Monday, June 2, 2008

Atheists Are Invisible

Or: Why I won't be registering, or voting in the coming election. Again.

To start, anyone who lives in the US, or is familiar with our political landscape, is most likely aware of the upcoming election.

We have one Republican nominee, and two potential Democrats.

Now, naturally, there are a million reasons I wouldn't vote for John McCain. Simplest would be his similarity to George Bush. The last eight years haven't worked, we don't need four (potentially eight) more of the same disastrous leadership.

Another would be, that Republicans are inherently bad for my interests, and in my opinion, bad for the interests of the country.

I also believe McCain touts his war record far too much. The time has passed where Americans are willing to jump up and elect the "War Hero". To wax geek, and quote Yoda, (from when George Lucas could still write dialogue), "Wars not make one great."

I don't find him to be a great man simply because he was in a war. A lot of people were in wars. It happens. You are a great person based on your achievements outside of battle.

Moving on, both Obama and Clinton have their share of issues that I am not fond of. First off, arrogance. Obama, I think, is more outward with his than Clinton is. While it may work for the general Joe and Jane Public, to act as though you can use your four (or eight) years to repair all the damage done in the last eight, that's simply not the case. What has been done in this country over the tenure of Bush cannot easily be repaired, and certainly won't be rectified over the course of one or two presidential terms.

Both could easily be accused of playing less to their strengths, and more to their stereotypes. "I'm going to be the first black president!", or "I"m going to be the first woman president!". Yes, that's lovely, but I don't care what color or gender you are, I care what you do. Who you are. Not what.

Both could also easily be accused of courting that base, while ignoring others. Obama is more concerned with the black vote than any other group, Clinton more so with the female vote.

This, I know, is politics. Talk a good game. Talk to the people who want to listen to you the most. If you can't dazzle them with your brilliance, baffle them with your bullshit. Business as usual. I understand how it all works.

Obama, I find too inexperienced for the job. He makes a lot of assumptions, he acts as though traveling abroad is enough to have the foreign policy experience, and everything else required to hold the reins of one of the most powerful nations on the planet. He talks a good game, but that's mostly all he does. Talk.

Clinton, I find too...conservative. She could honestly barely call herself a Democrat, with some of the views she holds. Too, well, too much of a politician. Business as usual, make a lot of promises you won't keep. Convince people you're the right choice, when you're no better than anyone else running. That, and frankly, I was disgusted to see her stand up there with Joe Lieberman, and that crackpot attorney Jack Thompson, screaming for the banning of Those Evil Video Games. Censorship isn't terribly Democratic.

Moving on, and bringing us to the true point of this, is why I will yet again refrain from registering to vote, and letting another election pass me by. This is something that every candidate in the running, now, in the past, and pretty much for all time is guilty of. To them, well, atheists are invisible.

We see Obama in church. We see Clinton in church. We hear about the importance of their faith. We hear them courting the vote of the religious.

Have they ever campaigned to earn the atheist vote? Admittedly, there's not a lot of us. That's not the point. We're still here, and we still deserve some form of voice in government, someone who, perhaps, has our interests at heart.

Atheists are the most hated minority in America. The most distrusted, and the most reviled.

Sound hard to believe?

Here are some statistics. Americans were asked in a Gallup poll to determine if they would refuse to vote for "a generally well-qualified person for president" on the basis of some characteristic: (Earlier statistics in parenthesis)

Catholic: 4% (1937: 30%)
Black: 5% (1958: 63%, 1987: 21%)
Jewish: 6% (1937: 47%)
Baptist: 6%
Woman: 8%
Mormon: 17%
Muslim: 38%
Gay: 37% (1978: 74%)
Atheist: 48%

Almost half of all Americans would refuse to vote for an atheist.

Here, we have a Pew Research Center study on "religion and public life", asking people for their attitudes toward various groups, including atheists. The breakdown for atheists is as follows:

Very Favorable: 7%
Mostly Favorable: 27%
Mostly Unfavorable: 19%
Very Unfavorable: 33%

s is rather telling.

Also from Pew, Americans who would refuse to vote for someone based on these:

Catholic: 8%
Jewish: 10%
Evangelical Christian: 15%
Muslim: 38%
Atheist: 50%

Now, the US is somewhat notorious for being anti-Muslim. It's definitely saying something, that atheists are considered lower on the totem pole than Muslims, in the eyes of America.

Following, are the numbers that show the opinions of born-again Christians, who regard the impact of these groups as negative:

Islam: 71%
Buddhism: 76%
Scientology: 81%
Atheism: 92%

Now, the same numbers for non-Christians.

Islam: 24%
Buddhism: 22%
Scientology: 30%
Atheism: 50%

This is from a study done by the University of Minnesota:

This group does not at all agree with my vision of American society...

    Atheist: 39.6%
    Muslims: 26.3%
    Homosexuals: 22.6%
    Hispanics: 20%
    Conservative Christians: 13.5%
    Recent Immigrants: 12.5%
    Jews: 7.6%

I would disapprove if my child wanted to marry a member of this group....

