Should Atheists Vote in the Upcoming Election?

Ellen Johnson, president of American Atheists, sat out of New Jersey’s primary voting on Super Tuesday.

Why?

“I didn’t vote because I’m tired of being ignored by the politicians… because I’m an atheist. All of the candidates court the religious voters and ignore me.”

She then urges the 11% of non-religious voters to “stay home” during the 2008 general elections.

This is the same person who urged us to “vote our atheism” only a month ago (she acknowledges this), but “there aren’t any candidates for us,” she says now:

Of course, non-religious people are a sizable percentage of the population (though we do not vote as a bloc). And, yes, it would be wonderful if candidates made more mention of non-religious Americans. But what is more important: Having a candidate share our values or having a candidate make a special outreach to atheist voters? I really don’t care about the latter if the former is taking place.

Johnson says she wants a candidate who will defend the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Just for the record, here’s Barack Obama:

For one, [conservative leaders] need to understand the critical role that the separation of church and state has played in preserving not only our democracy, but the robustness of our religious practice. Folks tend to forget that during our founding, it wasn’t the atheists or the civil libertarians who were the most effective champions of the First Amendment. It was the persecuted minorities, it was Baptists like John Leland who didn’t want the established churches to impose their views on folks who were getting happy out in the fields and teaching the scripture to slaves. It was the forbearers of the evangelicals who were the most adamant about not mingling government with religious, because they did not want state-sponsored religion hindering their ability to practice their faith as they understood it.

Johnson says she wants a candidate who will appoint judges and justices who will also defend the First Amendment.

Here’s Obama’s smackdown of Justice Janice Rogers Brown. Read that and then tell me he doesn’t want to appoint judges who respect the First Amendment.

Johnson says she wants a candidate who will support the teaching of Evolution in public schools.

Obama said in an interview that “Evolution is more grounded in my experience than angels.”

Johnson goes on to talk about a president who won’t participate in prayers breakfasts or take the Oath on a Bible… good luck with those. The candidates are religious and they will still be religious when elected. As long as they represent everybody, and are not involved in the government favoring one faith over another or faith over no faith, I’ll live.

No need to sit out the election, though. Obama’s a fine candidate for atheists and theists alike. I haven’t heard him making special accommodations for the Religious Right. I don’t expect to see him changing tradition just to appease us. So long as he makes decisions with everyone in mind and continues to act in a progressive manner like he’s done in the Senate, we’ll be ok.

Your atheism is an issue to consider when voting, but it’s not the only issue, and it’s certainly not the most important issue. Not if the candidate is a religious moderate like Obama.

On a side note, Johnson also makes a reference to atheists sitting in the “back of the bus.” I don’t think you can compare what atheists have had to go through (on the whole) to what African-Americans have dealt with in the past several decades. That part just rubbed me the wrong way.

(via NoGodBlog)


[tags]atheist, atheism[/tags]

  • http://groundedinreality.blogspot.com Bruce

    After eight years of Republican rule, I think it is completely irresponsible to be telling people to sit out the election. Granted, not every atheist is going to vote Democrat, but my guess is that the good majority of us are. Sure, the Dems pander to the religious. But who do you think is actually going to do more harm to the Establishment Clause, Republican or Democrat? Who is going to get to appoint the next few Supreme Court judges?

    Johnson is wrong on this one. The reality is that the only two people who stand a chance of being elected President in 08 are the Republican nominee or the Democratic nominee. And that will most likely be the same for ’12 and ’16 and ’20. Sitting out the election ain’t going to change any of that, but it may potentially cause more harm to us and our country.

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/ miller

    Not voting is not a very good way to call attention to yourself. It just makes it easier to ignore you. This is just a bad idea no matter how I look at it.

  • http://looneyfundamentalist.blogspot.com/ Looney

    From the referenced article quoting Obama: “When Justice Brown wanted to limit the ability of juries to punish companies that engage in severe discrimination, a fellow judge on the California Supreme Court accused her of engaging in “judicial law making.””

    This is a reference to the transition of America’s judicial system into an extension of the lottery. Brown thinks it is a bad idea. Obama not only disagrees, but believes that this disqualifies her. Why not sue at random for $1 billion in damages? Sure it may cost millions of dollars if you lose, but you won’t be paying the bill and you might win. All you need to do is to dream up an imaginary wrong and you are in the system. Yeeee Haaaa!

    This kind of legal mindset of Edwards and Obama is fun for awhile, especially if you happen to be one of the few winners. For most of society, however, there is a hell of a price to pay. (Think rising health care prices.) Is this really a Christian/Atheist issue?

