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Clinton or Trump? The choice is unclear for some atheists

A Secret Service agent stands near the stage as Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump, left, and Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, center, begin their third and final 2016 presidential campaign debate at UNLV in Las Vegas, on October 19, 2016. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Jonathan Ernst
A Secret Service agent stands near the stage as Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump, left, and Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, center, begin their third and final 2016 presidential campaign debate at UNLV in Las Vegas, on October 19, 2016. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

A Secret Service agent stands near the stage as Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, left, and Democratic  presidential nominee Hillary Clinton begin their third and final 2016 presidential campaign debate at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, on Oct. 19, 2016. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

(RNS) Hemant Mehta doesn’t want a president who thinks evolution is a hoax.

“I don’t want a president who couldn’t even explain evolution. I don’t want a president who can’t tell fact from fiction and seems to believe anything someone tells him on Twitter,” Mehta says in a recent You Tube video that has garnered a lot of attention in atheist corners.

“If I wanted to hear people whose best evidence for their belief is, ‘Well, some people have said,’ then I’d go to church.”

So, Mehta, best known as “The Friendly Atheist” on his popular blog, will vote for Hillary Clinton — and he spends more than seven minutes trying to persuade other atheists to do the same because, he believes, she — a lifelong Methodist — is the only candidate who shares their core values of separation of church and state, LGBT equality and science-based education.

Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta. Photo by Steve Greiner, courtesy of Mehta

Mehta’s video, which has attracted more than 22,000 views and almost 1,300 comments since it was posted on Oct. 18, is the latest salvo in the battle for the so-called atheist vote as prominent atheists such as best-selling author Sam Harris, scholar Robert M. Price and more take to the internet and social media to persuade their fellow nonbelievers to vote with them.

And it highlights the predicament many atheists will find themselves in on Nov. 8: Should they vote for Donald Trump, the candidate who seems to have only a passing relationship with religion, despite his selection of evangelical Mike Pence as his second, or should they vote for Clinton, who says she reads the Bible and prays daily and who chose Tim Kaine, a Jesuit-educated Catholic, as her running mate?

For some, the choice is not clear. Clinton-Kaine may be the more personally religious ticket, but Trump-Pence is more cozy with the religious right, aka the evil empire among atheists. Then there’s Green Party candidate Jill Stein, who has no chance of victory but is the only candidate who reached out to nonbelievers and asked for their vote.

So what’s an atheist to do? Historically, they have voted Democratic and liberal — a new poll by the Public Religion Research Institute and RNS found the religiously unaffiliated preferred Clinton to Trump by a ratio of 2-to-1  — but they tend to be independents.

And while most voted for Barack Obama and Al Gore, politically conservative atheists tend to vote Republican and have made themselves heard in the general din of this election. Leaders of atheist and secular organizations with political agendas know they ignore them at their peril.

“Atheists are very diverse in their political beliefs and, frankly, I think we have to recognize that we are not just a movement made up of liberal Democrats,” said Larry Decker, executive director of Secular Coalition for America, a lobby that represents more than a dozen atheist, humanist and secular groups. “There are atheists who care about the Republican Party and they want change and for whatever reason they believe Donald Trump can make that change.”

Jillian Becker is one of those atheists. She and her colleagues at The Atheist Conservative blog highlight reasons atheists should vote for Trump — immigration reform, tax reform and his disbelief in climate change are among them. His religion — or lack thereof — plays no part.

“Trump’s success — which we ardently hope for — has nothing to do with it being ‘good for atheists,’” Becker said in an email. “Atheists have no common interests. There is no such thing, in fact, as ‘atheists’ interests’ except in those countries — mostly Islamic — where atheism is punishable by imprisonment, torture, and death.”

The Atheist Conservative has more than 10,000 followers, but Becker believes that is growing. “We believe that there are millions more out there who are both atheist and conservative,” she said. “So I would guess that many voters who are secular-minded, rational, and against the horror of the Clinton mafia coming to power, will be voting for Donald Trump.”

Price is another conservative atheist, and he, too, has promoted Trump. In an Oct. 3 interview on Mehta’s own blog, which attracts more than 1 million readers each month, Price touted Trump as “bold” and “tough.” In a comment echoed by other atheist conservatives, he said he has “no problem” with Trump’s promise to repeal the Johnson Amendment, which prevents clergy from politicking in the pulpit.

“I think the doctrine of church-state separation has been redefined to mean that religion must be scrubbed from the public square,” Price said in the interview. “This is a suppression of religious freedom. Trump is right to oppose it.”

This is what stumps other atheists, like Mehta, who support Clinton. He made his video partly in reaction to Price’s interview and a three-minute pro-Trump speech made by T.J. Kirk to his YouTube channel, “The Amazing Atheist,” which has 1 million subscribers.

