Dole, Hagan And Hating On Atheists
As has been in the news recently, Elizabeth Dole “accused” Kay Hagan of being an atheist. Hagan denied it, reasonably enough since she isn’t one – but she still took a mightily public offense, to the extent of suing Dole for defamation. Is being accused of not being superstitious really so insulting?
I wonder whether Hagan would have been as offended or insulted if Dole had “accused” her of being Jewish, or a Muslim, or Catholic, or even a Scientologist – you know, of holding some other cosmological brief.
Well, no, I don’t; even given the special problems of Muslims in today’s political climate, any offense taken would have to be admixed with expressed outrage (real or feigned) that Dole even thought there was anything wrong with that.
Not so the atheists; the general prohibition against attacking religious beliefs doesn’t apply to those of us who don’t have any, and nobody cares about our feelings being hurt. In particular, no politician does, and so our concerns are ignored.
As others have noted, our numbers are easily comparable with Jews, whose concerns are not exactly negligible in American politics. Why are ours so eminently ignorable?
Part of the problem is that the nonreligious are not organized into any coherent voting bloc, but only part. Another part is that we are opposed by many religiously-based power blocs who are so organized.
The crowning part is the awkward chicken-and-egg consequence of the first two, amply demonstrated by the Dole-Kagan kerfuffle; few American politicians are likely to get into a position of power in the current landscape without the support of the religious, and sadly standing up for atheists as deserving of the same respect as theists is likely to cost them a goodly portion of the God-botherer vote.
Remember, though, we’re only the last in the line; at one time it would have been just as easy to hate on the Jew, the Muslim, or even the Catholic here in America. In some few places that’s still somewhat the case (Muslims in particular are tempting targets today, in certain venues) but it’s become unacceptable in American society at large.
Keep your eyes on the prize. We’ll get there, if we simply keep insisting on our equality and humanity, as forcefully and insistently as did the other minorities. Given the groundwork already laid, it should be doable in decades rather than centuries.