  • http://bjornisageek.blogspot.com Bjorn Watland

    Are we running into a kind of intolerance? If an atheist were running for president, and completely immoral, would you vote for them? Shouldn’t a candidate’s moral character and leadership mean more then where they stand philosophically or theologically? I have met atheists who want to prohibit any expression of religious faith. I think that is wrong. We may be losing in the world of ideas because we aren’t giving a very good pitch, and not offering a replacement, even temporary for strong believers, but that’s no reason to prohibit religious practice.

    Do candidates speak to religious voters, sure. Even Johnson admits that believers are on both sides of the aisle. So, candidates don’t “preach” to the religious generally, but to particular people who value particular issues. I don’t feel repressed if a candidate has a faith I disagree with, but I am free to judge whether I think that faith is right, or wrong, and I am free to judge the values the candidate holds as right or wrong.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Almost sounds like Johnson wants to introduce a “non-religious test for office”. Refusing to vote for anyone who doesn’t share your religious (or non-religious) beliefs is a bad idea, no matter what those beliefs are.

  • http://goliath.mee.nu/ James

    This coming general election for the next POTUS is one of, if not the, most important election in recent memory. Yes, the Shrub has majorly screwed things over for us. But if the right candidate isn’t put into office, the Shrub’s mistakes will almost certainly be made permanent or worse.

    As much as I agree with Johnson in that it would be great to see an atheist run for major office like US Representative or US Senator or even POTUS… I just don’t see it happening until maybe my grandkid’s lifetime, if ever, just due to the effect of religion and its power and influence. This country must majorly overcome its innate prejudices before we will see someone run for POTUS and no one will care about their religious preference or lack of one.

  • Mriana

    I think it is a mistake too. The only way to get your voice heard IS to vote! Personally, I’m going to vote regardless of what she says, but then again, I’ve always done what I wanted to do or felt was best.

  • http://www.secularplanet.org Secular Planet

    You don’t get people to seek your support by not voting. You do it by voting. The conservatives seek the support of the religious right precisely because they do such a good job at getting out the vote. Candidates aren’t going to go after an unproven bloc of voters after an invisible protest!

    We need atheists to use their brains to help pick the best candidates, not sit on the sideline whining about one issue.

  • http://www.bolingbrookbabbler.com William

    I remember in college listening to the radicals socialists that you shouldn’t vote, and then complaining about how disempowered they were. All they were really doing was creating a cult-like environment within their groups. In their minds it was them against the world. Only the group can help you.

    The candidates are not perfect, but you should vote. Because you don’t, someone else will, and they may vote for the candidate that is bad for you.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    Everybody eligible to vote should vote. Period. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

  • http://heathendad.blogspot.com/ HappyNat

    She isn’t making any sense, first vote atheism and now this. If “we” all sat out and didn’t vote, it wouldn’t send a message we would just disappear into the 50% of Americans who already don’t vote.

  • http://www.skepchick.org writerdd

    That’s the dummest advice I’ve ever heard. Shame on Ellen Johnson. If the Republicans win this election, the Supreme Court will be completely overrun by neocon theocrats. Democracy — and religious freedom — in the US will be a thing of the past.

  • valhar2000

    Hemant wrote:

    I don’t think you can compare what atheists have had to go through (on the whole) to what African-Americans have dealt with in the past several decades

    As I’ve said before, I disagree with that. You can compare the plight of black people to the plight of atheists. In fact, you learn a lot by seeing where they differ. I maintain that a significant, possibly the most significant, reason atheists have not had it as bad as black people have is that it is easy to hide one’s atheism, whereas it is impossible to hide one’s race (and even then, there were people who “passed for white”).

    For this reason, I think comparing atheism to homosexuality (in terms of social movements) is very apt.

  • Joseph R.

    Jeff and writerdd,
    I second that.
    What the hell is wrong with Ellen Johnson? Don’t vote? Is she a complete idiot. I lost what little respect I had left for her. Voting is an activity that we enjoy by virtue of living in a free nation. I can sit here and tell everyone that Dubya is an idiot and not fear for mine or my family’s safety. If we recuse ourselves from voting, then we run the risk of living under an oppressive Huckabee “regime”(remember his comment on changing the U.S. constitution to reflect his Christian view point). Huckabee, DON’T FUCK WITH MY CONSTITUTION!!!! (that goes for everybody else as well)

  • http://www.debations.com Mark J. Seydel

    Bad move. Every vote counts! Although I know that Ron Paul doesn’t have a snowballs chance in and oven I will vote for him because he is the candidate that believe in. If it were all about ME I would not vote. I disagree with Ron Paul on some issues, but feel he would be best for the COUNTRY.

    If you feel your vote doesn’t count in the actual election of a president you may be correct, but what about being true to yourself?

