Open atheists like me are accustomed to being vilified as a class, but the pejoratives say more about those who cast aspersions than about those they malign. Here are just three examples of judgments made about me, along with my parenthetical thoughts.
1. You have no moral compass because you don't fear a judging God. (So without your God belief you would be committing horrible crimes?)
2. I feel sorry for you. How can you go on living without a belief in an afterlife? (I guess you must not get much joy in this life, since you focus on an afterlife.)
3. Why do you hate God? (This always makes me want to laugh, but I don't. Atheists can no more hate God than hate the Tooth Fairy. I can understand why God believers might sometimes hate an all-powerful God who triggers or allows countless atrocities under his "watch.")
When it comes to politics, there is some marginally good news for atheists. In response to a recent Gallup survey asking if your party nominated a generally well-qualified person for president who happens to be an atheist, 58 percent say they would vote for that person. That's the highest percentage ever, though it pales in comparison to over 90 percent for a Catholic, Woman, Black, Hispanic, or Jew. While still ranked below gays and Muslims, atheists do beat out socialists (47 percent). Many of us are hoping that an Openly Secular campaign will favorably change the public's perspective of atheists.
It's not surprising that politicians who are atheists remain in the closet about their religious beliefs. One notable exception, sort of, is presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. He considers himself a socialist and a non-religious Jew, though he doesn't use the "atheist" label. If he were not an atheist, he would probably be the only Jewish socialist in this country who isn't.
Nobody, however, doubts that Bernie Sanders is a Secular Progressive, a category that has recently earned capital letters thanks to another presidential candidate, Dr. Ben Carson.
Carson's view of the world amazes me. It's hard to decide which is his most ridiculous pronouncement: no abortions ever, even for rape or incest; equating abortion to slavery and the Holocaust; equating Obamacare to slavery; or asserting that there might not have been a Holocaust had Jews defended themselves with guns; or Carson's biblically based tax plan of tithing so that poor people will gain self-respect for the privilege of paying the same percentage as rich people. Now add Carson's recent proposal to turn the Department of Education into an investigative body to monitor biased political speech by professors on university campuses. So much for our cherished free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment. (As a math professor, I never discussed politics in my classroom, so a Secular Progressive like me probably would not be investigated by a Department of Education under (hypothetical) President Ben Carson.)
I get it that Ben Carson does not like Secular Progressives. But I was astonished by his assertion of being in great danger and needing Secret Service protection because he challenges the Secular Progressive movement to its very core.
I acknowledge that presidential candidates need protection from the many lunatics in this country who would like to become famous by killing a well-known person. As a leading candidate in presidential polls, I'm fully supportive of Ben Carson receiving Secret Service protection. But I'm shocked by his reason for such a request.
Whether you agree or disagree with Secular Progressives, this is the first time I've heard them indirectly accused of being violent. At worst, they might verbally challenge Carson on just about all the political positions he takes. While we don't understand how a doctor can ignore overwhelming evidence for evolution, we don't kill people because of our disagreements. I've read about all the mass murders and assassinations in my lifetime, and the number committed by secular progressives is--zero. The Secular Progressives I know generally favor gun control to reduce violence, and can't imagine believing that gun control in Germany was a major contributor to the Holocaust.
Despite all of the above, Secular Progressives like me aren't worried about electing a President Ben Carson. He does not have much more chance of becoming president than Lindsay Graham, the presidential candidate from my home state of South Carolina. I expect most Democrats would like to see Ben Carson become the presidential nominee of the Republican Party because he would be so easy to defeat once the campaign in a general election turns to issues, knowledge, and experience.
But I do worry about a Republican Party in which Ben Carson ranks so high in the polls, a party in which almost half the people would like to see this country become a Christian theocracy. Now that's Scary with a capital S.