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Atheism in American politics

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June 26th, 2011, 08:52 AM
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Atheism in American politics - The Washington Post

About the topic
In his op-ed column, Gregory Paul wrote, "Long after blacks and Jews have made great strides, and even as homosexuals gain respect, acceptance and new rights, there is still a group that lots of Americans just don't like much: atheists."

Join Gregory Paul as he chats with readers about how politicians treat the subject of atheism and the role atheists play in the American political system.


Why do Americans still dislike atheists?

Atheists fed up? Believe it!
Gregory Paul :

Greg Paul here, ready to take your questions.

June 20, 2011 12:00 PM

Washington, DC
This is a well-timed chat, considering NBC is apologizing for offending certain religious people by excluding "under God" from the pledge...and basically promising to return to annoying atheists, agnostics, and religious people who simply wish for a separation of patriotism and spirituality, the next time they play the pledge. I remember when I served (yes, I was an atheist in a foxhole), I was told that I could exclude references to religion from both my oath of service and from the pledge when we said the pledge. It shouldn't be such a big deal to exclude religious references from political or patriotic statements.

June 20, 2011 11:04 AM

Gregory Paul :

As it happens a suit is underway in MA intended to remove god from the pledge on the basis that it does harm to nontheists (a new tactic). I am consulting on that project. The judge refused the 1st attempt by the state to have the case dismissed.
– June 20, 2011 12:03 PM
Secular vs. Atheist
About 1 in 6 Americans are secular -- they engage in no religious practice and have no religious affiliation -- not even a vestigal one. Far fewer Americans identify as atheist or agnostic. Why this gap? And are there any important differences between non-theists and the religiously apathetic?

June 20, 2011 11:50 AM

Gregory Paul :

According to recent Harris and Gallup surveys as many as one in five Americans are at least skeptical about the existence of the gods, which at 60 million is similar to evangelicals & Christians. However, a large portion identify as spiritual and may believe in some sort of higher power, so they will not describe themselves as atheists. In any case the discriminatory attitudes against atheists discourage folks from calling themselves that, it's a problem for pollsters (similar to the reluctance by many to admit being liberal or a feminist).
– June 20, 2011 12:07 PM
Atheist voting block
Atheists and agnostics make up a signficicant part of the electorate, yet it seems it would be political suicide for anyone to actively seek their support. Has there even been a candidate who actively sought the support of atheist group or to appeal to the atheist vote?

June 20, 2011 12:04 PM

Atheism political science
What is the political make-up of atheists, in terms of political party, political leanings, and as percent of voters in different regions of the country?

June 20, 2011 12:04 PM

Gregory Paul :

I made a mistake on the last question so will answer 2 of them here.

As far as I know no one has ever run on an atheistic platform. Even in the most secular voting districts it would probably not be a particularly useful position to take.

In some areas such as the southeast and midwest them there atheists probably make up less than 5% of the electorate. On the coasts it will be markedly higher espeically urban areas, maybe a quarter to a third in NYC or San Francisco.

The great majority of nontheists are progressive liberals. However, there is a large minority, maybe a quarter to a third, that are libertarians in the mold of Ayn Rand. For example I have info that David Koch is an atheist.

Of course the Christian Bible contains the 1st explicit description of socialism enforced by death (in Acts), that the religious right is anti-socialists is one of the geat political scams of our time.

– June 20, 2011 12:15 PM
My boss

My boss gave me a gift card to a Christian bookstore with a note saying I should buy a Bible and read it. I feel very strongly that this it is religious discrimination and harrassment.

June 20, 2011 12:07 PM

Gregory Paul :

Darn right a boss giving someone a Bible etc. is inappropriate. How would he like it if he got a copy of Darwin, or Ayn Rand's views of atheism? Unfortunately religious folks are often very touchy about this sort of thing, so your boss is not likely to be trying to engage in a back and forth.

If it does become a problem over time you might want to show him the WP op-ed this essy is a follow up to. I hear others are using for such purposes.
– June 20, 2011 12:22 PM
Atheist behavior

I have to tell you that as a believer who really doesn't give a hoot what other people believe or don't believe, most of the prejudice I've encountered has been from atheists who, with varying degrees of good grace, suggest that I'm stupid or ill-informed for my beliefs. My supervisor at work who is an atheist, and who never misses an opportunity to tell everyone around him that he is, insists on giving me a hard time every single year when I ask for annual leave for religious observation. Company policy requires that he sign my request, but he loves to hassle me. Maybe there would be less prejudice against atheists if they didn't insist on thinking that non-believers were suspicious idiots.

June 20, 2011 12:09 PM

Gregory Paul :

This atheist boss is being a jerk as well. However, their are issues about religious persons wanting special treatment. That leaves atheists out in the cold yet again.

– June 20, 2011 12:21 PM

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american, atheism, pledge, politics

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