Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Non-religious voters decided the election?

I'm not surprised that 70% of non-religious Americans voted for Barack Obama. In fact, I'm surprised it wasn't higher. Although there are conservative atheists, I suspect that this is a natural result of being evidence-based, rather than faith-based.

Of course, most of those people probably don't call themselves atheists. Even Cenk Uygur calls himself an agnostic. (Note that being an agnostic doesn't keep you from being an atheist, too - I'm both, myself - but many agnostics do use the term as a replacement for the 'atheist' label.)

Many others, as Cenk* points out, call themselves 'spiritual' - and might even believe in a god, like the deists among our Founding Fathers - but reject specific religions. (I suspect that most of these people are headed in the right direction, but just can't make that final step.)

But the non-religious are a huge and growing minority in America. Even atheists and agnostics, as a subset of this group, are larger than Jews and Muslims combined - and larger than Mormons and Seventh-Day Adventists combined, too (in fact, we're nearly as large as all four of them put together).

(Note that that Pew Research survey was taken more than five years ago, and the specifically non-religious part of "unaffiliated" was only about ten percent of the population then. But from what I've seen elsewhere, that number has been growing strongly, especially among the young.)

So it is funny how little attention is paid to us, isn't it? Both political parties try to appeal to other minorities, but they shun us non-believers like the plague. Well, we tend to be actively hated by believers. Even when the faith-based are tolerant of religious beliefs that completely contradict their own, they tend to be bitterly opposed to people who don't see a good reason to believe any of it.

Still, you'd think that the media would pay some attention to us (other than Fox 'News' blaming atheists, among others, for all the sins of the world). Of course, the media didn't pay any attention to gay people, either, before they came out of the closet. And for one reason or another, most atheists aren't eager to advertise their disbelief. (Here's one example.)

I do disagree with Cenk about one thing, though. Well, a couple of things, actually. First, not believing in a god implies nothing else about our beliefs when it comes to politics or economics. OK, I suppose we'd all oppose a theocracy, and that's probably why 70% of us voted against the Republican candidate. But it doesn't imply anything else.

I wish it did. I wish that being a non-believer meant, inevitably, that you were evidence-based, not faith-based. But despite my comments at the beginning of this post, that's probably a stretch. And even if it were true, there's still plenty of room for reasonable people to disagree. Just because today's Republican Party is batshit crazy, that doesn't mean that all conservative thinking necessarily has to be crazy. (It just seems that way.)

But more importantly, I disagree that we non-believers should be an "organized voting block," as Cenk suggests. Partly, that's because, as I said above, non-belief doesn't imply anything but non-belief. (If he'd said that evidence-based people should form a voting block, I'd be more in favor of that, but it would still be difficult.) And partly, it's because we're not just a minority, we're a hated minority.

But mostly, I oppose forming a non-believer voting block for the same reason I oppose Christian voting blocks or Muslim voting blocks. I believe in the separation of church and state. Your religious beliefs should have nothing to do with your political affiliation, and that applies just as much to non-belief as to any other religious belief.

Sure, we non-believers will naturally tend to oppose theocracies. We do tend to support - strongly support - the separation of church and state. But so do many religious believers - and for the exact same reasons we do. The separation of church and state is not an 'atheist issue.' After all, Thomas Jefferson's "wall of separation" letter was written in response to the concerns of Baptists.

No, I really don't want America's political landscape to be fragmented on the basis of religion. If you think about it, there's almost nothing less American than that. That's not the American way.

*PS. Should I be referring to Cenk Uygur by his first name? And Ana Kasparian, too? It's funny, but I just realized that I do that with both of them, but with hardly anyone else. I don't know. Maybe I've seen enough of these TYT video clips that they just feel like family. :)

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