    As to all of you “lesser of two evils voters” – The lesser of two evils is still an “evil”.

  • http://www.webs05.com Webs

    As an atheist it pisses me off that people make religion and what candidate they vote for, a one issue vote, or election. Or not even religion, I have conservative friends not voting for Obama solely for his stance on abortion. When you vote based on one issue you get everything you have coming to you. I am speaking mainly to Evangelicals and their vote for Bush.

    So why the fuck would I not vote because there isn’t an atheist candidate, or one that openly supports atheism? If I do so I have now turned the election into a one issue election for me. That’s stupid beyond belief, besides the fact that atheists tend to be Liberal, and not voting would likely give conservatives an edge. Please Ellen, explain to me how throwing the election to a conservative is going to help the atheist cause? I must be missing something…

    I could go on an on but at some point I have to stop myself.

  • Bytesmythe

    The point she’s missing is this: candidates aren’t courting the approximately 90% of religious voters, they are courting the smaller “religious right”. The 10% of atheist voters are all over the map politically, but the religious right is not. They are practically guaranteed to all vote the same way. That’s why candidates can afford to ignore atheists, but not the fundamentalists.

  • http://mollishka.blogspot.com mollishka

    OBAMA OBAMA OBAMA!!!

  • AJ

    Someone who doesn’t see a problem with taking the Oath on a Bible, “under God” in the pledge, or faith based iniatives isn’t for the separation of church and state. That’s not someone who shares our values. Obama’s line about evolution makes no commitment to help teachers, or stop creationism entering schools. Don’t make him out to be a good candidate for secularism when he clearly isn’t, because you like him on other positions.

    There’s something to be said for protest votes, but I don’t think now is the time to do it, the cost would be too high. The Republican candidates are really bad, much worse than Obama. Huckabee said he wants to change the constituion to “God’s law”. It’s really important now the Democrats elect judges to the supreme court.

  • Edwin

    I disagree with Ron Paul on some issues, but feel he would be best for the COUNTRY.

    I am a certain atheist, and I was originally interested in Ron Paul and had considered supporting him. I decided against that when I realized that he is a theocrat, not dissimilar to Huckabee in his desire to change the constitution and kill the first amendment. That link is to my blog posting about that.

    I voted for Obama in the primary, and I’ll go for the Democrat winner in the general election. My reasoning is that Obama will appoint the best Supreme Court judges. If McCain wins, and three judges are replaced during his tenure, the United States will fall into theocracy. Voting for Ron Paul in the general election, when you could have voted for a real candidate like Obama, just helps us edge that much closer to theocracy.

  • http://odgie.wordpress.com Odgie

    If she keeps saying things like this, she is going to become to atheism what Falwell was to evangelicalism.

  • Roe

    I really wish Atheism was better represented. The few times I’ve seen her speak it was terrible and here she is making more bad press. What an idiot.

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  • PuckishOne

    Well, I can now cross American Atheists off my list of organizations that I’ll support. What exactly is Ellen Johnson trying to accomplish here? First “vote atheist” (the same sort of single-issue illogic that plagues the conservative Christians), then “don’t vote at all because no one listens to us” (the same sort of apathetic crap that’s contributed heavily to the problems with the political system)??? When I read of “superdelegates” in my state who are willing to disregard the votes of the people in favor of their pet candidate, I can hardly pay heed to Ms. Johnson simply because she heads an organization that, nominally, represents me. I will use my vote, my voice, and everything else at my disposal to make sure that I am heard, not merely as an atheist, but as a concerned citizen of this country. I wonder what Ellen Johnson’s concerns are?

  • Karen

    Wow, what an irresponsible and ridiculous position to take. I am very disappointed in her and her organization.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    If she keeps saying things like this, she is going to become to atheism what Falwell was to evangelicalism.

    Not really. Falwell was responsible for getting evangelicals back to the voting booths. Johnson’s goal seems to be the opposite.

    Though they are similar on the “single-issue voter” thing, which is a really moronic way to vote IMHO.

  • http://mindcore.podbean.com mindcore

    Eddie Tabash from CFI west says we should vote democratic so no more religious judges get on the Supreme Court.

  • ellen

    I would never “sit out” ANY election. SOME ONE MUST BE ELECTED. Therefore, I will cast my vote, if nothing else, for the least offensive candidate. To do any less is completely irresponsible and childish.

    If you want change, work for change. Sitting out an election and pouting because the candidate you wanted was not on the ballot is NOT the way to effect change.

  • http://www.SecularDignity.net Secular Dignity

    After all the pandering the Republicans have done to the Religious Reich, I do not see myself EVER voting for them.

