Why Didn’t a Congressman’s Humanism Declaration Make a Bigger Splash?

It’s been about 24 hours since Rep. Jared Huffman publicly announced that he was a “non-religious Humanist,” and I think the most surprising thing that’s happened since then is how little response it has generated.

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There are a handful of media reports, including the Washington Post‘s story that broke the news… but that’s really about it. I have yet to see any real negative press about it.

As far as I can tell, no conservative group or right-wing individual issued any immediate denunciation of Huffman’s statement. No one said it’ll hurt Democrats. No one wept for the downfall of our nation. (It’s always possible that will change within a day or two.)

There were plenty of big(ger) stories to discuss yesterday, including the revelations about Roy Moore, but you would think the only member of Congress willing to say he doesn’t think God exists would create a larger splash. Huffman’s announcement barely produced ripples.

When Pete Stark made his non-theist announcement more than a decade ago, it seemed like such a huge deal. That was in part because he was the first elected Congressman in our lifetime to openly say he wasn’t religious. The second person out of the closet isn’t going to get the same response.

But maybe that’s also a sign of how atheism has become normalized over time. When Stark came out, The God Delusion and other “New Atheist” books were still on bookshelves (there were bookshelves!), the blogosphere was in its infancy, and YouTube hadn’t really taken off.

Today, even a politician on Capitol Hill saying he’s basically an atheist barely raises an eyebrow.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy to do. There’s a reason Huffman is the sole Congressman on the island of reason on the topic of religion. But maybe the lack of negative press — at least for now — will encourage others to follow in his footsteps.

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