'Religion is the default': Journalist details why the US 'isn’t really a secular nation'

'Religion is the default': Journalist details why the US 'isn’t really a secular nation'

In the United States, religion often becomes a litmus test for politicians, especially in the Republican Party. The Religious Right has had a stranglehold on the GOP ever since the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, Sr., the Moral Majority and other far-right white evangelicals forced their way onto Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign in 1980.

Democrats often talk about religion as well. President Joe Biden and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are known for being devout Catholics, and former President Barack Obama, himself a non-evangelical mainline Protestant, has said that freedom of religion — as promised in the U.S. Constitution — isn’t limited to Christians.

Avowed atheists, however, are hard to find in U.S. politics. Even Democrats who consider themselves agnostics don’t out of their way to talk about it.

READ MORE:A 'Christian nationalist' defeat of liberalism would bring 'horrific violence' and 'subjugation': libertarian

Washington Post opinion writer Kate Cohen, in an op-ed published on February 3, argues that while the U.S. is a “secular nation” in theory, it isn’t one in practice.

“Despite the promise of our Constitution,” Cohen writes, “we don’t really live in a secular nation…. In our country, religion is the default, and the burden of opting out — even the burden of knowing you have the right to — falls on the nonbeliever.”

Cohen goes on to lay out some reasons why, as an “atheist,” she is “so tired” of that “default.”

“The first time I remember opting out was in elementary school in rural Virginia, when my classmates went to learn about Jesus every week in a trailer off school grounds,” Cohen recalls. “I got to stay behind in an empty classroom because I was Jewish. Now, I’m an atheist, and I live in New York State, which requires public schools to lead students in the Pledge of Allegiance every day. In theory, when my children were younger, they had the right to get out from ‘under God’ as long as they didn’t mind being, you know, those kids. The only way not to stand out was to stand and recite, like everyone else.”

READ MORE: More than 60 percent of Republicans want the United States of America declared a Christian nation: report

Read Kate Cohen’s full op-ed for the Washington Post at this link.

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