Why I’m Not Thrilled at Trump’s Supposed Secularism

CN: Donald Trump, Michael Shermer

Skeptics, come get your boy Michael Shermer! For the last couple of weeks, he’s been on a Twitter rant about how the March for Science is supposedly playing identity politics (topping it all off with this lovely gem). Now he’s shifting his focus on Trump’s supposed secularism in this Politico article. Although Shermer doesn’t claim Trump is one of us (he suspects Trump practices “Cafeteria Christianity, where one orders only the most appealing items on the menu”), nor does he praise Trump as a president, he does find Trump’s lack of religiosity as “hugely refreshing.” Shermer writes:

It looks like the U.S. religious reawakening from the 1950s through the 2000s, then, might have been an anomaly. The long-term trend is certainly toward secularization.

The Evangelicals who helped put Trump in the White House would probably dispute that. But they are missing the bigger picture: Trump was elected president despite being the least religious major candidate in the 2016 field. Looked at this way, Trump isn’t the evangelicals’ savior. He’s just another data point in America’s long march away from religion.

Now look, I’m as happy as the next atheist that society is gradually moving away from religion. I long for the day religion becomes either a historical artifact or at least just a social thing people did on Sunday and nothing else. But Trump’s lack of religiosity doesn’t mean a damn thing to me because his  secular values are not humanist values.

Look at the Muslim ban. Look at his transphobic policies. Look at his climate change denial. Does this guy look like he cares deeply about science, reason, and human rights? I think not. Also, if Trump’s such a secularist, why does he pick a far-right anti-abortion anti-LGBTQ conservative Christian like Mike Pence as his running mate? I know secularism doesn’t automatically make you either pro-choice or pro-LGBTQ, but if Trump’s lack of religiosity is such a huge leap forward towards secularism, why do his politics look like the same old Religious Right song and dance?

I also find it interesting that Shermer didn’t mention another largely secular presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, in his article. Throughout his campaign, Sanders exemplified progressive humanist values that emphasized human action over divine intervention. Where’s the article saying his campaign marked a shift in our religious landscape? Where’s the article praising Sander’s humanism, whether it’s religious or secular?

Besides, Trump doesn’t give a shit about us atheists. During his weekly address last Friday, he said, “America is a nation of believers . . . And we pray for the strength and wisdom to achieve a better tomorrow—one where good people of all faiths, Christians and Muslims and Jewish and Hindu, can follow their hearts and worship according to their conscience.” It’s great he gave a shout-out to Muslims, Jews, and Hindus, but what about us atheists? What about us who don’t pray to any god?

If Trump’s lack of religiosity is a sign of our increasingly secular nation, I’ll gladly take our previous liberal Christian president any day of the week.



  1. polishsalami says

    Trump is actually a pretty typical GOP Christian: Sunday morning mumbling hymns at church, Sunday afternoon snorting coke at a five-star brothel.

  2. says

    It’s funny how the “bigger picture” refers not to millions of evangelical voters, but to Trump’s personal beliefs, particularly the ones which are not expressed in his political actions.

  3. drken says

    Yes, Donald Trump is the least Christian president this country has seen in a long time, maybe even ever. Unfortunately, that’s because he lacks all of the good things about Christians; Humility, forgiveness, and compassion and not because he’s “secular”. It would be pretty hard for me to think less of Michael Shermer, but to praise a man for only pretending to be Christian while rejecting every good thing about it is just another reason why I hate organized atheism.

    BTW, check out the website for “his church”. http://collegiatechurch.org. You’d think you’d find one of those “god wants you to be rich” prosperity gospel churches. Nope, the front page proclaims a commitment to Social Justice, among other things. When reading the blog of their outreach NGO “Intersections” (full disclosure, it’s run by my next door neighbor, which is the reason I was reading it in the first place), the founder was talking about Trump’s presidency as a bad thing and the Women’s March as a positive reaction to it. He even liked the cat ear hats. Yet somehow, the Christian right looks at his membership there as proof of his spirituality despite him rejecting everything that church stands for. Personally, as a committed atheist I’d vote for my next door neighbor (an ordained reverend) before Trump and not in spite of his Christianity, but because of it. Seriously, one night when my cat got on to my balcony and wandered over on to theirs, I woke them up at 1am to retrieve him. He and his wife were more than happy to do it and ask how he’s doing when they see me. Never any sign of resentment for disturbing them in the middle of the night. Can’t imagine Donald being so charitable.


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