Hillary Clinton needs to reach out to non-religious Americans

A woman raises her hand at the Reason Rally in Washington, D.C., on June 4, 2016. On the stage is American Atheists President David Silverman. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

(RNS) With recent polls putting her in a dead heat with Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton is missing a golden opportunity to solidify and grow her base. All she has to do is reach out to the most controversial group of voters in the country: Americans with no religious affiliation.

The “unaffiliated” — atheists, agnostics, and those who don’t belong to any organized religion — are now the single largest voting bloc by faith in the country, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center.

While we have no leaders and serious theological differences, we tend to hold similar political opinions. In fact, while the Pew survey found that nearly 80 percent of white evangelical Protestants support Trump (even higher than the support Mitt Romney received from the same group four years ago), 67 percent of nonreligious Americans support Clinton. We may not think alike in other ways, but we certainly have a political preference.

This isn’t a manipulation of statistics. There are 56 million Americans without religion and we’re roundly ignored by elected officials. Compare that to the approximately 55 million Hispanic Americans in the country who are routinely seen as key to the election and the focal point of many of our political debates.

Trump, to his credit, has gone out of his way to make sure evangelical Christians, who make up the Republican base, remain on his side. He held a private meeting with hundreds of Christian leaders, during which he assured the crowd, “We’re going to be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again.” He has repeatedly said the Bible is the greatest book ever. He spoke at Liberty University and invited the school’s president, Jerry Falwell Jr., to speak at next week’s Republican National Convention. And his choice for vice president, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, is a born-again Christian.

No wonder so many evangelicals are supporting him; he’s appeasing them. They’re on his side despite the fact that Trump can’t tell you his favorite Bible verse, doesn’t know whether he prefers the Old or New Testament, can’t properly pronounce 2 Corinthians, ridicules and insults his opponents, curses with regularity, picks fights with the pope, and doesn’t even ask for forgiveness.

Is he pandering to them? Absolutely. It’s like he has an evangelical political checklist and he’s just ticking off the items one by one.

But is it working? You bet.

There seems to be very little Trump can do to shake the conservative ties to the Republican Party. As a political strategy, it’s powerful, no matter how frustrating it may be to his critics.

How would that look on the other side of the religious spectrum? Thankfully, Clinton doesn’t have to play the same game with nonreligious Americans. We’re not asking her to change her views or enact radical policies. We’re not asking her to denounce her Methodist upbringing. All we’re asking, by and large, is for public assurances that faith will not trump reason in a Clinton administration.

That means reiterating her firm commitment to church-state separation. If the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships continues after President Obama’s term ends, we want her to place humanists on the advisory council so we’re included in those discussions.

We want her to promise that faith groups that discriminate against LGBT individuals will not be allowed to do so with taxpayer money. We want someone who will fight for LGBT rights, comprehensive sex education in our schools, reproductive choice, environmental protection, scientific literacy, and increased funding for NASA and the National Institutes of Health — all of which have been eroded by conservatives over the years.

These are the issues that matter to so many of us who have watched the religious right hold on to power even as the nation’s demographics have gone in the other direction. More important, these are issues that Clinton already supports.

And yet she has done remarkably little to encourage unaffiliated Americans to vote for her. There’s been no outreach to our communities (and, yes, we have communities). There’s just an assumption that we’re already locked in, even though many nonreligious people still harbor an affinity for Bernie Sanders or third-party candidates; others are choosing not to vote at all.

It’s easy to understand why she might be hesitant. As recently as last year, Gallup found that 40 percent of Americans would never vote for a well-qualified presidential candidate from their own party if that person were an atheist. Atheists have been political poison for several decades and catering to us may hurt candidate’s prospects.

But it’s not the taboo it used to be, even in the realm of politics. While there’s not a single open atheist currently in Congress — and only one, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who uses the “unaffiliated” label — there are almost 20 openly nonreligious candidates for state or federal elections this year.

It’s also good strategy to reach out to us. Not just for this election, but for future ones as well. Pew found that an astonishing 36 percent of “younger millennials” (ages 18-24) were unaffiliated. And that percentage seems to grow larger every year.

This is the future of the country, and it could contribute to a rapidly expanding Democratic base … if only Democrats were willing to include us in their conversations the same way Republicans court evangelicals.

