If you were to google for “reddest state” you would find that the top six or seven articles all mention Oklahoma, many of them awarding the title to my home state outright. I mention this now just for the sake of painting the background, which is to be imagined in bright red. Here in OKC, I have been active in my local atheist meetup group ever since we first started meeting in real life over ten years ago, and I have noticed over time that we tend to lean rather the opposite way, politically speaking. As an organization, of course, we welcome libertarian atheists and even conservative atheists into our fellowship, but these are surprisingly (and I would say increasingly) hard to come by.
A couple of weeks ago, I found myself wondering just how skewed our membership has become, so I ran a terrible little poll in our secret Facebook group. It was not a right and proper poll because the participants were self-selected (rather than randomly sampled) and the results were viewable by the group rather than confidential, which would naturally lead conservatives (as an unpopular minority group) to underreport themselves. Even with all those cautionary caveats, I’m still going to share the results, because they were skewed well beyond what I had expected:
This almost looks like the right-hand side of a classic bell curve, which leaves me wondering whether I should have included poll options such as “left of Nader” and “single payer everything” just to suss out how far left we really go. Also, I think the guy in the red bar on the far right might well have been trolling me. (Then again, he did dress as an Israeli soldier for the 2012 Halloween Parade, so it’s hard to know.)
Of course, the results would have been different had we focused on a particular set of economic issues, rather than the conservative/progressive dichotomy in general. I would speculate that conservatism, as a movement, has moved out of the reach of thinkers like Buckley, Friedman, and Sowell and into the waiting arms of a Christianist political insurgency, heaven-bent on conforming American law to their most recent reinterpretation of the New Testament. Every time a Rick Santorum or Rick Perry stands up to proudly wrap their theology in the American flag, or to speak out against science, the community of unbelief gets pushed a bit further to the left, having been essentially disinvited from participation in political conservatism.
Part of this skewness may also be the result of our actively recruiting at lefty events like the annual Peace Festival and Gay Pride Festival, but then again, perhaps the causal arrow runs in the other direction; we may be doing outreach at those events because that is where our membership feels most comfortable and accepted. At any rate, I’d be interested in hearing from those of you living in other states (or nations) as to whether your local group of unbelievers stands out dramatically against the electorate from which they are drawn, and if so, what your theory is as to why that happens.
Edit: I’ve added the original poll for reference below.