Saturday, January 7, 2017
So the newly elected 115th Congress is 90% Christian, according to recent data from PEW. Despite the fact that the US as a whole is only 70% Christian, and the unaffiliated now make up a whopping 25% of the US population. There is only one member of Congress who is openly unaffiliated, Democrat Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, from Arizona.
That means that of the 430 members of the House a whopping 0.2% are religiously unaffiliated. About 7 more we either do not know their religious affiliation or they refused to answer. They could be closeted secularists. But I have no idea. In the Senate there are no openly unaffiliated members. If the Congress was accurately represented by the population, there would be 107 members of the House who are openly unaffiliated and 25 members of the Senate. And about half of them would be openly atheist or agnostic. That would be about 66 members of Congress openly atheist or agnostic to represent the tens of millions of Americans who either question or reject a belief in god.
So what's the problem? Why are Christians dramatically over represented while us atheists, agnostics, and secularists dramatically under represented? It's still despicably hard for a person to run for Congress as an openly non-religious person, let along an atheist. It's seen as a liability. It's too costly to be openly non-religious because far too much of the country, even in liberal areas, thinks that being religious is automatically good and being irreligious is automatically bad. We've got to work to change that attitude.
We've got to turn the tide, as they've already done in other countries like England, to making open religiosity the liability, not open irreligiosity. If only millennials could vote in Congressional elections I think that would already be the case in several parts of the country. But the older generations, still wedded to their antiquated beliefs, ruin this. So what we secularists have to do is keep pushing our message and be relentless and over time, and hopefully sooner rather than later, popular opinion will change in our favor.
The one bit of possible good news is that the number of Protestant members of Congress has been declining, and since they tend to be the conservative firebrands, this could be a favorable direction in the long run. The 115th Congress has 7 fewer Baptists than the 114th according to PEW, and they tend to be the most conservative Protestants.