Moral Low Ground

US Government

US Atheists Launch Freethought Equality Fund PAC to Elect Non-Religious Candidates

Aaron Williams Pastafarian

Nonreligious Americans have started a political action committee (PAC) with the goal of electing like-minded, free-thinking candidates.

NPR reports atheists, agnostics, people without any religious affiliation and other freethinkers have launched the Freethought Equality Fund, which they hope will lead to the election of freethought candidates, or at least leaders committed to the constitutional principle of separation of church and state.

“The Freethought Equality Fund will work to elect the ‘nones’… in addition to those who will work for our rights so we can finally have the representation in Congress we deserve,” Maggie Ardiente of the American Humanist Association said at a Washington DC press conference announcing the formation of the new PAC.

The new PAC faces a seemingly Herculean task. The Huffington Post reported Thursday that there isn’t a single admitted atheist currently serving in Congress, although Ardiente says some lawmakers are atheists but are afraid to admit it.

“We already know of more than two dozen closeted atheists serving in Congress today,” she told NPR. “The fact that they’re in the closet about their non-belief says a lot about why this PAC is greatly needed. The time to come out is now and the Freethought Equality Fund will help make it happen.”

A couple of former Democratic congressmen, Rep. Pete Stark of California and the venerable Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, have confessed to being atheists following their retirement. For Frank, it was the second time he’d come out of a closet– in 1987, he famously became the first openly gay sitting member of Congress. Again, many freethinkers believe the fact that Frank felt more comfortable about disclosing his homosexuality– a quarter century ago– than his atheism speaks volumes about America’s lack of tolerance of those who do not believe in what atheists consider supernatural fairy tales.

Indeed, even as conservative Americans bemoan the so-called ‘War on Christmas,’ seven states still officially bar atheists from holding public office (although these bans are unconstitutional and unenforceable), and a 2012 Gallup poll revealed that just 54 percent of respondents would vote for a “well-qualified” atheist for president. While that was the highest percentage since Gallup began asking the question in 1958 (when only 18 percent said they would vote for an atheist), more Americans would vote for a member of every other hypothetical group listed than they would for an atheist. For example, 58 percent said they would elect a well-qualified Muslim; 68 percent would vote for a similarly qualified lesbian.

According to the latest Pew survey on religion, the number of Americans who do not identify with any religion continues to grow at a rapid pace. One in five US adults is now unaffiliated with any religion, and 13 million Americans– some 6 percent of the country’s adult population– identified themselves as atheists or agnostics.

Still, most Americans continue to believe in the Judeo-Christian ‘God.’ According to Gallup, fully 30 percent believe the Bible is the literal word ‘God’; virgin birth, talking snake, resurrected-from-the-dead Jesus and all. Among those with a high school education or less, that figure soars to nearly half. Nearly half of Americans surveyed by Gallup also believe that the Judeo-Christian ‘God’ created humans within the past 10,000 years, a date by which humans had already developed agriculture, temples and pottery, and were inhabiting the biblical city of Jericho.

The majority of Americans also support the favoring of the nation’s predominant religion, Christianity, in the public arena. Although the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment is generally interpreted to prohibit government actions that unduly favor one religion over another, religion over non-religion, or vice-versa, efforts to remove the name of the Judeo-Christian ‘God’ from US currency and the Pledge of Allegiance (both were inserted during the 1950s Red Scare in a reactionary response to ‘Godless’ communism) have met with utter failure.

“The vast majority of Americans do believe in God,” Connie Mackey, president of FRC Action, a conservative PAC rooted in ‘Judeo-Christian values,’ told the Washington Post. “They want their elected officials to be held accountable to a higher authority, not just themselves.”

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