10/16/2012 12:10 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Dear Sally Quinn: Atheists Are Americans Too

Dear Sally, I'm an atheist, an agnostic, and a Humanist. You recently wrote an article in the Washington Post's "On Faith" section that has generated a lot of controversy. In the article you claimed:

"This is a religious country. Part of claiming your citizenship is claiming a belief in God, even if you are not Christian. We've got the Creator in our Declaration of Independence. We've got 'In God We Trust' on our coins. We've got 'one nation under God' in our Pledge of Allegiance. And we say prayers in the Senate and the House of Representatives to God."

In a follow-up article, you seemed bewildered by the amount of hate mail you received from atheists, agnostics and Humanists as a result of those comments. Let me be clear here: I don't think anyone should threaten you or curse you out for your opinions no matter how hateful they are -- and they are hateful. Let me try to explain why they are so hateful so you can understand where we are coming from and perhaps change your opinion.

Religiosity is down in America and atheism is on the rise. At least 13 percent of the Americans lack a belief in a deity. You have said that we are not citizens. When you say, "Part of claiming your citizenship is claiming a belief in God, even if you are not Christian," the 13+ percent of the country that doesn't claim a belief in God sees that as a rejection of our right to be citizens. You are basically calling us un-American. This is why some people in the "none" category got so angry at you. They were absolutely wrong to lash out at you in the way they did, but they were right to be angry.

The President of the United States shouldn't write off 47 percent of the American people, nor should he write off 13+ percent of the American people. Atheists, agnostics and Humanists are here and we are citizens too. Every time the president panders to religious zealots and invokes his religious beliefs, he is sending a message to nonbelievers that he doesn't care about us. This is why support for the president has dropped considerably among atheists.

When the president endorses "Under God" in our pledge and Congress reaffirms "In God We Trust" as our motto, they are violating the Constitutional principle of separation of church and state. Those references to God are being used by the religious right and now by you as justification to write off atheists, agnostics,and Humanists as citizens of the United States of America. America is not a "Christian Nation," and no unconstitutional shout-outs to God are going to change that.

Thirty thousand atheists, agnostics and Humanists rallied in the rain for reason in Washington, D.C., in March of this year. Godless Americans are here, and we aren't going away; we're growing! Fifty-four percent of Americans are now willing to vote for an atheist not just for dogcatcher but for President (although I think that number is much higher). The new political reality is that pandering to God is less and less effective. It is especially not effective for Democrats. Just look at what happened at the DNC Convention when the party pushed God back into the party platform.

Atheists, agnostics and Humanists are used to the religious right calling us un-American, but when we hear it from the left, we are taken by surprise. I guess we expect better from you and better from our president. The President of the United States should campaign on secular issues that are important to all Americans rather than perpetuating the right-wing fantasy that America is a Christian Nation.

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