Irreligious need a voice



There is plenty to talk about regarding the 2016 presidential election. In all likelihood history will be made, either with the election of a female president, the election of a self-described socialist, or the election of a Disney character since it’s becoming blatantly obvious that Donald Trump is the human form of Scrooge McDuck.

But one of the more interesting aspects of this likely historic election is one that nobody is talking about, and it relates to Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders. It has become widely known that Sanders is a longtime independent senator who advocates socialist policies of Scandinavian countries, but what is less focused on is the fact that Americans might actually elect a candidate that is openly non-religious.

There is much debate and speculation about the religious beliefs of many presidents. With the exception of Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, who are suspected to have been either deists or non-religious, almost every president has had some connection to Christianity.

Sanders was born to Jewish parents in Brooklyn, New York, and he has said that he is culturally Jewish but not a particularly religious person. This shows how much progress our country has made, considering non-religious Americans are arguably the most inadequately represented minority in our country.

There are no openly agnostic or atheist members of Congress, despite the fact that the two groups combined make up about 10 percent of the population. Based on statistical analysis it would be reasonable to assume that some members of Congress might be closeted atheists, but the idea of a non-religious person, particularly an atheist, being elected to federal office was outlandish until recently.

America has historically been a highly religious society for as highly developed and industrialized as it is. From the pilgrims seeking religious freedom to the Great Awakenings to the influx of Catholic culture with Irish immigrants, religion has always played a part in American life and American politics.

John F. Kennedy made history when he became the first Catholic president, and now Sanders could become the first president who doesn’t kneel down and pray to find solutions to America’s problems — or at least the first in recent memory.

A recent Pew Survey found that religiosity is on the decline in America, with 70 percent of Americans identifying as Christians, down about 8 percent from just seven years ago, and about 22 percent of Americans claiming no religious affiliation. With these numbers, it seems as though the longstanding idea that one must be religious to be morally upstanding is slowly starting to fade, and Sanders could become the face of this new America.

Cheyene Miller is the managing editor of the Kentucky Kernel.

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