I’m an Atheist and Here’s Why I’m Voting for Barack Obama

Over the weekend, I appeared on a public radio show called Interfaith Voices to talk about why I, as an atheist, am voting for Barack Obama in this election:

You can hear the entire program here and the relevant part here. (I would embed the code except it plays automatically and that’s just annoying.)

I’m juxtaposed with a Catholic woman who is voting for Mitt Romney.

Keep in mind that most of the 30-minute conversation was edited down to just a few minutes and that (obviously) I don’t represent all atheist voters. But hopefully I didn’t screw things up too royally :)

Listening to it now, I realize one of the parts they cut out included some of my criticisms against Obama (like the fact that he expanded the office of faith-based initiatives). So keep that in mind as you hear the segment — Obama’s not without fault, but on the broader issues that I care about, I’m excited to cast a vote for him.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/A37GL7VKR3W6ACSIZPH7EID3LI rlrose63

    I dropped of my ballot last week… all voted.  :-)  Our reasons for voting for Obama overlap by quite a bit, Hemant.  Like minds…

    Due to the overwhelming desire of some nonbelievers to vote for 3rd party candidates, I fear we are doomed to Republican rule, however.

  • C Peterson

    I was excited to vote for him last time. I’m voting for him again in this election, but I guess I don’t have much excitement left…

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke, Blonde

    Jill Stein is my choice, but nice job, Hemant. i’m amused they chose a catholic to represent the mitt voters. i guess it would’ve been too hard to find an evangelical protestant who sounded sincere, heh. 

  • Jen Ibrahim

    When people find out I’m an atheist, I invariably get one of two responses “Oh, but you seem so nice!” or “Oh!  I thought you were Jewish.”

    I thought you came across very well!  The narrator made it clear that you each spoke only for yourselves and weren’t meant to represent either group at large.  I think they left in your most salient points about how you approached your decision.  I, too, vote fundamentally on social issues.  There are some things that are too difficult for me to get past: denying women control of their own bodies and denying gays/lesbians rights that any other ordinary citizen would have are such profound affronts to human dignity that no amount of money could make me ignore those issues.

  • Bill1957

    Well done Hemant. What floors me about the whole election, and in particular with the Catholic lady that appeared with you, is how on earth any woman, regardless of religion, could vote for the replublicans when they have made it so abundantly clear they want to drag woman’s rights back a few centuries. Just goes to show the level of indoctrination. 

  • Mekathleen

    If you aren’t in Ohio, Virginia, Wisconsin, Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, New
    Hampshire, Florida or North Carolina, it’s not as if you have the
    remotest impact on the Presidential election anyway. The President isn’t
    determined by the majority vote, he is determined by the Electoral
    College. Changing the margin of victory only reflects the power of the
    platform and can impact political discussion.

    It’s not as if an extra vote for Obama in Illinois is going to change anything in Ohio. And if things get to the point where he COULD lose Illinois, things will already be over nationally before the polls close here.

  • Johnstok

    I’m an evangelical Christian and I voted for President Obama in 2008 and I will vote for President Obama again this year. The endorsement in the NYTimes gives a good summary of why I did so. By the way, I believe in evolution as the means God used to bring human life into being and see no contradiction between science and religion. I am sorry that many of those in my tribe, i.e. evangelical Christians, seem unable to think or read or learn from others, including learning from atheists.

  • Namidim

    The Catholic lady blew my mind. 1)the whole argument about saving life in context of libby anne’s post from this morning http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/2012/10/how-i-lost-faith-in-the-pro-life-movement.html and 2) The idea that she gets to dictate what marriage means to other people who aren’t even #@($&@#($* Catholic base don her belief.

  • Aaron

    Gary Johnson for me. I can’t in good conscience cast a vote for a President who likes to send unmanned drones to fly over foreign nations and drop bombs that kill innocent children. Which in turn just creates more terrorists. There are a number of other reasons I refuse to cast a vote for Obama, but too many to into here.

  • Aaron

    Don’t worry, if Romney wins most people won’t notice a whole lot of difference.

  • CelticWhisper

     Same here.  It was either Stein or Johnson for me – hearing their views on major issues, I really can’t go wrong either way – but Johnson has explicitly spoken out against the TSA so he gets my vote.

    Obama and Romney are absolute non-options to me.  With Obama, it’s NDAA (a symbolic veto would still have meant something to voters), drone strikes, the crackdown on peaceful protests and the introduction of Scope-and-Grope at our nation’s airports (with the disease trying to spread to bus terminals and train stations as well).  With Romney…well, Hemant and other atheist bloggers have covered it at length, and he’s buddy-buddy with Michael Chertoff so I have no illusions the situation in airports will get any better.  If the ballot were down to those two and only those two, I’d abstain or write in “NO CONFIDENCE” and leave it at that.

