Atheists at the Straw Poll-A Mighty Fine Shindig

Well, that was a fun Straw Poll for the atheists that were there. This Saturday I, along with some of my fellow atheists, attended the Ames Straw Poll to participate in the presidential election process. I was one of the people holding the atheist banner: “Keep Religion out of Politics” along with a snippet of the first amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…..” It was honestly a great chance to meet and greet with people from many different political backgrounds and views, and indeed a great chance to see why people have such a problem with people like me. Being told I’m “disgusting”, “going to hell”, “pathetic”, and that I “need a life” just for attending the Straw Poll really can make one cynical about Iowa politics. It wasn’t all bad though, I was also told I’m “heroic”, “American”, “knowledgeable” and simply “a nice guy” from several other people as well, even from people that disagreed with us atheists. Many of those people that held religious views different from my own still saw the value in our message, which gives me some hope.

However, that wasn’t why I was there; I was there to see how the political process unfolds in our great state of states. I was also there to bring attention to the fact that religious ideology should not be the cornerstone of any candidate’s campaign.

You see, you can be a Republican, or a Democrat, Conservative or Liberal, or any other political ideology in between and still agree with a separation of church and state. In fact, it’s required; it’d be unconstitutional to have a specific religion favored over another. This also includes religion over irreligion, theism over atheism, and vice versa; it works both ways.  Keep in mind this is regardless of what any political figure has said in the past; this is a requirement of a free and equal constitution that contains a 1st and 14th amendment as we have in ours. I do indeed wonder why it was such a rough time for us atheists that were simply there to remind Straw Poll attendees that the 1st amendment in fact exists.

When candidates like Michele Bachmann tell her supporters that she is called by god to run for an office, or when Herman Cain criticizes Obama for not mentioning God enough, these are not the qualities we should be looking for in a candidate. We should be looking for legislation based on the consequence of that legislation not on how a particular candidate feels about their religion directing their ideology. Imagine how horrible it would be if every person in power supported legislation not based on how it affected the citizens but rather how their religious training guided them. That would not be the kind of country I doubt anyone would want to live in, regardless of their religious or political beliefs. It’d be inherently unjust because laws and equality go out the window when someone’s personal feelings about religion begin to dictate law for all citizens.

So if you were out at the Straw Poll this last weekend and you saw us atheists and were curious to know exactly why we were out there, the answer is quite simple: We care about our state and we care about the Constitution.  We care enough that we don’t want our state to be represented by the candidate who can be the most Christian or who can be the most vocal. We want policies based on their results, not on their religious ideological basis, and we want the 1st amendment respected by all presidential candidates.

Jason Benell

Press Officer

Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers


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