Amanda's View: Unrepresented atheist
By Amanda Knox
This first week under the new administration disheartened me in many ways. Already, President Trump has taken executive action to suppress the reality of climate change, to interfere with women’s access to reproductive healthcare, to refuse immigrants and refugees from entering the country on the basis of their religion, and to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, among other things. But even on the day of the inauguration, before any of these unwelcome measures were signed into existence, I was reminded of the disheartening reality that someone like me will likely never hold the office of presidency—not from my generation, at least. What disqualifies me, or someone like me, is not the fact that I’m a woman. To our country’s credit, I think the U.S. is ready and willing for our first Madame President. No. What disqualifies me, or someone like me, is the fact that I’m atheist. I don’t believe in God.
Despite the fact that, technically, the presidency is a secular position, no less than six religious leaders took part in President Trump’s inauguration ceremony. Then, when President Trump delivered his inauguration address, he referenced the Christian bible and claimed that “we will be protected by God.” Then, immediately after the inauguration ceremony, the first thing President Trump did as president was attend an “Inaugural Prayer Service.” Finally, once all these religious ministrations were observed, only then did President Trump return to the oval office and start signing executive orders—all of them conservative, some of them heavily influenced by faith-driven politics.
Despite evidence that secularism is on the rise, atheists like myself still represent only 3.1% of the U.S. population. That’s more than any individual non-Christian religion, for sure, but those non-Christian religions at the very least agree with the majority Christian religions that God is real and that “faith” is synonymous with “truth.” There are very, very few people like myself, who believe that God is not real, that our only grasp on factual truth is through empirical observation and science, and that we can’t rationally fill all our vast gaps in knowledge with faith. Ours is a country where, to this day, no active member of congress is openly atheist, a country that still says, “one nation, under God.”
What is an atheist like me supposed to do? There’s no avenue of discussion for me with a fellow citizen who believes that abortion is murder, or that anything other than heterosexuality is a perversion, or that to be without faith is to be a lost lamb without morals or principles, because God told them so. How do I, as an atheist, navigate being part of a democracy so heavily reliant upon, invested in, and influenced by religion? What do I do if I can’t relate to, or even think in the same way as 97% of my fellow citizens?
That’s an open question.
I look at my leaders, at my fellow citizens, at their religions, and I see culture, I see history, I even see hope. But I don’t see truth. And I don’t see myself.