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No, I’m not kidding.

In August, you may recall, I wrote a post titled “Why I’m Donating to Kay Hagan“. This post concerned the U.S. Senate race in North Carolina, where Democratic candidate Kay Hagan is running against the Republican incumbent Elizabeth Dole. The focus of my post was a press release from the Dole campaign attacking Hagan for attending a fundraiser held by Wendy and Woody Kaminer, who are politically active atheists. In this press release, the Dole campaign pandered to religious bigotry in the most blatant and shameful way, seeking to demonize not just her opponent but all American atheists.

At the time, I had some harsh words for politicians like Dole who build their campaigns on exploiting prejudice and fear:

It’s about time we saw atheists taking a greater role in American political life, and I’m not about to stand by and watch while we’re dragged through the mud by self-righteous demagogues who slander us in order to appeal to the ignorant and prejudiced. If we’re going to have an influence on American civic life, we need to flex our political muscles. Kay Hagan ought to be rewarded for inviting nonbelievers onto her platform…

Now, that the Dole campaign has put out a new ad attacking Hagan. Far from abandoning her earlier appeal to bigotry, this one doubles down on it, dredging up the most contemptible and pathetic lies imaginable about the goals of atheists and about Hagan’s associations with us. In the ad (potentially NSFW language), Dole claims that atheists want to “remove any reference to God in the public arena, including eliminating the Christmas Holiday”, and calls us “the most vile, radical liberals in America”.

And on the last page of this flier, we find this:

Oh yes: the Dole campaign quotes my actual post and gives the URL to this site. I’m speechless. Apparently, Daylight Atheism has now become part of the U.S. Senate campaign for North Carolina.

I’m not upset about this. In fact, I’m thrilled. I couldn’t be happier. Let the Dole campaign send traffic to my site; I regret nothing, and I stand behind everything I’ve written on this matter. With any luck, some of her supporters will come here, read for themselves what I’ve written, and see for themselves the falsehood of Dole’s ugly, bigotry-baiting claims.

Frankly, I think this is a sign of desperation. Recent polls have shown Hagan with a genuine lead. Trying to mobilize the religious right by appealing to hatred of atheists may well be the only hope Elizabeth Dole has left. So, I think we should cut that hope off at the pass. Let’s send the religious right a strong message that atheists are a force to be reckoned with in American politics, and that they stoop to smearing us at their peril.

I’m not saying that the Democrats are perfect, far from it. As a party, they pander to religion much more than I’d like. But at the very least, they have a greater respect for the separation of church and state and are more likely to appreciate the importance of including all Americans in their coalition. By contrast, Republicans in general, and Elizabeth Dole specifically, have perfected the art of pitching their campaigns to an increasingly narrow sliver of the electorate. They pander to the worst instincts of their would-be supporters, stirring up prejudice and fear, rather than promoting substantive and rational governance. They seek only to represent the rigid views of right-wing Christian fundamentalists, rather than building a broader coalition of Americans of all kinds.

Senator Dole, by your words and your actions, you have shown yourself unfit for elected office. You are supported to represent all the residents of your state, yet by your repeated and shameless appeals to prejudice, you have proven that you are not the representative of the 10% of your state’s residents who are non-religious. I take pleasure in battling bigotry of all kinds, yours no less than others. If you want a fight, then bring it on. It’s about time that American atheists, as well as all tolerant and progressive people of good will, took a stand against the venomous and divisive politics of the Christian right.

Postscript: If you want to punish anti-atheist bigotry and help Kay Hagan win, please consider donating to her campaign, and leave a comment letting us know. Let’s show the religious right that they can’t push us around without paying the consequences!

UPDATE (11/4): Good riddance, Elizabeth Dole… welcome, U.S. Senator Kay Hagan!

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DAYLIGHT ATHEISM Adam Lee is an atheist author and speaker from New York City. His previously published books include "Daylight Atheism," "Meta: On God, the Big Questions, and the Just City," and most...