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Got Faith?

According to a recent article in The New York Times, more and more Americans are considering themselves "non-believers"-people who do not subscribe to a particular faith and/or belief in God. Akira Suemori writes, "The American Religious Identification Survey, a major study released in March 2009, found that those who claimed ‘no religion’ were the only demographic group that grew in all 50 states in the last 18 years. Nationally, the ‘nones‘ in the population nearly doubled, to 15 percent in 2008 from 8 percent in 1990. In South Carolina, they more than tripled, to 10 percent from 3 percent. (Not all the ‘nones’ are necessarily committed atheists or agnostics.)"

Historically, religious organizations have used special interest groups to promote their views on civic life.  Everything from prayer in schools to abortion has been talked about, discussed, and protested. Due to the increasing numbers of "non-believers," several new groups are beginning to organize and form special interest groups of their own.  

Laurie Goodstein of The New York Times writes, "Ten national organizations that variously identify themselves as atheists, humanists, freethinkers, and others who go without God have recently united to form the Secular Coalition for America. … These groups, once rivals, are now pooling resources to lobby in Washington for separation of church and state."

Although the individuals making up the Secular Coalition share stark differences in their understanding of what it means to be agnostic or atheist, they all seem to come together under the belief that church and state should remain separate. Fighting together against legislation seeking to eradicate this separation seems to be the key to their group doctrine, much as the fight against abortion has connected individual evangelicals of all backgrounds.

With religious and non-religious groups now forming political lobbies, it seems that religious and non-religious groups have more common ground. Michelle Goldberg, author of Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism, writes for The Guardian: "Today’s newly organized atheists and agnostics were mobilized by the theocratic bombast of Bush-era Republicans. More than ever, one’s religion is tied up with one’s political choices rather than family history. That means faith won’t fade into the background. If European secularism is defined by disinterest in organized religion, American secularism is largely defined by opposition to it. Thus non-believers in the United States are increasingly becoming an organized interest group, demanding their share of civic respect. The more they want to escape organized religion, the less they can ignore it."

Why is there rising trend in people claiming "no religion," and does the essence of "non-belief" share a symbiotic relationship with the language of faith? Do you think these coalitions should be fighting for the continued separation of church and state, or do you think there are other causes they should be involved in? Do followers of religion and "non-believers" have more in common than they think? Do you think "non-believers" forming coalitions is demonstrative of democracy in action? Why or why not? Should both religious and non-religious groups get out of the business of politics?

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