If you’re a nonbeliever in Mississippi, you can feel like you don’t have a voice. You are outnumbered, so you don’t think you should speak up.
What if you learned that “religious nones” are now the largest voting bloc based on religious affiliation in the United States?
That probably comes as a shock, but it’s true.
Religious nones make up one-fifth of registered voters in the United States. That’s a 50 percent increase in a mere 8 years.
If religious nones have a bigger voting bloc, why do they keep losing out to evangelical voters?
It has to do with how the two blocs define their issues.
Evangelicals – The Definition of Single-Issue Voters
With more religious nones than evangelical voters, it would seem that politicians would bend over backward to meet the demands of the unaffiliated. That’s hardly the case, though, and the reason is simple.
Evangelicals are single-issue voters, and politicians use that to their advantage.
If you want to get an evangelical on your side, say you are against abortion.
Republicans have found that if they say those magic words, they will get all the donations they could possibly want. Not only that, but the evangelicals will come out to the polls and make sure they get elected.
That one issue has managed to put countless republicans in office.
Religious Nones – It’s a Bit More Complicated
While evangelicals are obsessed with restricting women’s rights to healthcare, the religious nones are a bit more complicated. Religious nones are anything but single-issue voters.
If you were to ask a random person what humanist issues are, he or she would probably say:
- Government-sponsored prayer
- Religious exemptions
- Teaching creationism/intelligent design in public schools
- Crosses and the 10 commandments on government property
- Bibles in school
That person would be right. Those are humanist issues, but the list goes on to include:
- Science-based education
- Women’s rights
- Criminal justice reform
- LGBT rights
- Funding Planned Parenthood
- Dying with dignity
This list is anything but exhaustive, but it gives you an idea of the number of issues that the religiously unaffiliated care about when they go to the polls.
As you can imagine, it’s much harder for religious nones to come together and vote as a group because they care about so many issues. While the religious right is fighting to go back to the days of back-alley abortions, the unaffiliated have a laundry list of issues.
But Are the Issues Really that Different?
At first glance, it seems like these issues are incredibly different but that’s actually not the case. These issues are really quite similar.
Each one is an equal rights issue that would disappear if the country had a true separation of church and state. In addition, each of these issues puts the religious right in a frenzy. That voting bloc lends its voice and its bank account to fighting back against those issues.
These issues might meet the same criteria, but humanists have to take a different approach to each one. If you do that, you can make a difference as a humanist and as a voter.
Coming Together to Win at the Polls
When you look at the list of humanist issues, you will see that some are truly just humanist issues. For instance, humanists tend to be the ones that care about prayer in school. A women’s rights group isn’t going to join in that fight. It’s a fight that’s left for the humanists. That’s why these issues often have to be litigated.
That’s not true with all of the humanist issues, though. Many of the issues have crossover appeal with women’s groups, the LGBT community, scientists, and others.
Humanists must partner up with other groups to make our voices louder and our presence known. This is the best way for us to use our numbers to make a real impact on the issues that matter most. Once we form a coalition, we will be unstoppable.
For instance, humanists could partner up with Planned Parenthood to fight for the right to receive safe abortions. This will give humanists more credibility on the issue and a bigger seat at the table.
Humanists can also stand up with the Human Rights Campaign to fight against bathroom bills and to work to get nondiscrimination ordinances in place.
We can march with scientists to fight for science-based curriculum in the schools or protest with convicted felons to have voting rights restored.
The key is for humanists to find issues that we share with others and to jump in and help. This will make the voting bloc more powerful and will show the world that humanists aren’t just about taking down religious relics or removing government-sponsored prayer. Humanists are about equality. That’s the foundation of a humanist issue, and it’s something that most reasonable people can agree on.
It’s important to understand that we might not agree on all the issues when we partner up with other groups, but that is OK. We have to work one issue at a time to get the best results. Before you know it, we will make our way down the list and address all the issues that are important to us.
What You Can Do to Help
Are you fired up and ready to fight for humanist issues? it’s easier to get started than you might think.
- Identify an issue you are passionate about. Choose an issue that is also important to another group.
- Partner with that group to create change. Attend marches, take part in phone banks, or help fundraise.
- Explain to the group how their issue is also a humanist issue. This small gesture will help change the narrative around humanism.
It’s Time to Fight Back!
What issue is important to you? What are you going to help change? Religious nones have the largest voting bloc. It’s time to use it. Let’s hit the streets and get to work!
Stay tuned for next week’s post, when we will explain how you can make a big change in your local community.