Even now, we make up a sizable proportion of several swing states. The “nones” make up 24 percent of Florida, 22 percent of Ohio, 21 percent of Pennsylvania, and 20 percent of North Carolina. Clinton needs to pick up a couple of those to assure electoral victory in November.

The worry isn’t that we’ll all vote for Trump, but that too many of us won’t be sufficiently motivated to vote at all.

There’s so much opportunity and so little risk. We’re not asking for special treatment; we just want to be heard.

For all the talk of reaching out to independents, it’s just as important to make sure the people who already tend to agree with you are motivated to vote and encourage others to do the same.

There are millions of us just waiting for Clinton to take us seriously. What a mistake it would be if she didn’t.

(Hemant Mehta is the editor of FriendlyAtheist.com)

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  • Oh, come on Mr. Mehta! Hillary is ALREADY doing and promising exactly what you want her to do. She’s bending over backwards to appease atheists and liberals, and she voluntarily THREW AWAY all of her legitimate rational political positions (such as gay marriage being a matter for individual states to decide for themselves.)

    She’s absolutely promised to “continue Obama’s policies”, that is, to continue the policies of the most ANTI-BIBLICAL, ANTI-RELIGIOUS-LIBERTY president in United States history (or even Communist history, for that matter).

    She’s a Methodist, but it’s strictly that soggy, federal-disaster-area United Methodist Church stuff. The only atheist who can act more like an atheist than Hillary, is the amazing firebrand Bernie Sanders.

    So honestly, why complain about Hillary, dude? She’s giving you what you want.

  • You have no clue how politics works. This is a career politician, she’s pretty much the stereotype of an entrenched politician who plays the system.

    You’re base is already voting in her favor almost 70%. She’s the stereotypical politician, motivated by only getting votes and winning. Why would she CARE about you or your voting base?? You’re ALREADY giving her your votes, she doesn’t have to do ANYTHING for you.

    You only possess power as a voting base if you could go either way. You can ONLY influence a creature like Clinton if you threaten to vote Trump if she doesn’t support you, and somehow I don’t think you’ve got what it takes to make that threat.

    The Democrats ONLY started ACTUALLY advocating for actually pushing for gay marriage after a midterm election where the one-in-three LGBT voters voted REPUBLICAN. Only after the LGBT community was able to communicate to the Blue Tribe that they would not vote for the Blue Tribe unless the Blues actually did something for them, did the Blue Tribe go from “Marriage is between one man and one woman” to having an “evolution” on the subject and deciding to be pro gay marriage.

    They, meaning the political creatures, will ONLY support you and will ONLY actually align with your interests if you make voting for the opposite tribe an actual possibility.

    Until then, the world’s most stereotypical self-interested politician simply has no use for you.

  • Floydlee spews utter nonsense. Hillary is a centrist. She is a lifelong Methodist, a very mainstream Christian. Her commitment to religious liberty is shown by her opposition to having taxpayers forced to pay for sectarian private schools through vouchers and by her support for women’s rights of conscience and religious freedom on abortion. — Edd Doerr

  • Re Hemant Mehta’s comment —

    A. About 23% of US adults may be religiously unaffiliated (“nones”), but only about 1/3 of them are humanists, agnostics or atheists. Another 1/3 are religious “seekers” and 1/3 are simply indifferent. And all three categories are spread all over the map, though most tend to vote liberal. One big problem is that many do not vote. In the 2014 elections only about 12% of the voters were “nones.” (See Elizabeth Drescher’s 2016 book Choosing Our Religion [Oxford U Press] and Christel Manning’s 2015 book Losing Our Religion [NYU Press], both of which I reviewed in my column in the June/July Free Inquiry.)

    B. Hillary already appeals to “nones” just as she does to a majority of Catholics, half of mainstream Protestants, and the vast majority of Jews. How? By supporting women’s rights of conscience and religious liberty on abortion, by opposing the diversion of public funds to special interest church-run private schools through vouchers, and by supporting action on climate change.

    Narcissist buffoon Trump, Mike Pence (the disastrous Indiana governor sure to lose his re-election bid), and the rest of this year’s backers of this goofy duo are on the wrong side on all of these important issues.

