YouGov has a new poll that says that only 76% of Americans believe in a god. Why do I say ‘only’ when it is a large majority? Because it really is quite surprising that a quarter of the public in America say they do not believe in a god. Recall that previous polls have put atheists and agnostic in the single digits and that the ‘unaffiliated’ groups at around 20% but the last number may include people who believe in a god but do not belong to any religious denomination.
Jonathan Turley asks why, when compared to other groups, nonbelievers do not have political clout commensurate with their numbers.
Yet, I am struck by the large number of atheists and agnostics given their small influence on politics. Compare more powerful groups like the 34 percent of gun owners or 22 percent Tea Party supporters or 12.9 percent over 65 or 3.5 percent Gay population or the 2.2 percent Jewish population. Non-believers constitute 25 percent of the population but continue to be not only marginalized politically but vilified socially. It is an interesting contrast with other groups of similar or strikingly smaller size with more power politically.
I don’t think that is surprising. All those other groups tend to be single-issue ones that are quite passionate about the issues that affect their group. Nonbelievers, on the other hand, are all over the map politically. And even when our ox is directly gored and (say) politicians use religious tropes we just tend to treat them as silly and not worth getting too upset about. Even when a prominent person says that we are going to hell, we tend to shake our heads and wonder how people can be so childish, rather than have a mass demonstration in protest.
Our mode of action tends to be to make fun of religious silliness and if the situation is serious enough, ask for redress in the courts. I wonder what it would take to get nonbelievers outraged in large numbers and demand some sort of action. Previous struggles to fight for equality for minorities, women, and gays had concrete goals that people could rally around and pressure politicians about. What would nonbelievers want to see happen?
Is this seemingly lackadaisical attitude because we are so sure we are right and history is on our side? It is usually only people who feel really threatened that want to organize and fight back.