The Importance of Organized Secularism in Politics.

Author:Navarro-Rivera, Juhem

Despite making up almost a quarter of the US adult population, people with no religion (the "nones") are underrepresented in politics. According to the Pew Research Centers "Faith on the Hill" report, few members of Congress are openly nonreligious, and, as highlighted by the Center for Freethought Equality, the numbers are also not particularly high at the state and local levels. (Thanks to CFE's work, the situation is starting to change.)

The underrepresentation of the nones is not just limited to elected office. Analyses of the relative size of religious groups in the electorate and the general population using exit poll results suggest that the nones are also underrepresented among voters. In 2016, they accounted for 23 percent of the adult population but just 15 percent of voters. All these factors combine to limit the political power of the nones. A recent study suggests that secular organizations can help close the political power gap.

In July, my organization, Socioanalitica Research, conducted the Secular Voices Survey, which asked a nationally representative sample of nonreligious Americans about their affiliation with an organized secular group. The listed groups included longstanding organizations such as American Atheists, the American Humanist Association, Center for Inquiry, Freedom from Religion Foundation, and the Secular Coalition for America. Other categories included membership in an online group (such as an atheist-only Facebook group), or meeting fellow nonreligious people in local groups. In the aggregate, over one-quarter (26 percent) of nones have belonged at some point to a group, whether a national organization, a local group, or an online community, and 17 percent say they currently belong to at least one of those. However, the vast majority of nones (74 percent) have never been part of the organized nontheistic or secular movement.

We also asked about engagement in ten separate political activities in the last twelve months, more than twelve months ago, or never. The activities we asked about were: talking to family or friends about politics, signing a petition in support of something or against something, attending a protest meeting or demonstration, contacting an elected official, giving people a ride to the polls on Election Day, taking part in a neighborhood march, giving money to a political organization, volunteering for a voter registration drive, volunteering for a candidates campaign, and giving money...

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