In an effort to help bring more non-believers or those who simply consider themselves non-religious into the halls of Congress, a group of atheists have formed a political action committee: The Freethought Equality Fund. The group also supports the election of those “ … at a minimum, candidates committed to upholding the constitutional separation between church and state.“
Yep. You heard that right. we need a political action committee to make sure that we bring in more lawmakers who will actually follow the constitution as it relates to the First Amendment. While we’re at it, we might want to bring in a few more who don’t seem to have such an unsettling preoccupation with the Second Amendment and no understanding of the Fourth … but let’s not get too carried away.
Besides giving the growing percentage of Americans who identify as “nones” an opportunity to elect more candidates who share their values, the new political action committee’s creators hope it will help stiffen the backbones of lawmakers who they believe are too afraid to openly state their skepticism and doubts about the existence of a divine author of the universe.
“We already know of more than two dozen closeted atheists serving in Congress today,” [American Humanist Association spokesperson Maggie] Ardiente said. “The fact that they’re in the closet about their nonbelief says a lot about why this PAC is greatly needed. The time to come out is now and the Freethought Equality Fund will help make it happen.”
There are a few different moving parts in this situation. First, the stated goal of this PAC is not only to support non-believers but secularists as a whole. I’m of the firm belief that you can be religious and understand that this is a secular nation just as much as any atheist does, so it’s my hope that this gathers a few of them in the process. I won’t hold my breath, but it’s possible. Second, there are two reasons specifically atheist lawmakers currently don’t “come out” as such: the money and the stigma. Thankfully, PACs like this are the best way to recoup the loss that would otherwise be incurred by other sources of funding pulling the plug. The reason why they would in the first place would either be because they don’t think an non-believer can sufficiently represent their values or because wouldn’t want their names to be associated with the negative connotation of atheism in any way whatsoever. Same goes for the lawmaker. Atheists are the most distrusted demographic in this country – tied only in part with Muslims – and so any accusation would likely result in an immediate drop in the polls as the public responds to this new found revelation. Depending on where it is, it might not be significant (i.e. in the Northeast or the West Coast), but other places are so entrenched that no amount of money could undo the damage even the accusation of atheism in the right point in time during election season.
That said, I still think this is a good idea. I think they’re likely going to have much more success with those candidates and lawmakers with strong records of voting for secular causes versus openly atheist ones, but you have to start somewhere. As I said earlier, it also hurts my head – literally, these days – that this is what every member of Congress should be doing to start with … yet here we are as a nation, in 2013, arguing over biblical creationism going into public school textbooks and compulsory prayer in the classrooms.
We’ll see how things go in 2014 and 2016 … and how many candidates they end up endorsing. They apparently already have Bobby Scott of Virginia and Rush Holt of New Jersey. Their list has others, but they’re still all Democrats. Given how dangerous it is these days to go against the party line as a Republican – especially when it comes to issues like science when it comes into conflict with religion – it’s not likely they’re going to get many members of the GOP anytime soon. I’ll be thrilled to be wrong on this, but when the rising star of the Republican Party couldn’t manage to say that the earth is billions of years old for fear of angering his base, I don’t hold out much hope for the remainder of his associates.