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Are you a secular American? If so, you've got some reason to celebrate, as your segment of the American patchwork is becoming increasingly recognized as having legitimacy and credibility.

For the first time ever, a group of representatives from various secular groups were invited to discuss policy yesterday with White House staff.  See:

This is a major step in legitimizing a demographic category whose emergence can result in major change for the better in America.  The media and the public have perpetuated the notion that “America is a very religious country,” but it's important to remember that America is not THAT religious of a country.  Saudi Arabia is a very religious country, and Afghanistan is a very religious country, but thankfully America has a significant demographic segment that is NOT religious.

Just how big is the "secular American" category?  That is open to debate.  Some would say about 15 percent (about 45 million), which is the number of Americans who answer “none” to the question of religious identity.  Others might argue as much as 50 percent, which is the number of American who do not attend religious service on a regular basis.  Others point to about 20 percent, which is the number who do not affirm a belief in a divinity.  

Even if the lower numbers are accurate, the number is still an extremely significant minority, one of the largest single categories of religious minorities.  These are Americans who generally do not want churches dictating public policy or receiving government money, and who are tired of the ceaseless effort of religious conservatives to inject religion into education and public life.

This demographic has been relatively powerless in America because for years it was unorganized and unmotivated.  Only recently has the value of membership within the “secular American” demographic been seen as important and worth asserting.  As this group becomes more powerful, as is evidenced by the creation of the Secular Coalition for America and the growth of its member groups, it will flex its muscle politically, to the detriment of the religious right.  For those who value rational public policy and wish to see theology removed from public discourse and returned to where it belongs – church – this can’t happen soon enough

Originally posted to Ahadave on Sat Feb 27, 2010 at 10:54 AM PST.

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