    To paint with a broad brush, it seems like a lot of Republicans and conservatives want to use religion to control people. Democrats and liberals want to use religion to improve help people.

  • JimboB

    Sometimes I wish voters had a mandatory IQ test before casting their votes. The higher your IQ, the more weight your vote carries. Maybe then the small percentage of rational people could topple the overwhelming amounts of stupidity that the majority brings to the election polls.

    *le sigh*

    EDIT: I don’t want to make it sound like religious people are idiots. A lot of people, in general, make uninformed decisions based on faulty reasoning. This election is a big deal, and I think people need prove that they are making informed decisions and eliminating irrational biases as much as humanly possible.

    /rant

  • http://lifewithoutfaith.com Richard

    It’s funny, I kinda thought the same thing. I ended up voting for Obama.

    Richard
    http://lifewithoutfaith.com

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    I’m sticking by “one person, one vote”. Everybody has the same stake in life regardless of IQ and should be equally represented.

    That said, I wonder who would win a caged wrestling match between Ellen Johnson and Ann Coulter? ;)

  • JimboB

    You’re probably right about the equal representation Jeff…

    Oh, and Ellen Johnson all the way :P

  • Aj

    I think a lot of people don’t understand the concept of protesting a vote, at least people aren’t expressing arguments against the concept, but dislike of the implications of it. Why do the Democrats perform reach arounds on the religious to try to get their votes, but they won’t even attempt to flirt with atheists?

    Ellen thinks that it’s because they’re afraid of losing votes. The problem is, damn it, that atheists are too damn easy. Why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free? While the Republicans are bending over backwards to appease the Religious Right, atheists get nothing, because the Democrats can rely on atheists to vote whether they acknowledge atheists or not. The Democrats won’t speak up about secularism, but they’ll spend a lot of time in church saying how much they love Jesus. Make it harder for them, make it clear to them, and then they’ll come knocking.

    Voting for the lesser of two evils doesn’t lead to change, it doesn’t progress secularism, they only have to be better than the opposition who are progressing, in the wrong direction. That’s the argument for protest votes.

  • Maria

    it’s not worth having another Republican president. Just let the Republicans ride in? the separation of church and state will be even further eroded. this is much less likely to happen with a Democrat. Do you really want someone who will continue Bush’s policies just to “prove a point” that hardly anyone will see? I doubt anyone will notice anyway, they’ll just think the country has totally gone Republican. Most politicians aren’t going to think “oh no, I need to pander to the secularists more” they’re going to think “wow, this country really does want conservatives running it”. Considering what’s at stake, the argument for a “protest vote” falls rather flat. If Johnson wants to do that to make herself feel better, that’s her decision. but she shouldn’t expect others to do the same. A Republican president definitely won’t do anything for secularism. at least with Obama he isn’t going to shove faith on us the way Bush does.

  • http://www.debations.com Mark J. Seydel

    It seems that many readers here are falling for the media crap. It’s not about party here. What about who is the right person for the job?

    I have always been a democrat, but changed parties so that I could vote republican in the Pennsylvania primaries this coming April. I never saw that happening!

    Please, if you haven’t already done so, investigate Ron Paul. No, I am not one of his starry eyed proselytizing followers. He is a Christian, but is still what we want as far as human rights goes. I won’t even bother you with links. Just do a search on Google. This election is so crucial that I urge you to take the time to check Ron Paul out!

    Mark

  • Mriana

    Please, if you haven’t already done so, investigate Ron Paul. No, I am not one of his starry eyed proselytizing followers. He is a Christian, but is still what we want as far as human rights goes. I won’t even bother you with links. Just do a search on Google. This election is so crucial that I urge you to take the time to check Ron Paul out!

    I already have and he is NOT what I want, not even for human rights. He does ot have my values. Obama has my values and is more for human rights than Ron Paul. Plus I also did some background research into him too and well, it maybe propaganda and it might not be. Regardless Ron Paul is NOT what I want and his would not do the U.S. any favours. It would make it worse in my opinion.

    Not to mention he is 100% Pro-life. He would take away a woman’s choice in a HEART BEAT. Ron Paul is NOT what we want and if you think so, look again. Women’s rights would be lost, not to mention other people’s.

  • Lysander aka Rovakur

    What the deuce? How could Ellen Johnson be so asinine? Shame on her. This makes me wonder if she’s related to Phillip E. Johnson….

    This is no time to roll over and play oppossum. Not voting is forfeiting any say, and in doing so one would have absolutely no right to complain or gripe about the results. If you vote and your candidate doesn’t win, have at it – vent away.

