I'm proud to call myself an Atheist and it will always be my term of choice when describing myself, but at this point we will only become a political powerhouse if we become more inclusive rather than exclusive. By renaming ourselves as the “Secular Party of America,” our uphill war will turn into a coast downhill.
Most Atheists, Agnostics and otherwise unaffiliated with religion (aka the “Nones”) agree that extricating religion from our government should be our number one priority since, as I noted in my last blog, the Religious Right-Tea Party-Corporate alliance has been destructive to the rights of American workers, women and the GLBT community, as well as our children’s education, funding for scientific research, the environment and humane animal treatment, etc.
As much as we have in common with advocates for these issues, however, most will shun being allied with something that sounds so negative to U.S. masses as the “National Atheist Party.”
Following is a summary of some potent “blessings” at our disposal, one by one – provided we vote to change our name of the “Secular Party of America.”
1) Secularism is in keeping with what our Founding Fathers envisioned and is a political platform sanctioned by the “Supreme Law of the Land.” The very first sentence of the very First Amendment shows how important they viewed the separation of church and state, when the Founding Fathers promulgated "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."
Other evidence that the U.S. is a Secular, rather than Christian, nation is Article 6 of the Constitution, which bans religious tests from being used to qualify anyone to an office or public trust. Further, the 1797 Treaty of Tripoli, signed by President John Adams and unanimously approved by the Senate states, “... the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”
Conservatives will point to “In God We Trust” on our money to confirm the U.S. was founded as a “Christian nation.” However, the motto did not appear on U.S. coins until 1864 and has been on paper currency only since 1957, mainly because of the increased religious sentiment during the Civil War. As for “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, that was only inserted in 1954 during the Communist witch hunts.
2) Instead of being marginalized as a “grumpy subculture” (see Sam Harris’ “Dangers” of “Atheism” talk), the “Secular Party of America” has the potential to not only appeal to all manners of Progressives whose rights have been stomped on by the Religious Right-Tea Party-Corporate alliance, but also the “Nones” that encompass up to 20 percent (some estimates go up to 25 percent) of the U.S. population. Although religiously unaffiliated, this group is not necessarily willing to identify themselves as Atheists or Agnostics. On the other hand, they would very likely be attracted to a party that fights against the Religious Right.
In Why Don't Democrats Go after Non-Religious Voters, AlterNet.org journalist Adele Stan references a survey by the Public Religion Research Institute that notes of the 19 percent of Americans who say they are unaffiliated with any religion, 63 percent of them lean Democratic. However, they are “significantly less likely to turn up at the polls than religious voters. Perhaps that’s because they feel left out of the dialogue, as leaders of the Democratic spent the last eight years trying to show the public that they love Jesus as much as anybody.”
3) Other kindred political spirits we can better motivate to join us in a coalition are separation of church and state organizations like the ACLU, in addition to right wing-watch groups like People for the American Way (pfaw.org) and even entities such as the Interfaith Alliance.
4) Even Conservatives regularly call for a “Secular government.” Granted, these entreaties always seem to be directed at Islamic, rather than Christian, regimes, but the word “hypocrisy” will likely spring to more than a few minds when those same politicians later condemn policies and people as being Secular.
5) “Secularist” is far more difficult to demonize than “Atheist” where, rather than getting traction on Progressive issues, we end up defending ourselves against memes like we swap recipes for roast baby.
6) We will also not have to waste precious time being prompted or coerced into arguing against supernatural or pseudoscientific claims such as reincarnation, near death experiences, homeopathic medicines, astrology, psychics, witches, ghosts, devils, god(s) and the like. The term “Atheist” implies that we oppose any and all unexplainable claims, which alienates a majority of the U.S. population.
7) One blogger at the IrregularTimes.com entitled a blog “The National Atheist Party Falls Asleep” (link no longer accessible) last year, and I can tell you I agree. Although I have made significant efforts to find members for the Education Committee for almost two years, I have managed to find only one good, solid volunteer. The people I tried to recruit were Atheists and said they believed in the ideals of that committee or others in of the NAP, yet when it came down to it they didn’t want to be associated with the word "Atheist." This has been the case with about 98 percent of my nonbelieving friends. Other advisors have had the same problem. A name change will help us find volunteers, not to mention donors, to carry out our goals.
8) Even I typically make comments or recommendations protesting religious incursions into the education system as a private citizen rather than in my capacity as NAP Education Policy Advisor because I assume my comments would otherwise be tossed aside. Under the “Secular Party of America” label, I believe I will be taken much more seriously.
9) “Secular Party of America” sounds more neutral to Americans making us appear more trustworthy. How much time did our “liberal” Corporate Media spend on the fact that CO2 emissions recently passed the 400 ppm milestone? We have plenty of battles ahead of us on issues that are often neglected by a media now controlled by six multi-national corporations (and typically allied with the “Party of Big Business”), but we can’t pick up the slack on informing the public on critical issues like campaign finance reform and union-busting attempts if we aren’t considered as a reliable source of information.
10) Conservatives have much better track records when it comes to voting likely due, in part, to what studies call an “intolerance for ambiguity,” since fear is a great motivator. It will be much easier to get out the progressive vote with a name people can relate to.
11) ”Secular Humanism poses the greatest threat to Christianity” is a claim made by more than one Christian theologian, as far as my cursory research goes, and since the “Secular Party of America” will include Secular Humanists, that subgroup will help us compete far more effectively with the meme of kindness and caring right wing Christians have so nicely cultivated for themselves and which people still buy into – in spite of their voting records.
12) Not only does the focus of the “Secular Party of America” go from murky to a clear vision involving rebuilding Thomas Jefferson’s vision of a “wall of separation between Church and State,” but polls show most agree that churches should keep out of politics. Changing our name then is in agreement with, rather than in violation of, the beliefs of the majority of Americans.
We need all the numbers we can muster if we are to restore America to its Secular roots and diminish the power of the Religious Right-Tea Party-Corporate alliance that has been shoving our country to the right end of the political spectrum for the last 30 years. By doing so, we also have a chance to reform the Republican Party into something more moderate. Only then can we work together to tame the corporate corruption of our democracy.
Since right wing Christians, who are still running the show here in the U.S., have the kind of corporate ties and cash that makes opposition difficult, combined with the fact that “evil Atheist” stereotypes will likely be superglued to the collective American consciousness for years to come, isn't it time we voted to change the politically feeble name of the “National Atheist Party” to one that takes advantage of human nature to band together against adversity to improve their lives – something more politically palatable such as the “Secular Party of America?”