    I know Johnson is a long shot, but I hope third parties can at least get their 5% so they have a better chance at screwing over the Republocrats in the future.

  • Aaron

    I agree. I rarely vote for Republocrats anymore. I have no illusions that any of the 3rd parties will win, I’m just doing my part to get the 5% as well. If I vote third party and convince a couple of people to do the same, and then next election they convince a few people, we will slowly but surely start to creep those percentages up.

    Ironically, I have never met anyone happy with the two party system, yet people still keep voting for the same thieves. You get the government you deserve. People are more concerned with voting for the winner than they are with voting for people with integrity. 

  • Mekathleen

     What I’m getting at is I’m voting for Jill Stein. If you aren’t part of the 18% of Americans that live in the swing states, there’s no reason to say “I agree with everything she says, and I don’t like a lot of what Obama’s done, but Romney is just too terrible to contemplate.” Lesser evils don’t matter when you don’t have a say in the horse race.

  • Raising_Rlyeh

    I’ve voting for Obama because he is just like me. A secret muslim-atheist socialist who wants to destroy all the great american traditions and outlaw baseball, the 4th of july and apple pie. Along with that we want america to be destroyed from the inside and we both are very ashamed of american exceptionalism. We also want gay people, abortions on demand, and ethnic people as far as the eye can see. Now if you will excuse me I am off to meet comrade Obama for the annual gathering of secret, america hating liberals. Hoping we can find a way to keep all those conservative intellectuals from announcing our plans to the world.  Heil Stalin


    But seriously I am voting for Obama because I think he is better for the country than Romney. It is surprising to see independent female voters warm up to Romney. 

  • Baal

     Your view, Aaron, will last until they start seating new SCOTUS.

  • Baal

     ‘Integrity’ got us Bush the lesser.  The better answer is that there is more to politics than voting for the president.  Going to party caucuses give up a chance to impact views and have a say in candidate selection.  You can also lobby your State reps directly.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=116400943 Leo Buzalsky

     “Which in turn just creates more terrorists.”

    Which in turn makes me wonder how much you libertarian types actually care about those innocent children or if you talk about them to make yourselves appear all empathetic to hide the real, selfish reasons you want to vote for Johnson.
    I also cannot help but wonder why you all seem to be so concerned about children who are not American when someone like Johnson would be so horrible for children of America, especially poor and minority children (such as turning education into a voucher program).  Could it be that you really don’t put the “tribe” first? Sure. Could it be that you just haven’t considered the consequences of Johnson’s policies? Sure.
    But why is it ALWAYS this one issue (OK, sometimes it’s marijuana) that you people point to? I never see any other issues discussed. Something fishy is going on here.

  • http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/ PsiCop

    I’m an agnostic and, so far, it looks as though I won’t be voting for anyone. Between all the candidates promising to make the world safe for millionaires and corporations (Romney, Johnson), for public employees and unions (Obama), for tree huggers (whoever’s on the Green ticket), and so on, I’m left out. No candidates are representing ordinary working-class private-sector-employed non-unionized folks. None of them have had a single word to say to me or for me.

    Unfortunately I have pretty much the same sorts of choices for my two Congressional offices. So there’s no reprieve further down the ticket. I’m boycotting this election until someone proposes policies and plans that line my pocket and promote my interests.Besides, since I’m in Connecticut, my presidential vote won’t count for anything anyway.

  • Will Chain

    This is really great! =D

    What we need is more people like you openly criticizing fundamentalists. We atheists know that fundies aren’t the majority of christians,  but that loud minority hijacks your faith and gives you guys a bad name.
    Also, you don’t have to apologize for them. Just correct them when they spew bullshit like creationism and you be a hero to me. =)

  • http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/ PsiCop

    You forgot to say you wanted everyone to live by shari’a law, complete with street-corner whippings and stonings on a daily basis.

  • Coyotenose

    I held it together until “Heil Stalin”.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke, Blonde

    thank you for making that wonderfully clear. so many voters just don’t understand how electoral politics really work. 

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke, Blonde

    so when you say “tree hugger” you’re really saying “i haven’t bothered to do even a simple revue of Jill Stein’s policies and positions because my mind is narrow and automatically closed by the term “green party?” ”

    people like you are also called: lazy. 

  • http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/ PsiCop

    The Green party is mostly tree huggers. I’m assuming they put tree huggers on their ballot, because that’s all they do, when Ralph Nader isn’t available.

