For almost a decade now, I’ve been writing the occasional column Further Than Atheism. The idea of the column is to push beyond the rejection of religion into something intellectually and ethically higher than both religion and atheism: A conscious, positive nonreligious approach to life.
However, I’ve discovered this week, with the 2008 Democratic National Convention, that I am only able go to further than atheism when my ability to be atheist is not threatened. When my simple right to live nonreligiously and remain an equal member of my society is under threat, I am compelled to react in defense, and to assert my rights as an atheist citizen.
When organizations like the Democratic Party challenge my equality by engaging in religious discrimination against people like me, I can’t go further down the path I wish to explore, because I am stuck defending my right to take the first step. When the Democratic National Convention Committee establishes special political privileges that are only granted to religious Democrats, and asserts that nonreligious Americans effectively do not exist, I need to assert my simple existence and right to equality.
It’s a problem common to all groups seeking equality. Those in power tell us that we should just get over it and move on and try to fit in and make nice. The truth is, I do want to get over being atheist. I want to go further than atheism.
On the other hand, I do not want to get over being disrespected and treated as a second-class citizen by the increasingly faith-based Democratic Party. I want the Democratic Party to get over with their discrimination and insults against nonreligious Americans. When the Democrats do that, I won’t have anything to get over, and I’ll be able to get about my business without having to make a fuss.
Really, that’s all that secular Democrats are asking for: The right to participate equally, so that religious and non-religious Democrats can join together to work toward common goals in true unity, without discrimination. That’s not asking for special access. It’s asking for equal access – something that the Democratic Party used to stand for.