By James Haught
James Haught is editor of West Virginia’s largest newspaper, The Charleston Gazette, and a senior editor of Free Inquiry. He is 87-years-old and would like to help secular causes more. This series is a way of giving back, as he opens in No Qualms (Ed., published on 2018, July 18, i.e., when he was 86), “I’m quite aware that my turn is approaching. The realization hovers in my mind like a frequent companion. My first wife died ten years ago. Dozens, hundreds, of my longtime friends and colleagues likewise came to the end of their journeys. They number so many that I keep a “Gone” list in my computer to help me remember them all. Before long, it will be my turn to join the list.”
[Ed., Thank you, Jim, truly.]
In the 2018 election, America’s shrinking segment of white evangelicals mobilized strongly for the Republican Party – but the rising cohort of nonreligious Americans failed to exert their full political power.
As secularism grows relentlessly, white evangelicals have declined to a mere 15 percent of the U.S. population (down from 20 percent in 2012). But they’re so ardent for conservative causes that they constituted 26 percent among the 113 million voters who cast ballots on Nov. 6. And they gave three-fourths of their votes to GOP candidates, according to exit polls.
In contrast, Americans who say their religion is “none” have climbed to one-fourth of the population, but they were only 17 percent of voters this year. Skeptic-agnostic-disinterested folks apparently shun politics along with church worship.
I think it’s a shame that “nones” mostly shrug while white evangelicals throw themselves into elections. Nonreligious Americans tend to hold liberal, compassionate, progressive views, and if their full potential could be realized, the nation’s values would improve.
Prodding “nones” to become politically active – to show them the importance of democracy involvement – should be a top goal of the secular movement.
On the other side, prodding is fierce among white evangelicals. A New York Times report titled “God’s Red Army” outlined a massive fundamentalist blitz designed to generate born-again votes for Republicans on Election Day.
For example, Ralph Reed’s Faith & Freedom Coalition budgeted $18 million “to micro-target around 125 million social conservative voters across 19 different states through door-to-door interactions, digital ads, phone calls and mailers,” The Christian Post reported. A total of 28 million digital ads were e-mailed to smartphones and laptops on the weekend before balloting.For example, the Family Research Council sent 36-page “values voter” guides to 28,000 far-right pastors before the election, and also sent “values buses” to key congressional districts as mobile get-out-the-vote units.
For example, Watchmen on the Wall held “pastor briefings” in various states to help ministers mobilize their congregations.
Technically, preachers are forbidden to endorse political parties or candidates – but the electioneering blitz left no doubt that the “pro-life party” is the GOP, which also champions “religious freedom,” meaning the right to hate gays, Muslims and other “enemies.”
As the pre-election operation went ballistic, longtime American Atheists leader Ed Buckner wished sarcastically that the Rapture would whisk all the fundamentalists to heaven before they could vote.
After the election, Ralph Reed boasted at a news conference at the National Press Club:
“We had an astonishing level of evangelical voters cast their ballots. This is the most ambitious and the most effective voter education, get-out-the-vote program directed at the faith-based vote in a midterm election in modern political history.”
He said the fundamentalist turnout prevented a Democratic “blue wave” from inflicting much worse damage on Republicans.
I wish that the booming secular movement could find ways to motivate nonreligious voters, to offset such born-again blitzes.
Until that happens, I simply hope that the steady retreat of religion in America will reduce white evangelicals to an ever-smaller fringe, a petty clique unable to sway elections.
Link here at Daylight Atheism.
Canadian Atheist Associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular Alliance, Centre for Inquiry Canada, Kelowna Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists Association.
Other National/Local Resources: Association humaniste du Québec, Atheist Freethinkers, Central Ontario Humanist Association, Comox Valley Humanists, Grey Bruce Humanists, Halton-Peel Humanist Community, Hamilton Humanists, Humanist Association of London, Humanist Association of Ottawa, Humanist Association of Toronto, Humanists, Atheists and Agnostics of Manitoba, Ontario Humanist Society, Secular Connextions Seculaire, Secular Humanists in Calgary, Society of Free Thinkers (Kitchener-Waterloo/Cambridge/Guelph), Thunder Bay Humanists, Toronto Oasis, Victoria Secular Humanist Association.
Other International/Outside Canada Resources: Allianz vun Humanisten, Atheisten an Agnostiker, American Atheists,American Humanist Association, Associação Brasileira de Ateus e Agnósticos/Brazilian Association of Atheists and Agnostics, Atheist Alliance International, Atheist Alliance of America, Atheist Centre, Atheist Foundation of Australia, The Brights Movement, Center for Inquiry (including Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science), Atheist Ireland, Camp Quest, Inc., Council for Secular Humanism, De Vrije Gedachte, European Humanist Federation, Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations, Foundation Beyond Belief, Freedom From Religion Foundation, Humanist Association of Ireland, Humanist International, Humanist Association of Germany, Humanist Association of Ireland, Humanist Society of Scotland, Humanists UK, Humanisterna/Humanists Sweden, Internet Infidels, International League of Non-Religious and Atheists, James Randi Educational Foundation, League of Militant Atheists, Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, National Secular Society, Rationalist International, Recovering From Religion, Religion News Service, Secular Coalition for America, Secular Student Alliance, The Clergy Project, The Rational Response Squad, The Satanic Temple, The Sunday Assembly, United Coalition of Reason, Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics.