Atheism is on the rise in America. Secularism and scientific thought is creating a generation of voters with the ability to think critically about the issues. Will the popularity of disbelief give rise to a political party devoid of religious factions?
Atheists cringe at the end of every presidential speech when the words, “God bless you and God bless America,” inevitably fall from the lips of our leaders. It has become an unwritten commandment that our Presidents must be of a certain faith and that faith must be pure and unwavering, but as a younger generation begins to take the reins of government from their older counterparts, religion may lose ground as a key component to winning the Oval Office. Several recent studies have shown growth in non-religious demographics around the country. As those groups grow into effective voting constituencies, it is likely that they too will see a rise in their political influence. Could this mean that at some point in the near future we could have the choice of voting for a truly secular leader? This may not be as unthinkable as it once seemed.
Since the first person chose to question the religious stories being taught to them, atheists have been open to attacks upon their character and moral integrity. Any non-religious politician running for office would unquestionably face the same sort of scrutiny. As an atheist myself, I have faced these questions many times and since there is no chance of being burned at the stake as a heretic anymore, I usually just reply with sarcasm and mockery. Something like, “What kind of asshole would need to be threatened with a lifetime of damnation in order to be a good person?” usually does the trick. However, a political figure on the grandest stage would not have that same option.
An atheist or agnostic candidate would need to be composed and articulate but also assured in their disbelief. I have confidence that this candidate will come from the generation of young adults who currently make up the demographic of 18 to 30 year old voters. This is the generation that I see changing the political and religious institutions of America, forever.
A Pew Research study suggests that the population of people who claim to be religious in America is gradually declining while the number of people who claim to have no religious affiliation is steadily rising. The non-religious portion of the country is now edging closer to twenty percent of the total population. This is not an insignificant share of the populace on its own but when the study focused on people who were under the age of thirty, the percentage jumped to 33%. That means that one third of Americans under the age of thirty do not consider themselves to be religious.
This doesn’t mean that all of these people are atheist or agnostic, that percentage is around 6% of the American public or 13 million people. But when that 13 million is added to the 14% of Americans who do not belong to any organized religion, the total of non-religious people in America comes out to be about 46 million. With those kinds of numbers, a well-organized political party that catered strictly to the secular beliefs of their constituency could do very well in the national electoral process, considering that the popular vote which re-elected President Obama in 2012 was around 65 million people. Raising 19 million more secular voters over the next twenty years might not prove to be an unachievable task.
In the past ten years or so celebrity atheists such as Neil deGrasse Tyson, Ricky Gervais, Christopher Hitchens and Bill Maher have experienced a rise in popularity among American youth do in no small part to their religious beliefs. If comedians, astrophysicists and writers can garner fame for challenging the established system then why couldn’t a politician have a similar rise to power.
As the evangelical right wing of the Republican Party clings to their religion as tightly as they can, the American youth is gearing up to take part in its biggest rebellion. After years of hearing about sex scandals, abuses of power, hypocrisy, sexist policies and racist remarks the youth of America has absolutely no reason to fall in line with the thinking of the Christian Church. The Church represents superstition in the age of science. It preaches against women’s rights and the LGBT community in the age of equality. They represent oppression and control to a generation who has grown up with unrestricted knowledge from an unfiltered internet. Their parents may see kids who watch too many YouTube videos or spend too much time on their phones but I see a generation of hackers, web designers and computer virtuosos who are perfectly suited for the cyber-age. And unfortunately for the Christian monopoly on Presidential belief structure this generation seems to have no interest in the religions of the past and no time for those who do. This generation wants class equality and freedom of information, not stories about 4,000 year old floods or fables about slingshots and giants. We are witnessing the rise of a generation of non-believers, a generation whose singular political interest will be a secular democracy that truly represents the people. You know, the way America was meant to be. This generation may just become the fathers and mothers of a new age in America.
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