There’s a new girl on campus


She’s a Jack/Jane of all minorities. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat from Arizona, is a bisexual, secularist and a former Mormon. She supports gay marriage, abortion rights, marijuana and science education. In other words, she is a poster-child for the secularist movement.

The Secular Coalition of America has taken her under their wing and claimed her as a fitting successor for Rep. Peter Stark, a Democrat from Calif, and the only open atheist in congress. He lost in this years election, but his secularist presence was soon filled by Sinema.

Lauren Anderson Youngblood, the Coalitions communications manager, told Religion News Service how proud they were to receive Sinema into Congress:

She was able to run openly as a nontheist and it didn’t seem to be an issue. That is a great thing for the community, especially because with the loss of Pete Stark, we are left with a big hole.

Time will tell what work Sinema will be able to do in Congress, and how much she will live up to the secularists expectations. But the religious groups in Congress will be sure to watch her, as she will no doubt oppose many of their proposals.


Proactive nones

This past Tuesday I listened in on a conference call hosted by the Secular Coalition of America. Other secular groups were present, such as the Freethinkers and America United.

Among other things, what impressed me the most was the proactive spirit. They discussed the Nov. 6 election, the changes to congress, the defeat of Amendment 8 in Florida, as well as the disproportionate nature of the House in regards to the religious demographics of the United States. All in all it was a well set up meeting, with a variety of input from it’s constituents.

They were civil, eager to move forward with their wins over the election, but also looking for ways to improve based on their losses. One may hear the same type of talk come out of a Christian meeting about politics, simply with a different end goal.

But the nones are motivated, they are making headway throughout many realms of congress and the popular vote. I think it can properly be said that they are a force to be reckoned with and it is no hidden fact that Christians and nones share vastly different values. Therefore, they will clash on many occasions, but if Christians are going to come out on top they need to be even more motivated than the confidant nones.

Should we have more nones in Congress?

Via the CNN Belief Blog

For the second time since 2007 we have a religiously unaffiliated, or none, in Congress. Newly elected Arizona Democrat Kyrsten Sinema claimed her none status for the Pew Forum’s recent survey of faith in the 113th Congress. Sinema’s presents isn’t really that much of a change however, because California Congressman Peter Stark was a public non-theist since 2007. He lost this years election, leaving Sinema as the lone none.

Stephen Prothero, writing a recent article in CNN’s Belief Blog, picked up on this, saying that the small increase of religious diversity in congress is not an adequate mirror of the religious diversity throughout America.

For all the talk of the election of 2012 inaugurating a new era in American politics, Protestants will continue to be over represented on Capitol Hill, where they will account for 56% of our representatives versus only 48% of American adults.

However, what seems to be swept under the rug by Prothero is the concept that members of congress are voted into office by the American population. He is frustrated at the lack of diversity, but like it or not, these are the people voters wanted in office. And is this such a bad thing?

The lack of nones in Congress says something interesting about the change of values in America. If, as the election and recent surveys seem to suggest, citizens are increasingly unaffiliated, why is the majority of congress still Christian? They were voted in by the American population, but so many were, and still are, heralding this election as the turning point in American values.

Greta Christina praised the advancement of the unaffiliated movement in her blog post, published soon after the election.

This election was, to a great extent, a referendum on secular values versus the values of the theocratic religious right — and secular values won. Atheists are not in opposition to American values. Atheists are on the cutting edge of them.

I do believe the election is a picture of where America is going, but we simply can’t ignore the fact that 56 percent of congress is Christian because Americans voted them in that way.  It wasn’t because of white supremacists  or the lofty 1 percent, or even because of Republicans – it was because that is what the people wanted. But Prothero says the lack of diversity in Congress is unacceptable.

This data shows that the much heralded “new America” is still years away. Yes, the Senate will be 20% female, but women are more than 50% of the population. And the U.S. Congress will still be far more Christian (87%) than U.S. adults as a whole (70%).

It’s getting to the point where people like Prothero wont stop at accusing members of state, religious groups or political conservatives of bigotry. Now he has gone on to accuse the American public of favoring the religious right.

Via the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life

So, for as “advanced” as Americans seemed to be after the election, it turns out that many of them still cling to the old ways. But this attachment to traditionalism is a prime example of the split in American values:

At least 70 percent, if not more, of Americans would say that a Christian/Protestant majority in Congress is a good thing. It means biblical values will be fought for and will win more than secular values, thus keeping American values from changing, at least for now. 


At least 20 percent of Americans claim more unaffiliated congressmen is a small step in the right direction, but there is still far to go. The further America gets out from under the thumb of religious principles in politics the better.