    Does anyone else know that Obama is and has always been secular? (With our current situation, we may even say refreshingly so.) Some have even speculated that he, like his father, was an atheist. Regardless of what anyone speculates, it’s obvious that the man is damn smart, rational, and open-minded, not to mention fully qualified. He’ll lead with his brain, not what he just happens to “know” in his heart.

    Change for the better doesn’t start at the top. It may possibly be enacted there, but it starts at base level and precariously works its way up to the top. Civil liberties, true equality, and mutual respect aren’t something that can be elected into office. Ellen Johnson can wish in one hand and crap in the other and see which gets filled first, OR she can use her hands to WORK for progress – a good start would be forcing her own mouth shut and prying her mind open once again.

    . . . Where’s the Tylenol?!?!

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Ron Paul? No thanks, I want better government, not just less government.

  • Carl

    I’m sure none of the politicians will mind if no atheists vote!

  • http://thesmalltownatheist.blogspot.com/ STA

    And what’s wrong with Mike Gravel?

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    I’m sure none of the politicians will mind if no atheists vote!

    I’m pretty sure the Democrats will mind, since in 2004 16% of their votes came from atheists and other non-religious people. That’s a pretty big chunk and could result in a lost election if all the atheists sat out.

  • Ben

    And what’s wrong with Mike Gravel?

    Seriously. Someone send that to American Atheists. If you’re even considering not voting like EJ says, you should really be voting for Gravel.

  • http://www.debations.com Mark J. Seydel

    Ben,

    I agree 100%

    I am voting for Ron Paul, but if someone feels all atheists should vote democrat go with Mike. He’s a good choice. Just go with someone! If ya can’t find someone vote for yourself.

  • Mriana

    And what’s wrong with Mike Gravel?

    Nothing, except I did not know of him until a few months ago when I checked out the primary nominees. I went to his website and he seems great, but I have not heard a thing about him other wise and he’s not getting the votes. I want to believe it’s because he’s not gotten his name out there.

    I feel Obama is our best bet, though and seems like he’s going to win this campaign.

  • Richard Wade

    Like just about everyone else here, I have to say that Johnson’s illogical response to being ignored is stunningly stupid. If no one is listening to you, your response is to shut up? If no one sees you, your response is to hide? If people are ignoring you, your response is to do exactly what they want and just go away?

    This is like a little kid taking his toys and going home in a huff. Nya nya, I’ll show you, so there. Does Johnson think that the candidates are going to come running after us and say, “Oh please come back, I’m sorry, I’ll pay attention to you from now on?” No, they’d like the demographics to be simpler so they don’t have to juggle the desires of so many disparate groups. One group less to worry about would be fine with them.

    I have never missed an election, big or small. I was one of the last generation who had to wait until I was 21, and I hold that right as precious. More often than not the choices were so bad that I’ve voted against someone more than voting for someone else, hoping for the lesser of two evils. I’ve voted for seven presidents and only two won. Still I have voted according to what I thought would make the situation even just a little better, and I will never just give up. I have no patience for anyone who rationalizes their failure to vote. I’ve heard all the bullshit reasons. Our government sucks because of the huge number of people who don’t give a damn and don’t voice their opinions.

    The whole idea of “voting atheist” seems somehow off base to me. There’s a lot more to me than being secular and there’s a lot more at stake than just the issues that secular voters are likely to prefer.

  • Aj

    Richard Wade,

    It’s not a hard concept, protesting a vote, it’s not hard at all. If you want attention from your landlord, don’t pay on time. If lavishing attention isn’t impressing a girl, be aloof, it sometimes works. In bargaining, showing your eagerness is a disadvantage.

    If the Democrats want those votes, but think they don’t have to do anything for them, they won’t do anything. If they think they will have to do something for them, they will. Is that so illogical you had to say it twice?

    Richard, you seem to disagree with Ellen’s point about the importance of votes from atheists to Democrats. She put that argument forth, backed it up with statistics and opinions from “experts”. I’m not seeing a coherent well argued logical counter point from you at all.

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  • Pam

    May I ask the question of the people in favor of Mike Gravel/Ron Paul what is the sense of voting for someone who has absolutely NO chance of winning. Isn”t that just helping the Republican Party by doing that?

    I have followed each and every primary and neither have enough votes to do much. If it is just “seeing” those votes shown on the score board during the elections that seems rather silly to me. If I am off base, please feel free to explain.