    In any event, in all its history, I’ve never known the Green Party to take the slightest interest in my affairs or welfare. So why should I vote for any of their candidates?

  • http://twitter.com/FreedomBiscuitX FreedomBiscuit.com

    @Leo, I absolutely have considered the consequences of Johnson’s policies, which is exactly why I’m voting for him. How on earth would vouchers hurt poor and minority children? On the contrary, that’s who would benefit the most! I will proudly cast my vote for Gary Johnson, because of the reasons Aaron mentioned above, but also because of vouchers (everyone stands to benefit from this, except the unions), the economy, civil liberties, the fact that he is the least religious candidate, etc. I don’t know anyone who plans to vote for Johnson because of the drone issue alone (or the drug issue alone, for that matter) but it is often brought up when people express their support for Obama because he is a Nobel Peace Prize winning President who has committed worse offenses than his predecessor who was labeled the equivalent of a Nazi war criminal by liberals.  Liberals who don’t seem to mind at all that their President has overseen the murder of thousands of innocent men, women and children, made it legal to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens, and even assassinate American citizens with no trial. You see, people who hated Bush so much should prefer Johnson to Obama, since Obama turned out to be not so different from Bush, but they don’t. That tends to bother us a bit.

  • Coyotenose

     Seriously, some SCOTUS justices are clearly hanging on and not retiring solely because they want to make sure that a LIBERAL doesn’t pick their replacements. It would be very, very easy for us to go fifty years backwards if they get their way on even one seat.

  • Russian Alex

     I, for one, welcome being stoned on daily basis. Sorry, couldn’t help.

  • Ryanotis09

    Welcome to a not so stunning rendition of “Poor Me” by the not so talented PsiCop. The lyrics include “Why should I?” and “My affairs or welfare” thereby showing that once again people only manage to care about themselves.

    The big picture isn’t the point of this solemn little ditty but instead the focus is on “why haven’t any parties introduced legislation directly helping my 8 word definition of what the normal American citizen is, when I have a steady job and am in no real need of assistance” and as a bonus side note “Even though I’m on an atheist blog I am scientifically ignorant by derogatorily deeming those who give a rat’s furry ass about the planet ‘tree huggers’” even though every climate scientist worth a damn agrees that global warming is real.

    My review of this number is 0 stars for lack of originality, selfishness, and ignorance. Recomendation: Do not listen to this as it’s a complete waste of time for anyone who cares about other human beings

  • http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/ PsiCop

    Your whine about my proposed boycott of the 2012 election is noted, but dismissed as irrelevant.

    My philosophy is precisely the same as that of any other special interest group: My personal wishes are to be addressed directly by candidates and a definite payoff promised. Here’s the list:

    Millionaires are voting for Romney or libertarians because they plan to get tax cuts, or perhaps be relieved of paying taxes altogether.

    The Left is voting for Obama because they want more stimulus spending, which will line their pockets … “they” being mainly public employees and other union workers (in construction, etc.).

    I could go on, but why should I? These people are all voting in their own personal interests for candidates who plan to work directly for them and do what they want. If they can vote selfishly, why shouldn’t I? If I can’t find a candidate who’s willing to buy my vote, why should I not point it out, and withhold my vote completely?

    Please explain why what’s OK for other special interests to do, is not good for me? Oh, and don’t feed me some idiotic lecture about “the big picture.” There isn’t one. The millionaires and the Leftists and the tree-huggers and all the rest aren’t looking at any “big picture.” They’re looking to fatten their own wallets.

  • Raising_Rlyeh

    sounds like a kinky time in Amsterdam unless you meant a different type of stoning. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

    I’m considering voting for a third party candidate. I’ll do a bit of research soon to make sure it’s someone I agree with (even though they won’t win, I just don’t want to look stupid if people ask me about it).
    If I was in a swing state I would definitely vote for Obama, but what I would really like is to do away with the electoral college and to have more than two parties to choose from. 
    The electoral college would have been great at a time when people weren’t surrounded by news and weren’t able to see the candidates on TV. People would just vote for their favorite local candidate, so more populated states would always win, unless they could group the votes together. It’s completely outdated now when you can see and hear the candidates from the other side of the country.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

    It surprises me how few Christians realize that the Republican party goes against everything that Jesus taught. It’s funny how they try to get the government to endorse Christianity, but as soon as someone suggests that maybe some taxpayer money should go to the poor, they suddenly don’t want their own religion to apply to them.
    Good for you! Apology not necessary :)

  • Mekathleen

     More Democrats voted for Bush in Florida than voted for Nadar. Nader didn’t take that election. Gore lost it.

  • Foster

    Here’s a great reason to vote for Obama!

