Why I'm Donating to Kay Hagan

In case you haven’t heard, Kay Hagan is the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate seat in North Carolina, running against Republican incumbent Elizabeth Dole. Yesterday, Dole and her staff put out a press release attacking Hagan… for planning to attend a fundraiser held by atheists. (HT: Friendly Atheist).

According to Dole’s press release:

“Kay Hagan does not represent the values of this state; she is a Trojan Horse for a long list of wacky left-wing outside groups bent on policies that would horrify most North Carolinians if they knew about it,” McLagan said. “This latest revelation of support from anti-religion activists will not sit well with the 90% of state residents who identify with a specific religious faith.”

The atheists in question are Wendy Kaminer and her husband Woody, who are board members of the Secular Coalition for America and the Secular Student Alliance, and advisors to American Atheists’ Godless Americans Political Action Committee. Wendy Kaminer is also a feminist, former board member of the ACLU and author of books like Sleeping with Extra-Terrestrials: The Rise of Irrationalism and Perils of Piety.

These are all accomplishments that deserve celebration, and they are in accord with the values of secularism and free thought that are part of America’s heritage. They are not, as Dole would have it, “the left-wing fringe”.

It’s about time we saw atheists taking a greater role in American political life, and I’m not about to stand by and watch while we’re dragged through the mud by self-righteous demagogues who slander us in order to appeal to the ignorant and prejudiced. If we’re going to have an influence on American civic life, we need to flex our political muscles. Kay Hagan ought to be rewarded for inviting nonbelievers onto her platform, and Elizabeth Dole and the Republicans need to learn that they’ll pay a price for attacking atheists with bigoted stereotypes that appeal to the most regressive and superstitious elements of society.

I’m donating $100 to Kay Hagan’s campaign today, and I intend to send letters to both her campaign and Dole’s to let them know why. If you can contribute, please consider doing so. Friendly Atheist is compiling a list of letters and contributions – please add your name to the list!

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  • http://bridgingschisms.org Eshu

    Good idea.
    Note the wording “anti-religion activists”. Sounds worse than atheist and indeed I think atheists are almost unanimously in favour of freedom of belief. Dole’s wording implies “they want to take our religion away!”.

  • Valhar2000

    Dole: “You is not taking ma buy-bull! It’s in the constitootion!”

  • http://www.jewelisms.com/ Jewel

    I grew up in North Carolina and sadly I ran into attitudes like that of Dole far too often. It’s good to see people like Hagan looking to change that.

  • bestonnet

    If atheism were as accepted as Christianity and there were no special privileges given to the religious (i.e. complete equality) the Christians would find overtime that they lose market share (not all to atheism though atheism and non-religious spirituality seem to gain the most from secularisation) so I think there is some truth to claims that atheists are inherently anti-religious (even the ones that aren’t antitheists).

    Even without atheism being accepted and with religious special privilege still existing the ranks of the non-religious are swelling.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    I disagree that seeking equality and fairness somehow designates atheists as anti-religious.

  • http://sisyphusfragment.wordpress.com Sisyphus Fragment

    The only way we are going to be able to fight political injustice is to have our own political party. We skeptics have to come together and put our money where our minds are. We need to create a party just for us and push people up and into office. I wouldn’t expect this party to run for president, but getting rational Senators and Representatives into state and federal governments should not be that difficult if we could just get all the atheists to work together. We’re a huge minority, 30 million plus, that’s a lot of voting power. Democrats, Republicans.. How about the Rationalists?

  • http://collapsingwaves.wordpress.com Brad

    Seeking equality and fairness is only anti-religious to the extent that we tear down their unrighteously superior privelages. I suppose that would indeed be seen as a threat by some religious folks.

  • Christopher

    In short, the radical fundamentalists are just crying “wolf” because their afraid they’ve lost the culture war… What else is new?

  • Siamang

    Thanks for helping spread the word.

    Now everyone else, go donate. Reward good behavior. Show these people that we will not shut up, nor silence ourselves, nor be relegated to the fringes of political discourse.

  • bestonnet

    OMGF:

    I disagree that seeking equality and fairness somehow designates atheists as anti-religious.

    It’s a bit indirect and Brad does explain it pretty well.

