Atheists tend to be politically minded people. Most of us care about the world and human progress. We vote and we engage in activism for various causes and yet politicians barely know we exist. We need to change that.
Yesterday, I published an Examiner article about a group of atheists who met with Kansas Governor Sam Brownback. For those of you who don’t know, Brownback was the religious right poster child when he was in the Senate. While he has left evangelical Protestantism, he moved to evangelical Catholicism, so I don’t see that as much of an improvement.
Brownback told the group that he was originally apprehensive about the meeting, but that he was pleasantly surprised by the group. It turns out that atheists aren’t as scary as religious leaders tell everyone. We don’t even eat babies on Sundays anymore.
Studies have shown that atheists are more distrusted by people who think they don’t know any atheists. When people meet atheists, they realize that we are not the monsters that religious leaders like to pretend we are. In politics this is very important. While it is unlikely that Brownback will change his positions on any issues, he may moderate his positions slightly. He will almost certainly change his tone when talking about atheists.
If we can change Brownback’s perception of us, we should easily be able to sway Democrats and less religious right Republicans to treat us with respect. Why is this important? Well, let’s look at the numbers. Muslims make up .6% and have a pretty visible lobby in DC. Jews make up 1.7% and probably have among the strongest Washington lobbies. “Confirmed Atheists” make up 5% and no one cares about our lobby even though we are larger than Muslims and Jews combined times two.
We need to make ourselves visible. We can do that by meeting in person with politicians. Pick an issue or two and contact a politician of your choice and set up a meeting. Congress members are actually pretty easy to get meetings with. Senators usually push you off to one of their legislative aids. But don’t be satisfied with that. Really push to meet with the Senator. State level House and Senate members might be easier to get meetings with.
Be persistent, respectful, and knowledgeable about the issue you want to talk about. If possible, print out a fact sheet with bullet points for the politician to keep. Give them your talking points. Let them know that you are an atheist and that you vote. I also recommend contacting the Secular Coalition for American and the National Atheism Party before your meeting and ask them for some tips.
Finally, after your meeting let everyone know how it went. If the politician treated you poorly and disrespectfully (even though you were on your best behavior), that would be newsworthy and the media should know about it. If it went well and you were treated well, than that too is a great news story at least from our perspective.
We need to start doing this all over the country even in the most religious states. Progressive states shouldn’t be left off the hook either. We should expect more from Democrats because they generally share most of our values. But they have to know that atheists support these values and they have to meet up in person. It’s important. It will change the face of politics. Set up your meeting with your elected official. You can make a difference.
- Atheists meet with Governor Brownback of Kansas (examiner.com)
- Atheists Are Everywhere! (skepticink.com)
- Secular Coalition for America attends CPAC (examiner.com)
- Interfaith: The very name is exclusive (examiner.com)
- Atheist Values (skepticink.com)
- Atheists raising money for Boston Marathon victims (examiner.com)
- Why Advocating For Atheism Is Important (skepticink.com)
- Atheists raising money for West Texas explosion victims (examiner.com)