Reaction to Mehta’s  video has been as divided as the country, with many of his atheist readers describing him as a “shill” and a “tool” for his support of Clinton.

“I want a president who respects church-state separation and puts logic and reason above dogma and religious thinking,” Mehta said in a phone interview. “I don’t care that Hillary Clinton is a Methodist or Tim Kaine is a Catholic because they understand church-state separation, and I would much rather have them in office than an atheist in name only who is basically a pawn of the religious right. That doesn’t help atheists at all and it is bad for our country.”

About the author

Kimberly Winston

Kimberly Winston is a freelance religion reporter based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

59 Comments

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  • So evangelicals support Trump because they think he is sincere in adopting the Dominionist agenda. Conservatives atheists support Trump because they think he is insincere in adopting the Dominionist agenda.

    “immigration reform, tax reform and his disbelief in climate change are among them.”

    Religion has nothing to do with any of those issues, but it does appear that Atheists for Trump are working in a post-factual environment. Trump’s version of policy for these issues are vague, costly and outright dangerous.

  • A horrible person with no knowledge of how immigration works, or war with Russia!! You decide!!

  • Hillary Clinton is flat-out the FAR greater danger to American Christians, she is much worse than Richard Dawkins or other atheists would be.

    So there’s no surprise that atheist Hemant Mehta wants to shill for Hillary. He knows a kindred spirit when he votes for one. He knows that Hillary totally OPPOSES biblical Christianity on a de-facto basis.

    Methodist or not, Hillary is the only logical choice for those people who have rejected God (and who want our nation to mindlessly reject God as well.)

  • Atheist tend to make bad choices and to support an anti-Constitutonalist, liar and a murderer would not surprise me in the least.

  • Like you he has his own agenda but it is a much better agenda than the weasel Hilary. I believe you a Hilary have much in common.

  • I am an independent and am just left of center. I despise both candidates but voting for Trump is to vote for an incompetent megalomaniac. Hillary is a crooked politician who will further the status quo and continue with her hawkish nation building.

  • Speaking as an atheist, we make decisions based on reason and logic after gathering accurate information. Most atheists support our secular constitution and have morals that would surpass most Christians.

  • You couldn’t talk over my head if you were standing on a ladder. Try to be more coherent next time..

  • Yeah I heard that some where….now what was that saying…..oh yeah….If you repeat a lie loud enough and long enough people will believe it. As to your claim to the secular Constitution see my first sentence. As for surpassing “most christians” morals you’d be right there because many of them voted for obama that degraded the Constitution and the morals of the USA. As for me I would not qualify the christians you think are Christians because again you’re correct and don’t know why.

  • You can’t legislate morality. Render Caesar’s things to Caesar and God’s things to God. If man’s laws don’t affect you why are you worried about others? Also, how did Obama degrade the constitution? He didn’t change a single word and we didn’t add any ammendments.

  • I can’t help your blindness when all one needs to do is google obama and his claim about the Constitution. He has in fact made laws in contrary to the freedom of religion forcing judges to and government to hand out mock shack up licenses to homosexuals, limited freedom of speech of Christians through Christians meeting in public schools in after school clubs, on college campuses and at abortion centers. The fact is obama is also working on the second amendment as some states are. Obama is also ignoring the 10th amendment by forces queer marriage on the states. But then again you knew this but see nothing wrong with it huh?

  • As to your foolish claim “You can’t legislate morality” that is you lie because I never mentioned I wanted something like that you did.

  • The Democrats have always supported the Constitution with the concept of freedom of religion and the position the it include “freedom from religion”. The choice is clear, Democratic.. If you want to form your decision based upon leadership, honesty, experience, and yes integrity, the choice is the same.

  • The Democrats have always supported the Constitution with the concept of freedom of religion and the position that it includes “freedom from religion”. The choice is clear, Democratic.. If you want to form your decision based upon leadership, honesty, experience, and yes integrity, the choice is the same.

  • There is no confusion about who to vote for.

    Donald Trump is a loser,
    Worse, Trump is a loser who can not conceive of being a loser. Every bump in the road, every setback, every bankruptcy, and every defeat is somebody else’s fault. In Trump’s mind somebody must have cheated him, because it is obvious to Trump that he must win everything every time.
    That is the mindset of a psychopath.

    The Republican “Always Win Everything At Any Cost” stance is best be articulated by a thin skinned blowhard who is a hereditary millionaire racist and seems to be a psychopathic sexual predator.
    But that is not the worst of it.

    Mr. Trump’s cavalier attitude about using nuclear weapons makes him a clear and present danger to everyone on earth. When using thermonuclear weapons is being considered, every other issue is a trivial distraction.