    The 2016 elections — federal, state and local — may be the most important since 1860. All thinking Americans of all religious and lifestance persuasions need to vote and support the candidates who will not send our world back to the Dark Ages.

    Edd Doerr (arlinc.org)

  • ,So the majority of Democrats are “Nones” when it comes to religion? What else is new?

    Hilliary is their patron saint, and of course they’ll faithfully vote for her. YOu see, they don’t have to be at all concerned about any morality concerns that accompany Hilliary’s corruption charges; you know–all thosee cases where undeniably a political favor was performed soon after a large contribution was made to the Clinton Foundation. It’s good enough for them, that the Clinton Foundation spends only 10% of their income on truly charitable causes–close enough to that Jewish tithe for them!

    Yep, Clinton can count on the loyalty of this group. They know that when push comes to shove, she’ll protect the interets of the wealthy–that rhetoric about the desparity of paychecks is just rhetoric aimed at the low income faithful, who have been brainwashed to believe that government is their only hope.

  • I believe that Hillary is quite popular with Catholics, HILLARY who Thinks Children Should Have No Rights Before Birth
    In a political interview, Baier asked Hillary Clinton, “Do you think a child should have any legal rights or protections before (s/he’s) born? … Do you think there should not be any restrictions on any abortions at any stage in a pregnancy?”
    Baier, noting that Clinton didn’t answer his question about when the baby is worth protecting, pressed a little further. “Just to be clear, there’s no( Rights or protections) — without any exceptions?”……….“No,” Clinton stated.

    JESUS SAYS…………….. “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not (just} welcome me but the one who sent me

  • Embryos and fetuses are not persons. The Bible (Gen 1:27 and 2:7) and biblical tradition out personhood as beginning at birth. Modern science (as DNA co-discoverer Francis Crick and 11 other Nobel laureate scientists advised the Supreme Court) shows that the functions associated with personhood are not possible until allowed by brain development, some time after 28-32 weeks of gestation. (Note that 99% of abortions are done in the first 13 weeks, 99% by 20 weeks, and the rest only for serious medical reasons.) Further, the vast majority of Americans, including Catholics, support women’s rights of conscience and religious freedom on contraception and abortion. And Jesus referred to “children”, not fetuses. — Edd Doerr

  • the most ANTI-BIBLICAL, ANTI-RELIGIOUS-LIBERTY president in United States history (or even Communist history, for that matter).

    For real, dude?

  • So some Democratic bigwigs only recently came around to supporting LGBT rights…
    In stark contrast to Republicans who were staunchly against them before, staunchly against them now, and promise to remain staunchly against them in the future.

    The American people increasingly support LGBT rights. Democrats are responding to that support. Republicans don’t care.

  • Think about it. The Commies were guilty of many sins, but imposing the corrosive and fatal national evil of Legalized Gay Marriage, was absolutely NOT one of them.

    So the correct answer is YES, For Real. It took a lot of effort, but Obama and Hillary have effectively PROVEN that they are worse than Commies !!!

  • What’s anti-religious-liberty about same-sex marriage? It doesn’t take anything away from anyone. It is, in fact, a very PRO-liberty position.

  • Umm, you got the Bible part wrong. (Most atheists do.)

    The Bible is clear that God considers **unborn children** to be actual persons.

    Jer. 1:5, Ps 71:6.

  • The Bible is rather clear in Gen 1:27 and 2:7 that God created man in his own image, which must include consciousness and will (not possible until allowed by brain development after 28-32 weeks) and that Adam became a man when Adam took his first breath. This the Bible, science and Roe v Wade are pretty much in harmony. You may believe as you please, but you should not ask government to impose your narrow view on all women. — Edd Doerr

  • thanks for those Genesis scriptures, says that as God has always existed, humans created in the image of God, at the earliest spark of Life exists as a human being,

    Jeremiah 1:5 – “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…” God knew Jeremiah before He formed him in the womb (i.e., before he was conceived). In the mind of God, Jeremiah existed as a human being even before he was conceived.

    we all know that most Dems are atheistic and the lives babies in the womb are not really high on their list of priorities
    But any true Catholic ( not C I N O’s ) knows the truth of the evil of abortion,the Holy Spirit enlightens the conscience about this matter, and should not give their ascent to someone who promises that she will not allow pre-born babies to have ANY rights or protections-WITHOUT EXCEPTION !!

