Religion NewsToday

Why is it so exhausting for atheists to get voted to Congress?

(The Dialog) — The midterm elections are prone to return to Congress elected representatives who maintain a spread of spiritual beliefs.

However whereas self-identified Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and Hindus presently rub shoulders within the corridors of energy, one group is noticeably absent: Atheists. And regardless of a growing number of openly nonreligious candidates working for workplace, it stays tough for atheists to get a foothold in Congress.

Of 531 members of Congress included in a 2021 survey (on the time, 4 seats had been unfilled), 88% identified as Christian, with these of a Jewish religion second, with 6%. Certainly, in keeping with that survey, solely two individuals in Congress don’t brazenly establish with any mainstream faith: Rep. Jared Huffman, a Californian Democrat, who identifies as a “humanist,” and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who describes herself as religiously unaffiliated. However neither has self-identified as being an “atheist.”

A list compiled by the Freethought Equality Fund Political Action Committee signifies that atheists are working for just a few seats within the U.S. Congress, and plenty of extra are doing so on the state degree. However all through historical past, just one self-identified atheist within the U.S. Congress involves thoughts, the late California Democrat Peter Stark.

‘In atheists, they don’t belief’

This places the nation at odds with democracies the world over which have elected brazenly godless — or not less than brazenly skeptical — leaders who went on to develop into revered nationwide figures, corresponding to Jawaharlal Nehru in India, Sweden’s Olof Palme, Jose Mujica in Uruguay and Israel’s Golda Meir. New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern, the worldwide chief who has arguably navigated the coronavirus disaster with probably the most credit score, says she is agnostic.

However in america, self-identified nonbelievers are at a definite drawback. A 2019 poll asking Americans who they were willing to vote for in a hypothetical presidential election discovered that 96% would vote for a candidate who’s Black, 94% for a lady, 95% for a Hispanic candidate, 93% for a Jew, 76% for a homosexual or lesbian candidate and 66% for a Muslim — however atheists fall under all of those, down at 60%. That may be a sizable chunk who wouldn’t vote for a candidate merely on the premise of their nonreligion.

In reality, a 2014 survey discovered People could be extra keen to vote for a presidential candidate who had by no means held workplace earlier than, or who had extramarital affairs, than for an atheist.

In a rustic that changed its original national motto in 1956 from the secular “e pluribus unum” — “out of many, one” — to the devoted “in God we belief,” it appears individuals don’t belief somebody who doesn’t consider in God.

As a scholar who studies atheism in the U.S., I’ve lengthy sought to know what’s behind such antipathy towards nonbelievers looking for workplace.

Branding difficulty?

There look like two main causes atheism stays the kiss of dying for aspiring politicians within the U.S. — one is rooted in a response to historic and political occasions, whereas the opposite is rooted in baseless bigotry.

Let’s begin with the primary: atheism’s prominence inside communist regimes. Among the most murderous dictatorships of the twentieth century — together with Stalin’s Soviet Union and Pol Pot’s Cambodia — had been explicitly atheistic. Bulldozing human rights and persecuting spiritual believers had been elementary to their oppressive agendas. Speak about a branding downside for atheists.

For individuals who thought of themselves lovers of liberty, democracy and the First Modification assure of the free train of faith, it made sense to develop fearful distrust of atheism, given its affiliation with such brutal dictatorships.

And although such regimes have lengthy since met their demise, the association of atheism with a lack of freedom lingered lengthy after.

The second motive atheists discover it exhausting to get elected in America, nevertheless, is the results of an irrational linkage in many people’s minds between atheism and immorality. Some assume that as a result of atheists don’t consider in a deity watching and judging their each transfer, they have to be extra prone to homicide, steal, lie and cheat. One latest research, for instance, discovered that People even intuitively link atheism with necrobestiality and cannibalism.

Such bigoted associations between atheism and immorality don’t align with actuality. There may be merely no empirical proof that most individuals who lack a perception in God are immoral. If something, the proof factors within the different path. Analysis has proven that atheists are typically less racist, less homophobic and less misogynistic than these professing a perception in God.

This will likely additionally clarify why, according to my research, these states inside the U.S. with the least spiritual populations – in addition to democratic nations with probably the most secular residents – are typically probably the most humane, protected, peaceable and affluent.

Freethought Caucus

Though the rivers of anti-atheism run deep all through the American political panorama, they’re beginning to skinny. Increasingly more nonbelievers are openly expressing their godlessness, and swelling numbers of People have gotten secular: Up to now 15 years, the percentage of Americans claiming no religious affiliation has risen from 16% to 26%. In the meantime, some discover the picture of a Bible-wielding Trump troubling, opening up the likelihood that all of the sudden Christianity could also be contending with a branding downside of its personal, especially in the skeptical eyes of younger Americans.

In 2018, a brand new group emerged in Washington, D.C.: The Congressional Freethought Caucus. Though it has solely 16 members, it portends a big shift during which some elected members of Congress are now not afraid of being identified as, at the very least, agnostic. Given this growth, in addition to the rising variety of nonreligious People, it shouldn’t be a shock if sooner or later a self-identified atheist makes it to the White Home.

Will that day come sooner quite than later? God solely is aware of. Or quite, solely time will inform.

Editor’s word: That is an up to date model of an article that was originally published on Oct. 5, 2020.

(Phil Zuckerman is a professor of sociology and secular research at Pitzer Faculty. The views expressed on this commentary don’t essentially replicate these of Faith Information Service.)

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button