    His open-minded approach to international financial relations:


  • Foster

    Here’s a great reason to vote for Obama!

    His unshakeable commitment to obeying campaign finance law:


  • tkmlac

    I’m also voting for him. We’ve all got our pet gripes with our leaders. I think, but that’s a reason to be more involved in politics, not less involved, IMO.

  • Mathah

    Tree-huggers want to fatten their wallets? I don’t think so. You have observer bias here- you want to fatten *your* wallet, so you think that’s what everyone wants.

  • rlrose328

    Same here… one candidate is meh, the other is NO WAY… so, gotta go with meh.

  • Coyotenose

     Voucher programs go hand in hand with charter schools. Charter schools are started for profit, and often eke every dollar possible out of those vouchers at the expense of the students. 17% of them perform better than comparable public schools; 37% perform worse.

    At the same time that parents and children are being snookered by these private schools, the vouchers mean a loss of revenue for the public school system. This does not make unions lose significant money. Unions do not work that way. What it does is reduce programs available to help the public school students, so ALL of them are worse off.

    And finally, charter schools require extra administration by the state to maintain standards. As an example, if Amendment One passes in Georgia (I am not a Georgian), it will cost at least eight figures to run the extra bureaucracy for charter schools, and might cost nine. Guess where that money comes from: the state education budget. So the people pushing and shoving their way into education to turn a profit have then made ALL students poorer.

  • GribbletheMunchkin

    Please explain to me the existence of rich left wingers? They exist, in large numbers. They don’t stand to gain from the economic policies of the left. Instead they believe in voting for a better world. I know this might be hard for you to understand since you seem so cynical, but many people can actually look beyond their bank accounts to what would be best for society. Sometimes even beyond their own society. Most greens don’t stand to benefit financially by a green candidate winning. Indeed Steins chances are so low no green is really fooling themselves that she will win. Instead they are very worried about environmental damage. Even if it hasn’t yet affected them directly.
    You need to remove your blinkers and see the reasons for voting beyond your own financial situation.

  • Ryanotis09

    I’m far left leaning and I’m not doing it at all to line my own pockets. I vote left because they show at least an iota of compassion for anyone not rich, straight, male, or healthy.

    The big picture is this: people need help because the world we live in is controlled by greedy amoral b@stards:twitter  who want to line their pockets at the expense of the downtrodden. People have fought for centuries over which is the “true religion” causing more destruction and death than anything else in history besides whatever extinction event ended the Cretaceous. Anybody who’s different is treated like scum in most of the world. And most of all people love to shove their morals onto other people because we must all conform to one person’s thoughts to be good. This all needs to change and the only way to do that is to make it happen through government.

    If you need someone to buy your vote you’re the most pathetic example of a free person I’ve ever seen. And fyi you aren’t a special interest group, you’re a greedy selfish prick without a conscience. You care more about getting the new ipad than about starving people dying or wars killing thousands. If I believed in hell you’d be the first person I told to go there.

  • Kyle S.

    Obama lost me when he signed the NDAA. He’s GWB all over again. The system is broken and no one in my country even cares. Americans follow politics like they follow sports. It’s a fucking circus.

  • Antinomian

    Sadly, in this election, I’m forced to vote against, instead of for. Living among the Floridiots in a swing state, moreso. So, this time, I’m voting against cynicism, science denial, theocracy, fascism, bigotry and living in 12th century feudalism and serfdom.

    I’m not happy with everything Obama has done. But, economically he didn’t have much to work with and I never expected the economy to return to the boom times we experienced in th 80′s in four years. In fact I expected it to be worse than it is now.

  • http://twitter.com/FreedomBiscuitX FreedomBiscuit.com

    The statistics you cited illustrate perfectly the need for voucher programs. Charter schools aren’t always better, but why not give the parents the choice to enroll their child in one of those 17% that are? If 37% aren’t performing as well then they will either have to make changes or shut down. Either way, we all benefit. Unlike our current system, no one is forced to go to those schools.

    Also, vouchers DO NOT mean a loss of revenue for the public school system. The voucher programs I’m familiar with only take a portion of the money set aside for each student annually. For example, if a school system spends $6,000 per student per year, the voucher program would allow $3,500 per student to be used for charter or private school tuition. So for every student that uses the voucher, the public school would still receive $2,500 per year for students that they aren’t providing any services to.

    Charter schools and private schools aren’t all perfect, and are not always better than their public school counterparts, but as a parent, I’d rather have that option and be able to make that call myself instead of being forced into a situation with no options. My wife, who is a public school teacher, agrees.

  • brianmacker

    Except republicans have been seating quite liberal justices.