The atheist movement in the US, and skeptics generally, has advanced to the stage where for many it is no longer sufficient to simply be public about one’s disbelief in gods and the supernatural. The next stage is what one does in practical terms and it is encouraging that the skeptical community is now much more focused on becoming politically active on a wide range of causes. They are transitioning from making their presence known to making their presence felt.
While skeptics belong to all political persuasions, they tend to be much more on the left-liberal end of the spectrum, which is not surprising with the rise of the religious right and their reactionary political agenda.
When members of the small Pennsylvania chapter of Secular Democrats of America log on for their monthly meetings, they’re not there for a virtual happy hour.
“We don’t sit around at our meetings patting ourselves on the back for not believing in God together,” said David Brown, a founder from the Philadelphia suburb of Ardmore.
The group, mostly consisting of atheists and agnostics, mobilizes to knock on doors and make phone calls on behalf of Democratic candidates “who are pro-science, pro-democracy, whether or not they are actually self-identified secular people,” he said. “We are trying to keep church and state separate. That encompasses LGBTQIA+, COVID science, bodily autonomy and reproductive rights.”
Brown describes his group as “small but mighty,” yet they’re riding a big wave.
Voters with no religious affiliation supported Democratic candidates and abortion rights by staggering percentages in the 2022 midterm elections.
And they’re voting in large numbers. In 2022, some 22% of voters claimed no religious affiliation, according to AP VoteCast, an expansive survey of more than 94,000 voters nationwide. They contributed to voting coalitions that gave Democrats victories in battleground states such as Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Arizona.
The unaffiliated — often nicknamed the “nones” — voted for Democratic House candidates nationwide over Republicans by more than a 2-1 margin (65% to 31%), according to VoteCast. That echoes the 2020 president election, when Democrat Joe Biden took 72% of voters with
no religious affiliation, while Republican Donald Trump took 25%, according to VoteCast.
For all the talk of the overwhelmingly Republican voting by white evangelical Christians in recent elections, the unaffiliated are making their presence felt.
In several bellwether races this year, the secular vote made its impact felt, according to AP VoteCast.
__About four in five people with no religious affiliation voted against abortion restrictions in referendums in Michigan and Kentucky.
__Between two-thirds and three-quarters of nones supported Democratic candidates in statewide races in Arizona and Wisconsin.
__About four in five people with no religion voted for Josh Shapiro and John Fetterman, the Democrats elected Pennsylvania’s newest governor and senator, respectively.
The article goes on to describe the many ways that the religiously unaffiliated are getting more involved in politics, from donating to candidates, to attending meetings, to taking part in protests, and running for office.
These secular activists see no problem with supporting candidates who profess religious beliefs as long as they also support policies that the secularists feel are important.
Brown, of the Secular Democrats group in Pennsylvania, said he had no problem supporting Democratic candidates like Shapiro, who talked openly about his Jewish values on the campaign trail. His opponent, Republican Doug Mastriano, incorporated Christian nationalist themes and imagery in his campaign.
“While on the one hand I am frustrated that politicians feel the need to justify their doing the right thing by religious affiliation, I also appreciate that this was a calculated decision to appeal to religious voters,” Brown said. “I have no problem with it because I feel it was in the service of defeating a Christian nationalist candidate on the other side.”
In fact, Brown even traveled to Georgia in late November to campaign door-to-door for an ordained minister — Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock, the Democrat in a runoff election. And for the same reason — despite religious differences, he sees Warnock as sharing many of the values of secular voters.
This kind of coalition building over issues that transcends religious divisions is just what is necessary in order to prevent the reactionaries from gaining office.