    During the debates, we saw that Mr. Trump is too easily baited into anger for him ever to be given ultimate control over America’s nuclear arsenal.

    Many national Republican politicians and almost all Republican news papers have refused to endorse Mr. Trump because he is not a leader, not an manager, unfit to be the commander-in-chief, and utterly unsuited to be the president of the United States.
    Atheists know this in their heads, Americans know this in their hearts.

  • The proper grammatical construct is, “I couldn’t care less…” So much for the argument for superior intellect from a non believer.

  • The second half of your second sentence is mere supposition unsupported in the absence of verifiable data.

  • Well, Fast Eddie, I never press anyone on their likely vote, but I sincerely wonder if you can offer a solution to this conundrum, because I’m both stumped and desperate.

  • About as many as Hillary. And that’s no joke.

    Problem is, this ain’t a fruit contest. Whoever wins, will be imposing long-lasting POLICIES and LAWS, (not their personal fruits), on us Christians and our kids/grandkids as well.

    They’ve both said which way they’re going to be respectively going. Their respective Democrat and Republican national platforms are already on the public table.

    Won’t be pretty either way. But in terms of unrestricted-total-abortion-on-demand, and total-legalized-gay-marriage-and-NO-religious-liberty, it ain’t even close, David.

  • I’m atheist, and I already voted early for Libertarian nominee Gov. Gary Johnson. He’s not perfect, but he’s above-board and most of his policies I find amenable. Stein would be my next choice, tho’ I view her unfavorably. “Independant” Evan McMullin is a stooge for the dying GOP Establishment, and therefore joins Hillary & Trump in my “not even with a gun to my head would I vote for” status.

  • Oh no! Obama won’t let bigoted Christians deny citizens access to services they are legally entitled to.

    Oh no! Obama supports open commerce which is not tied up by segregation.

    Oh no! Obama supports the 1st Amendment of the Constitution and the Establishment Clause protecting the integrity of church and state.

    I think you need to calm down a spell. Check out the gif below and relax.
    https://67.media.tumblr.com/323247f4fdf2cc14831bb7980bb432af/tumblr_nmtn7uTfh91urssbpo1_400.gif

  • Not true it’s the only way to handle addlepates such as yourself. But now that you bought it up your fellow addlepate misrepresented scripture which is why it wasn’t worth addressing and no you wouldn’t know that fact.

  • Really that’s how blinded you are by your king…..did you kiss his ring and bow down to him before you pushed the reply button? and just think you think there is no God eh……

  • An atheist voting GOP must be a moron. To support the party of theocrats, climate change deniers, enemies of public education, opponents of women’s rights of conscience on abortion, church-state separation haters goes beyond mere stupidity. The Dems fall short at times but they are preferable to the Trump/Pence losers. — Edd Doerr

  • What more click trash? As I continue to remind you I will no longer click on your filth whether it’s ligit or not because you’re proven you can’t be trusted.

  • “post-factual environment.”

    That’s very funny Spuddie. It would be even funnier if it weren’t so true of trump supporters and/or Sec. Clinton bashers.

    PS. I like your links too.

  • I’m voting for Sec. Clinton and very happy to do so. I’d like her to be less hawkish, but mostly agree with the rest of her policies.

    People say that she is secretive. After 30 years of pseudo-Republican “investigations”, she’d be almost as nuts as trump if she wasn’t. If Sec. Clinton was really guilty of any of the “crimes” she has been accused of, millions of Republican dollars and investigators and prosecutors, like the “honorable Ken Starr” would have her in court and convicted by now.

    Sec. Clinton is a victim of the game of baseless accusations. Say them often enough, loud enough, long enough, create fabricated “documentation,” saturate the airwaves with bellowers like Limbaugh, Hannity and the rest and people will begin to believe it. 30 years of this persecution is effective on anyone, including Mother Teresa. The ginning up has resulted in a kind of hysteria similar to what Floyd exhibits – hyperbole, upper case shouting, fear-mongering, etc.

    Sec. Clinton is an honorable, decent, kind, very smart and hard working woman who will be a great American president whom I am thrilled to vote for.

    The only obstacle is a Republican Congress which already promises to double down on their Party of No, Do Nothing persona. They’re popularity rating promises to hit low single digits if they continue to have zero accomplishments. The Republican Party continues on its path to self-destruction. If they don’t change, it won’t be long. I look forward to a constructive, functioning Conservative Party by 2028 or sooner.

  • As a Baha’i I am forbidden by faith from endorsing specific political candidates. Because of all the problems that divisive practice has gotten us.

