Back in July, I learned about the creation of the National Atheist Party. Upon some consideration and research, I wrote a critical article noting that the creation of a political party based on the atheist identity threatens to marginalize atheists politically and undermine the separation of church and state that the National Atheist Party claims to support. Many angry supporters of the National Atheist Party commented that I had misunderstood the organization, which they asserted would become successful by attracting not just atheists, but also many liberal religious Americans.
My response to these criticisms was that the reality of politics would provide a good test of whether an atheist political party could be work. If I was wrong in my conclusion that the National Atheist Party could not be an effective political entity, the party’s supporters could “focus on proving your detractors wrong, by being successful.”
It’s been a couple of months now since I made that suggestion, so this morning, I decided to check back in on the progress National Atheist Party. How well is the organization doing in the test of political organizing?
One sign of progress is that the National Atheist Party has its own web site now. The first meeting of the National Atheist Party is also set for just a few days from now, this Saturday in Schaumburg, Illinois.
Volunteer representatives for the National Atheist Party have come forward in 45 states, plus the District of Columbia. That’s an improvement from July, when only 29 states had representatives.
Still, the National Atheist Party has not achieved the legal status of a political party anywhere in the United States. The National Atheist Party also has no candidates for any public office anywhere in the United States – not even for Town Clerk or Highway Superintendent. Building a political party takes time, to be sure, but in the most important test of a political party, electoral success, the National Atheist Party hasn’t even been able to enter the arena.
A great deal of the effort of the National Atheist Party seems to have been spent defending itself – often from the criticisms of other atheists. The National Atheist Party claims to be open to people of all religious identities, but then denies the validity of non-atheist labels. The group tells interested people who insist that they are not atheists that “You are one whether you want to claim the label or not,” and insults non-theists who don’t call themselves atheists, lecturing them that “When 80% of the population calls you an atheist, you should own up to it and depower them, not scurry to find some other less castigated term, in the hopes of escaping the stigma.”
The National Atheist Party claims to speak for between 10 and 15 percent of the population, but so far, that level of support is not in evidence.