    The main part of it is that the religion can’t compete in a fair fight and so need to have things rigged in their favour by special privileges and so even though many atheists aren’t trying to get rid of religion such a thing would be an almost inevitable result of us getting full equality.

    Besides, we’re saying (just by our very existence) that their religions are wrong which pretty much automatically makes us their enemy.

    Christopher:

    In short, the radical fundamentalists are just crying “wolf” because their afraid they’ve lost the culture war… What else is new?

    Pretty much it (though we haven’t won the war on Christmas yet).

    They’re outnumbered by the non-religious (who are growing much faster than they are), the nominally religious are starting to hate them and it’s starting to look like atheists will have the influence within the democratic party in a couple of decades they have within the republican party now. They have good reason to be afraid (as they’ll end up irrelevant in a couple of decades).

    The religious nuts here seem to be trying to copy the US Christian Coalition but given that we’re further along the path of secularisation than you they aren’t likely to get very far.

    Sisyphus Fragment:

    The only way we are going to be able to fight political injustice is to have our own political party. We skeptics have to come together and put our money where our minds are. We need to create a party just for us and push people up and into office. I wouldn’t expect this party to run for president, but getting rational Senators and Representatives into state and federal governments should not be that difficult if we could just get all the atheists to work together. We’re a huge minority, 30 million plus, that’s a lot of voting power. Democrats, Republicans.. How about the Rationalists?

    Realistically all that would accomplish is to divert votes that would otherwise go to the democrats to someone that doesn’t have a chance of winning (which may cause a republican to be elected instead which would probably be worse).

    Maybe if you were lucky you might be able to scare the democrats enough for them to realise that pandering to atheists is a good idea but I doubt you’d get many people elected.

    If the US had a better voting system or Bush hadn’t screwed things up as much then it might be worth a try but with what you’ve got at the moment it’s probably too risky.

    The best thing to do in the US is probably to take over one of the main parties, it looks like it should be possible to get the democrats to embrace atheists as a main support base and there’s an off chance that the republicans could be taken over (one of the conservative or libertarian republicans standing in a relatively secular area could see an opportunity to get atheist votes).

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    bestonnet,
    I see what you are saying about anti-religion, but I don’t think it’s the right term to use. If I don’t think that blondes should get special privileges, am I anti-blonde? I would prefer to say pro equal rights.

  • Alex Weaver

    I see what you are saying about anti-religion, but I don’t think it’s the right term to use. If I don’t think that blondes should get special privileges, am I anti-blonde? I would prefer to say pro equal rights.

    Will taking special privileges away from blondes, and accepting non-blondes, tend to result in a dramatic decrease in the number of blondes? If not, how is this analogous?

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    You’re right Alex, the analogy is not perfect (although less people might choose to dye their hair that color). Still, being pro-rights is not the same as being anti-religious. I’m not trying to force anyone to not be religious (I hope to sway some people through the logic of my arguments, but I won’t force anyone). I also don’t seek to put religious people on a lower tier of humanity or citizenship. I don’t seek to revoke their rights by any stretch or make their religion illegal. I only seek to destroy the special privileges that they gain simply by claiming they are religious, privileges that are not open to all. This is not being anti-religious, but being anti-special privileges or pro-equal privileges.

  • bestonnet

    Atheists getting equality will likely lead to the end of religion (or at least its massive decline) which does mean that being pro-equality and against religious special privileges is to a degree anti-religious (since it will have the effect on hurting religion).

    We don’t have to oppress religious people to destroy religion, just offer them superior alternatives for the functions that religion tries to fulfil and over time each generation will be less and less religious and eventually religion will be marginalised to the point at which it has no real influence.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    I’m still failing to see how that is anti-religious. If you have a club that people attend and then I form a different club that people can choose, the amount of people joining your club might decline as some of them choose mine. Does this mean that I am anti-your club? Maybe this is a bad analogy, since atheism is not a club like religion is, but this is akin to saying that Baptists are anti-Catholic because they have a competing ideology, or Xians are anti-Muslim or anti-Jew. By this logic, we could all say that we are anti-straight people if we support gay rights, since it will make being gay more acceptable and less gay people will pretend to be straight, thus lowering the ranks of straight people. I think it’s unnecessarily inflamatory to say that we are anti-religion when we simply seek to have a level playing field and it plays right into the hands of the bigoted evangelicals that would like nothing better than to be able to scream, “See, they want to take away your right to believe in god!”

