Are you ready for Atheist PAC?

A momentous day, my friends. Not until we atheists are as free as every other interest group to buy and sell our elected leaders can America truly call itself “free.”

A toast — to freedom:

The Freethought Equality Fund said in a press release that its goal is “to change the face of American politics by supporting candidates who identify as humanist, atheist, agnostic, as well as those who share our goals of protecting the separation of church of state.”…

“Faced with the prejudices that it was supposedly impossible to be good without a god, freethinkers of all stripes, under the names atheist and agnostic, skeptic, non-theist, nonbeliever, and more, began to come out of the woodwork, to face the prejudice we’re seeing head on,” [American Humanist Association Executive Director Roy Speckhardt] said…

Speckhardt said he knows of at least two dozen current members of Congress who are “closeted” atheists

Although all the candidates the PAC listed as support targets were Democrats, and the list of issues is solidly Democratic, the organizers said they’re hopeful a GOP candidate will strike their fancy one day. Currently, not one Republican member of the House passes the Freethought Equality Fund’s scorecard test.

There are already lobbyist groups like Americans United devoted to church-and-state policy issues. The novelty of this one, it seems, is that they’re going to focus on getting closeted atheists in Congress to come out. I expect they’ll have a few, but only a few, successes. As noted in the Free Beacon piece, the taboo has quietly weakened a bit over the past few years. Pete Stark declared himself a nonbeliever six years ago and was reelected twice afterward in his deep blue California district with 70+ percent of the vote before losing a Democratic primary last year. Kyrsten Sinema is a freshman in the House who got elected last year despite lots of chatter about her maybe being an atheist. Her campaign manager “clarified” by telling reporters at the time that she rejects the label, but that appeared to be a half-assed attempt to sidestep the subject so that it didn’t become an issue in November. She lists “none” as her religion and didn’t use a Bible in January when being sworn in by Boehner. That’s bolder than most other secret atheist reps are willing to be, but emblematic of the err-on-the-side-of-ambiguity position that they take. In fact, when Pew canvassed Congress two years ago on their religious beliefs, they got a big fat zero willing to admit to atheism or “unaffiliated.” The mismatch between the percentage who belong to a certain religious denomination among the general population versus the percentage in Congress who belong to it was no more than roughly six percent at the extremes — except in the case of “unaffiliated,” a category that includes 16 percent of the public and zero-point-zero percent of the national legislature. The best Pew could do was find six members who said “don’t know/refused.”

Which is to say, the factoid about two dozen atheists lurking in Congress is plausible based on polling data. Why any of them would emerge because there’s now a PAC around willing to throw a few thousand bucks at them for doing so, though, I have no idea. Copping to nonbelief will remain a liability for a pol in all but the bluest districts. Even Barney Frank, who came out as gay years ago, waited until he was safely out of Congress to come out as atheist. If the “new atheism” hasn’t put enough “identity” pressure on reluctant congressmen to say it loud, “I’m atheist and I’m proud,” this won’t.

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David Strom 8:41 PM on January 30, 2023