by Laurel Hines

If you are one of the ever-growing numbers of people who don’t believe in a religion, you are “a-theist” (not part of a religion). If you don’t like the religious dogma that Ted Cruz and others hope to inflict on the nation, you must come out of the closet and declare your “a-theism”. If it worries you when legislators make policies based on religion instead of modern science, you must come out of the closet and declare yourself as “a-theist”!

A Pew Research survey recently found that 23 percent of the U. S. population is nonaffiliated, and a third of Millennials identify now as non-religious. Yet few are willing to declare themselves as atheist or even agnostic (uncertain about God’s existence). Yet politicians will continue to ignore secular Americans until they are convinced that there is a price to be paid for doing so.

The Catholic, Evangelical, and other religious lobbies, meanwhile, have significant influence in our government. The non-believers avoid the atheist label because of the tendency of people to assume only the religious are moral and good people. Yet those of us who are atheist/non-believers know that is hog-wash, and that actually the opposite is true ( atheists are under represented in prisons; some churches are awash in child molesters in the clergy).

Morals are inherent in social beings, and religion is not necessary for moral behavior.

Secular non-believers need to assert that our numbers are growing and significant, and that we vote. But it takes joiners to create a lobby!

Freedom of conscience for all – which exists only in secular democracies- should be a top concern for the non-religious.

Unless we non-believers accept a label and unite under a label, and join organizations that take action by fighting to keep our government secular (like Atheists of America or Freedom From Religion), we face legislation based on religious morals and beliefs,  and not science, reason, or facts.

On Thursday, May 26th, from 11 AM to 2 PM, the first ever Portland Atheist Festival will be held in Pioneer Courthouse Square (https://www.facebook.com/portlandatheistfestival/).  Come and meet an atheist, or come and declare your atheism! We need to come out of the closet and show the world who we really are. The success of LGBTs in the past couple years shows that coming out of the closet and demanding to be heard can create major change for oppressed groups. Atheists are oppressed because we don’t declare ourselves and we don’t unite.

So let’s do it! Come to the Atheist Festival May 26th.

Laurel Hines is a retired clinical social worker/psychotherapist. She now volunteers at Willamette Humane Society, is an active animal advocate, and champions reality that can be supported by science and reason.. She is part of a growing group of Salem Freethinking Atheists.