  • bestonnet

    Some people do think that way.

    Besides, being anti-religious doesn’t mean we want to away their right to believe in god (I suspect that we both are anti-religious in the stronger sense) and should be opposed in a way that doesn’t try to claim that atheists aren’t anti-religious (some may not want religion gone but those of us who would like to see it go do exist and would try to get rid of it (peacefully seems attainable and preferred (not to mention what can happen when you push secularisation too fast in a highly religious populous), though I’m not morally opposed to less peaceful means against those who use force to ensure religious conformity (though there may be practical matters that prevent it being a good idea in many instances))).

  • Christopher

    bestonnet,

    “Pretty much it (though we haven’t won the war on Christmas yet).

    They’re outnumbered by the non-religious (who are growing much faster than they are), the nominally religious are starting to hate them and it’s starting to look like atheists will have the influence within the democratic party in a couple of decades they have within the republican party now. They have good reason to be afraid (as they’ll end up irrelevant in a couple of decades).”

    If they are just a decade or two away from collapse into irrelevence, only a miracle (ex. the rise of another Constantine) can save them – thus this culture war is all but won.

    My question is this: what will the next culture war be when the religious radicals are gone (or at least reduced to impotence)?

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    bestonnet,
    <blockquoteSome people do think that way.
    Of course they do. So, do we let them frame the argument (oh no, not the dreaded framing) and vilify us, or do we stand up for ourselves and tell it like it is? If we simply agree that we are anti-religious, then why should they not feel threatened?

    As to your other point, yes, in the sense that I think that religion is wrong and delusional and dangerous, I’m anti-religious, just as I’d be considered anti-anything else that is wrong, delusional, and dangerous. But, I’m not anti-religious in the sense implied here. I’m not looking to disenfranchise anyone, nor force them to disbelieve in god. In fact, if believers could stop trying to run my life and foist their beliefs on me (which is a side-effect of their special privilege in most cases) I could care less if they believe in some sky fairy.

  • http://atheists.meetup.com/157/ Shannon M Singleton

    Ebonmuse, I wanted to let you know that I basically stole your post and incorporated it into an email to my atheist group here in Phoenix asking anyone who wanted to donate to do so. I then followed up with this email to Elizabeth Dole’s campaign and CC’d my group and Kay Hagan:

    To whom it may concern in the Elizabeth Dole campaign,

    My name is Shannon M. Singleton and I am an organizer for a local atheist group in Phoenix, AZ and I wanted to inform you that I took offense to your press release regarding the proposed actions of Kay Hagan, Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate seat in North Carolina. In your press release, you stated:

    “Kay Hagan does not represent the values of this state; she is a Trojan Horse for a long list of wacky left-wing outside groups bent on policies that would horrify most North Carolinians if they knew about it,” [Communications Director Dan] McLagan said. “This latest revelation of support from anti-religion activists will not sit well with the 90% of state residents who identify with a specific religious faith.”

    Excuse me? The Secular Coalition of America is a group “bent on policies that would horrify most North Carolinians”??? You specifically (and correctly) state that the purpose of the Secular Coalition is:

    “the national lobby for atheists, humanists, freethinkers and other nontheistic Americans with the unique mission of protecting their civil rights.” (Secular Coalition For America, Press Release, 1/16/08)

    And you are right… the coalition is there specifically to protect our civil rights!! Can you imagine the backlash you would receive if you were chastising Mrs Hagan for associating with the 10% section of the population who refer to themselves as Jews? Or African Americans? You would be run out of town with such bigotted commentary such as that!

    But alas we still live in a country where the last unprotected minority are those sad, few non-believers who want nothing more than fair treatment in this great nation. However as the days go by, more and more of us are willing to stand up and speak out to let people like you know that we are not going to take this anymore.

    For your actions, I have made a donation to Kay Hagan’s campaign in the hopes of unseating you from your position as representative of your state in this country that stands for freedom and equality. I have also notified the 430 members in my group of the situation and have asked them to do the same (if they so desire).

    I hope that next time you will not disregard the impact that you can have by dismissing a proud, patriotic group of Americans simply because they do not believe in the same god as you do.

