Rejoice, fans of marginal political causes! The godless have come to Washington.
Yesterday, the Center for Humanist Activism launched the Freethought Equality Fund PAC, which claims to be the first atheist political action committee with a paid staff (remarkably, the Guinness Book people let this one get past them).
Only one problem: there's not an obvious issue set for the pagans. Things are going pretty well in their world. After this year's VMAs, we basically forged a societal consensus that God is dead. They apparently see the situation in far more dire terms, however, per the Washington Free Beacon's reportage:
American Humanist Association Executive Director Roy Speckhardt said that after enduring the rise of “agents of theocratism” such as Pat Robertson, former President George W. Bush, former Sen. Rick Santorum (R., Pa.), and the Tea Party, a coalition of the skeptical is ready to fight back.
From Pat Robertson to W to the Tea Party? Cast that net any wider and you'll be pulling in blue whales. This is an awful lot of trouble to go to just to say that Republicans harsh your mellow.
Not that FEF PAC (pronounced with the sound of a dog sneeze) is without an agenda:
[American Humanist Association Communications director Maggie] Ardiente’s grievances include the Pledge of Allegiance, references to God on money, public buildings, and ceremonies of public office, tax dollars spent on religious charitable organizations that exclude atheists, and neighbors who “go unpunished for child abuse because they claim a religious exemption to certain laws."
Give that list a second glance. The last one's pretty bad, but I'm assuming it's a reference to parents who object to certain kinds of medical treatments based on their beliefs. That's hardly a cut-and-dried issue, but it's also not flaying your kid with a cat-o'-nine-tails in the name of Ganesha.
As for the rest of it? It's being a little too generous to call these first-world problems. These are first-world jackass problems. Whatever happened to the good old bacchanalian infidels? Why are they now spending all their time doing the equivalent of filing complaints with HR?
If you want a taste of Freethought's big-think policy goals, consider this (priceless) passage from the WFB's CJ Ciaramella:
One of the bills cited by the fund as an example of a lobbying opportunity was an amendment to a House bill that would have allowed humanist chaplains in the military. It is unclear what a humanist chaplain does.
Perhaps most provocative is the PAC's contention that Congress has a network of shadow atheists:
Speckhardt said he knows of at least two dozen current members of Congress who are “closeted” atheists.
The Huffington Post strikes a similar note:
A few months after retiring, former Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) also announced his nonbeliever status, a declaration he made more than 25 years after coming out as the first openly gay member of Congress.
That Frank felt more comfortable going public with his sexuality in 1987 than he did with his secular beliefs at any point during his House career says a lot about the stigma surrounding atheism in electoral politics. In 2011, Herb Silverman of the Secular Coalition of America told the Guardian that his group was aware of 27 members of Congress other than Stark "that have no belief in God." It's unclear who they were, or are, but none of them -- perhaps except Frank -- have since decided to speak out.
That fear seems well founded:
A poll taken during election season last year found that only 54 percent of Americans would vote for a "well-qualified" atheist presidential candidate. While this was the highest total since Gallup began asking the question in 1958, atheism proved the biggest negative influence on a hypothetical candidate's viability, with fewer respondents saying they would be willing to vote for an atheist than either a gay or a Muslim candidate. Another survey taken in 2012 found that 50 percent of Americans believe atheism is "threatening" to them.
Would you vote for an atheist president? S.E. Cupp -- herself an unbeliever -- wouldn't. Me? I'd actually have a lot of respect for a politician honest enough to take such an unpopular stand publicly. As far as actually guiding my decision on who to vote for? It'd rank right below a candidate's position on the National Helium Reserve.