    “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” (Isaiah 5:20)

    Saint Paul says that the only way that a believer can call evil good, is to kill the conscience, and the more they do this, will cultivate a reprobate mind and conscience within, and will of their own free will push God out of their lives

    Surely, even if you cannot vote for anyone else,your conscience shouldn’t allow you to give your affirmativeto Hillary

  • Don’t try to make sense of floydlee. He thinks it’s icky that we can’t have gays stoned to death.

  • “Thinks Children Should Have No Rights Before Birth”

    Children are born. A fetus isn’t. Until you can take custody of a fetus, a pregnancy is nobody’s business but the mother’s.

    Fetus worshipers have already imprisoned 2 women in Indiana for having miscarriages. The anti abortion crowd are a bunch of self righteous crazies. If they cared one iota for life beyond gestation, abortion would never be an issue. Because all pregnancies would be wanted and planned.

  • Jeremiah 1:5 – “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…”

    In other words, ‘God knows the future’. That’s not a statement about personhood.

  • Hmmmm!- who should I believe and put my faith in- Atheists, who give ” intellectual insights” that God doesn’t exist and Politicians who gather around them so called “enlightened” scientists who write long winded dissertations, that tell them what they want to hear, to appease their moral sense of right and wrong, and allow them to terminate babies in the womb

    or God who made heaven and earth and man in his own image,who loves us so much that came to earth to give his life for us, who gave us his word in the scriptures

    The Bible definitely teaches that the unborn are persons because the unborn possess personal attributes, are described by personal pronouns, Jesus is called a child at conception, the unborn are called children, are protected by the same punishment as for adults, are called by God before birth, and are known personally by God just like any other person. Since abortion is murdering a person, abortion is morally wrong

    He says -“what is set before you to choose is death or life- CHOOSE LIFE

    I for one CHOOSE LIFE!! .

  • The unborn are known personally and intimately by God in the same way He would know any other person. Describing David, Psalm 139:15-16 says, “My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written; the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.
    Sven when you look at a newborn child and the overwhelming love and joy that baby brings how can you say that that baby should not have any protection or rights a few month before its birth, it is still the same person – but younger

  • You want to invoke sectarianism as a guide for veracity and intellectual validity. Sheesh. Thank you for making it clear right off the bat, I am addressing a fanatic uninterested in facts or sane discussion.

    “The Bible definitely teaches that the unborn are persons because the unborn possess personal attributes”

    No it doesn’t. Show me a Bible cite which addresses a fetus as anything beyond the property of a mother or her husband or father. You won’t find it. You are simply assuming based on centuries of dogma.

    I don’t expect honest or rational discussion from someone who can’t tell the difference between born and unborn. Nor who thinks a fetus is a person, bit a woman isn’t.

    You don’t care about life outside of 9 months gestation. So “choose life” is a saying with no meaning for you. One of many Christian fundamentalist dishonest euphemisms.

  • “Clinton Foundation spends only 10% of their income on truly charitable causes”

    You have Trump siphoning off campaign contributions into his pocket and a running mate who used similar funds to pay his mortgage (which is why he was run out of the Indiana governors race). Yet you think THIS is significant?

    I guess corruption is only for other people. Outright theft is OK if you are a republican.

  • Judge not lest ye be judged. Some Dems may be atheists, as are some Repubs, but most Dems are Christians of one sort or another. The Bible does not actually condemn abortion. You may believe as you please but do not ask government to impose your beliefs on all women. I stand with Roger Williams, the great 17th century Baptist who preached church-state separation. _- Edd

  • what a rant Spuddie!! – Nowhere have I said that a woman is not a person, or that I don’t care about life outside of 9 months gestation, when I say CHOOSE LIFE, I believe from conception to the end of natural life,then leading to everlasting life, if you won’t believe me ask Pope Francis-he and I are in full agreement, I could Quote you more scripture but it would be to no avail, I think it was saint Paul that said that obvious spiritual truths cannot be understood by people who persistently reject Jesus and his words that challenge their mode of thinking / way of life
    Can you honestly say Spuddie that when you look at a newborn baby, that baby was not a baby previously, and should not have any protection or rights before it came into the world, it is still the same person – but younger

    watch this wisdom from the mouths of babes……


  • edddoerrr -I was not trying to be Judgemental, and I would never try to impose my beliefs on anyone, but as a Catholic, I just could not understand how such a high percentage of Catholics could vote for someone who espouses such anti-Christian / Catholic rhetoric and it is our duty to stand up for the truth,

    church / state separation is is a mainstay of democracy, I would never argue with that, but I am asking the question to Catholics – is it right that you give your vote and ascent to what the pope himself would describe as evil…… children should have no legal rights, protections before (s/he’s) born? … ….and that there should not be any restrictions on any abortions at any stage in a pregnancy?”

