On April 26, 2009 the New York Times published an article titled More Atheists Shout It From the Rooftops. In this article, author Laurie Goodstein describes the increase in the number of atheists, agnostics, and non-believers in Charleston, South Carolina. In February of this year, the local atheist organization put up a billboard reading, “Don’t Believe in God? You Are Not Alone.” Instead of receiving hate mail, the organization was overwhelmed with the positive reaction they received from large numbers of atheists, agnostics, and non-believers in the area. The article revolves around the increase in the number of atheists in American society and raises the question of what this means for the future of religion and politics.
I agree with the author that Obama’s recognition of non-believers in his inaugural address has the potential to be an important turning point in the perception of atheists, agnostics, and non-believers. It was the first time a President of the United States made reference to the value of non-believers. It is also important because, as the author cites, polls show non-believers are ranked lower than any other minority or religious group when Americans are asked whether they would vote for or approve of their child marrying a member of that group. An important tactic that Goodstein cites for the possible success and growth of non-believers is their adoption of a similar strategy to the gay rights movement. Goodstein explains that by relating non-believers going public with their beliefs to homosexuals coming out of the closet, non-believers will come out in mass support.
The implications of Goodstein’s article are very interesting. Even though the growth in number of non-believers still is not very large, I believe it has the potential to represent a drastic change in the relationship between religion and politics. Political parties will need to compete for the atheist vote if their numbers continue to grow and this has the potential to completely change the current relationship between religious groups and political parties, specifically the relationship between evangelicals and the Republican party. I think the New York Times article makes people question the future of religion and politics.