According to a new PEW Research report, more than a quarter of Americans now identify as either atheist, agnostic, or as nothing in particular. Diving deeper into the demographics, a full third of registered Democrats identify in this category. Deeper still, sixty percent of Democrats say they only attend religious services a handful of times a year. As the 2020 Presidential race heats up, isn’t it time for a Secular Forum where Democratic candidates have to answer to secular concerns on the separation of church and state, science, climate, education, and a host of other issues so many secular Americans care about?
I threw this thought out on my personal Facebook page and a few people were concerned that conversely, two-thirds of Democrats are religious and would be put off by such a forum. But I don’t think they would be. Consider this; there are probably more Democrats that identify in this “none” category than there are Democrats who identify as part of the LGBQT category and The Human Rights Campaign still was able to get nine candidates to attend their Power of Pride Townhall. My guess is that they probably had to turn candidates away.
It’s true that today, more Americans have a much more positive view of the LGBQT community than they do of the atheist community, but there are still a large number of Americans who believe that being gay is abomination or that it is a sin against God. This very issue is a part of our secular values. The very reason why the LGBQT community has issues that need to be addressed is in large part due to the influence of religion on our society and our politics. The same thing is true for women’s rights. Why is it that red states keep trying to pass laws restricting abortion or other health issues concerning women? Religion!!! Religion is the Republican elephant in the room.
In 2012, the greater secular community gathered in the pouring rain on the Mall in Washington DC. The mission of the Reason Rally was to let politicians know that secular Americans exist and that we vote. It was an attempt to show that our voices should be heard and our concerns should be listened to. It failed, but now we have a chance to do better. Putting together a Secular Forum for Democratic candidates for President will propel our values to center stage. It will raise the profile of atheists and Humanists. It will create a platform for us to talk about secular issues and how those issues affect even the moderately religious.
Imagine someone who is moderately religious or someone who is a religious liberal tuning in to a forum where we are asking questions about secular issues. They will get to hear us raise our concerns about the separation of church and state, climate science, education, LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, religious objections to vaccinations, and a host of other issues that so many secular Americans care about. These tend to be issues most Democrats, non-religious and religious alike, care about. And dare I say it, most Americans in general care about these issues too. By framing it in a secular way it helps to show the country that atheists aren’t much different from most other Americans. Just having a forum like this will likely create more nonbelievers or at the very least help lessen the stigma against nonbelievers.
This primary season is just beginning and atheists, agnostics, and people of no religion in particular need a seat at the table. A Secular Forum would give us that seat. It’s time to once again let our politicians know that we are secular and that we vote.