Atheist: 47.6%
Muslim: 33.5%
African-American 27.2%
Asian-Americans: 18.5%

Lead researcher Penny Edgell said that she was surprised by this: "We thought that in the wake of 9/11, people would target Muslims. Frankly, we expected atheists to be a throwaway group." Nevertheless, the numbers are so extreme that she was led to conclude that they are "a glaring exception to the rule of increasing tolerance over the last 30 years."

Atheism is the fastest growing religious identity in America. We're also the most hated. The most despised. The one group no one cares about, that everyone is free to hate without being called a bigot, the one that America feels comfortable with the idea of collectively demonizing.

Some state constitutions still continue to bar atheists from holding public office, despite federal law preventing a religious test for such things.

In 1987, Republican presidential candidate George H. W. Bush was quoted as saying this, in regards to a question posed to him about atheists:
"No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered as patriots. This is one nation under God."

Only 26% of Americans believe the right of atheists to speak against religion, gods, or to make fun of them should be legally protected. 71% believe that atheists should be denied access to public auditoriums to speak against god and religion.

So, what all this comes down to, is that I have never yet seen a political candidate speak as if I exist. To them, I am unimportant, irrelevant, and, frankly, immoral and possibly detrimental to the very fabric of American society.

So to them, I say: It might not mean much to say this now, but in the future it will: You cannot have my vote until you acknowledge that I exist.


The Red Queen said...

Us die hard agnostics are invisible too.

But I think using the term "invisible sky fairy" in place of god might get us some more recognition. At least that's what I hope.

Black Thirteen said...

Yeah, see, that's something that bugs me too.

I mean, atheists and agnostics are lumped together into one category by most of the media that bothers to acknowledge we're there.

To me, that's like lumping together Jews and Muslims.

It's two entirely different things!

I didn't include agnostics, because, admittedly, it's easier to find statistics on atheists. Probably due to the aforementioned grouping-up.

The Red Queen said...

True- we are like muslims and jews in that we both start at the same place- Is there a god?, and end at either no or can't be proven.

It's that we ask the question at all that gets us cast out from the believers.

Black Thirteen said...

Yeah, asking that question is Very Very Bad, apparently.

One of my least favorite things about the US.

No matter how much we progress, no matter how equal society tries to become, it's still totally okay to go after those damn non-believers and doubters.

Which is why I don't vote.

I know that a few missing atheist votes won't mean much, that it's akin to telling a massive chain retail store that you won't shop there anymore...

But you have to start somewhere.

The Red Queen said...

See, this is where being a girl comes in handy. I have a lifetime of experience supporting candidates that are the polar opposite of me (till Hillary, of course). So voting for a believer isn't that much more of a stretch.

Black Thirteen said...

I'm not sure I follow. Are you saying that if someone is male, they are automatically your polar opposite/Hillary is female, therefore exactly the same?

Or am I totally missing the point? Forgive me, it's a little late, and I am propped up by caffeine. :p

I suppose for me, the believer thing is a big issue, simply because as an atheist, I'm basically something that is a Serious Problem With America.

People don't want to oppress atheists. They want to remove them. Hillary or Barack could get on live television, say atheists are a horrid poison that is burning America from the inside out, and must be stopped in their tracks...

And it wouldn't hurt their polling at all.

I think when it comes down to it, that's why it's hard for me to hand a vote to a believer.

The Red Queen said...

Yes- at least in how society looks at me, men are the polar opposite.

And it ain't just atheists they want to burn. I have a stalker because I'm a mouthy feminist girl who just won't shut up and let the boys speak for me. Seriously. His whole problem with me is that i won't drink the Obama koolaid and I won't let him post sexist crap on my blog.

It's all a part of the patriarchy. Non-believers are scary to the patriarchy because they question how things are. If there is no god, then there is no god given right for men to rule over women.

Violet Socks at Reclusive Leftist has a great post in her archives about where male dominant societies come from. It explains not just dominance, but the creation of religion too.

The Red Queen said...

Link to Reclusive Leftist post

Black Thirteen said...

Yes- at least in how society looks at me, men are the polar opposite.

I try not to see things as black and white as that. Not always succeed, but no one is perfect.

I agree, though. It's just, as far as in public goes, atheists are the only group left that it's "safe" to be openly, nastily bigoted towards, without any fear of reprisal.

If you're sexist, someone will call you on it. If you're racist, someone will call you on it. If you're anti-this-or-that religion, you'll be called on it.

If you're anti-atheism, why, you're a good, god-fearing so and so.

Though, even to the females that are religious, non-believers are scary and bad.

I mean, the very core of pretty much any religion, when it comes to people you're supposed to be "against"...non-believers are generally regarded as worse than those of other beliefs.

At least you have a chance to convert those savages over there from their god to yours.

Non-believers are the lost cause.

Even though I find religion generally ridiculous and such, I'm still not cruel enough to ridicule it to people's faces. As much as I disagree with it, I know that to some people, those beliefs are practically their life, and they mean a lot to them.

It's an interesting article, but, (as usually happens), I find myself more intrigued by the discourse that unfolds in the comments.

One can make a post any time they want, but the true learning and such comes from getting multiple people to share their input. I enjoy perspective.