Secular Society Is Blossoming – And So Is Their Vote
By Annie Laurie Gaylor
Freedom From Religion Foundation
candidates have been pandering to nearly every religious denomination except one: the unaffiliated. With the Wisconsin primaries approaching, it’s a group candidates can’t afford to ignore in the Badger State.
Religious America is shrinking in size and influence, according to the Pew Research Center. Meanwhile, our secular society is blossoming.
The ranks of atheists, agnostics and those with no religious affiliation have increased by 19 million since Barack Obama was first elected president. Secular voters have become the largest untapped voting bloc, representing a quarter of all Americans and a third of millennials.
What do secular voters want other than keeping religion out of government? They want progress on environmental protection, women’s rights and marriage equality, according a a recent survey of 8,000 registered nonreligious voters, conducted by the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
The rise of secular voters is providing a potent counterbalance to the religious right, which has overreached in its attempts to deny everything from climate change to gay rights to women’s health care. For evidence of this backlash, see the list of fervently religious politicians who have been dropping like prehistoric flies in a meteor shower.
A good number of the remaining presidential hopefuls are not very religious. So why have they been unwilling to ask secular voters for support?
Some say the problem with reaching secular voters is they don’t congregate in easy-to-find places, such as in church (or under rocks). But in today’s digitally connected world, it’s not difficult to reach these young voters online or on campuses such as UW-Madison.
Candidates and their supporters who stump here over the coming week will be greeted by a series of billboards featuring smiling local millennials delivering a straightforward message: “I’m an atheist, and I vote!”
The larger message is secular voters are no longer outnumbered or outmatched. We could demand change and swing the election if we spoke up and voted in big enough numbers.
From control of the U.S. Supreme Court to our response to global terrorism, much is at stake. Secular voters want to know the next president will keep religious dogma out of these critical decisions.
It’s also up to secular voters to speak up in a show of force. We should follow the model of the LGBT community by encouraging members to be more public about their lives, run for office, and bring change. Just a few election cycles back, openly gay officeholders were few and far between. Now, two openly gay members of Congress, U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, and U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Black Earth, represent our region.
On campuses, secular student alliances are doing more to encourage students to register to vote, speak out on secularism and engage in the political process. To assist in our shared election-year goals, the Freedom from Religion Foundation is running TV ads promoting the separation of church and state, and engaging voters.
As religious groups fly their flags, we need to fly ours just as high to remind candidates that secular voters are the true voice of the Enlightenment.
Originally published by the Wisconsin State Journal, 03.25.2016, republished under non-indexable fair use.