Wait, WHAT? It was a total shock to me, but apparently, 54% of Americans are cool with an atheist president. Via Allahpundit at Hot Air:
I’ve blogged a bunch of these Gallup polls over the years and my demographic has always been at the bottom of the barrel preference-wise. But things are improving: In 2007, just 45 percent said they’d vote for an atheist, then last year it crept up to 49 percent. Now we’re over the hump at 54. I wonder why. It’s not like the “new atheism” suddenly exploded onto the national scene over the past six months, and to hear believers tell it, the new atheism is more likely to alienate people than persuade them. Maybe, maybe not. What you’re seeing here, I think, is the fruit of normalization: It’s not so much that people are becoming more sympathetic to atheism (although that might be true) than that, as atheists become more visible culturally, people see for themselves that we’re not that weird or threatening. Acceptance of gays works along the same lines, of course, except that they’re further along than we are. For a vivid illustration of that, follow the Gallup link up top and check out the breakdown among different age groups. Young adults react to gays and atheists similarly; older adults, not so much. Note the trendlines in the table I posted above, too. Thirty-five years ago, atheists held a double-digit lead on this question over gays. Today, the opposite is true.
What really interests me is how this breaks down by political alignment:
Look at that: 48% of Republicans would vote for an atheist president. That’s right, in the party of Santorum, half would vote for a guy (or a gal) who thought that Santorum’s beliefs were utter baloney. How on earth could something so fantastical be possible? What is this, the Music City Miracle?
Now, there have been many conservative athiests over the years—the late Christopher Hitchens immediately springs to mind—and they have been talked about in various locations, but it still seems odd that so many Republicans would be willing to vote them as president. Allahpundit says its because as people get to know us athiests, we’re treated better and “humanized,” essentially, but I think there’s a bigger factor at play here.
And yes, that factor is Ron Paul.
Ron Paul has done many amazing things for the libertarian movement. We’ve often criticized his followers here on United Liberty for doing some amazingly stupid things, but Ron Paul himself is a great guy who has done the best anyone has ever done for American libertarianism. The movement he has created is slowly and gradually transforming the GOP—although it has met fierce resistance, so sometimes it feels like it’s stalled—and now more conservatives are trending towards libertarianism, especially the youth. Naturally, that means that they are far more tolerant on social issues, including atheism.
There’s also the Tea Party movement, which in its initial form was much closer to libertarianism before it was tarnished by social conservatives. Originally, they didn’t really care who you were—just as long as you were with them in cutting spending and restoring fiscal sanity.
I think this combination has made the GOP far more tolerant to those nonbelievers, and it couldn’t have come soon enough. Not only do the neocons need to be driven out of the GOP (both if it hopes to survive and because it is simply right to do so), but I hope the new libertarian wave also displaces all the “theocons” in the party as well.
It’s okay to be religious. It’s not okay to use government force to shove your religion down someone’s throat.
Second only to my surprise among Republicans, though, are the Democrats: only 56% would vote for an atheist president? Come on, I thought they were all godless heathens. Shouldn’t it be closer to like 90%?
But man, a majority of Americans today would vote an atheist for president. Who would have thunk it?
Disclaimer: The author is himself an atheist, but he doesn’t really give two mashed potatoes what anyone thinks.