Photo credit @MichaelRuyle, via the Friendly Atheist
By Dave Niose
Two occurrences last week demonstrate how the growing secular demographic is influencing policy discussion in the United States. Religious conservative backlash is on display in both instances, and can be understood as a reaction to the increased visibility and activism of the secular movement.
In Illinois we see an anti-choice group placing a billboard warning voters that Senator Dick Durbin received an “A Rating from the Atheist Lobby.” The billboard, dark and foreboding, depicts Durbin as a shadowy figure and states that he “worked with atheists and the IRS against religious freedom.”
It’s difficult to envision a similar campaign that so openly disparages a legitimate minority group. Imagine a similar sign warning voters that Durbin received an A Rating from the Jewish Lobby or the Mormon Lobby, for example. There would be outrage, and those placing the ad would be questioned and criticized for their presumptively negative depiction of the group. The outdated assumption in the ad is that Illini voters are so hateful toward atheists that Durbin will lose support just by being associated with nonbelievers. That might have worked in the McCarthy era, but not today.
Indeed, the very fact that there is an “Atheist Lobby” demonstrates the remarkable advancement of the secular demographic in the last decade. The “A Rating” to which the billboard refers comes from the Secular Coalition for America, a coalition of over a dozen atheist and humanist groups from around the country that have joined forces to urge legislators to protect church-state separation and the rights of nonbelievers. A generation ago such a lobby would have been unthinkable, but today it’s a sign of this rising demographic.
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