    Thank you for your time,

    -Shannon M. Singleton-
    Organizer – The Phoenix Atheists Meetup Group
    http://atheists.meetup.com/157

    So I wanted to thank you for informing me of this, I hope to make quite an impact!!

  • bestonnet

    Christopher:

    If they are just a decade or two away from collapse into irrelevence, only a miracle (ex. the rise of another Constantine) can save them – thus this culture war is all but won.

    We can’t predict the future with certainty but it does look very unlikely that we won’t win the culture war (though a wounded animal is most dangerous, or at least that’s what the saying says).

    Christopher:

    My question is this: what will the next culture war be when the religious radicals are gone (or at least reduced to impotence)?

    How am I meant to know?

    OMGF:

    Of course they do. So, do we let them frame the argument (oh no, not the dreaded framing) and vilify us, or do we stand up for ourselves and tell it like it is? If we simply agree that we are anti-religious, then why should they not feel threatened?

    There is always honesty, many of us are directly anti-religious and we do want the right to be anti-religious and to try to persuade the religious to give up their religion.

    Besides, the Overton window does need to be moved towards the anti-religious position.

  • Christopher

    bestonnet,

    “We can’t predict the future with certainty but it does look very unlikely that we won’t win the culture war (though a wounded animal is most dangerous, or at least that’s what the saying says).”

    Maybe, but I think it’s safe to start thinking about the next culture right now.

    Also bestonnet,

    “How am I meant to know?”

    That wasn’t a question particularly directed at you, just merely laying the groundwork for us to start thinking about what would happen next: what will change, what allies in the previous set of culture wars would become rivals, what will be the central issues of the new culture wars, etc…?

    I have my own ideas, but I’d like to know what others think before voicing them…

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    bestonnet,

    There is always honesty, many of us are directly anti-religious and we do want the right to be anti-religious and to try to persuade the religious to give up their religion.

    I too would like to see people give up their religions, but only because they continually keep fighting wars over who has the better god and feel compelled to try and compel me to believe as they do. This is quite a different thing though from the “anti-religion” that is being talked about by Dole and her cronies. We are NOT anti-religion simply for wanting to be part of the political process or have equal rights/standing. That was what I was objecting to from the beginning.

  • bestonnet

    Christopher:

    Maybe, but I think it’s safe to start thinking about the next culture right now.

    That wasn’t a question particularly directed at you, just merely laying the groundwork for us to start thinking about what would happen next: what will change, what allies in the previous set of culture wars would become rivals, what will be the central issues of the new culture wars, etc…?

    Interesting question. Human enhancement technology will create some conflicts but I’m not expecting them to last very long (since very few people will want to forgo the benefits available and thus the bioconservatives will lose by default). The problems with the environment I’m confident we’ll solve (though not as quickly as we should have and with some damage to clean up) and I can see atheism being the ultimate civil rights movement (i.e. once we’ve got majority atheism we’ll have a much easier time when changing morality when it needs to be changed). Democracy is slowly spreading into ever more countries.

    OMGF:

    I too would like to see people give up their religions, but only because they continually keep fighting wars over who has the better god and feel compelled to try and compel me to believe as they do. This is quite a different thing though from the “anti-religion” that is being talked about by Dole and her cronies. We are NOT anti-religion simply for wanting to be part of the political process or have equal rights/standing. That was what I was objecting to from the beginning.

    Whilst we may be only wanting to get rid of special privileges and put everyone on a level playing field the fact is that such a thing will probably end religion (not instantly, but over several generations). There are also some of us who hold the likelihood of secularisation killing religion as a reason to favour it.

    The previous civil rights fights, e.g. women’s lib, racial equality, gay rights; weren’t between those who were inherently opposed to each other nor could either side change into the other (reparative ‘therapy’ quackery notwithstanding) but in the case of equal rights for atheists that very much is the case.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    bestonnet,
    I disagree. I don’t think it’s the case that secularization necessarily must kill religion. People would still be free to believe as they want to believe, they simply would not be able to impose that on the government or other citizens. That’s what secularization means. It’s a side effect that people will probably come to see atheism as a better view of the world, thus lowering the ranks of the theists, but again that doesn’t make us anti-religious simply because our idea will win over some of the theists. If your logic were to hold, then those who support abortion rights can be labeled anti-life as the anti-choice people like to call us. The net effect of making abortion easier to obtain is that less women will be forced into giving birth to unwanted children, thus meaning more fetuses will die. Because that is the outcome of pushing for more choice, by your logic, I am anti-life. I reject this, however. I am no more anti-life for supporting a women’s reproductive choices than I am anti-religion for supporting equal rights for all believers and non-believers.