  • Richard Wade

    Aj,
    Never has anyone been elected to office in America by a majority of the people. Only a minority of the people who could vote ever do. There are so many people who don’t vote that any group who joins their huge ranks is lost in the crowd. If you don’t vote no one pays attention to you; regardless of your reasons to protest, you’re just considered another non-voter. For the campaigners you cease to exist. The squeaky wheel gets the grease. Our leaders don’t give a shit that they won in the smallest election ever, just as long as they won. Only twelve people voted and I got seven? Great! Cheaper to campaign next term. Letters to congressmen who know they are from consistent non voters get thrown in the trash. They only care if you do vote and might vote for the other guy. If they think you’re a non-voter like millions of others then they don’t give a damn.

    There’s voting for a candidate, not voting at all, and voting or threatening to vote for the candidate’s opposition. If you really want the guy’s attention, do the third one. If the Democrats want the secular vote, then why haven’t they courted it? You seem to be saying the candidates are taking it for granted that they’ll get it. I think they either don’t think of seculars as a group at all (and if so that’s our own damn fault) or they think that courting seculars will lose too many votes of the religious. The “godless” stigma is too nasty. They may think that for every vote they gain by publicly appealing to non-believers they will lose one and a half to two votes from the believers. So a net loss. They might also be afraid to inadvertently do what Romney unsuccessfully tried to do in his demagogic speech about the evils of creeping secularism: electrify the apathetic religious folks who usually don’t vote.

    Your analogies about landlords, potential girlfriends and bargaining hawkers don’t apply. Not voting is like not even looking for an apartment, not even seeking a girlfriend and not even being in the marketplace. Protesting by withholding your vote could only be effective if you make a loud and clear message to the candidates exactly why you are doing that, and that your vote is there if they court you. If atheists make it clear that they are not going to vote then they will be written off and disregarded even more. The well organized, highly motivated religious right will love it.

    Aj, perhaps I don’t understand the concept of the protest non-vote, at least as something that will actually do any good. I just have never seen it work. I don’t believe as you say that voting for the lesser of two evils perpetuates the evil anyway. Not voting simply allows the greater, usually more motivated evil to win. Small steps to improvement are still improvement.

    The Iraqi Sunnis were all pissed off from losing their privileged class status so they boycotted the first post-Hussein elections like spoiled children. They screwed themselves and ended up with almost no representation at all. A lot more voted in the second election because they learned the hard way that nobody gives a damn about their protest non-vote.

    If my arguments don’t pose a “coherent well argued counter point” then don’t waste your time with me. Why don’t you take on the twenty-four other commenters here so far who also disagree with Ellen Johnson’s idea. They have pretty good points. Convince them to throw away their vote in a heroic sacrifice that will change the system forever. Right.

    As I said, I vote for a lot of reasons and dimensions of my life, not just being an atheist. I will never discard my chance to vote just for what I consider to be a futile gesture of protest.

  • Darryl

    I agree with the majority here. Miss Johnson is not thinking straight.
    Johnson demonstrates a human flaw: ideological isolation leads to ideological amplification. Too much time and energy spent in one area throws life out of balance. This is why we need each other.

  • Karen

    Miss Johnson is not thinking straight.
    Johnson demonstrates a human flaw: ideological isolation leads to ideological amplification. Too much time and energy spent in one area throws life out of balance. This is why we need each other.

    Well said, Darryl. I see this happening all the time, in politics, careers, religions – everything. Isolating yourself, or surrounding yourself with people and examples that are all of the same ideological stripe, is really dangerous. It skews otherwise rational peoples’ perspectives something awful.

    We do need each other and we need to keep mixing together and hearing each others’ perspectives.

  • AJ

    Richard Wade,

    Protesting by withholding your vote could only be effective if you make a loud and clear message to the candidates exactly why you are doing that, and that your vote is there if they court you.

    Yes, that’s the nature of a protest, the people you’re protesting against have to know about it, and usually they’re hurt in some way by it.

    Aj, perhaps I don’t understand the concept of the protest non-vote, at least as something that will actually do any good. I just have never seen it work.

    If that’s your point, then I’m fine with that. I don’t agree with Ellen but I don’t think she was illogical, stupid, or “not thinking straight”. None of the people coming up with that kind of rhetoric are saying why the concept is illogical, what the flaws are, just that they disagree with the premises.

    I understand people who disagree with me on the numbers that the non-religious have, on whether it’ll hurt the Democrats more to court the non-religious, whether the Democrats will react to an ultimatum illogically, whether we could organise to collectively not vote.

    Never has anyone been elected to office in America by a majority of the people. Only a minority of the people who could vote ever do. There are so many people who don’t vote that any group who joins their huge ranks is lost in the crowd. If you don’t vote no one pays attention to you; regardless of your reasons to protest, you’re just considered another non-voter. For the campaigners you cease to exist. The squeaky wheel gets the grease. Our leaders don’t give a shit that they won in the smallest election ever, just as long as they won. Only twelve people voted and I got seven? Great! Cheaper to campaign next term. Letters to congressmen who know they are from consistent non voters get thrown in the trash. They only care if you do vote and might vote for the other guy. If they think you’re a non-voter like millions of others then they don’t give a damn.

