Atheism in politics

Thanks the excellent Google news alerts service, I get emails containing links to news articles that hold a special interest to me. One of those is articles reating to atheism and secularism. Before I get to the point of this article, let me give a word of advice to other bloggers: this service is a great way to target articles of interest without having to actively search or poach from other blogs or Fark.

One of the articles sent to me today is on secularism, atheism, and politics: On Secularism and Politics, by Rob Breakenridge. In this article, Rob wites on theism, atheism, and secularisms place in politics and makes a few good point, but reaches a faulty conclusion. Some key excerpts:

Secularism is the principle that there be no religious test for public office. Beliefs about first and last things, and religious worship, are private choices in which the state has absolutely no legitimate role.

Atheism is a private belief, and one I hold; it is not a position that should occupy civic space, any more than should the monotheistic religions.

The cause of secularism is politically vital. But there is no political case for atheism.

All of this is absolutely true. I wouldn’t appreciate an atheist congressman using his office to promote atheism any more than I appreciate people like Bush or (if things go terribly wrong in November) Palin legislating their religion. It is simply not the place for it, and it wastes my time and my tax dollars. We pay these people to run our country, no to use their office as a soapbox for their religious or irreligious beliefs. However, I think Breakenridge is overlooking the strong ties between atheists and secularism when he says:

I do not wish to see, and will not sign up to, an organised interest group of atheists, because atheism is a private belief, of no civic significance.

Yes, atheism is a private belief, but who is out there with the strongest voice supporting secularism? Focus on the Family? The Discovery Institute? No, it’s groups like the Freedom From Religion Foundation and Americans United for Separation of Church and State; two groups founded by, run by, and supported by primely atheists. These are atheist groups, make no mistake about it, and that makes them atheist lobbyists. I’m glad they are out there, and I’m completely unsurprised that these atheist groups are able to promote secularism without allowing their beliefs on religion to get in the way.

So, opposite of Rob Breakenridge’s views, I say “Bring ’em on!” We need more atheists fighting for secularism. So few theists are.

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