For perspective, there are almost two-thirds as many unaffiliated people as there are Catholics in this country and nearly as many as there are Baptists. Their number is more than twice that of Methodists, and more than nine times the numbers of Jews or Mormons. Yet, no unaffiliated representation. Why?
First, let me get this out of the way: I don’t for a second believe that all those members are religious. I believe some are trapped in the religious closet of American politics where nonbelief is a nonstarter. It’s not only seen as unholy, it’s also seen as un-American. (Although Pete Stark, a California Democrat and a Unitarian, has said that he doesn’t believe in a Supreme Being. One out!)
Second, and perhaps more important, the unaffiliated are simply not unified. They have few advocacy groups or high-profile faces. They don’t congregate, organize or petition like members of organized religions. Politicians don’t feel the need to court them, let alone identify as one of them. Part of the problem is that the unaffiliated are a jumbled lot. Only about a fourth are atheists or agnostics. Many of the others feel strongly connected to religion, but choose not to participate. It’s like a protest vote.