I suppose it was bound to happen.
With the newly- galvanized atheist movement becoming increasingly visible and increasingly vocal, we were pretty much destined to become a political football, the subject of a fear- mongering campaign flyer depicting us as vile despoilers of the American Dream... and using an association with us to smear an opponent. (And the early 21st century being what it is, we were pretty much destined to then to become the subject of a YouTube campaign video, doing exactly the same thing.)
So here's the thing I find fascinating.
It's not the fact that the flyer and video in question told lies about us. It's not even the fact that they insulted us in bigoted, hateful language that, in this day and age, would not be tolerated from a major political candidate about any other religious group.
What I find fascinating is this:
Our very existence is being presented as an abomination. The mere fact that atheists exist, and speak, and express political views, is being presented as part of the package of our vileness, and is being used to frighten voters.
For those who haven't heard already, here's the story. North Carolina Republican Senator Elizabeth Dole -- yes, that Elizabeth Dole -- is in a re-election campaign against Democratic opponent Kay Hagan. Dole had been ahead, but like a lot of Republican incumbents this election, she's been falling behind.
So her campaign sent out an anti-Hagan flyer -- centering on the fact that Hagan attended a fundraiser in Boston, hosted by atheist activists and leaders of the Godless Americans PAC, Wendy Kaminer and Woody Kaplan.
In which atheists are described, among other things, as "the most vile, radical liberals in America."
And the National Republican Senatorial Committee then put out a YouTube video, also centering on this fundraiser, and saying that, because she accepted campaign donations from atheists, "We can't trust Kay Hagan to defend our North Carolina values."
Here's the video. And here's a copy of the flyer. You can click to enlarge if you like. (Pages 2 and 3 are presented separately here, but are meant to be read side by side as one page.) Please note the quotes from my atheist blogging homeboys at Friendly Atheist and Daylight Atheism on Page 4. Both of whom, of course, have blogged about this.
Now. Here's what I'd like you to do. Read the flyer again. Watch the video again. And in the place of the word "atheist," substitute the word "Jewish."
From the flyer:
"Jewish Americans Political Action Committee is a left-wing organization based in Washington, DC -- dedicated to 'Mobilizing America's Jews for Political Activism.'"
"They actively support political candidates who are Jews."
"And they want Kay Hagan in the U.S. Senate."
"We can't trust Kay Hagan to defend our North Carolina values."
From the video:
"Kay Hagan attended a Massachusetts fundraiser hosted by a leader of the JEWISH AMERICANS PAC."
"DaylightJudaism.org: 'Kay Hagan out to be rewarded for inviting Jews onto her platform.'"
"And what's THEIR platform?"
"And what does Kay Hagan have to say? 'North Carolina deserves leadership that advocates on behalf of North Carolinians, every day, every week, every month, and every year.' Apparently except when Jewish donors in Massachusetts invite you over."
If there were a campaign flyer or video saying that? The candidate would be excoriated by the mainstream media, up one side and down the other. They'd either be distancing themselves from the people who made it so fast it would make your head spin... or they'd be resigning in disgrace. A resignation called upon, not only by every major news organization in the country, but by their own party. And rightly so.
But apparently, not so much with the atheists.
So I never, ever want to hear again that there's no such thing as anti- atheist bigotry, or that atheists aren't discriminated against in this country.
But again, here's what I'm finding really interesting.
It's not the lies and deceptions (thoroughty detailed in the Friendly Atheist and Daylight Atheism pieces). It's not about the transparent fearmongering about how atheists are out to destroy Boy Scouts and Christmas. (It sounds like a joke, doesn't it?) It's not even the fact that they can't seem to spell the word "Atheist" right.
It's not even the fact that we were called "vile."
Read again, please, the quotes being used on this flyer from the Friendly Atheist and Daylight Atheism blogs.
"I don't know that I've ever been to North Carolina besides driving through, but I just donated (to Hagan's campaign)."
"Kay Hagan ought to be rewarded for inviting nonbelievers onto her platform."
Pretty inflammatory stuff, huh? Lock up your children, people -- the atheists are going to donate money to a political candidate they support!
The very fact that we dare to exist at all -- and that some of us are daring enough to want our voices heard in the political arena -- that is the monster under the bed. The fact that we expect to be treated as citizens, that we see ourselves as a political movement, that we want our elected officials to be aware of our concerns and to represent us... that, just by itself, is what is being presented as the wicked, terrifying, "vile" threat that must be stopped at all costs.
But you know what?
I actually feel sort of flattered. And I definitely feel encouraged.
Because you know what this means?
It means we're getting through.
So if you're an atheist -- or an atheist- positive supporter -- here's what I want you to do.
If you can afford it, donate some money to Kay Hagen's campaign. Even just $25. I know the economy sucks. I know this is a huge election, with a million candidates and initiatives that need donations. And I know I just got through begging you to support the No on 8 campaign to protect same-sex marriage in California. But if you can have it to spare, make a donation to Kay Hagen. Again, even a small one would help.
And then write to her campaign, at firstname.lastname@example.org, letting her know that you've made a donation, and why. Write to her, and let her know that you're atheist or atheist- positive, and that Elizabeth Dole's anti-atheist bigotry is why you made your donation.
Here's what I wrote:
Hello. My name is Greta Christina, and although I don't live in North Carolina, I just made a donation to your campaign. I wanted to let you know that I did so prompted by recent posts on the Daylight Atheism and Friendly Atheist blogs.
I am appalled by Elizabeth Dole's open bigotry and hatred towards atheists -- a bigotry and hatred that would not be tolerated towards any other religious group. And I am encouraged by Kay Hagan's recognition that atheists are citizens, who have a right to have our voices heard in the political arena.
My funds are limited (especially since I've been donating to other political campaigns this year), so my donation was small. But I plan to write about this on my own blog, and encourage my readers (some who are atheists, many others who aren't but support atheists' rights) to support your campaign as well. Thank you again for your recognition of our growing community, and please know that we are grateful and will not forget it.
Because you know what would be cool? What would be even cooler than being a newly- visible, newly- vocal movement?
Being a voting bloc. Being a political force to be reckoned with. Being an interest group that political candidates can't afford to openly smear and insult, because if they do we'll mobilize against them.
And having a U.S. Senator who know that she's in the Senate, at least partly, because of the atheist and atheist- supportive community.
That would be super-cool.