    Can you separate your vote and your faith?

    PS the bible does recognise baby in the womb as a child….“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb;Luke 1 v 41…. and Whoever sheds innocent blood is an abomination to the Lord .Prov. 6:16–19,

    We must also remember that Jesus loves us infinitely more than we could ever know and there is nothing we have done that is beyond his mercy and forgiveness, His loveand mercy is held from no-one

  • Like’s poetic metaphor does not undercut the more basic theme of Gen 1:27 and 2:7. Also, polls regularly show that the majority of US Catholics support the pro-choice position. And the main architect of Roe v Wade was Catholic Justice William Brennan. Further, the two most noted Catholic theologians, Augustine and Aquinas, did not buy into the notion of personhood at conception. — Edd Doerr

  • 1 Elizabeths words “as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the BABY in my womb leaped for joy”. were not “poetic metaphor” but words inspired by the Holy Spirit,

    the angel Gabriel said to Mary ” the holy CHILD developing inside you will be called the Son of God

    2 there are a great number of Catholics in America that never go near a catholic Church and constantly deride Church teachings they are known as C I N O’s -Catholics In Name Only

    3 William Brennan- if he has repented he has been forgiven, if not it is between him and Jesus alone,we are not to Judge

    Aquinas, based on the teachings of Aristotle, philosophised about when a soul entered an an unborn baby but staunchly said abortion is a violation of natural law and is always wrong, no matter when a soul may be infused into the developing child’s body. Aquinas overlooked the fact that the biblical view of the soul cannot be squared with Aristotle’s. In Psalm 51:5 David says he was a sinner from conception, but sinfulness is a spiritual quality, so David must have had a spirit, a soul, from conception.

    : Augustine, in common with most other ecclesiastical writers of his period, vigorously condemned the practice of induced abortion. Procreation was one of the goods of marriage; abortion figured as a means, along with drugs which cause sterility, of frustrating this good. It lay along a continuum which included infanticide as an instance of ‘lustful cruelty’ or ‘cruel lust.’ Augustine called the use of means to avoid the birth of a child an ‘evil work:’ a reference to either abortion or contraception or both.”

    It must also be said that In the late 1st century or early 2nd century, the Didache explicitly condemned abortion, as did the Apocalypse of Peter in the 2nd century. Early Christians considered abortion wrong in all circumstances

    Its not just Religious people that believe that human life begins at conception

    click this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7jRM6ytOA_U#t=62

  • YouTube is only useful for cat videos and depicting self inflicted groin injuries.

    According to your posts, you don’t consider a pregnant woman worthy of consideration. Hence you avoid referencing them in your rants. Obviously she had no right to make personal decisions about what goes on in her body without your say so. You demand power over such decisions. As if anyone asked you or required your input there.

    If you cared about life lives outside the womb, you would consider what women go through in making such decisions. Obviously it is not something you remotely care about. Nor do you care about those already born.

    Women have suffered enough at the hands of raging narcissists like yourself who think all decisions must go through them. Well they don’t need your input. Nobody does.

    Your lack of respect for life is clear. As long as women obey your command, you could care less what their lives are or the lives of their children. You are not asking for the rights of a fetus, you are asking for power over pregnant women. Well you don’t have that. Tough luck.

  • Believe as you like, but I take my stand with the majority of Catholic and other women who reject your medieval stance. I fully support women’s rights of conscience and religious liberty. BTW, if the Vatican would remove its absurd ban on contraception, we might reduce the 56 million abortions per year worldwide. – Edd Doerr

  • People indifferent to religion tend to be closer to atheists than religious people because atheists and humanists don’t try to force them to acknowledge their dogma.