Prothero’s comment, “when it comes to religion, the U.S. Congress doesn’t yet look like the voters who are sending them to Washington,” is true. However, what this seems to be saying is that American values are more complex than what is uncovered in a survey or an election. Perhaps voters are focusing on more than just religious conviction. Or perhaps when it came down to it, voters simply liked more of what they saw in the Christian candidate than the other guy. Which would suggest that American values come in line more with Religious/Protestant than with the unaffiliated.

Either way, it is obvious that voters put the people they wanted into congress, and Prothero should simply try and accept that this is the way America is, without turning it into a hostile takeover by the religious politicians.

Secular values = American values?

Via Washington Post online

American values are changing. Or that’s what the secular groups are saying, and they might be right.

On Nov. 6, voters throughout America showed what they truly wanted, and to the chagrin of conservatives, they wanted gay marriage, abortion, marijuana, big government, and Obama. After the increase of the nones, is this another sign that the United States in moving steadily toward secular values? And if it is, should we be okay with this?

Greta Christina, an atheist blogger, seems to think this is the case, and she’s pretty happy about it:

“The political values that are most common among atheists — support for LGBT rights and same-sex marriage, support for birth control and abortion, support for evidence-based drug policy, opposition to religion being intertwined with government, opposition to laws about sex being based on religion, opposition to laws in general being based on religion — are, increasingly, American values.”

We can look at this one of two ways: 1) America is sinking into the depths of sin and destruction and must, now more than ever, be shown the light. 2) America is finally coming out of the oppressive nature of a government influenced by religious intolerance, but  there is still much work to do.

The nones seem to be leaning in the direction of “still much work to do” and they are demanding to be heard by the government. As one of the biggest groups in America the nones played a major part in the 2012 elections. But for many, even though they may have voted for Obama, the religious leaning of the president is still too much for comfort. After all, he did only receive a C in the Secular Coalition of America’s scorecard. But he still marked better than Romney’s F. Obama is pro-gay marriage and pro-abortion, so naturally he is the better candidate for most nones.

Lauren Anderson Youngblood, communications manager with the Secular Coalition, said the Obama administration needed to start taking the nones more seriously.

“The numbers don’t lie. They are an indicator of our untapped potential and politicians who want our vote need to focus on making decisions as lawmakers with reason and science, not theology. They need to tone down the religious rhetoric and when they do mention religious groups, mention us too, because we too are constituents and Americans and we deserve inclusion in our government.”

Will politicians now become more liberal to appease the growing secular population in America? After all, if you believe in progressive ethics (as Christian seems to) that change as the culture and population change, than this would be a necessary, and right, mindset for politicians to have. What was unheard of and viewed as wrong, both in the Bible and in society, has now become much more widely accepted. Therefore, the values of the culture are slowly changing and the “progressive” morals are evolving with it.

So Christina’s point in her blog post is that American values are changing for the better. She would say we are climbing out of the intolerant dogma of religion, and accepting the new ethics that society is in the process of deciding upon. This seems like a dangerous path to walk down. If society decides, as a whole, that something is right, is it right? The acceptance of that particular value must not be the end of the conversation. Were the Aztecs right when the majority of their population decided it was necessary to sacrifice their citizens to the gods?  Was America right when we decided it was okay to treat African Americans as slaves?


Carl Coon, a progressive humanist, is adamant that progressive ethics is the way society must work. He claims that as society advances we gain the ability to make better decisions. In essence, we are becoming smarter so we no longer need to cling to the traditions of “old religions.”

There is a ferment here, but it is not aimless. There is a direction. A global society driven by exploding technological capabilities is seeking new consensuses about a whole new galaxy of problems.

So our values do change, and they are supposed to change – or so all these people keep saying.  And the election just showed all Americans what most of them were already thinking. “This election was, to a great extent, a referendum on secular values versus the values of the theocratic religious right — and secular values won,” Christina said.

But wait! I can think of at least 48 percent of Americans who would be dismayed at this prediction. If secular values equal American values then where does that leave the 48 percent, and maybe more, who oppose Obama, gay marriage and abortion? In other words, 48 percent still oppose secular values – their values haven’t changed. Many of them probably still believe in the “old-fashioned theism” and “old religions” Coon opposes.  Secularists would say this just means America still has far to go, but the reality may be that we have already gone too far.

Perhaps the view of the religious right can be summed up with this comment by Richard Land of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.

“Clearly, we face a new moral landscape in America, and huge challenge to those of us who care passionately about these issues. We face a worldview challenge that is far greater than any political challenge, as we must learn how to winsomely convince Americans to share our moral convictions about marriage, sex, the sanctity of life, and a range of moral issues. This will not be easy. It is, however, an urgent call to action.”