    I CAN point out that there are more than two choices, though. And third parties WON’T win, but if they can get a big enough chunk of the popular vote, then we might have a good choice in four years or so.

    And honestly I wouldn’t worry too much about the big two, UNLESS you live in a battleground state. People like myself, in a non-battleground state, pretty much have NO reason to go for one of the major party candidates.

    Regardless of whether I vote Clinton, Trump, Johnson, Stein, or Castle, ALL TEN of my state’s electoral votes WILL go to Clinton regardless of my choice. If you live in a Red or Blue state like me, there’s simply no benefit in voting for one of the big two. You can’t actually effect the 2016 election as a whole if your state goes one way every year. You can potentially throw a wrench into the 2020 election, though.

    So for me, boosting a third party to maybe get a better choice in four years is the only thing I can do that will actually have an effect on anything. A small effect, but in my Blue State I can’t effect the electoral college, so it’s the only option I really have that has any effect whatsoever.

  • You appear to have talked under his feet. More importantly, you didn’t specify which parts of Trump’s agenda are better than Clinton’s. Instead, you merely called Clinton a name.

  • We’re not going to war with Russia regardless who wins the election. Hillary Clinton is at least not easily baited into the sorts of overreactions that can lead to such a war, as Trump most obviously is. Anyone vaguely aware of the enormous mismatch in economic and military capabilities between the United States and Russia already knows there will be no full-scale war between us (or even a small conflict, given the risk of escalation). Russia huffs and puffs, but they’re not suicidal.

  • You appear to be clueless as he is about the FBI calling up the Clinton emails again and that she perjured herself. Care to elaborate on your being clueless? Yes apparently I also spoke over your head too eh?

  • A very coherent and well reasoned reply. As I live in Oregon (4th generation), a state dominated by the Portland-Eugene axis, peopled with many refugees from the liberal Northeast, my vote as well will have little impact as a conservative Christian. I was tempted to vote for Gary Johnson until I learned that he is a bit too progressive on the question of abortion for my taste.

  • The election is religiously complicated with a devout Methodist who is also a known liar and career politician versus a nominal Presbyerian who is completely crazy as well as fascist and racist and a whole bunch of other bad things. The choice for atheists is clear vote for the nominal Lutheran who is basically Deist in the religious beleifs effectively and loves the Golden Rule and is honest. Atheists for Gary Johnson!

  • We have 2 choices :
    A liar with questionable personal ethics –
    or a psychotic hate-mongering thin-skinned egoist with his finger poised over the nuclear button – and has said ” then why do we have them ” implicitly stating that nukes would be a viable tool in validating the (delusional) inerrant infallibility of his considerable ego.

  • Your whole premise was based on the intellectual superiority of those who are not Christian, I was simply taking that to a rather logical conclusion. None of us have a patent on philosophical or practical perfection. Sometimes demeaning remarks get demeaning remarks in return, though I acknowledge that strictly speaking with reference to the instructions of Jesus, such is not the proper response for one of His followers. Therefore, I’m not too proud to beg your pardon, as I’ve obviously offended you.

  • Not at all a pissed away vote, and “Sorry, Not Sorry!” that you’re angered enough to comment over MY conscientious vote. Or are you trying to engage in shaming of others so as to influence other readers to vote as YOU want them to?

  • I’m sorry, if Mexico declared it would be shooting down all planes that entered the airspace of an area that America and it’s allies commonly flew it’s planes, you would view THAT as an act of war, right??

    Say Mexico declares this over Yemen, which sees heavy traffic from American military aircraft and America’s Arabian allies’ aircraft as well.

    Mexico blatantly threatening to shoot down America and Arabia’s planes over Yemen: an act of war, yes or no??

  • Then, purely from what you’ve stated as policy preferences, if you like Johnson but are against his abortion policies, you might like Castle and the Constitution Party. They tend to be Libertarian/Conservative-esque, with a Christian bent.

  • Very sound advice, except that I haven’t come to the point where I can vote for a 3rd party candidate who has no chance of effecting a difference in the election. Johnson may have the numbers to toss the race into the House of Representatives, but not likely. On the other hand, as I noted earlier, Oregon will go for Hillary in any case, so my vote will have no practical effect. Though that raises the question of standing on principle regardless of outcome, which entails real honesty and courage. I’ve supported Constitutional Party candidates in the past, but I tend to vote Republican as a way of more effectually combating the United Socialist Commonwealth of Oregon.

  • Leftism is incompatible with the freethinking in reality,when has the power. The real atheist can`t be the leftist, as the leftist ideology is the kind of religion, being irrational.Millions of leftists in the communist countries were the declared atheists of this type.So the scientific atheist have to vote against leftist Clinton.

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