffiliated voters. And yes, that includes those of us who are part of the "secular left." In the 2014 U.S. midterm election, White evangelical Christians were more than twice as likely to vote as the religiously unaffiliated. The key thing to understand here is that there aren't that many more of them than there are of us; they are just far more effective when it comes to using the political process. They've managed to put many of their differences aside and form a voting bloc; we have not. But most important of all, they show up to vote and they make sure politicians hear from them regularly.

Eventually, I hope that more of us get fed up and decide that we'd like to stop letting the Christian right win. Maybe we'll tire of all the religious pandering and hypocrisy, maybe we'll reach our limit with regard to the barrage of church-state violations, or maybe we'll just realize that we have lacked meaningful representation for far too long. In any case, I hope we'll progress beyond apathy and decide to get involved.

Here are just a few of the things I'd like to see:

None of this means atheists must all vote the same way. That is not going to happen because atheists are politically diverse. We may well end up with a secular left and a secular right, and that's okay. I'd hope we still might be able to come together on something as important as separation of church and state. For us to make real progress, I think we are going to need to turn ourselves into a more visible group of voters, a group of voters that politicians will no longer be able to ignore.