When we hear the term ‘Republican Party’, we associate the term with conservative values, like fiscally responsible economic policies, family centered policies, and ultra-religious foundations. Not in all parts of the United States is this true of every Republican politician. In New England, for example, we have a history of being politically secular. This nation was founded by English Puritans to escape religious persecution and establish freedom to worship. Over time, the need for religious faith in the New England area has waned. Some Republicans are still socially conservative, but the younger generations that get elected are bringing in more accepting ideas; ideas that include legalizing marijuana, accepting gay marriage and being significantly less religious than their older colleagues.
In early 2017, I came out as a Republican Atheist through the Friendly Atheist blog posted on Patheos. This stemmed from a letter to the editor submitted countering an article about the rise of secularism. I noted that while America was founded by a religious group, this nation was not founded on any state-sponsored religion and should be kept secular to protect religious freedom and freedom from religion. Being a State Representative in New Hampshire is an important position, but there are 400 Reps in the New Hampshire State House. Sometimes it can be hard to make a singular impact. However, my title affords me the ability to reach disenfranchised Republicans, who hold fiscally conservative and socially moderate views, but are not associated with any religious faith.
What impact can atheists make within the Republican Party? I can only speak for myself and my experience living in a largely secular region of the nation, but I would say the impact is not detrimental to the party. Within the Republican Party in New Hampshire, there are many Representatives that identify with libertarian philosophies when it comes to governance and they are notably non-religious. Republicans with conservative leaning policies and values are accepted because their votes are good for the people of New Hampshire and the party. Granted, not all Republicans believe the same things when it comes to the role of government, we all generally believe that the size and scope of government should be limited to provide more liberty for the citizen and less spending on wasteful programs and expenses.
One day, our American politics will be less about whose side you’re on and more about what is good for the people in terms of liberty and freedom, not the need for more government control. Religious values are fine if kept private and not forced on others through legislation. We are not a Christian or Muslim nation but a nation full of Christians and Muslims. We protect their religious freedom, but do not sanction those religions as government bodies. Republicans, Democrats and Libertarians should focus on the role of government, sound economic policies and foreign relations. Religion has no place in government and government has no place in religion.
Brandon Phinney is a board member of Republican Atheists. He currently serves as a new Hampshire Republican State Representative and represents District 24 – Rochester Wards 4 and 5. Contact Phinney here.