Saturday, November 1, 2008

This is why I care

Frequently people ask why atheists talk about it. Why bother mentioning religion at all if you don't believe in it? Why can't you let them believe what they believe and leave it alone? Well, one fantastic reason why is unfolding right here in North Carolina. Here, Elizabeth Dole is trying to tar and feather her opponent, Kay Hagan, with atheists. Hagan attended a fundraiser that was co-hosted by a member of the Godless Americans PAC. The fundraiser itself had nothing to do with atheism, but Sen. Dole jumped on it anyway. Kay Hagan fired back, but instead of defending the atheists, she simply distanced herself from them and called the implicit accusation that she was, herself, an atheist untrue. She is not an atheist - I have no reason to think that she is. I understand her need to distance herself from atheists at this moment, so while I am a little disappointed and feel slightly betrayed, I do not fault her outright. She did what she needed to do to remain competitive in a tight race.

All of this is a fantastic example of why atheists need to make their voices heard. Atheists and agnostics make up a full 3% of the American religious landscape. If you factor in those that are unwilling to associate themselves with any religion at all, the number jumps to 16%. You'd never know this, of course, because America is obsessed with religion. Jewish PACs are massively influential in politics, yet make up less than 2% of the population. Muslims are less than a single percent, but because of their highly visible community centers, people are very aware of them. This is good. I am glad that these minority groups are able to make their issues heard. But atheists and agnostics - the so-called "Godless Americans" need room to make their voices heard as well. I don't like to be a political pawn of shame, thrown around the room like a hot potato that no one wants to represent. But at the end of the day, one of these two candidates will be my representative to the country. And whoever she turns out to be, it is clear to me that she does not have my interests at heart.

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