    Ellen says that the Democrats need the secular vote. If secular voters don’t vote Democrats don’t get elected. I don’t see how they would not care about that, they’re in the business of getting elected. If it is as you say then the only people being illogical are the campaigners. I don’t think that’s the case, the Republicans courted the Religious Right before they started to vote in large numbers, and I’m led to believe it won them at least two elections.

    If the Democrats want the secular vote, then why haven’t they courted it? You seem to be saying the candidates are taking it for granted that they’ll get it. I think they either don’t think of secular voters as a group at all (and if so that’s our own damn fault) or they think that courting seculars will lose too many votes of the religious. The “godless” stigma is too nasty. They may think that for every vote they gain by publicly appealing to non-believers they will lose one and a half to two votes from the believers. So a net loss.

    I’d like a discussion to whether it’s the case that courting seculars would lose Democrats more votes than if secular voters protest if they don’t get courted. I think it seriously under values secular voters, it’s an absolute insult, especially the way they court religious voters where they seem to not care whether they’ll lose secular votes. On the other hand, how many votes are the Democrats going to lose if they, for instance, say that they’ll combat creationism in school and promote education of evolution. As many as if secular voters said they wouldn’t vote unless they did? I think not.

    I don’t believe as you say that voting for the lesser of two evils perpetuates the evil anyway. Not voting simply allows the greater, usually more motivated evil to win. Small steps to improvement are still improvement.

    Voting for the lesser of two evils is about not getting something worse, it’s not about moving in the right direction. The Democrats only have to be better than the Republicans if secular voters are going to vote regardless of what they do. While the Republicans are moving in the wrong direction, which gives the Democrats the opportunity to move in the same direction. At the very least, the Democrats won’t move in the right direction, it’s not small steps of imrpovement, there’s no improvement.

    The Iraqi Sunnis were all pissed off from losing their privileged class status so they boycotted the first post-Hussein elections like spoiled children. They screwed themselves and ended up with almost no representation at all. A lot more voted in the second election because they learned the hard way that nobody gives a damn about their protest non-vote.

    That’s ridiculous, you can’t compare the two strategies. Ellen isn’t suggesting a boycott of the entire government, to not vote regardless of anything. No one gave a damn about their protest because the people they were protesting only gained from their protest.

  • Richard Wade

    Aj,
    I can see at least the possibility of some of your points, but I think this argument will from this point just go back and forth forever. We have to put it to a test. If seculars want to get the Democrats’ attention as a solid group, how do we do that? We’re not a solid group. Who speaks for us? We’re so damn independent and suspicious of groups that the “herding cats” joke doesn’t get old. What atheist/secular/non-believer/unchurched organization has the credibility to gather up the authorization of other smaller such groups to speak for all or most or even many of us? Also, the statistics about how many “seculars” there are may be correct, but many of them may not really think of themselves strongly that way. It may be true that they don’t do churchy things, but being “secular” or “atheist” or any of the other terms aren’t necessarily the adjectives they readily apply to themselves. It may be part of their lifestyle but not part of their self identity.

    On the other hand if candidates suddenly decide they want to court us, where the heck will they find us in large numbers? It’s easy to find large numbers of religious folks; they already congregate regularly. A candidate need only make one phone call to a local megachurch and he or she has a ready-made audience of thousands. The only place I can imagine you’d find more than fifty self-identified seculars within shouting distance of each other would be in a university, and that is still diluted with plenty of religious people. Do you have any suggestions for how and where candidates can get us as an audience?

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    What a shame. If none of the candidates is worth voting for in your opinion then spoil the paper. At least you make a statement by doing that (although not a very good one). Simply refusing to vote doesn’t tell the candidates anything about why they were not voted for.

    I’ve got a better idea. Stand for government if no candidate represents your views. It’s a slow process but worth pursuing. In England none of the major parties had any policies for the environment until the Green party formed and started to take votes from them. That’s when they started listening and introducing green policies. They never even had to win a seat.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    Politicians pay attention to how people voted, not how people didn’t vote. As I see it, there are only two reasonable choices for the general election assuming you are dissatisfied with the current regime.

    1. vote for a democratic top-tier candidate. Then hopefully exit poling will show that the candidate got a large percentage of the “secular” vote and future candidates will start to realize that seculars are a voting block worth going after.

    2. place a protest vote for a candidate who has no chance of winning. Your action may contribute to enabling the republicans to win another election cycle (and further stack the supreme court) but it might cause future politicians to take notice that there are people out there who vote but are dissatisfied (and can be courted).