  • bestonnet

    OMGF:

    I disagree. I don’t think it’s the case that secularization necessarily must kill religion. People would still be free to believe as they want to believe, they simply would not be able to impose that on the government or other citizens. That’s what secularization means. It’s a side effect that people will probably come to see atheism as a better view of the world, thus lowering the ranks of the theists, but again that doesn’t make us anti-religious simply because our idea will win over some of the theists.

    Aside from the fact that I can’t help feeling like we’re talking past each other I still think that something which will likely result in religion disappearing (not completely but pretty close to it) is by implication anti-religious.

    It doesn’t have to be unfair to the religious or even intended to destroy religion, but if that’s what it’ll do then how could it not be called anti-religious?

    Being anti-religious isn’t a problem, it is the public perception that anti-religious is bad that is the problem.

    OMGF:

    If your logic were to hold, then those who support abortion rights can be labeled anti-life as the anti-choice people like to call us. The net effect of making abortion easier to obtain is that less women will be forced into giving birth to unwanted children, thus meaning more fetuses will die. Because that is the outcome of pushing for more choice, by your logic, I am anti-life.

    Actually it isn’t.

    If a woman wants an abortion she will get it, legally or not (the correlation between banning abortion and abortion rates is actually negative).

    The only difference is that legal abortions are a lot safer.

    Those of us who want to protect women’s choice in the matter are actually the true pro-lifers because it is our policies which will result in less deaths of women from unsafe abortions (while possibly lowering the abortion rate, although I suspect the negative correlation is due to higher contraceptives use in the countries that allow abortion).

    Besides, a foetus isn’t a person.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    bestonnet,
    I disagree that anything that has the net effect of lower the membership of a group is anti-that group, as I pointed out in my club example. And I think that whether anti-religious is bad or not is immaterial in that either way it is being thrust upon us improperly.

    I also don’t want to argue abortion, since we are on the same page, I was simply using your logic to point out why I’m disagreeing with you. And, no, not all women who would otherwise have an abortion given the option still do so, although I agree with you that back-alley abortions go up when abortion is banned or made harder to obtain. But, using your logic, I will argue that by increasing access to abortion, the net effect will be that the next generations will be more used to the idea and it will be less taboo. Therefore, more women who would normally be cowed into submission and forced to have their children (through not having access to clinics, being smart enough not to go back-alley, being peer-pressured into it, etc.) will end up having abortions to control their own lives. How could someone – again using your logic – not label us as anti-life? (Oh, and note, I never said that fetuses are people, but I don’t think we can deny that the cells are alive, thus I said “anti-life” not “anti-human life.” I was very careful to make that distinction.)

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    Far be it from me to celebrate prematurely, but a recent poll found that Kay Hagan leads Elizabeth Dole by five points in North Carolina.

    I also sent a sharp letter to the Dole campaign explaining why I donated money to her opponent, to which I got the following ironic automated reply:

    Thank you for contacting The Elizabeth Dole Committee. Senator Dole
    appreciates hearing from people regarding issues that are important to them.
    We will be sure to pass your message along to her. If you have any other
    questions or concerns please feel free to contact us at anytime. Thanks
    again for contacting The Elizabeth Dole Committee and may God bless you and
    your family.

  • Virginia

    The main part of it is that the religion can’t compete in a fair fight and so need to have things rigged in their favour by special privileges and so even though many atheists aren’t trying to get rid of religion such a thing would be an almost inevitable result of us getting full equality.

    Besides, we’re saying (just by our very existence) that their religions are wrong which pretty much automatically makes us their enemy.

    In fact, my part of the world, Christians wanted to retain their “special rights” to discriminate against non-believers (e.g. church organizations, church founded schools employ only Christians) and mistreating homosexuals (e.g. they can refuse to provide serivces to them).
    With the other added privileges, they want their domain to stay intact, and that they can lure new recruits to their cause.