A brief update to pass along an exciting e-mail alert I received last night from the Secular Coalition for America:
On Monday, March 12, the Secular Coalition for America, a national lobbying group representing Americans who do not hold a god-belief, will make history by announcing the name of the first open nontheist member of Congress.
Yes, you read it right – there is an atheist in Congress, and one who is willing to step out of the closet and identify themself! I have no idea who it might be, though I can think of a few plausible guesses, and I can hardly wait the six days until the true answer is revealed.
This is huge news for freethinkers everywhere. Only one self-proclaimed nontheist in Congress, a legislative body of 535 members, is a dramatic underrepresentation considering our share of the population; but every political movement, freethinker or otherwise, has to start somewhere. Considering the tendency of politics to distill and amplify popular prejudices, since every elected official has to command the support of a majority of their constituents, even one atheist holding high office is hopeful news indeed. I’m certain there are other nontheists in Congress who have not yet dared to announce themselves – statistically, it’s inevitable – and perhaps the emergence of this trailblazing member will encourage others to speak up.
I’ve seen no official reaction from religious right organizations so far, though we can be sure they are already sharpening their knives. Given the predictable anti-atheist bigotry faced by past candidates whose nontheism was even suspected, there’s no doubt that the standard-bearers of superstition and ignorance will use this congressperson’s announcement as a point of attack against them in future elections (assuming they intend to seek reelection). And voters steeped in the politics of religious intolerance and division will likely go along, not realizing that the true courage and strength of character displayed by a politician willing to publicly speak out about their nonbelief is a far more trustworthy sign of integrity than pious professions of adherence to some ancient creed.
Whoever this congressperson is, I commend their bravery and the service they’re doing the atheist cause. In the long run, declarations like this will go a long way toward showing the public that we are people just like anyone else and deserve the same consideration. But realistically, in the short term, this courageous announcement may well harm its maker. For this reason, I personally intend to follow the NoGodBlog by making a substantial donation to this person’s reelection campaign, to reward them for their courage and honesty. (I reserve the right to change my mind on this if the congressperson in question is a supporter of George W. Bush’s lawless authoritarianism, but I find that unlikely.) I hope my readers will do the same.
Since we have time for speculation, does anyone have any guesses on who it might be? I think Bernie Sanders is a possibility, but there are other names that might also fit the bill.