    Dissatisfied people that don’t vote are irrelevant. Politically, they don’t exist. Who cares about them? Politician certainly don’t.

    Of course, there are some secular people who actually support the current regime (and like our foreign policy and monetary policies). These people will probably vote for the Republican candidate no matter who it is… As Richard said, the seculars are not a homogeneous block.

    Personally, I plan on implementing choice (1). I voted O’Bama in the primary.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Jeff,

    I didn’t know O’Bama was Irish?? :lol:

  • AJ

    Richard Wade,

    I can see at least the possibility of some of your points, but I think this argument will from this point just go back and forth forever. We have to put it to a test. If seculars want to get the Democrats’ attention as a solid group, how do we do that? We’re not a solid group. Who speaks for us? We’re so damn independent and suspicious of groups that the “herding cats” joke doesn’t get old. What atheist/secular/non-believer/unchurched organization has the credibility to gather up the authorization of other smaller such groups to speak for all or most or even many of us? Also, the statistics about how many “seculars” there are may be correct, but many of them may not really think of themselves strongly that way. It may be true that they don’t do churchy things, but being “secular” or “atheist” or any of the other terms aren’t necessarily the adjectives they readily apply to themselves. It may be part of their lifestyle but not part of their self identity.

    I don’t think the religious are a solid group, they lean the same way on issues, but from where I’m sitting so do secular people. Religious people are persuaded by church leaders, who have a variety of positions even within the same church organisations, and secular people are the same, we look towards good thinkers, we likely respect the same people. Religious people may have suspended critical thinking on certain beliefs, but most of them actually do think about other aspects of their life. Both the religious and secular are diverse groups.

    Secular people aren’t in isolation, there’s some great thinkers that we look to, some great blogs, we don’t need to centralize power, good ideas will spread. We’re reading the same books, we’re listening to the same podcasts, and visiting the same websites. Secular people aren’t above collective action, they say there are no atheists in fox holes, so I’m not going to accept “herding cats” when I see the same problems on the other side. Many secular, atheist, humanist groups are part of the Secular Coalition of America, and I think they’re doing a good job, Lori Lipman Brown is doing a fine job.

    This is about being independent, continuing to unconditionally vote Democrat seems like the type of herd activity that we apparently don’t do.

    On the other hand if candidates suddenly decide they want to court us, where the heck will they find us in large numbers? It’s easy to find large numbers of religious folks; they already congregate regularly. A candidate need only make one phone call to a local megachurch and he or she has a ready-made audience of thousands. The only place I can imagine you’d find more than fifty self-identified seculars within shouting distance of each other would be in a university, and that is still diluted with plenty of religious people. Do you have any suggestions for how and where candidates can get us as an audience?

    In the future it would be great if secular groups could organise events of thousands. There’s no need for a live audience to reach secular people though. Candidates have many outlets where they can reach voters, secular people watch tv and listen to the radio the same as anybody else. From the blogs, podcasts, and sites that monitor for relevant news to secular, and they seem quite popular, I don’t think they’d have a problem reaching secular voters at all.

  • http://www.debations.com Mark J. Seydel

    Richard,

    I do think you have a good point, but I have to state that atheists, in general, feel that, as someone who speaks for atheist, Ellen screwed up big time.

  • James from Chicago

    I’m not familiar with Ellen Johnson, but to encourage fellow atheists to not vote because none of the candidates “pander” to the secular crowd stinks of dogmatism to me.

  • Richard Wade

    Mark, I’m not sure why you used “but” in your sentence because I think she screwed up too.

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  • http://secularvoters.org CoalitionofSecularVoters

    I have never liked Ellen Johnson and have complained just about every time she has made a public appearance. As far as I’m concerned she is a very poor representative for the atheist community.

    This is by far one of the most irresponsible things I’ve heard her say though. I hope that a lot of people write to American Atheists and denounce her.

    I’m all the more upset about this since I am in the process of forming the Coalition of Secular Voters and trying to get atheists and like minded people involved in politics, yet here she is denouncing politics. One thing is for sure, even if Ellen Johnson was running for president or any other political office, even as an atheist I would never vote for her.

  • Balrog #1

    Why don’t Atheists go out and vote for a third party?
    If I was a US Citizen, that’s what I’d do.

    I’m sure a third party like the Green Party could be persuaded to court secularists and Atheists if enough people got on board.

    America really needs to break the two party duopoly. It needs a system where your vote for a candidate could be transferred to your second choice candidate, if your first choice is not viable. I feel this is the only way to get some sanity into American politics.

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  • Eagle

    …Socialist Party USA…?


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